One of the things I love about smaller developers is the behind-the-scenes look they often provide us. Especially in terms of sales, marketing and other areas. Frictional Games developed and published SOMA, so they are not prevented from talking about these things like developers behind large publishers are.
In a Facebook post, Frictional Games touches on a wide variety of topics including sales, reception and even piracy.
According to Frictional Games, sales sit at about 92,000 copies across all platforms since the SOMA launched ten days ago. They can’t provide a platform breakdown due to legal reasons. Lucky for us, we have SteamSpy. SteamSpy shows 52,053 SOMA owners on Steam (the margin of error is 5,530). So about 45 – 55% of sales are on PC. This could be a little higher depending on how many sales are from GOG (they offer a DRM-free version of the game and won’t appear on SteamSpy’s total).
Frictional Games says the 92,000 copies sold gives them enough money to “pretty much pay our company expenses for another 2 years.” And sales are continuing at a nice clip. About 2,000 copies are still sold per day.
The developer also gives us some insights about what sales mean during the first month and for the lifetime of the title. “While a lot of sales obviously come close to launch, a big part of our normal earnings comes from a slow daily trickle over the years of our existing titles. So our average daily sales a month or so from now on is actually more important than all of the units sold up to this point.”
As for how this compares to Frictional Games’ other two releases? SOMA is well above Amnesia: The Dark Descent, which sold 20,000 copies in the first week. But SOMA is performing below Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs (this game was developed by The Chinese Room, but published by Frictional Games), which sold 120,000 copies its first week.
Frictional Games will need to sell about 300,000 copies to recoup all costs during the five years it took to make SOMA. “One of the great things about funding SOMA 100% ourselves is that all money earned goes into our own pockets and is directly used to fund our upcoming projects. So we are under no pressure to recoup immediately so long as we get enough to keep going – which we certainly have now,” the developer writes.
“It is so interesting that this is no longer a subject brought up much any longer,” the developer writes. SOMA is the first game Frictional Games has launched that didn’t have a pirated version out prior to release.
The developer’s tone on piracy today is vastly different from 2007 when “I know me and Jens had hours of discussions on the subject.”
On managing people’s expectations
“It doesn’t feel all that bad that we didn’t get a more universal praise for the game’s scariness. But it’s taught us a valuable lesson: that one should be very careful in managing people’s expectations. This is a lesson that we thought we knew after A Machine For Pigs (which didn’t turn out to be the game many wanted it to be) but apparently we hadn’t learned enough. Once your studio gets associated with a particular game, it’ll play a huge role in what people expect from upcoming releases. That said, the vast majority of people that had expected another Amnesia ended up enjoying SOMA once they realized the game was different. So I don’t feel it has been a complete failure by any means, but just one of those things that needs more work in the feature.”
On revealing the game too early
“We might have unveiled the game a bit too early.” Yeah, two years from reveal to release is long even for AAA standards. Frictional Games’ initial plan was to keep content rolling out until release. That proved difficult with a game like SOMA. How do you show content without spoiling the game? You can’t. And Frictional Games was not going to do that.
But Frictional Games has an interesting take on if a later reveal would have been better.
“A big issue with that is that it would have been very bad for the team morale. It’s quite hard to work on a project in the dark for several years, and there was a very evident boost in spirit once we had let the world know that SOMA was coming. Added to this is that we got a lot of good feedback from press and fan reactions, which helped us shaped not just our PR but the actual game too. This is makes it much more uncertain if a later unveiling really would have been a better move.”
At the end of the day, it’s all about making sure you have a game that people find interesting. Amnesia fans were always going to keep up to date with SOMA, no matter when they decided to reveal it. And it doesn’t look like the early reveal hurt sales at all.
Check out the rest of Frictional Games’ Facebook post. It’s an insightful look at what developers think about before and after a game’s release.