Last week I looked at the incredibly amazing launch of Peglin which earned over 1 million dollars in 1 week. This week I am taking a look at Ravenous Devils which also did very well earning almost $200,000 gross in its first two weeks.
But first the numbers:
- Launch Date: April 29th
- $193,549 Gross revenue (pre Steam cut) by 5/11
- 61,115 units sold by 5/11
- 5412 units returned (8.9%)
- 1986 user reviews which gives it a nearly perfect boxleiter number of 30.77 sales / review
- 2,415 Peak Concurrent players
- 32,052 Wishlists 1 week before launch
- 38,000 Wishlists on launch day (the extra 5948 wishlist came from being in popular upcoming and early streamer coverage)
- 18685 of their wishlists converted to sales
- 521 wishlistees were gifted the game by a friend
- 18.4% wishlist conversion rate
- 7388 wishlist deletes
- 42430 people purchased it without even wishlisting it.
- Currently they have 8633 followers and 104,584 wishlists giving them a 12 Wishlists / Follower ratio
- Team size: 2 full time 1 freelancer
- Publisher: Troglobytes Games but only for console porting. Bad Vices Games self published on Steam.
Ravenous Devils is a great test case which has a lot of good lessons for developers on small teams. Here is the TL;DR of what you will learn today:
- Despite having an early “failure,” continuing on with a second, and third game
- When trying to find a game that has a profitable niche, look for games that sold well but serve a very specific sub-community. Consider redesigning it for a new sub-community.
- Keep your demo up to encourage Streamers and influencers to play your game.
- A super low sale price can be a way to get amazing word of mouth but how low is too low?
- Discovery queue is king when Steam wants to give you visibility. Make more money and Steam will put you in the better locations.
Bad Vices Games is made up of 2 full time developers: Cristian Gambadori (who I interviewed) and Eleonora Vecchi. Mirco Pierfederici worked as a freelance art director. Cristian and Elenora split duties across everything animation, programming, modeling, 3d characters, textures, interfaces.
Cristian and Elenora met in school where they were studying 3D modeling. Their art director was one of their professors and has a long history including working at Marvel (comics) when he was younger.
As is the case with most studios, the first title by Bad Vices Games was a flop. It was a hack & slash adventure game called Hippocampus released in 2020. It received 21 reviews with an average “Mixed” rating. It was their first game out of college.
[Hippocampus] was too difficult. Many players were stuck in the second level. The game was $9 and way too expensive. It needed more polishCristian
But they didn’t give up.
Interestingly, they quickly jumped into making a 6 month erotic game called Sexual Void (NSFW obviously). It was a $2.99 game and sold 170,000 copies. It allowed them to continue working on games. They had fun making the game but the market is very saturated.
We tried to do something really quick so we didn’t spend so much of our life working on it. Also the rice point ($2.99) is really what drove the sales. It got reviews really fast.Cristian
Ravenous Devils Background
With the success of Sexual Void, they were ready to make a game that they were passionate about. To get ideas for their next game they looked at what was selling .
We were really sure we wanted to do a management game or simulation. But the cooking game didn’t come right away. We built two pitches. But they were too big for us. We would have needed to spend a lot of money to get another 3D artist to develop those games. It was impossible at the time.Cristian
Then, his partner Elenora found the demo for cooking/management game Lemon Cake.
Management and cooking games are popular but there weren’t many on Steam. The cooking games on Steam sold really well. But we decided not to make a normal game. We decided to do one with a Sweeney Todd theme because we were big fans.Cristian
Your first game is supposed to fail. That is exactly what happened with Hippocampus. Don’t give up! Don’t make your first game your dream game. You must learn how the market works. I love how adventurous and willing Bad Vices Games is to try a bunch of projects. Nothing is their “dream game.” They are practical and study the market.
For their third game the folks at Bad Vices Games looked at the market. But they didn’t just look at the market to see what the best selling game was and tackle that. They looked at games that were popular but underserved. Cooking games are popular but there aren’t that many of them.
