🤑 Indie game store🙌 Free games😂 Fun games😨 Horror games
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Running an Indie Game Store 2015

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About nine months ago, I wrote Running an indie game store, a post describing some of the analytics I collected while running itch.io for the first 14 or so months. It was dedicated to all the great post-mortems I had seen written by game developers.

Luckily, that was not a post-mortem for itch.io; we’re still going strong and consistently improving the platform. This post is a status update, taking stock of where things are and speculating a little about the future.

All the graphs in this post are written in R and are open source.

Overview

I launched itch.io two years ago as an open indie game marketplace. Since then, it’s grown a lot: There’s now a wide range of content types, things like assets, tools, and comics, in addition to the ever expanding library of games. Regardless of the content, itch.io has stayed a place for creators to share their creations, and optionally make money from them.

Itch.io uses pay what you want above the minimum pricing. The minimum can be set to 0: it’s free to download and you can also donate any amount you want.

Itch.io integrates with PayPal and Stripe (credit cards and Bitcoin), to facilitate transactions. Itch.io pioneered Open revenue sharing, a variable marketplace cut set by the seller. It defaults to 10%, but a seller can set any amount they want, including 0.

Here’s quick overview itch.io’s library:

Size of itch.io library

There are over 15,000 quality projects on itch.io. And it’s growing fast: our library size has tripled in the last 9 months! I use the term quality to denote anything that is an actual project page that is publicly visible. Since people like to test out the service by creating a page, I’ve filtered them out to avoid inflating the number.

Note: that’s a cumulative graph. It will be the last one in this post since they can be misleading.

Over the past two years many have asked about hosting and selling other types of digital goods. I didn’t see any issues assuming they were properly classified so I began adding new content types.

None of the other content types make up a significant portion of what’s available, but I’m excited anyway that people are using itch.io for various creative projects. In case you’re interested, here are the pages for the various content types: Games, Tools, Comics, Assets, Physical & printable games, Soundtracks, Mods, and Everything else.

In the future I’m hoping to make these content types more first-class on itch.io, giving many of them the same support that’s available for games.

(For simplicity’s sake, I’ll just refer to itch.io’s content as games for the rest of this post.)

Marketplace progress

When I describe itch.io I’ll call it a marketplace, though that’s a bit of a misnomer. The majority of the content on the site is actually free. Here’s a graph of the projects uploaded per month, broken down by how the games are priced.

itch.io games by paid status

Games uploaded per month is trending upwards nicely month over month.

Here’s a breakdown of the different pricing options:

  • Free – Can be downloaded/played without paying
  • Optional – Some files available for free, and some with a minimum price
  • Paid – Files have a minimum price

Only 10% of games have a fixed minimum price, and 89% of games can be played for free.

Overall paid status

Just because a game doesn’t have a minimum price doesn’t mean the creator can’t earn anything. As I mentioned above, everything that can receive money is pay what you want above the minimum, including things priced at 0. Creators can receive donations to their free work just by enabling payment on their account.

44% of all games are eligible to receive money. One of the original goals of the site was to give people who wouldn’t ordinarily be charging an easy way to still make money, so I’m very happy with this percentage.

How much is itch.io paying out?

Payouts per month

We just finished our best month yet, paying out $51,489 to creators. Itch.io supports all the currencies that the payment providers allow (view them all), but I’ve truncated all currencies to USD and summed them to make the visualization simpler.

As of June 2015, we’ve paid in total about $393,000, well over triple where we were nine months ago. The month over month payouts have also been steadily increasing so I’m excited to see where things go.

Pay what you want

Since itch.io pay what you want above the minimum, I’ve done some basic analysis about how people are paying above the minimum.

Here’s a box-plot showing the distribution of payments sent to completely free content:

The average donation is $3.68. Most people pay between $1 and $5. I’m ecstatic about this. Most of these creators are people wouldn’t regularly been able to make money had they uploaded elsewhere. The most generous person has paid $500 for a free game!

For projects that have a minimum price greater than 0 there’s a similar story. Here’s the distribution of extra money given, the difference between the actual price of the game and the amount given:

The numbers are (surprisingly) similar, the median is the same, the range is approximately the same, and the average is $3.67.

The fact that they are so similar is an interesting observation. Here’s what the purchase dialog looks like:

I have a suspicion that this combination of buttons is encouraging the extra amounts given to be uniform across both paid and non-paid games, but I’ll have to do more research another time.

Next I’ve graphed what percentage of all purchases receive extra money, broken down by month. (Sorry for the shortened time frame, the database was updated to make this query easy recently.)

About 30% of all purchases to paid content receive extra money. That’s pretty good considering that most marketplaces don’t offer the option. I’m glad to see that this rate isn’t significantly decreasing even though the number of buyers is going up. I was worried that initial users of itch.io were significantly more generous than the average person, but that doesn’t seem to be the case.

