Watching the Numbers

I find myself paying very close attention to statistics, charts, lists and any sort of information to help me understand the current climate and scope of a given topic. One such example I watch closely is the top sellers chart on Steam.

Steam doesn’t give much information, just the top ten selling games in order by dollar value. The lack of total numbers makes it useless to determine Steams penetration of total games sales. But it does show the effect of a sale, price drop and promotion on a specific title.

It’s obvious prices affects the numbers but without a ranking of all games it’s hard to see if a sale hurts longtime for a quick run at some short term gains. There are benefits to this in multi-player where the user base is shrinking and number of online matches start to dwindle. This could help a struggling game in getting a foothold in the multiplayer landscape dominated by CS, CS:S, MW2, TF2 and L4D2.

Maintaining an online user base is the key to success for a multiplayer game. No one knows this better than Valve who has four of the top five games. TF2 is a great example on how lots of free content for gamers can be profitable for developers. With each major update to TF2 they see their game break back into the top sellers chart once again.

Watching Steam’s Community Activity just before each TF2 release shows it at an all time low daily current player count. Once released TF2 is briefly in the running for top game on the list before slowly falling into a comfortable top 5 game. Even at almost 3 years old, it manages to out pace L4D2 in player count and not coincidently in updates as well.

One battle I’ve been watching closely for many months is BC2 vs MW2. The first thing we see is BC2 almost always outsells MW2 which is interesting considering BC2 is available digital on many stores and MW2 is only available on Steam. It may be due to MW2 coming out earlier, but their consistency to dominate the charts all year makes that look unlikely.

It also may have something to do with the price as BC2 was $49.99 and MW2 is $59.99. Either way you look at it, BC2 is more popular to PC gamers than MW2. Given it’s success I find it Surprising that they reduced the price to $29.99. BC2 still sits at number 1 with MW2 right behind it. Due to the price discrepancy that means BC2 is currently selling more than twice as much.

I wonder if this price drop will soon be a bad thing for BC2. Will they continue to be able to sell at double the rate or will it catch up to them and allow MW2 at a full $59.99 to take the top spot in the top sellers list. Here’s to watching the numbers.

Dave Loft

  1. October 13th, 2010

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