The developers also looked at what type of game they could actually accomplish in the time necessary. Their first concepts were thrown out because they would take too long to develop and require hiring another artist.
Also they looked at a game like Lemon Cake that was serving an audience that is Wholesome and looks like this:
And they said “I bet there is a market for a game that has similar gameplay but looks like this”
So see if there are games that are popular but are hitting a specific audience, try and flip the audience. Take a horror game and make it wholesome. Take a wholesome game and make it horrific. Steam is huge and there are many tastes out there.
You don’t have to go crazy with your genre crossovers. In fact it can work against you. I think way too many indies go crazy with their mashups and it blows up in their face. You might be encouraged to say “Let’s make a Match 3 + FPS!” But those audiences are too different and you will alienate both audiences. Instead, don’t stray too far from genre conventions, see if you can change the theme or add a few new mechanics. Ravenous Devils is a perfect example of this.
The type of game you pick is the most important marketing decision you will make. Right now on Steam, management games are huge. Cooking games are popular. Also the theming is perfect for horror. All of these make a game that Streamers are just begging to cover (will get to that in a bit)
A good game will sell itself, then you can help it, you can promote it. But if you have a strong concept then the game will do wellCristian
Development & Marketing
Ravenous Devils was developed over 1.5 years. The first 6 months they were completely silent about their game. Then they launched their Steam “coming soon” page on May 7th 2021. This means their coming soon steam page was live for 1 year while they finished working on their game.
Here are the major milestones for their game:
There were 3 big inflection points in the course of Ravenous Devil’s marketing
Moment A: October 2021
This was the appearance in Steam Next Fest and first publication of their demo. Demos are very important to the visibility and marketing of your game. The Ravenous Devils developers left their demo up the entire time they marketed their game. They did not use the “gopher” method where they put the demo up for a festival then pulled it down. By leaving their demo up it could be discovered and played by streamers.
Before the demo Ravenous Devils was earning about 10 wishlists per day. The Steam Next Festival gave them 3000 wishlists but it led to an increase in daily wishlists even past the festival. When the demo was live, they were earning 20-30 wishlists per day.
Their demo had a median play time of about 22 minutes. Per my analysis of 80 games this definitely puts Ravenous Devils in the upper tier of demo play times. Peglin had a much higher playtime of over an hour. However, I think Ravenous Devil’s creative theme and beautiful graphics help contribute to its popularity with streamers.
If you search Youtube you can see how popular this game is with streamers. This is where most of their visibility came from. Influencers love leaning into the theme. Also the complex gameplay invites multiple streams. A streamer playing your game is good but a streamer playing it across multiple videos is a true indicator that you have something.
Moment B: March 2022
As you can see in the follower graph above, March saw a huge increase in followers. That is most likely caused by the Thai influencer sheapgamer posting about Ravenous Devils on facebook. Here is sheapgamer’s original post..
The (Google) translated text says:
[Demo] Open front tailor shop Assassinate customers who come to use the service. Slaughter corpses to cook and sell in Ravenous Devils.
Now, Ravenous Devils, a management game that gives you the opportunity to open a clothing store. and then kill people to slaughter their meat and cook them for sale. A free trial demo is now available on Steam. Those who are interested can download it and play frantically here.
As you can see the post generated 4.1K shares.
Now, I don’t know how you can do this for your own game, it is one of those serendipitous moments with streamers, but leaving your demo up opens you up to these sorts of things happening. I like to make the analogy that a demo is like a fish hook that you cast into the river of influencers. The longer you keep the hook in the water, the better your chances are that one of them will bite and cover your game. And sheapgamer’s coverage is an excellent example of this.
Bonus point: In March a scout from Team17 reached out to them unsolicited to ask if they would be interested in a publishing deal. Bad Vices Games declined.
