QuiVr was always meant to be a collaboration with the community while roomscale VR found its legs. Since May 2016 (while still waiting for Vive pre-orders to ship) I was working on the game.
Once headsets starting arriving, I opened the earliest alpha version of the game up for user feedback using Steam’s Demo system.
Over the following months the game progressed and became popular within the community as one of the earliest cooperative multiplayer VR games. With the notoriety gained and a few amazing new contacts in the tech world, I jumped into VR development full-time to make QuiVr a real game that I would be proud to have my name on within the Steam Store.
The game made a lot of progress during the months leading up to the launch of Early Access in December of 2016, and in hindsight that’s a relatively short development cycle for a release. I might write a blog at some point in the future about the design decisions that were made that changed QuiVr’s alpha, static-wave-shooter into the dynamically generated ARPG style game it is today, but here I wanted to break down some sales metrics over the last few years.
These stats will only include the Steam Store sales (not Steam Key sales) and also not include any VR Arcade revenue data.
High Level Summary:
Lifetime Gross Steam Revenue to date: $623,598
Lifetime Steam Unit Sales: 37,020
Refund Rate: 5.8%
Additional Return Rate (Chargebacks, fraud, etc): 2.0%
Total Actual Revenue to date: $398,805 (after returns, VAT, Steam Cut, etc)
QuiVr never really did any traditional marketing spend, and instead relied on the tightly connected VR community and Steam's existing game featuring systems. For the game itself, I never paid myself during development and instead just relied on the resulting game revenue. Over the course of development there was about $50k worth of outsourced art and expenses from enemy models, game trailers, and other work (mostly done spent before release into Early Access).
I'll comment on some of these numbers later on, but first I want to look at when these sales were occurring.
From this graph it's clear that Steam truly holds the keys to the kingdom regarding sales, and from some (admittedly anecdotal) analytic data, Store-Page-Eyeballs directly translate to more sales.
From the $400k of total received revenue, $150k came from the first three months of sales at the end of 2016 and start of 2017. That's significantly higher than the $92k in the entire last year (April 2018 - April 2019).
As an aside, and something that actually is a bit disheartening to me and how I like to develop, throughout 2017 and up to June of 2018, I had an average of 1 beta update per-day and 1 update+patch notes per week. After release from Early Access that dropped down to about one update per month. You can see that once this happened you can actually see the affect of these updates on sales as a significant impact (particularly the Elite System addition). Where before each week's update did not move the sales needle at all, monthly or bi-monthly updates gained significantly more visibility. Whether as a result of people not getting update-fatigue or Steam's algorithm (or more likely a combination of both), less frequent updates seems to correlate with increased sales (up to a point of course).
Wishlist data matches sales data fairly exactly, generally whenever more people visit the store page QuiVr gets more sales and more wishlists. There have been 8 "Wishlist Notification" rounds (when sales/events occur), the largest conversion rate was for the launch into Early Access (10.1%) and every subsequent notification conversion rate has decreased significantly (max 2.7%, min 0.8%). From this data point it seems to indicate that getting a high amount of wishlists before launch is the best strategy, and then not to pay too much attention to them, even with the launch out of Early Access the conversion rate was only 1.2%.
VR Sales Data Perspective
I wanted to use QuiVr's sales data as an anchor to get a sense of what the Steam VR Landscape looks like currently. While I don't have data on other VR games on Steam, Valve releases the top grossing VR games list each year which QuiVr has been on both years in the Gold and Bronze categories respectively.
While there's no way to know the relative success between any two games within a category, we can use the most conservative estimate and assume that QuiVr was the worst performer in that category. In 2017 there were 12 Platinum games and 11 other Gold games. That means that in all of 2017 a maximum of 23 games outperformed QuiVr on Steam with a total received revenue of $207k in 2017.
QuiVr dropped into the Bronze category in 2018 (perfectly reasonable since the game came out over a year before). With the 24 titles in Platinum and Gold, and the 16 in Silver that puts only 40 games with a guaranteed higher received revenue than QuiVr's $102k in 2018.
I don't want to scare devs away from working in VR, however I would caution against doing it specifically for a great payday and I would definitely advise against getting a many-person studio together to work on a VR game. $100k can be a good income for a solo developer, or even a two-person team as long as it doesn't take years to get to the point where you're selling the game. But a studio of people trying to split that type of money will be hard; and it would probably be impossible to pay back any large outside investment.
Let's get the obvious stuff out of the way first - QuiVr was extremely successful from a personal standpoint. As a solo-dev with minimal costs the revenue from the game mostly went to myself. So while the Steam Revenue of $623k -> Received Revenue of $398k is a big hit, it's not nearly as bad as splitting it between even a small team.
Completely unrelated to monetary gain, the industry connections and contacts I made during the past 3 years and the support shown from the VR community have been incredible. And I unapologetically believe it to be more valuable to my future opportunities and mental well-being than the game's revenue.
If I were to give advice to someone who was getting started in VR Game Development or someone who was already working in VR but had not yet released their game, here are a few things I would suggest considering:
- Make sure your team is as small as possible
- Keep your budget low, use the Unity/Epic Asset store
- Invest time on your Steam Page layout (gifs, images, etc) as it translates to sales
- The VR community is still mostly tech enthusiasts like you, talk with them
- Your launch is critically important, spend at least a week deciding when to do it
- Try to get wishlists on your Steam Page before you launch not after
- Talk with other VR devs, we're pretty open to discussing things :)
I hope QuiVr's Steam Sales data can be useful to some developers currently working on their own VR games, I know that I have been incredibly fortunate to be able to discuss this data so openly and much of that is due to the community so I like to give back in any way I can.