Last month, I wrote about our December sales of Escape from Zargnon (EfZ) on the Barnes & Noble Nook. We had a few hiccups with the initial release, but overall sales were steady (and slow: we had a total of 215 sales of the $0.99 game). In February, we released the game more widely on Android devices (described in my last post). And on the Nook, we did a little experiment (or quasi-experiment) to see if we could increase sales of EfZ with a one-week sale.
So, in early January (on the 10th), we switched EfZ to free for about one week (just over 6 days). In the app description, we added text to indicate that the game was on sale for a limited time. As you can see in the graph below, going free resulted in a lot of installs (a total of 7,689 copies of the free version were installed during the sale), and after the sale ended, we did see a bump in paid sales (compared to our pre-sale averages). Before the sale, we were averaging 8 sales per day, and after the sale ended, we averaged 9.8 per day for the rest of January. By the end of January, we had a total of 283 paid sales (which was better than our December total). That’s not a lot, in absolute terms, but it is helpful as we look to recoup our modest development costs. In February, sales have settled back to their pre-sale levels (or a bit below).
We were also hoping that using the sale would improve our sales rank on Barnes & Noble, and it did: we went from a rank of about 10,000 up to a peak of about 1,200. Since then, we’ve settled back to about 2,255 (as of today). Also, the game’s rating on BN did suffer: before the sale we had a solid 4 star rating, which has slipped to about 3.5 as we got a lot of new comments. Some of the critical comments seemed off-base (one of the 1-star ratings had a comment that indicated the reviewer had not even finished downloading the game! ), but many of the critical reviews did point out problems (with the controls, graphics, etc.). We were glad to see that a number of people seemed to like the game, and of our 55 reviews, 29 gave it 5 stars). People seemed to either like it or hate it (with 5-star and 1-star reviews being the most common ratings), and I wonder if that is a factor that depends on experience with video games (and with 3D games).
Since EfZ is a research project, you might wonder if we now have enough data to finish our study (with over 7,000 new installs). And the answer is: nope. While we had a huge response to the sale, most of the people who submitted our basic demographics (age and gender) indicated that they were less than 18 years old. For ethical reasons, we cannot use data submitted by minors, without parental approval. Since the median age reported by these users was 12, that means most of these installs will not result in useful data (for us). But, seeing a number of younger users pick up the game when it went free was not a surprise (and seeing the typical age of one of our users helped us take the negative reviews we were seeing with a grain of salt!).