The lesson: publishers track public follower counts and must have seen the increase in daily numbers. This is just another bit of proof that having a Steam page up early and marketing your game is not a deal killer with publishers and actually helpful in attracting them. If you are into that sort of thing.
Moment C: April 2022 Launch Campaign
Bad Vices Games’s console publisher (Troglobytes Games) paid $5000 for a PR company to run an influencer campaign. It resulted in a number of articles and streams such as this one by PC Gamer. Ravenous Devils also appeared in Popular upcoming 3 days before launch.
It is hard to tell what the effect of each was because everything is happening at the same time. But it is a combination of PR outreach, popular upcoming, and organic streamers.
Steam page and voice and great assets
Besides the popular genre, I think the other thing that really helped this game find such popularity was the strong hook: cooking management + horror where you bake bodies + a not-so-subtle wink at cult hit Sweeny Todd.
The team did an excellent job making all their assets look great. Every bit of the capsule hints at the vibes of the game: horror, Victorian, and Sweeny Todd. Notice how looking at the capsule you don’t know what type of game this is (that is not the capsule’s job). Instead, the capsule does a good job of broadcasting “vibes.”
For instance, the characters definitely look like a recast of Sweeny Todd. The typeface looks Victorian as does the title’s word choice. The foggy, 19th-century looking background and the clothing looks Victorian. It is the perfect art direction to inspire creepy vibes.
They almost went with a meat pie as the centerpiece of the capsule, but they eventually decided to showcase the characters instead. I think that is a smart choice. Most popular games feature a ¾ portrait of the main characters. By matching that popular style it puts Ravenous Devils in the same league as those other games. Remember you aren’t trying to be 100% original. You are trying to be same but different.
Cristian did say that they built their Steam page based on my advice in my FREE online class How To Make A Steam Page. If you haven’t taken it yet, it will guide you through exactly how to make your Steam page look good.
And based on my course, I can say that they did a great job picking out Gifs that show off the gameplay. But the gifs are also amazingly gruesome and sell the game.
They also took my advice from this interview about how to make a steam page and included UI. For instance, this screenshot makes the game look so deep and complex (a factor that Steam shoppers really look for). Look at this huge book of recipes. It just screams “complex, deep gameplay.”
They also did a great job showcasing the horror by spending a lot of effort is the gore animation
In fact, they used it in this promotional Reddit post that got 700 upvotes.
Also they frequently ran a live stream but took it a step further and showed them cooking a real life meat pie (not featuring human flesh though).
For the live stream you have to make people laugh and drive their attention to your game somehow. By cooking, many people ask “What are they doing? Why are they doing this?” Then they know what to expect.Cristian
As with most games these days, social media still doesn’t work very well for them.
They had some really clever tweets like this:
But they didn’t really move the needle much. Although I would have expected Sweeny Todd fans to pick it up on social media and share widely. Who knows.
We don’t have many followers on social media, the Thai influencer got many shares and many people in the comments talked about Sweeney Todd.Cristian
I think the price is a major talking point of the game. It is $4.99.
We could have charged $1 or $2 more. But the low price is right because the game is really short. It is a 5 hour game. It is very story based. I think the price is correct for the quantity and quality
If you look at the reviews… everyone points out that the price is low and it makes the game worth to play and spreads the word and is ‘a little gem’ so it spreads by word of mouth.Cristian
At $4.99 they sold a TON of copies but gross income so far is $193,549.
This is a hard one because it is impossible to A/B test the universe, but I think this game is priced too low. Or maybe not.
The good thing about low pricing is that it makes your game spread super fast. People buy it on impulse. Streamers covering your game are more likely to lead to sales because it is an impulse buy. My thought is that higher priced games lead to more wishlists and fewer sales after a streamer plays them. See my post on Vampire Survivors for more info on my theory.
I think doing a super discount works when it is your first game and maybe the visual quality isn’t great but the concept is very fun and “hooky.” Then there is this “you just gotta try this, don’t ask why, just buy it! It’s $1!” quality of word of mouth marketing.
