"I'll wait for it to hit Steam," says the self-professed indie fan upon seeing an interesting-looking game that is only available direct from the developer. It's a common refrain that most of you reading this have probably said at least once in the past.
One independent developer has discovered just what an impact that has on sales figures, though -- it's a big one, and not in a pleasant direction.
Race the Sun is the product of independent studio Flippfly, who describe it as a "procedural racer with a sort of retro Star Fox-esque aesthetic, and an endless world that generates daily." The game came to be as the result of a lengthy campaign involving a public alpha demo on Web gaming portal Kongregate, a Kickstarter earlier this year plus sales of "early access" copies throughout the development process. The game has also been on Greenlight for over a year.
Since the game launched, its website has enjoyed at least 1,000 hits per day, with a peak of 4,000 hits in late August. And yet since the game's launch last month, it has only sold 771 copies -- about $7,400 worth of takings. Sales have fallen considerably since the initial spike, with the worst day coming last week with just two copies sold. This is particularly disappointing to Flippfly as the game has been very positively received by both press and YouTubers.
Flippfly was originally a mobile studio, but as the iOS and Android markets have shifted inexorably towards being almost exclusively free-to-play, the team decided that they did not want to go in that direction, and instead focused on PC. Developer Aaron San Filippo notes that he and his brother Forest initially saw Greenlight as an opportunity, but have become increasingly disillusioned with the process over the course of the last year.
"It feels there are two attitudes that have become prevalent among many PC gamers," writes Aaron in a very candid blog post on Flippfly's site. "'I'll buy it when it's on Steam' and 'I'll buy it when it's in a bundle.' I'm just not sure it's realistic to expect to be able to support yourself solely with self-distribution via your website in 2013, unless you're Minecraft."
Aaron also notes that he believes misconceptions about the game as being an "endless runner" -- an extremely played out genre on mobile devices that often makes use of particularly obnoxious free-to-play pay-to-win mechanics -- hurt its perception in the public eye, too; a fear backed up by a rejection letter from Indiecade, who noted that they felt "this genre of game is fairly well played out" and that the reviewers "hoped you are releasing it for iOS and Android."
"We're not anywhere close to giving up on this game," writes Aaron, "but it's been a rough start. Perhaps the biggest takeaway is that if you want to find financial success, you should not only make a great game, but partner with proven, trusted distribution platforms that can connect you with an audience that's ready to pay."
If you want to grab your own copy of Race The Sun, you can do so here for just $10. Have you played it? Or are you, as the cliché runs, waiting for it to hit Steam?