Steam Launch Diary #4: Recovery, Reflection, and Next Steps

Missile Cards is OUT NOW on steam. Only $4.99! – If you want to support my ongoing gamedev efforts this year, grabbing a copy during this critical launch month means a lot! Thanks!

mc copy

Taking some time away from Missile Cards hustle the past few days has given me a bit of breathing room to process things, tinker on some other upcoming projects, and consider next steps. Before I dig in, here’s an update of where things stand, since we’re almost two weeks out into launch month and things aren’t looking so hot for the PC version on Steam.

Total Steam sales to date: 181

# of Sales needed to hit my break even point for development: 5,000

Only 4,819 more Steam sales to go before I can start making a profit, wheeee!

Financially, Missile Cards on Steam–at least so far–has been a total flop. There has been a lot of interest, user reviews have been super positive, and over 1,000 people have added it to their wishlist. But what I haven’t seen, is solid sales traction…yet.

Card games, and weird retro-themed non-TCG style ones at that, are not a huge seller on Steam. I knew this going in, which is why I hoped my fairly low-aiming goal of simply breaking even by selling 5,000 copies during launch month wasn’t too ambitious.

It might have been. At this point, I’ve given up on trying to break even this month and am simply just aiming to earn SOME income to pay off a few bills. Even 1,000 copies sold won’t make much of a dent, which is…yeah. Ergh.

The reason I set the 5,000 sales goal, is because that’s what it’d take to cover the game’s 6-month dev cycle. Hitting that “break even” goal would let me knock out a few gnarly bills looming over my head, but even that isn’t enough to really be in a good spot financially to start focusing more of my “work hours” time on game dev.

THE SILVER LINING?

Slow sales during these first two weeks have been pretty depressing, leaving me feeling exhausted and more demotivated than ever this past week.

Again, I designed Missile Cards with the intention of limited its risk by getting it done in six months and keeping it within scope. That, it appears, was a very smart battle plan, because I’d be in a significantly worse headspace than I am right now if I had spent a year working on this thing to launch to crickets.

But a few things have perked me up a bit the past couple of days.

review.png

Press Coverage?! 

Missile Cards hasn’t had much coverage beyond a few mentions here and there on the day it came out. I sent out review codes and copies to a ton of press and YouTubers. Most ignored it, though I did get a nice shoutout in a PC Gamer roundup and the first (only?) proper press review popped up at BagOGames, which was very positive.

YouTuber Let’s Plays!

Interestingly, out of all the codes and emails I sent out, YouTubers, including some fairly large ones, seemed much more inclined to open the email and redeem the Steam codes. I had hoped this would lead to some larger channels picking the game up. So far, it hasn’t, but who knows. I have had a few kind folks checking it out and making videos though, and Dad’sGamingAddiction has been doing a multi-part playthrough of the game, which is super rad.

Here’s hoping that it gets picked up by some other Let’s Players this month!

Positive User Reviews and Feedback!

I haven’t lost all hope, yet. Maybe Steam is a wash right now, but Missile Card still has a lot of potential–both over time and on other platforms. One thing that’s really kept me going is the fact that a lot of people who play it genuinely seem to love the game, once they get a feel for it.

I didn’t expect this.

If anything, I expected that maybe it’d sell a little better but more players would be ribbing me with shitty, negative, miserable complaints over why they hated it (like my past few Steam launch experiences). That hasn’t been the case (yet) this time around, and I think that’s helped keep me from totally falling into the mental abyss.

That’s been encouraging. Missile Cards isn’t a perfect game, but I definitely feel like I accomplished EXACTLY what I set out to do with it gameplay-wise. It’s a very systems-intense game, and my first all-GML coded project. It’s easily the most complex and ambitious thing I’ve created under the hood, and the fact that 1) it works and 2) players are getting hooked and digging it feels…really great.

Granted, it’s a niche game, but I think if I was able to get more visibility, either through press coverage or more YouTuber love, then it’d do a lot better sales-wise. Admittedly, Steam isn’t the best fit for it though, platform-wise, but you can’t really do a mobile-to-Steam launch without taking it on the chin. It made sense to launch for PC first.

The Steam launch, while not very successful so far, has given me the opportunity to get some good feedback, quickly patch a few bugs, and get some initial visibility for the game. I’m hoping this will only help as I prep it for other platforms down the road.

So…what’s next now?

GOING MOBILE? GOING CONSOLE?

People keep telling me they want Missile Cards on mobile, so that’s been a big part of where my head is at with the project right now, because there’s a good chance the game will do significantly better on mobile (which is not that hard to do, given Steam sales).

An iOS version of Missile Cards is probably my next big move here, and I’ve been agonizing over how to approach this, since a misstep here could tank my chances of salvaging this project, financially.

I’m fully prepared to launch the game on iOS on my own if I have to. That said, I’m first looking for an indie-friendly mobile publisher to partner with for the iOS launch, if I can find one that’s a good fit. The mobile market is a tough nut to crack if you’re an indie, if you’re not launching a F2P game (bleh), and if you don’t have an established presence on the store front. It seems prudent to partner up with someone who has a good track record and established foothold on the AppStore.

I have a few indie publishers in mind who would be a great fit for this project, and I’m in the process of reaching out to them. Who knows if I’ll get a response, but I have a little time to sort things out.

I’m going to be picky about this, though, because I don’t need a publisher just for the sake of having one. I can do all of the ugly, tedious bits myself. What I’m looking for is a indie-friendly mobile publisher who believes in the project, whose finds it a good match for its brand, and who has the connections/reach to get enough traction to make sacrificing a solid cut of sales actually worthwhile.

And even if I lock down a mobile publisher for Missile Cards, I still plan to hustle like hell with my own parallel DIY marketing efforts for the mobile launch, whenever that happens.

Bringing Missile cards to consoles is also something I’ve been thinking about. Rejiggering it for controller support isn’t terribly impossible, and I think the game could be fun to play in your living room, but I’ll wait and see on that for now.

Anyhoo! Long update, as per the yooshe. Again, I always appreciate your support! Want to lend me a hand? Here’s how:

3 WAYS TO HELP MISSILE CARDS SUCCEED THIS MONTH!

  1. Buy the gameEvery single sale counts during this launch period! Seriously!
  2. Leave a Steam review – If you’re enjoying the game, please also take a second to leave a short Steam review as soon as you can! That makes a HUGE difference. Most players don’t take the time to leave them, or they often only do if they don’t like the game.
  3. Tell a friend / Share on social media – I’m doing all of my own DIY marketing, so every little bit of help getting the word out means a lot! Have a pal that likes retro pixel art or strategy card games? Maybe pass the link along! And I always appreciate signal boosting or Twitter/social media support.

Thanks so much! I’ll be blogging about the game and my progress on the “Quest to 5,000” throughout the month at www.nathanmeunier.com.

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2 thoughts on “Steam Launch Diary #4: Recovery, Reflection, and Next Steps

  1. Selling solid numbers on Steam is a tough egg to crack. Often you have to sell enough to get noticed in the discovery algorithms that will then put your game in front of more people. But then how do you sell enough to get noticed in the first place?

    Usually you need a very significant amount of organic / grassroots interest, support and sales on day 1 to make enough sales to get caught in the “positive feedback loop” that Steam is known for. But then building up to that solid day 1 is a whole other story.

    Good luck with it all Nathan! 🙂

    • Thanks Miles! Yeah man, it has been a challenge. I’m happy to have made some sales and received positive reviews in the first weekend, but it definitely wasn’t enough to really move the needle.

      Exploring other options for when the dust settles later this month! Cheers!

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