Steam Charts: Stellaris Edition

A funny old week in the charts, which is to say, H1Z1 and The Witcher 3 have been shoved out by the hatrick of appearances from Stellaris. Also it’s worth noting that Dishonored: Death Of The Outsider has disappeared after just one week, which seems a bit of a shame.

Oh, and as correctly predicted last week, absolutely no sign of XCOM 2 making nearly as much money now it’s back to £34.99 for both the base game and the War of the Chosen expansion. Shocking!

10. Dead By Daylight

A free weekend plus a 50% price drop are the reasons we see slasher-me-do Dead By Daylight peeking back into the top ten. Adam is all kinds of in love with the game, probably because he’s a real life serial killer superhero I imagine. Here he talks in detail about how to best kill people baddies, for instance. Here he talks with the sort of insight only a serial killer superhero could have about how to cooperatively thwart his own pursuit.

I’m just saying, Adam is definitely a serial killer superhero. I’m also fascinated to know how he’ll edit this paragraph.

9. Stellaris: Utopia

So, what’s all this about then? Well, it seems that Paradox have had the smarts to discount the base game massively to coincide with the release of the Synthetic Dawn story pack. It’s been down 60% for all incarnations (vanilla, Nova and Galaxy editions), while the already-discounted DLC bundle including Utopia, Leviathan and Plantoids has been down 41%. Then Paradox’s strategy bundle containing four of their games is down a whopping 73%. Put that all together and you get a profit spike that sees the game take over this week’s charts.

Utopia, this entry’s DLC pack, is only down 20% on its own, costing £12 alone. Which is a frankly terrible deal when the DLC bundle above is only £4 more and includes the original game, this, and two other packs. Doh. Here’s Fraser’s review of Stellaris: Utopia from April this year.

8. Grand Theft Auto V

Hello, you say inquisitively, and then add, What Are Rockstar Spending All The GTA V Money On?

What Are Rockstar Spending All The GTA V Money On?

Harpoons for hunting the poor

7. NBA 2K18

Really surprised to see this clinging on for a second week, in a world where somehow games like Dishonored do not. It’s still getting utterly pounded in Steam reviews for its ugly microtransactions in a game that already costs a mammoth £40. (Or £110 if you’re utterly insane.) But clearly enough people want that, and will want it when it says “19” at the end, and “20”, and “21”, and…

6. Stellaris

No one knows the truth of how these charts are calculated by Valve, the best guesses understood to be a combination of those products which have made the most profit (rather than sales) and a wizened old man in a darkened room casting bones across the stone floor. So it’s hard to infer too much information from the order in which the three Stellaris entries have appeared. Stellaris here could be a combination of any number of the bundles mentioned above, as indeed could Utopia’s.

But it certainly suggests that Synthetic Dawn’s #3 position below is the result of some quite spectacular sales of a piece of DLC, since it can only be bought on its own on the Steam store at £7, not included in any of the seventy-three different bundles. Still, great to see the base game selling so well at its discount, well over a year after its original release.

Here’s Adam’s original review of Stellaris, and here are some fun tales from within the game. Oh, and here’s my plaintive complaining about how inaccessible I found the whole thing.

5. Total War: Warhammer II

The impending release (three days) sees this re-enter the charts based on pre-orders alone. Pre-orders at full price with no reviews just yet. To get access to the game no sooner than those who wait. Sigh.

4. Counter-Strike: Global Offensive

I went to Cornwall this weekend, and found this fucking terrified building:

I thought you should know.

3. Stellaris: Synthetic Dawn

So, yes, as said above – a £7 product ranking this highly in charts seemingly made from cash raked in is quite the most astonishing thing. Or, perhaps, isn’t? We don’t entirely know. It’d be quite the thing if Paradox were to reveal sales numbers at this point, as it’d allow us some vital information for interpreting the order in which we see the top titles appearing here.

Either way, it’s proof that Stellaris is really rather popular, and people wanted them some robot races.

