So! Starship Rubicon just got Greenlit. A couple people asked for a postmortem. WELL I WAS GOING TO DO ONE ANYWAY AND HERE IT IS.


I think our traffic graph (at the top of the post) speaks for itself. We had a huge initial surge (I assume from being on the front page of Greenlight for being “recently submitted”) which QUICKLY dropped off over the week as we moved further and further away from the front page. The later minor spikes came from exposure through Let’s Players and Twitch streamers.*

Then came what is only known as the Dark Times, where we weren’t actively promoting it and were more-or-less sitting pretty at a steady ~40% of the way to the top 100. We were banking on getting more bumps down the line from doing some conventions and maybe a bundle. Then BAM! Out of the blue, Greenlit! So what on Earth happened??? Why did we get Greenlit when we did? Read on for my best guess:

* (huge shout out to Stream Friends, Maris from GamerQuest, and many others)


If you notice one thing in our post mortem it should be that I am mostly going to agree with Wick on just about everything. He is not only smarter than I am but he also is really good at spinning fire so it’s best to avoid major disagreements.

Like Wick said, the first large traffic spike is pretty apparent. Front page Greenlight means votes. Some people have said having an animated GIF means more people will check you out, unsure if it’s true but I found other Greenlight games animated GIF’s distracting.

The other upticks in traffic was from our December 12th 2014 launch. As you can see the numbers start to head upward as the game generated more buzz. We launched a PR campaign on Cheerful Ghost, social sites as well sending out the usual press kits and review keys to game sites and the Let’s Play community. All press coverage we received, which wasn’t much, was all very positive. That said, the majority of our buzz was from from the Let’s Play community. As much as I think I can craft a good press kit nothing beats seeing someone play the game and have fun with it. The night Wick and watched Stream Friends play the game on Twitch was magical.

Here you can see how our project was faring against the average top 50 Greenlight projects. The most obvious discrepancy is the traffic volume: about 3,000 visitors for us versus 20,000 for them (i.e. we had 14.4% the traffic they did) - an entire order of magnitude difference! D:

It gets a lot more encouraging once you start looking at the actual response we were getting, though: with only 14% of the traffic that they did, we had 34% of their favorites, 40% of their followers and 21% of their “yes” votes! That is, even though we had much less traffic, each visitor to Starship Rubicon was around twice as likely to respond positively than a visitor to a top 50 project.

Interestingly, we still had 13% of the “no” votes that they did -- basically no per-visitor difference. I guess that there’s just a standard “I don’t care about this game” level that is applied to all projects.

(per-visitor) rubicon avg top 50
any vote: 75% 70%
yes votes: 30% 20%
no votes: 45% 49%
favorites: 3% 1% (followers is basically the same)

It’s nice to see that Rubicon did better than the top 50 when our numbers are averaged out. I have some guesses as to why we were able to do this but none of them may actually be accurate.

Our Greenlight was basically a Kickstarter pitch. From the start of working with Wick I knew I wanted to focus on him and his story and talk about the game secondly. When you hit the Greenlight page the video automatically plays and you get a few seconds of gameplay and it’s Wick talking about the game. My only regret is the “bouncing on the moon camera work” which is totally my fault. I was trying to keep the camera moving to give his talk some momentum but I went a bit off the rails. After looking at a ton of Greenlight pages and really enjoying some recent video game documentaries I asked Wick if we could focus on his story as the first push for marketing the game. I think this personal touch at first contact with the game helped soften the audience up to click yes. One thing I told Wick early on is people might not give a shit about the game but people are generally interested in hearing someone's story.

People that came to our Greenlight page were mostly from Indie / Greenlight friendly sources. We received no coverage on Kotaku, IGN, Eurogamer, Gamespot or PCGamer. Our initial spike was from the Greenlight front page, social sharing & Cheerful Ghost. Our later bump was from the games launch, Let’s Plays and Twitch streaming. I postulate these sources are more friendly than larger sites. “Indie sources” have readership that might not always look for the next shooter or sport title. As such Rubicon is something they may enjoy whereas a more mainstream audience would never consider due to its retro charm.

Eh, I didn’t find this graph very useful. It doesn’t say anything new (besides it looks like top other items all get giant spikes rather than gradual climbs, probably from specific exposure sources).

Why is there an “ask again later” option? Literally nobody I can see uses it.

Now for the Analytics data!
Huh. Make sure you have screenshots and a video that gets to the point, I guess. I wasn’t expecting the peak to be so drastic. The dwarf peak at 61-180 seconds are the people who actually watched the trailer, is my guess (it’s also pretty close to the # of people who came here through facebook…)

Seeing that our traffic was dominated by Steam Greenlight campers, I’m guessing that this is just the readout of that population.

...what strikes me as more interesting is how on earth Google knows this! Apparently they just use cookies to track what sites you visit and then stereotype correlate that to known datasets. Or they just ask Facebook.

I’m not showing the map for space’s sake, but I was surprised that only 44% of our traffic was from the US! Next was Russia at 8%, followed by Germany/UK/Canada/France/Austrailia, but it’s a long tail. Apparently Steam is friggin’ global.

Two more minor notes:
-- Social (fb / reddit) traffic was only 8%. I wish I could compare their responses versus people who found it through Steam. My money’s on them being waay more likely to give it a thumbs-up, but it would be nice to be able to see how large an effect it had. Is our better-than-average positive response due to a small population of supporters?
-- Analytics saw a coupla significant spikes in visitors in the week or so before it was Greenlit that don’t show up at all on the Steam graph. Bots that got filtered out? Valve internal traffic that somehow doesn’t count? Who knows.


Whew. Still with me? My takeaways from the whole thing:
  1. Steam is massive.

  2. Your pitiful-but-valient efforts at promotion for months will be completely dwarfed in volume by the sliver of people who happen stumble onto you through Steam in a single day (see point 1.)

  3. You should still be upbeat and talk genuinely and politely to everyone who will listen anyway. Again, I can’t back this up with numbers since Steam doesn’t show detailed traffic data. BUT! The couple hundred (i.e. dozen) supporters who enthusiastically follow and support you are way more valuable in the long run than two thousand people just passing through.

  4. The selection process is opaque and sorta hit-and-run.

I wanted to wrap this into another post about the process of technically integrating into Steam, but people were asking about the process and it had already gotten sort of long, so expect another postmortem sometime down the road!

Travis   Admin wrote on 05/19/2015 at 05:08pm

Nice run down! There's a lot of info there.

Orionnoir wrote on 05/19/2015 at 09:01pm

Thank you for sharing! I guess I am one of those people on the outside that is really interested in steam integration. Either here or in person I hope to hear that story someday too! This is very interesting to too!

AdamPFarnsworth wrote on 05/20/2015 at 03:33pm

I love statistics! Thanks for sharing all this, it's very interesting.

rettisawesome wrote on 05/22/2015 at 09:12pm

Stoked for you guys. It really is a great game. And great graphs.

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