Sales in the Brave New Steam World

Steam is quickly transitioning from a tightly curated store to an open market where more games are being released than ever. This has triggered many to debate about the indie bubble bursting or if there even is one. Regardless of all of this, the truth is that being a successful indie developer is still the same – make a good game and get it noticed. Developers simply must look elsewhere to find the visibility that Steam once granted. This has left many developers wondering how much visibility does Steam still offer and how well can a game still do when launching on the service.

Last month I was one of those curious developers when I released Crea on Steam Early Access. I had very little idea of what sales would be like. In the past a few developers have been open with their sales figures, such as Hitbox Team and David Pittman of Eldritch, but nothing for this quickly changing Steam world. I want to continue this spirit of open development and share what  the first month of sales on Steam has been like for us. First some context is needed before we get to the sales figures below.

Crea launched on Kickstarter in July 2012, shortly after the popularity of games on Kickstarter exploded. We managed a successful campaign of $28k thanks to some news coverage, Kickstarter cross-promotions and heavy Kickstarter traffic due to Ouya’s and Castle Story’s campaigns.

After the Kickstarter campaign we kept our community updated but otherwise stayed very quiet while we worked on our game. We remained quiet even a year later when we released an alpha version of Crea through Humble Bundle to start getting player feedback as early as possible.


Working with Humble has been a great experience. While the number of sales was sometimes, well, humble, this stream of income was crucial to keeping food on the table while we worked on Crea full time.


It was not until the launch of our Greenlight page in October 2013 that we finally began attempting to make some noise. We reached out to a few youtubers and some news sites; however, by then Greenlight had lost its novelty among news sites, and we mostly went unnoticed. Despite this lack of coverage, Crea was Greenlit by February 2014. Our next goal was to get Crea ready for Steam Early Access.

We continued to incorporate our beta testers’ feedback to improve Crea. We spent most of the month of May preparing for the Steam Early Access release. With the help of the wonderful Mary Kish we made a new game trailer and reached out to as much press as we could. I also put Video Game Caster to good use and contacted many youtubers about Crea. We got some great responses from small to medium-sized sites and youtubers but we did not get any coverage from any large sites.

Now we get to the interesting part! What do sales look like for a game launching June 3rd, 2014 on Steam Early Access with little press coverage?


So far these sales have been great! We made $500 in the first hour of being on Steam, and $18,000 in the first week. Sales have slowed down since the excitement of our initial release, but have continued to bring in at least $300 per day. (All numbers are gross profit.)

We decided to not participate in the Steam Summer sale and we expected that our sales would drop during this time. However, as you can see, our sales actually got a small boost during the sale.

Crea was featured on the front page of Steam for Mac and Linux – which is amazing, but even with this prominent feature their sales still have only accounted for 20% of our total sales.


To put everything in perspective, here are all of the gross sales for Crea – including Kickstarter, Humble Store and Steam. Of all the money we’ve made from Crea over the past two years, roughly 35% of it has come within the last month.


At this point, we’re very happy with the sales and all the positive reviews of Crea on Early Access. These sales mean development funding for many more months and enough to hire an additional developer. So while the Steam marketplace may be becoming more and more diluted with games, it’s still powerful enough to bring a significant amount of sales to a relatively unknown title such as Crea even in Early Access. We hope that this information can help shape the expectations and plans of other indie game developers. May it be a light for you when all other lights go out.

8 thoughts on “Sales in the Brave New Steam World

  1. chronicdiscord

    The big problem is that many users are like me, they will never, ever, e-friggin-ver buy an early access title. All too often that stuff ends up buggy, half formed, and abandoned. So, good luck with 1.0.

    1. jmcmorris Post author

      Yeah, I completely understand that many people will not buy Early Access games. It is good that these people don’t because I think Early Access is for players who want to be involved in the development with bugs and all. For people who just want to play the game I’d much prefer they wait to buy and play until release. Crea is and will continue to be my fulltime job until it is released so we’ll make it to 1.0. It is just a matter of time.

  2. Cody Burrow

    And how much will this blog post boost sales? I feel like $15 is just too high for me – but especially in the face of continued Terraria expansions and Starbound on the way, I feel like the timing of your game is just a little tragic. It’s hard to tell from first glance what sets it apart from those titles.

    What chronicdiscord says about early access is right, though. I’m surprised you get as many sales as you do. Myself and many others have purchased an early access title in the past and received shit, a total waste of $20, for a dead or dying, misadvertised project the developers had no intention of improving or completing, and have been incredibly leery of purchasing early access games going forward.

    For what it’s worth I didn’t even know your game existed until a retweet (gambrinous by gausswerks).

    1. jmcmorris Post author

      This blog post is not going to do anything for the sales. Maybe a few extra but nothing much. That’s ok though because that’s not the purpose of this post. It is true that one of our biggest challenges is distinguishing ourselves from the existing giants. Anyone who has played Crea can attest to it being very different from the other 2D sandbox games. We just need to figure out how to convey that in our media. Once we manage that we’ll hopefully be able to spread the word about Crea. The large majority of indie dev people still have no idea Crea exists.

  3. Cody Burrow

    That stuff said, I love reading posts like this, and love Python, so I wonder if your game will prove a flexible 2D game prototyping platform. I’m a bit sad you chose to go with a pixel art style rather than smooth, painted sprites like Bastion or Braid, given Kelley McMorris’ brilliant painting style.

    1. jmcmorris Post author

      Glad you enjoyed the post. I know I always find these types of posts really interesting too which is why I wrote it. I’m not sure how good of a 2D prototyping platform Crea will be but it’ll at least be a fun way to play around with game development stuff in Python. There is a great deal of things we’d change if we could start over. Choosing another art style like what you suggest may have been one of them. But alas we can only move forward and redoing all of the artwork for the game would be completely unreasonable.

      1. Cody B

        That’s cool dude. I have been thinking about it and how kids love to play minecraft, etc. I’ve always felt python is an excellent language to teach programming, so your game could probably be used for a kids workshop teaching the basics by making some mods. That’s a really valuable niche it appears to fill quite beautifully (I didn’t buy it yet, but that’s my impression).

        1. jmcmorris Post author

          Yeah, actually I’ve talked to a local indie dev who does kids workshops just like you described and he’s interested in using Crea in the future. It still has a ways to go before I’d say it is a good teaching tool – lots of complexity that could be ironed out and tutorials/documentation to be written.


Leave a Reply