The reason I think they should have charged more is that this game is VERY good looking. It is a management game which tells people complexity is part of the game. Also the inspiration for them, Lemon Cake, sells for $14.99. From a visual fidelity standpoint (this is not a critique of the art direction) I think Ravenous Devils is more in line with what Steam expects than Lemon Cake. Therefore they can charge more for it.
However, I can see another argument which is, if you are working on your first game, make it cheap to get the word out. I think that helped with their second game, Sexual Void.
So maybe my advice is, if you are just trying to get your name out there and figure out steam, and you made a small but hooky game in a short amount of time, sell it for cheap. You won’t make as much money as if you priced it high but you may get more visibility and will set you up for your next game.
There are risks in both strategies. This leads to my final point about this game …
The Steam algorithm only cares about cold hard dollars. It doesn’t care about the number of units sold, it doesn’t care about review scores (as long as they are Mixed or better), it doesn’t care about conversion rate, or percent discount.
Basically the more money your game earns for Valve the more visibility Valve will give you. A lot of people ask how they get to the front page of Steam like this:
The answer is: have a very high “Lifetime Steam revenue”. Make Valve a ton of money.
The problem is I don’t know what the numerical cutoff is for each specific widget but we have the sales numbers of Peglin and I know the traffic numbers so we can compare them to Ravenous Devil’s. Peglin made about 5 times more gross revenue than Ravenous Devil’s. So let’s compare traffic.
The discovery queue is huge for steam shoppers and Steam saves its highest performing games. To understand Steam you must be familiar with the Discovery Queue. Go try it out, this is what it looks like:
In the last two weeks Ravenous Devil’s #1 traffic source has been “Home Page” it was not “Discovery Queue”
For Peglin it has been “Discovery Queue” which directed 1,000,706 store page visits followed by “Home Page” that caused 297,913 visits.
“Home Page” is the next most important placement for games. Let’s compare the two games
|Peglin [% of total visits]||Ravenous Devils [% of total visits]|
|Main Cluster (Top Seller) [5%]||New and Trending [34.26%]|
|Top Sellers List [3.5%]||Upcoming List [0.77%]|
|Marketing Message [1.5%]||Main Cluster (Top Seller) [0.22%]|
|Main Cluster (Recommended For You) [0.43%]||Top Sellers List [0.11%]|
|Upcoming List [0.25%]||Main Cluster (Friend Recommendation) [0.06%]|
What is the lesson here? Most of your sales will come not from streamers but from Steam showing your game. Once you prove to Steam that your game can earn money, Valve starts showing you in the best places. If you make Valve A LOT of money they put you in the very very best places. Think of it as being invited into the presidential suite for being a high roller.
This is the important lesson about marketing a game on Steam. All this wishlist collecting all this Streamer outreach, all this mailing list stuff actually isn’t to sell copies of your game. Our goal in the short term is to get enough people excited to buy your game right away so that Valve says “whoa that is a lot of sales! You are getting all the visibility in the world!” Then you make the real money.
See that Main Cluster (Top Seller) [5%] for Peglin? I think the Steam algorithm just kept Peglin in there. See that Marketing Message? That is the Rain man suite. If you make enough money for Valve they personally reach out to you to ask for a .psd file of your game art. Then they make a special banner for you to sell your game. I asked Cristian if Valve had asked them for the .psd, They had not. Ravenous Devils made a ton of money, but it didn’t make enough money for the Rain man Suite. So we know it is somewhere north of $190,000 and somewhere less than $1,000,000 to get the special marketing promotion.
And this is what brings us to the price quandary. What if Ravenous Devil had been priced at $7.99 instead of $4.99? I am sure the number of units sold would have been lower, but the gross dollars earned would be higher. Valve only cares about the dollars earned, not the units sold. So would it have earned enough for them to get into the Rain man Suite? Who knows we can’t A/B test the universe.
That is what makes this such a fun game to play.