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Steam Direct fails to prevent revenue drop for indies

Average first month sales down by 39% since 2015, average naive revenue down by almost 50%

The launch of Steam Direct has done little to improve independent developers' chances of a strong launch on the leading PC games marketplace.

New figures from SteamSpy's Sergey Galyonkin show naive sales and revenue for all indie games released since Steam Direct launched in June. The data covers the first 30 days of sales for each title.

The analyst warns that a number of assumptions need to be acknowledged before exploring the stats in greater detail, such as the fact that naive revenue doesn't factor in VAT, taxes or Steam's share, nor was he able to take regional pricing or sales outside of Steam into account. You can read all the caveats here.

With this addressed, Galyonkin's figures show that the number of indie games releasing on Steam is continuing to rise, but revenues for the average developer fail to match that growth. 1,107 titles were released through Steam Direct within its first two months - almost double the number released in the same period last year, and an increase of 146% when compared to 2015.

The total naive sales showed a 49% increase over 2015 to 2.9m copies shifted, and total naive revenue rose by 25% to $28m.

However, this is where the growth ends. The Top 10 most successful titles accounted for 95% of all naive revenue, which remains relatively flat at only 2% higher than 2015. This means that for the average developer, statistics are a bit more disappointing.

The mean average for first month sales is down to 2,583 units - 39% lower than the 4,268 units the average indie game sold back in 2015.

Mean average naive revenue is down to $25,353, which is almost half the $49,759 indie developers were raking in over their first month two years ago. It's worth noting that within his assumptions, Galyonkin observes that actual revenue is always smaller than naive revenue.

Finally, the stats show that the average price of an indie game in the USA dropped from $6.50 in 2015 to $6.12 this year - reiterating an earlier SteamSpy assertion that indies should charge more for their titles.

In a Twitter thread accompanying the release of these stats, Galyonkin said: "It's an interesting situation, really. Valve makes more money, the top devs are making roughly the same, but an average developer makes less.

"The overall number of releases grew 2.5 times compared to 2015 but total revenue only went up 25%. Talk about diminishing returns."

He also notes that one publisher allegedly released over 100 games in the first two months of Steam Direct, making it "hard to understand the actual impact on real [developers]."

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Latest comments (1)

Ron Dippold Software/Firmware Engineer A month ago
So overall sales are up but the number of games is waaaaay up so average revenue per game is down. Another bit of this, and why prices look like they're going down, is that Steam is now flooded with low quality budget titles like 'I Want Toilet'. Tons of East Euro and Chinese shovelware priced at $0.99 (which you can see in his games list). This also drives the apparent average revenue down.

Steam discoverability is dead dead dead now, but you were a fool if you relied on any time recently - the top ten results suggest that for a given game of decent quality you wouldn't do too differently this year vs last year, because Steam is just where they buy your game.
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