Over the past three years I’ve published 7 games to Itch.io under the name Wickedly, and yesterday I and everyone who worked on those projects passed 20,000 views lifetime, and HECK that’s a big number, so I wanted to celebrate and also look into what I’ve learned so far.
There’s been a big surge lately thanks to the success of JetHack, which as of writing has almost 2,500 views and 1,250 downloads — not bad considering it was a Global Game Jam entry, cobbled together over a bleary-eyed weekend. What’s most crazy to me is that our cyberpunk jet-packing hack-a-thon has a conversion rate of 50% — every other person who looks at the game downloads it — which is better than I’ve ever had for any of my projects.
The whole idea of setting up an Itch.io page to publish games while still in school came about entirely because me and my friend Connor simply couldn’t wait for the designated classes to start making games, so we started out making our own with any time we could spare. The first result of that was SKÓGUTH which… hasn’t “aged” well but heck if it isn’t effective. (I was just learning how to do sound design, so RIP headphone users I guess, sorry not sorry.)
We wanted to learn and succeed and fail publicly, and we wanted something to show — a trail that we could point to and see how far we’d come. Every game I’ve put out has been a monumental learning experience for me, and while I wish there was even more work there, I can say that what is there I’m pretty proud of — even though like most creators I can’t help but see the flaws first. Any success I have in the future is in large part owed because I spent the time learning to work with others on all these uniquely wonderful projects.
We’ve gotten some good feedback, some helpful critique, and some really weird reactions to the work, but really it’s amazing that we got any feedback at all. Last year there were 68,000 projects published on Itch.io, which makes the glut of games on Steam released per year look rather paltry; getting any slice of a cake that gigantic cake is a win in my book. (There’s a whole other essay that I could write about how Itch.io has single-handedly enabled so many thousands of creators its mind-boggling. If I meet anyone who works there I’m going to hug them.)
Here’s some data and observations about all this:
- 20,163 views / 5,385 downloads
- Overall conversion rate of ~26%, not bad for a couple of students releasing completely unrelated projects every 3-6 months. Most e-commerce companies aim for 3-10%, and online ads half that. For bizarre freeware, I’ll take it.
- Per project there’s an average of 28.5%, with a low of 15.6% and an aforementioned high of 50%
- The most viewed project we’ve done (Friender Bender) has the second-lowest conversion rate. Lesson learned: four-player local-multiplayer is a hard sell.
- 85 followers on Itch.io, all of whom are automatically wonderful darlings but few of which are other creators. (Most have not changed from the default Itch.io profile picture)
- There’s a strong correlation between how much custom CSS there is on a project page and views/downloads/conversion rate. Prettier, more custom pages help drive views and downloads.
- Our weirdest games have gotten the most press coverage, with Friender Bender and SKÓGUTH having both getting attention from PC Gamer and surrealist photography game Outerworld Image getting a shout-out from Rock, Paper Shotgun.
- Conversely, a relatively safe game like Handgun Hoedown only got a writeup from Portuguese free software portal Baixaki, who were disappointed that the game didn’t include online multiplayer or more levels, obviously.
- Over the years we’ve been asked for Linux builds plenty, and the games that have them have an overall higher conversion rate. (Despite these builds hardly ever being tested.)
- It certainly hasn’t hurt to have Mac builds in there too — about 30% of our downloads have been to Apple systems.
- The average team size was 4.5 people, which sounds about right — for student projects it’s not wise to bring too many people.
- The project lengths really only toggle between three months and a weekend — we’ve worked for entire semesters using an independent study and we’ve also done jams like Global Game Jam and Games Made Quick.
I definitely want to shout out and give thanks to everyone who has worked on any of the games I’ve published, because none of these projects would exist without them, and I deeply respect them as makers and collaborators and as friends and damn they’re just really good at what they do: Connor Botts, Delton Hulbert, Nathan Wentworth, Emily Muller, Christopher Cornford, Kenneth Howell, Sheamus Crowley, Dakota Lyons, Lucas Remington, Marissa Tautiva, Sabrina Velez, Adam Chop, Joey Canney, and obviously my cats Lily and Arlo.
There should be more coming (ideally I’m finishing up a personal project in just a few weeks and sticking that up there), but for now it’s deeply satisfying to look at the interactive experiences me and my friends have gotten to make and say “Wow, we made all that, and I’m just getting started.”