2. Divinity: Original Sin 2

A second week in a row in the spot everyone’s calling, “Basically the top spot because Plunkbat doesn’t really count any more” for the utterly splendid DOS2. So it makes sense here to link to Adam’s review, my excited anecdotes, and our shared chat about how much we’re enjoying it. But instead I want to talk about the number two.

DEVELOPERS, YOU NEED TO DECIDE WHICH “TWO” YOU ARE USING!

This happens ALL the time! The game’s Steam page listing calls it “Divinity: Original Sin 2” – which, let’s face it, is already a terrible name. Boot the game, however, and it’s called, “Divinity: Original Sin II”.

PICK ONE OF THEM.

1. PlayerunknOwn’s BatTlegrounds

For this week your ears get an all-time classic, Smells Like Content by The Books:

38 Comments

  1. mashkeyboardgetusername says:

    I guess in defence of the War: War Totalhammer preorderererers, streamers/youtubers have been putting up videos of the game all weekend, so those that primarily make their buying decisions that way may have been persuaded.

    Is still a funny choice though, especially given that I think you still get the preorder bonus up to a week after release.

    • RogerMellie says:

      All true, but the pre order bonus was usable in the first game from the get go. So if you’ve pre-ordered, you’ve had access to the Norsca faction since then.

      And yes, I succumbed.

      • Archonsod says:

        Given the game is largely a rehashing of the previous one with some new factions and a new victory mechanic I don’t really know why you’d bother waiting for a review if you owned/played the last game, given they’re not making any revolutionary changes you can probably predict to around 99% accuracy whether you’ll enjoy the game or not based on how you felt regarding the last one (which to be fair you could probably apply to the TW series as a whole from the original Shogun onwards).

        • Aetylus says:

          Like how people should have preordered Rome 2 because it was Shogun 2 with the Katanas swapped out for Gladii?

          • pentraksil says:

            Rome 2 and Shogun 2 were two completely different games with different versions of the engine, period, and some mechanics. Warhammer II is more like a huge standalone expansion for WHI. So your comparison does not work, at all.

  2. AngoraFish says:

    John, I think you (and a lot of readers) miss a fairly significant appreciation of marketing principles, such as the value of anchoring. Anchoring explains why everyone is so fixated now on “percentage off” sales, rather than just cheap prices.

    Psychologically, 50% off $50 sounds like a better deal than a standard retail price of $20.

    In order to manipulate people into buying at your more reasonable (but still high price) you need to set an even higher price first. Anchoring doesn’t work unless there is a price comparison to base your up-front perception of value, and a recommended retail price doesn’t work unless that is the actual price that the item is occasionally sold for.

    Add to this the wave of fanboys that will buy into a product on day one regardless of the price and we have the pricing system we have now.

    There’s no point arguing that just setting a lower up-front price is going to result in a flood of sales that wouldn’t have occurred already. The world doesn’t work that way and there are armies of well-paid marketing professionals who will tell you exactly the same thing with a huge pile of data to back them up.

    Also, number of sales doesn’t necessarily equal higher profits despite what you assert. Try telling that argument to low-cost high value companies such as Armani, as opposed to say, Walmart.

    • Premium User Badge

      John Walker says:

      So just to check, you’re agreeing with me that now XCOM 2 costs twice as much, it’s making much less money? Cool.

      • Zorganist says:

        Didn’t Cliffy B. once do an experiment with this, where he reduced the price of one of his games (I think by about half), but without advertising it as a sale or giving it any fanfare, and it ended up making a lot less money than when it was at full price?

        I think the bigger reason that big games sell more when they have sales on is because Steam draws attention to sales more than it does games that remain are at full price, even if that price is relatively low. So what we’re seeing here is not cheap games making more money, but games being advertisied as discounted making more money, which is a significant difference.

      • AngoraFish says:

        Sarcasm aside, after launch week, high cost weeks are obviously not going to make as many sales as lower cost weeks but I’m pretty sure that devs for the most part don’t give much of a toss about week by week sales figures, they give a toss about annual profit figures or product lifecycle profit figures.

        Your implied argument, that lower prices equal both higher sales and profits, is demonstrably false. If your argument were correct all games would be sold for $1 or less and game developers would become overnight millionaires.