Purchase sources

In July 2014 all sellers on itch.io got the ability to see where their purchases are originating from. I further classify the purchase sources as either internal or external:

Although any kind of purchase is good, I like to see more internal purchases. They suggest people are discovering games on itch.io instead of being linked to a game from elsewhere.

I’ve graphed the percentage of external versus internal purchases over time:

About 80% of all purchases come from external sites. It looks like the average rate of internal purchases is trending slightly up. I’m hoping to increase the internal purchase rate even more by releasing new features for game discovery.

There are a few different places a payment can be made on itch.io. The most common is the game page, but purchases also happen on widgets, bundle pages, mobile game pages , and the popup API.

Here’s a graph of the distribution of purchase initiator locations:

The game page facilitates 83% of all purchases. Some of the other locations haven’t been around as long (bundles, mobile), so they are at a disadvantage.

The mobile game page is just the responsive version of the regular game page. Anyone on a mobile device is put into that bucket.

Internal purchases

So what pages on itch.io are people actually finding games and buying them from? Here are the pages of itch.io that contribute to all the internal purchases:

38% of internal purchases are from the profile page. To me, the profile page is likely an indirect external purchase. Most likely the buyer was linked from a external site to a profile, where they saw what they wanted and bought it. I’ll have to improve this tracking in the future to take into account more than just the preceding page before purchase.

The browse page is second, making up 24% of internal purchases. I’m curious if the homepage, at third with 16%, will ever be able to beat the browse page. The homepage is curated, so the percentage of sales generated by it is directly related to our ability to curate content for it.

External purchases

External purchases are called external because they originate from another website. I’ve graphed the top websites that refer purchases on itch.io:

If you’re a developer marketing your game then I recommend considering all of these sites as potential places to find a new audience.

Twitter is the most popular source of purchases on itch.io, accounting for about 13% of all external referrals. Itch.io has a very active Twitter account, posting many games per day. On top of that, many game developers are constantly promoting their work on Twitter. I highly recommend focusing on Twitter when trying to build your audience to self market your game. Feel free to shout at @itchio and we’ll retweet if you’re sharing something interesting.

Google is the second highest source for generating purchases. Sadly I don’t have access to the search queries that led to the purchases because the traffic comes from HTTPS. It’s most likely these purchases are coming from title searches, as opposed to searching something generic like “games.” Itch.io makes game pages easily crawlable by Google, so they perform well in search results.

Reddit is the third highest source of purchases. Here is the distribution of purchases coming from Reddit broken apart by subreddit.

/r/GameDeals/ dominates the list by a huge margin. If you’re hosting a promotion for your game then you should definitely consider posting there, just make sure to check with the rules. Itch.io games even get their own icon there.

Game types

Itch.io supports a variety of ways to distribute your game, from downloads to web embeds using Unity, Flash, Java and HTML. Here’s a breakdown of the game types:

This graph represents the primary game type. It’s possible to have a Flash or HTML game with downloads, but that’s not represented here. A little over half of all games on itch.io are downloadable only. The other half are browser-embedded games.

I was curious if the game types being uploaded were changing over time I so graphed the percentage of each type for all games created per month:

There haven’t been any significant changes in the distribution over the past few months. I’m curious what will happen to Unity since Chrome recently blocked the Unity plugin by default. The latest version of Unity exports to HTML so we’ll likely see the Unity share transfer to HTML over the coming months.

When uploading a game you can pick what genre it is. Here’s the genre distribution across all games on itch.io:

Action is the most popular genre, followed by other. The relative popularity of genres is the same as it was nine months ago. I made the observation that since other is the second most frequent genre it probably makes sense to spend some time improving the options. I still haven’t had a chance to do that yet, but suggestions are welcome!

Here’s the distribution of platforms downloadable games are available for. No surprises here, Windows is first, OSX is second, and Linux is third. The Windows/OSX gap did close slightly though.

Payouts

Itch.io supports two ways of paying sellers: direct and payout. In direct mode a seller is paid immediately on each purchase. The payouts system, which was added January 2015, groups purchases together so a seller can request a single payment for all their sales. It was added to facilitate things like bundles and help with handling VAT.

26% percent of sellers have adopted the payouts system. 53% of recent purchases are paid through a payout. This means that active sellers tend to choose the payout system. This number might be slightly skewed since all multi-developer bundles must go through the payout system, but those only accounted for a few percent of all the purchases over the past few months.

Thanks

That’s it for this post, thanks for taking the time to read through it. Itch.io is a major part of my life and I hope the data presented is as interesting to you as it is me. If you have any other ideas for analysis feel free to get in touch.

If you’re interested in more updates like these please considering following me on Twitter: @moonscript

Special thanks to Justin K for helping edit this post.

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