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Switch publisher shares interesting eShop insight – sales, Metacritic, more

Posted on September 25, 2020 by (@NE_Brian) in News, Switch eShop

Nintendo eShop

No More Robots has quite a bit of experience with Switch having published four games. This year alone the company has brought Not Tonight: Take Back Control Edition, Yes, Your Grace, Nowhere Prophet, and Hypnospace Outlaw to the system.

With everything learned thus far, No More Robots’ co-founder Mike Rose published a lengthy thread on Twitter today that gives very interesting insight into the eShop. Rose discussed sales and discounts, the importance of Metacritic, and much more.

Here’s the full roundup of tweets:

Over the last 9 months, we’ve put multiple games out on the Nintendo eShop. I’d heard beforehand that the eShop can be tricky, so I was excited to see what worked, and what didn’t.

Here’s what I found. LOOONG THREAD TIME:

First off, before I really get into it:

1. I won’t be giving any specific sales figures, as I don’t want to upset anyone, but I’ll try to be as useful as possible

2. This isn’t really going to be a “eShop is good/bad” thread. You can make your own mind up from my findings

The main reason I wanna do this thread is because quite frankly, I don’t think there’s enough information out there about the eShop, and how you should be looking to make your game sell

So hopefully this thread can help some devs who are looking to put their games on there soon!

SO!

This year, No More Robots has released 4 titles for the Nintendo Switch:

Jan – Not Tonight: Take Back Control Edition
June – Yes, Your Grace
July – Nowhere Prophet
August – Hypnospace Outlaw

I’m going to talk through each one, and what we learned about the eShop

1. Not Tonight: Take Back Control Edition

Not Tonight was a crazy game to start our eShop journey with. Imagine trying to pitch this:

“Hey Big N! We’re a publisher looking to get into the eShop, and we’ve got this anti-Brexit bouncer sim filled with rude jokes. Is that cool?”

We made some bold decisions with Not Tonight on Switch too. We bundled the One Love DLC with it as standard, and made it $24.99

So we had a semi-expensive title, about Brexit, that was clearly going to get no support from Nintendo because *as if they were going to touch that*

When it released, it did fiiiiine. It basically sold 10% of what the Steam version sold in its own opening month.

I will say, Not Tonight did *crazy* numbers on Steam when it originally launched, so it was a hard act to follow, but I was still mildly disappointed

I learned a lot of things from this launch, that we then better implemented in future eShop launches, BUT…

I’m going to be coming back to Not Tonight later in this thread, because

oh boy

it’s ended up being one of the more interesting eShop case studies for us

2. Yes, Your Grace

We were excited to get Yes, Your Grace out on Switch for multiple reasons. The game had sold *ridiculous* numbers on Steam just 3 months before, and Nintendo said they wanted to feature it, so I was thinking “aww yeah now it’s time to POP OFF”

Things we did differently this time:

1. Pre-orders with a nice discount (20% off I believe)
2. Secured promo from Nintendo (eShop placement, news channel placement, I think the trailer went somewhere too)
3. Releasing the eShop version a lot closer to its original launch

So the game released on Switch, and… again, just kinda did fine?

Given the eShop support, the crazy success of the PC version, the coverage we got, we’d hoped for decent numbers

The eShop version did 8% of the units that the Steam version did in month one

Now I can argue back and forth about the reasoning for this, but when you compare the two platforms, we got just as much coverage, platform support, buzz etc for both.

For me it was crazy to see us getting nice featuring, and still not really picking up many sales from it

3. Nowhere Prophet

With Nowhere Prophet, it was an interesting case because we were also launching on Xbox Game Pass at the same time, which had essentially already secured financial success for the console versions

Notably, Nowhere Prophet was another semi-expensive title ($24.99) which, before the launch, had worried me.

However, knowing what I know now (which I’ll get into soon!!), I’m very happy we’ve gone with a higher price for it

The Switch version of Nowhere Prophet did around 20% of the launch month that Steam saw, which again was a little disappointing, but I kinda “got it” this time

It’s a card game, it’s a bit more pricey. We have plans for its future that I believe will definitely help with that
Now this is the bit where I digress into something different but important:

Usually, Metacritic scores do not matter, especially on PC.

I’ve never cared about them, and our games have sold great regardless of what scores we get.

Unfortunately, they do kinda matter on Switch.

This is because:

1. Nintendo straight-up use Metacritic scores to sometimes determine whether you get into sales, get featuring etc

2. People browsing the eShop seem to use Metacritic a lot as a way to quick glance at whether a game is worth picking up

I knew all of this, so I decided to find out the answer to a question that has been in my brain for a very long time…

How easy is it to manipulate Metacritic?

It turns out the answer is…

Pretty easy.

Here’s what I did:

1. I found all the sites that covered Switch games and were on Metacritic
2. I removed all the sites that, on average, give lower review scores
3. That’s it, it was that simple. I’m a bloody mastermind.

I did it for Not Tonight first, and it resulted in a Switch Metacritic score that was 7 points higher than the PC score

I then did it for Nowhere Prophet, resulting in an 8 point higher score than PC

In both instances it pushed the games from “mixed” to “positive” on Metacritic
I mention this now, because at this point, I need to jump back to Not Tonight.

