Technically I've been in the business of making and selling games for over three years. That makes me an old hand now, right? Not really. I've only been 'professional' (not just in the sense that this is now my full-time job, but I'm also getting the games manufactured for me, and selling primarily to distributors and shops rather than direct to customers) for eighteen months and I've only had stock for the last thirteen months. I'm still doing a lot of stuff for the first time. And, as with Essen, when I'm doing stuff for the second time it's often under such different circumstances that it's hard to draw any conclusions from the past experience.
The reason I bring this up is that I've started graphing my sales over time, and it's teaching me new stuff all the time. At the beginning I assumed that sales for a new game would peak when it was released and then decline steadily over time. To some degree this statement has been true, but there have been some interesting deviations from what I expected. It's Alive! didn't sell many copies in its first quarter (but it came out in September near the end of the July - September quarter). In its second quarter (the run-up to Christmas) it did exceptionally well, helped by Essen and a few big stocking orders. Carpe Astra did much better than It's Alive! in its first quarter (the run-up to Christmas) and both did well in the first quarter of this year - when I signed the two biggest US distributors. Sumeria got off to a great start (best first quarter sales of any of my games) but then did less well in its second quarter (which for Sumeria corresponded to the Summer: July - September).
If I look at graphs plotting the sales of each game by quarter, with the x-axis corresponding to quarters since release it's hard to draw any conclusions: they are all over the place with dips and peaks that don't correspond at all (note that the last data point in each case is for this quarter which is less than halfway through):
So length of time since release is clearly not the driving factor behind how many games I'll sell in any given quarter. So what is I wonder? People say that the Summer months are often quiet, with the best sales being in the run-up to Christmas. This seems reasonable, so I've drawn the same data on a different x-axis. This time its still in sales per quarter, but the quarters relate to a single instance in time: 1 is last Summer (July - September when It's Alive! was re-released), 2 is last Autumn (October to December, including Essen, the run-up to Christmas and the release of Carpe Astra) and so on. Suddenly things become clearer:
Despite the fact that this quarter (Autumn) is only half done, all three games are showing a clear boost over the preceding Summer months. There's a noticeable decline from Autumn through Winter and Spring into Summer, before a sharp jump into Autumn again. Sumeria, which came out at a fairly quiet time, shows the same pattern, but with higher sales due to the initial stocking orders. I'm expecting a few more re-stocks before Christmas too, so hopefully the climb for this Autumn will become steeper across the board in the next couple of months.
With so little experience to base my decisions on, it's hard to see whether a game is doing well or badly. Are low sales due to the time of release, or something else? As the years go on I'll have more hard data to base my assumptions on, and can make more informed decisions as a result. The important thing is that rather than just waving a finger in the air and using gut feelings I'm collecting the data I've got so I'm more informed for next time.