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[Hi, I’m ‘how people find your game’ expert Simon Carless, and you’re reading the Game Discoverability Now! newsletter, which you can subscribe to now, a regular look at how people discover and buy video games in the 2020s.]
Welcome to the latest in a series of research / analysis articles on Nintendo Switch. This is the hottest console platform for small and medium-sized indies looking to launch on multiple platforms.
(A good sign of this? Marketing / Discovery Discord for recently joined games has a “Steam” channel, a “Switch” channel, and an “Other Stores” channel, not my words, but their people. )
In my latest article on Switch about a month ago, I talked about some of the aggressive discounts and changed my expectations for the platform. But that was the article “What Nintendo May Change in the e-Shop.”
So now I’m going to approach it from a different angle. simply-‘What big misconception does the average developer have about the current state of the Nintendo Switch market?‘
Use e-shop charts as the “gospel” for success
You see, there are no two ways. The “14-day rolling sale based on unit count” eShop charting method is superior to “1 day rolling” in that it stops the game. Soon Shoot at the top of the chart when you get a big discount. (It will take several days.)
But if the game sells a huge amount of copies at a discounted price, it really confuses things. why? Now, let’s say something sells 3,000-5,000 copies a day for 7 days with 95 +% off and then returns to regular price. How long does it take to disappear from the top 30 just because a large number of copies were sold in X for 14 days? I have the answer:
We have started detailed tracking of Nintendo Switch e-shop charts. The habit of “sales volume, last 14 days” is important. For example, Kotodama (https://t.co/kUlgxI6VcO) took 10 days to leave the top 30 (!) After the “97% off” discount ended.
— Simon Carless (@simoncarless) June 27, 2020
These “more than 90% off” games are said to not sell many copies at regular prices (because they move the chart down again). But for those (players or developers!) Who vaguely check those 10-day charts to see what’s popular, the context of the fact that these games used to be 99c or less isn’t clear. Hmm.
In fact, some people may have made a development decision because they checked the charts after the game discount was over and thought it was working well at the regular price. In effect, the chart becomes a “previously cheap, but no one knows” minefield.
So if you’re looking for a winner on Switch, check the price history for undiscounted games or specific games. (E-shop prices are pretty good in the price history, but keep in mind that Europe and North America can discount different amounts at different times, sigh.)
And since it’s a bit painful to achieve “real revenue success” on Switch right now, you might start working on tools to better publish this information. (Bigosaur’s earnings-adjusted switch chart is a great starting point, but we want to see more details and more frequent updates.)
I heard great things about selling Switch games
Early on, Nintendo was keen to broadcast a very impressive number of indie sales on Switch. For example, in April 2018, they announced:
“Stardew Valley […] It was launched in Europe and the United States in October last year, and since it was launched in Japan earlier this year, we are aiming to sell 1 million units worldwide. And Overcooked: Special Edition, released in Japan and other markets last summer, has already sold over 500,000 copies. “
Other numbers are leaking directly from developers-for example, Dead Cells sold 100,000 copies in the first week of January 2019, and Moonlighter sold a total of 500,000 copies on Switch as of April 2019. We sell 150,000 copies.
I don’t think Nintendo has officially allowed the number of games sold to be announced. (But I’m sure they don’t care if they’re generally positive, and the developers want to raise their hand and say, “In fact, our game didn’t sell very well on Switch.” not.)
So … people don’t. Also, the lack of publicly comparable data (even the number of players) can give the impression of being distorted. But here are some things I doubt-what changed in early 2020:
According to the ICO Switch newsletter, 40 games were released for Switch last week. I’m going to risk the speculation that 50% of them sold less than 1,000 copies in the first week.
Conversely, at the high end, perennial chart games like Stardew Valley sell 10,000 to 20,000 copies a week, months or even years after their launch. And some other titles (eg Summer In Mara!) Are doing it well in the first week.
The “long tail” doesn’t seem to be best suited for regular-priced Switch games, compared to Steam, for example. That’s why people rely on extreme discounts-unless they discount, they won’t get really much sales after the first release hit. (This could be store discoverability related, switch player behavior related, platform related game suitability, or all of the above.)
Therefore, 50% to 70% of new Switch releases estimate lifetimes to be less than $ 100,000, at least before significant discounts are applied.
My overall point here: When the Switch wasn’t crowded, everyone said, “Look, come and publish on the Switch, that’s where you make the most of your money.” I will suggest. Some people are still saying that.
However, those people often released the game in early 2018 or 2019 before rushing to hit. However, the number of games currently available is triple or quadruple, very high quality, and even with extreme discounts. So I don’t think it’s right anymore.
However, Switch is still a very useful platform as part of its multi-platform portfolio. If you’re using a mainstream game engine, porting isn’t too complicated. Nintendo has a friendly and helpful sending process.
So it looks like “this is part of the strategy, just like publishing on Steam, as well as publishing on other consoles.” So … don’t discount the Switch plan (laughs). Have realistic expectations based on where the market is currently.
Switch is great, but is it only a premium game?
Most people are talking about paid premium games on Switch. One of the things that is strangely not fully discussed on Switch is that the service allows you to play games for free.
Well, you probably don’t want to launch a Switch-only F2P title (Ninjala is currently one of them, haha!) But Switch eShop has a specific that can display total ranked charts. All game downloads for the last 14 days, including free games with sorting options.
This is Game Discovery Now! -A summary of both North America and Europe (in this case the Netherlands) in the middle of last week.
As you can see, about half of Europe’s top 50 games ranked by total downloads are free to play. Surprisingly, did you download on Switch and expect some of these titles (WarFace, Asphalt 9) in the top 10 F2P games? Probably not, I’m guessing.
Of course, F2P downloads are only converted to paid users in a few cases (1.5% -5%? I’m not sure about Switch). But, again, some of these players can end up spending hundreds. More than a dollar.
So while F2P isn’t the “first port of call”, considering that F2P games are already monetized on another console and Nintendo will provide functionality when launched on Switch. If you think, just a little. It ’s attractive, is n’t it?