Since around Xmas last year, I started to notice other indie publisher putting their sales on crazy deep discounts on Switch, and hitting the top charts over and over

Anyone who knows my publishing philosophy knows that I haaaate deep discounts. We’ve never discounted one of our titles below 40% before, and most of our games have never gone below 25% off. I want players to understand that our games have value, and many seem to respect that

So when I saw all these deep discounts happen, I got pretty worried, especially when I realized after the Not Tonight launch that the eShop is entirely dependent on *units sold*, rather than *revenue made*, when it’s sorting its official top charts

This might not sound like a big distinction, but it’s the entire reason why the eShop top charts are filled with cack.

If you release an asset flip for $10, and put it on 95% off constantly, people will pick it up because IT’S CHEAP, and push you to the top of the charts

We did a 30% off sale for Not Tonight around April time, and it did fiiine, but nothing great, and definitely nothing like we expect from Steam sales.

So in June, we decided fuck it — if you can’t beat them, join them.

We put Not Tonight at 90% off.

In 24 hours, we entered the top 30 charts.
In a week, we’d topped the charts.
We sat there for 2 more weeks before the sale ended.
The game nearly sold as many units during those 4 weeks, as it has sold in its lifetime on Steam.
It made 6 figure revenue.

Now of course the game was $2.50 during this time, but because we were shifting *so many goddamn units*, it ended up doing incredibly well. We also got so many eyeballs from just being in the charts

In a way I was happy, but in other way… eugh. So gross that we had to do this

So when you look at the eShop top charts, and you see them filled with 95% off tat, please understand why:

It’s because they’re making crazy money by manipulating the system.

And it’s only going to get worse and more and more people realize this

I mentioned Metacritic earlier, because a big reason why I think the 90% discount exploded so much was that people were sharing it around constantly saying “has a great Metacritic score too!!”. I think the green MC score helped immensely in tipping people over the edge to grab it

*takes a breath because we’re still only halfway through this thread*

ANYWAY.

I still just didn’t want to believe that this was the only way to sell on the eShop. So we decided to take Yes, Your Grace, and do a semi-deep discount, push it hard, and track the two sales against each other.

So we popped Yes, Your Grace in with a 40% discount, and sales started to take off.

But here’s the issue: While they were very strong to begin with, and made a bunch of money, we didn’t climb to the top of the charts because we were making *money*, not *units*.

So where Not Tonight kept going strong because of the charts, YYG did not… I think it’s time for a GRAPH

Here is Not Tonight’s 90% off month, plotted against Yes, Your Grace’s 40% off month (with numbers removed so I don’t upset anyone)

Many things to unpack here:

1. Yes, Your Grace sold roughly 13% as many units at Not Tonight, but did around 60% of the revenue of Not Tonight

2. Note that YYG holds its own for a good week or so! Then Not Tonight climbs the charts and starts exploding as a result

3. Note that *after the sale ends on both games*, because Not Tonight is still in the charts but at full price, it then continues to outsell Yes, Your Grace!!

Before the sale, it was doing around 7% of the daily units that YYG was doing, so the after effects are preeetty crazy

So what the heck do I take away from this…

Arguably, it seems that super deep discounts aren’t *entirely* necessary. Yes, Your Grace did 60% of the Not Tonight revenue when it was 40% off, so obviously lower discounts can still do well

But at the same time, *eeks all round*

If it didn’t work multiple times then maybe that would be the solution!…

But it totally does. I’ve seen so many other indie publishers climb the charts with the same game multiple times, and it has never slowed down for them

And in fact, we literally just put Not Tonight on a 90% off sale again this week, to see if we could repeat it… and…

Yeah, you guessed right — we’ve entered the top charts again, and we’re currently climbing them.

But here’s one of the craziest things: The 90% off discount on Switch, does not affect Steam sales *at all*

I was worried we’d see Steam sales drop, but if anything Steam sales seem to ever so slightly *increase* during that time, maybe due to the game getting new buzz

alright we’re near the end now I promise, I bet you’ve muted this thread by now anyway, and I don’t blame you

4. Hypnospace Outlaw

This was *the big one* for us.

Nintendo asked for the game specifically, and then asked if they could announce it as part of one of their massive Indie World streams.

We said Heck Yes You Can.

So for Hypnospace, we had:

1. Multiple Game of the Year awards
2. Announced during massive Nintendo livestream
3. Promo from Nintendo everywhere
4. Great review scores
5. Huge buzz

I was ready for the best sales we’d ever had on Switch…

And it did… fine?

Definitely worth the port, but it didn’t sell as well as Yes, Your Grace, and really we were all a bit underwhelmed, especially since we’d been in one of Nintendo’s big dang streams that every single person in the entire world watches

However, again we launched the title into Xbox Game Pass, which had already negated the entire risk of the porting costs.

So in the end, we were fine with how it had done, and by now it’s selling nicely on a day-to-day basis now thanks to its high ratings

ANYWAAAYYYYYY

This thread has already been insanely long so I should wrap it up. There’s quite a lot to take away here I think, but I’m going to try to sum up the big things we’ve learned for future Switch releases:

1. The store is filled with deep discounts, because they work on the eShop. That’s never going to change unfortunately
2. You should aim to get a decent Metacritic score, because it actually seems to matter on Switch
3. Nintendo’s features maybe don’t do as much as you’d assume
4. You should do pre-orders. Your first week of sales will be roughly 3x your preorder numbers, so it’s a good early sales indicator
5. You should do a demo. You can get extra spots on the eShop when you do
6. Do a decent launch discount to catch eyeballs on the store

We’ve got Descenders coming out on Nintendo Switch extremely soon (probably announcing the launch date next week), so we’re not quite done with the eShop for 2020 yet!

But for now, hopefully some of the above lengthy thread was useful to someone!

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