Steam Early Access: Four Weeks In

So it’s been four weeks since we launched Drifter on Steam Early Access and I figured it might be worthwhile posting about our experience launching there. The short version is it’s definitely been a very positive experience so far and assuming that we can continue to grow interest in the game while we work on it this will be the best year yet for Celsius Game Studios.

The Setup

After a somewhat nerve-wracking trip through Greenlight late last year Drifter was finally approved to launch on Steam. However, we felt that the game wasn’t quite ready for Early Access just yet. Although beta access had been available directly through our site since May of last year because Steam represented a much broader audience and due to stories of pushback against recently launched Early Access titles we felt that we would take some time to do Early Access “right”.

What this amounted to, ultimately, was to add some additional content to the game, sand off a few of the roughest edges and prepare a low key launch strategy that helped emphasize that the game was still in an unfinished state to try and set the expectations of people coming into the game fresh. While this may have limited early sales of the game we felt that it would be better if everyone supporting the game knew what they were getting and that would lead to a happy and potentially dedicated fanbase for the game.

It would be fair here to point out that in the intervening months since our Greenlight approval Valve had made some changes to Early Access to mitigate some of the problems with people confusing Early Access titles with completed games however I will say that I still feel we did the right thing in how we handled the Early Access launch of the game.

The Launch

The launch itself happened on March 4th, a date I had picked because it was basically the last relatively quiet week before a large number of larger title launches would ring in the beginning of the 2014 launch cycle. While I did say earlier that I wanted the launch to be low key, I didn’t want it to be completely drowned out by everyone getting excited about Titanfall or ranting about how the new Thief wasn’t as good as the original or whatever.

While we didn’t get any significant press coverage, nor were we really expecting it, the game was briefly featured on the Steam front page and thanks to many kind Twitter pals we did manage to let a fairly decent number of people know that Drifter was finally available on Steam. To be sure the game was even briefly in the Top 100 best selling games in all of Steam and spent some time in the Top 10 best selling games under $10 which was pretty exciting, admittedly.

A graph comparing our first four weeks of direct sales to the first four weeks of Steam

A graph comparing our first four weeks of direct sales to the first four weeks of Steam sales. Y-Axis units unhelpfully omitted.

To be perfectly clear here, Drifter hasn’t broken any sales records but we are more than happy with how it has been selling on Steam so far. In fact the game had exceeded the number of direct sales it had in the previous 9 months in its first week on Steam and has gone on to almost double those sales in these first four weeks. Certainly if we can maintain or exceed the current rate of sales we’re getting now Drifter will be able to support its own final stretch of development and while more sales would not have been unwelcome I am genuinely happy at this state of affairs.

Additionally the feedback we have been getting on the game through the Steam Community has been nothing short of excellent and hopefully is proof that we did the right thing with our Early Access launch plans. Currently all but two of the reviews of the game itself have been incredibly positive and feedback on our handling of the forums and the messaging around the game seems to indicate that we’re doing something right.

The Home Stretch

While traditional wisdom about game sales suggest that the initial launch of a game is the period in which a game experiences a significant number of its total lifetime sales it’s our feeling that an Early Access launch represents something different.

With Drifter, we feel that by providing timely updates, utilizing the tools within Steam to help promote the game during significant updates, and by maintaining our current high level of communication with the many supporters of the game that we will steadily grow Drifter’s audience as we lead towards its eventual “true” launch when it hits 1.0 and on to new platforms later in the year.

Assuming this ends up being a successful strategy for Drifter we hope the game’s continued development will not just be sustainable but that we can then use it as a jumping off point for the next chapter of Celsius Game Studios’ development. There’s definitely a lot of work ahead for us and while the future remains uncertain, I definitely feel like it’s gotten a whole lot brighter.

6 thoughts on “Steam Early Access: Four Weeks In

  1. VirtualBoyFreak

    Any news on the iOS version of this game? Next September it will be 3 years since you posted your first pieces of news about the game. Thanks.

  2. Colin Post author

    @VirtualBoyFreak Yeah it’s taking a while isn’t it? 🙁 The best thing I can say right now is the game is still being actively worked on and the iOS version is still happening. I even just recently got an iPhone 5s and the game runs at 60 fps on it without any serious optimizations and it’s running on iPad Mini/iPad 2 level hardware at around 30fps on average.

  3. Jeremy Covington

    Just wanted to say that you indeed did the right thing with your early access launch plan. I have many early access games and almost all of them have so far been disappointing on many different levels. However, this game renewed my waning excitement about this new sort of game development. It’s already really great and I’m looking forward to seeing where it goes.

    Also, just wanted to add that your level of communication is really appreciated. It really should be how all developers do things, but sadly few do.

    Keep up the great work!

  4. Kevin

    How long will it take for it to release?
    I’m literally waiting to download it on iOS.
    Is there an early acces for iOS Available?

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