Introversion: Steam sale saved our company

"If you're not on Steam, then you're not an indie game developer of any note," says Morris

Introversion Software, the independent UK developer behind Defcon, Darwinia and Multiwinia, nearly went out of business earlier this year following disappointing sales of its XBLA conversion Darwinia+ - and could have done so if not for an injection of revenue from a Steam sale.

That's according to the company's MD, Mark Morris, who revealed to that he had to let all the staff go and closed the office, with the business reverting to its original line-up of the four directors.

However, after they worked on implementing Steam achievements into Defcon in a bid to get some promotion from the Valve platform, they were amazed at the results.

"The Valve sale - it was just phenomenal," Morris explained. "A couple of statistics that I'm sure Valve won't mind me sharing: We've now sold more than $2.5 million through Steam, which is pretty good for Introversion, through life. Not all of that comes back to us, because sometimes it's been in bundle packs, and we've gotten less. But basically it equates to almost bang on 1 million, so we're really pleased.

"The sale did in the ball park of $250,000 - so when you're back to being a team of four people, that's a lot of revenue."

By comparison he revealed that a promotion for Darwinia+ on XBLA, where the game was Deal of the Week for "about six weeks" at a cut price of 800 points had little impact.

"The needle moved, but not much," he said. "It was interesting as well, because we were around sixth or seventh in their download chart, so comparing the numbers we were seeing at our end... it was interesting, it makes me think that maybe there's a very sharp drop from between the top two and the rest."

Morris, although admitting that working with Valve was sometimes difficult, was clear in his praise for the platform.

"I'd go so far as to say that if you're not on Steam, then you're not an indie game developer of any note," he said. "You absolutely have to be on that platform at the moment. Steam doesn't ask for exclusivity, and I know it's hard to get on there - Valve doesn't make it easy - but that's part of the challenge. If you want to run a company you have to find a way of getting your game on there.

"Part of the reason for that is that Valve regularly runs promotions that mean you can really capitalise on your back-catalogue, and you don't have that control with the consoles. Thinks like the iPad and iPhone, I think they're too crowded, and awareness is too difficult.

"And the other thing I'd say is that we've been doing a lot of work on the Introversion website recently, metricating it and putting all the analytics in place - we sell via our own site. I've always said this from the start, and still do - you have to be selling from your own website as well, because you see 99 per cent of every transaction that goes through there, so every piece of marketing that you do links back to your website.

"A regular Steam month is about a fifty-fifty revenue split between Valve and our website, because although the volume isn't anywhere near what they're doing, the money coming through is enough to even it out."

The full interview with Mark Morris is available now.

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Latest comments (8)

Troy Walters Studying BACH MULT MED GAMES & INTERACTIVITY, Swinburne University of Technology9 years ago
Imagin if Activision had 75% off MW2 - I wonder what the uptake would be....
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Kingman Cheng Illustrator and Animator 9 years ago
The power of Steam rises!

But anyway it's great to see they were saved by them, and Steam is easier to use than XBLA anyway in my opinion.
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James Finlan Studying Information Systems, University of Manchester9 years ago
Good to hear they managed to keep going, they make small but fun games and this industry needs more of the same because that is where innovation comes from, not huge budget AAA titles.
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Spencer Marshman News Editor, Retro Fusion Magazine9 years ago
It's a real shame to hear this. I know this company fairly well as I was able to test and give feedback on their XBLA port before release and I remember well that they were really excited about their first console venture. But more importantly than the possibility of the price putting off people who weren't farmiliar with the game I was more angry at the very little advertising and publicity that Microsoft gave Darwina+ overall. It seems that unless you are a big publisher such as Capcom, Sega or Ubisoft you really are fed to the wolves despite the fact that XBLA was supposed to be an enviroment for small budget games and indie companies to thrive in.
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Sam Maxted Journalist / Community / Support 9 years ago
"I'd go so far as to say that if you're not on Steam, then you're not an indie game developer of any note"

I'm not sure I'd agree with this as such - some games lend themselves more to being played on the PC, while others are better suited to consoles. Darwinia strikes me as something that would be better played on a PC, so I'm not all that surprised the XBLA sale had little effect compared to Steam's. I would, however, be interested in how console-only indie games have fared in XBLA / PSN sales.
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Jeff Wayne Technical Architect 9 years ago
Why is it apparantly so difficult to get your game on Steam? Surely it's in Valve's interest to have a larger more varied catalogue than just titles from big hitters. I am a big fan of Steam personally (aside from the recurring client currency bug!) and the bigger the choice in catalogue the better imo.
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Jay Kim Student, University of California9 years ago
"...some games lend themselves more to being played on the PC, while others are better suited to consoles."

See, I don't think this is a correct assertion either. You can play any game on the PC as if it were a console; you can hook it up to a TV and/or a controller. The other way around...not so much.
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Sam Maxted Journalist / Community / Support 9 years ago
Jay: True, but I'd imagine there are only a small number of people who actually do that. Either way, it doesn't really apply in this particular case, as Darwinia's available on both PC and consoles. I was simply making the point that it's more of a PC-style game, so may not appeal so much to console gamers or, given the choice, they'd rather have the PC version.
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