      • napoleonic says:

        now XCOM 2 costs twice as much, it’s making much less money …

        … for the moment, which means that it will make even more money when the sales roll around than it would have done otherwise, and will have made more money from the early adopters than it would have done if it had always been at the lower price. More money in two separate ways = a win for Firaxis.

        John, this really is Econ 101. I don’t know if you’re just winding everyone up by pretending to be dense or whether you really don’t get this.

      • Troubletcat says:

        To break this down a bit: Game developers want to sell as many copies as they can at the highest price they can. All the people that are willing to pay $60 for their game, they want those people to pay $60 and not a cent less.

        More people are willing to buy it for $20 than $60 (basics of supply/demand) and that’s why you drop the price occasionally – since a single unit costs (essentially) nothing to produce you also want to sell your game to everyone that’s willing to pay $20 for it. In a perfect world you’d want to sell the game for $1 to people who are willing to pay only $1 and $400 to anyone who’s willing to pay $400, but since corporations haven’t developed a way to literally read consumer’s minds (yet) you can’t do that.

        Instead, you set the ‘regular’ price at what is considered the ‘normal’ (high) price for a AAA game in the current market and sell that to as many people as you can, but have periodic price drops so that people who aren’t willing to pay that much still buy it. There’s also added incentive to purchase specifically because its a discount from the regular price. Some (smart and patient) people who would’ve willingly paid $60 if they never thought there’d be a sale end up paying $20 in this time period, but in other time periods (especially around launch) lots of people do pay the $60.

        In short, yes, Firaxis makes more money from XCOM 2 in sale weeks than weeks the game isn’t on sale. However, if the normal price was $20, they would make considerably less total profit because A: All the people willing to pay $60 would only pay $20 and B: If they wanted to drive sales further by giving a discount, the discounted price would have be even lower.

        …I think you do understand this and are just trolling at this point, though, so well played I guess.

        • LagTheKiller says:

          Yo man not to mention psychological reasons.
          1) This game costs 60 euromarks. It must be AAA full of friggin content.
          2) When u see a -67% sale it makes u harder than terminator armour.

          Addenum 1. “Please uninstall this bad game” also known as PUBG is worth 5$ of content,
          But when u see it as a full game not UT or Arma3 mod u are more willing to buy it.

      • Person of Interest says:

        John, if sales are such great money makers, how come you’ve never discounted the RPS Supporter subscription in its 3+ years of existence?

        Be bold: do a promotion this week. Don’t even wait to run it by the bean counters at Gamer Network. Even 20% off will be enough motivation for me to finally shift in my seat far enough to extract my wallet from my back pocket and subscribe.

      • MikoSquiz says:

        And would make even less if it didn’t cost more money to begin with, yes. It’s not that difficult to understand.

    • syndrome says:

      Discounts also help in shaping up the perceived value of the product, which is hard to establish without making a comparison. Due to gaming scene being a volatile market maintained by aggressive marketing policies, Steam, in particular, has become a major factor that is intentionally brutal against the small companies (unless such companies have a cashcow on their hands, such as Plunkbat).

      In the gaming industry, there are practically two forces at play: 1) Dream factor, 2) Novelty. There is the third: technology, but it’s been more of a hit or miss, nothing that’s predictable (think Minecraft).

      Dream factor is what sells. Publishers could never sell a game by stating all its gritty details (their operating mechanics, the interface particularities…), what they do is they sell the abstract proposition (the setting, the narrative, the general emotional content…), the cloud of thoughts and impressions that correlate with the genre or its setting. Publishers sell the future in which you’ll happilly be in the ‘zone’ of their game. As it rarely happens, due to this feeling being a momentary high that wears off sooner than later, this is highly manipulative. It doesn’t matter if you’re disappointed in the end (you’ll talk about it anyway, which is also a good marketing). That’s why preorder works. And that’s also why consumers preach against it. Think Star Citizen, or No Man’s Sky.

      It goes without mentioning, but some companies basically steal your money this way. They do very little to deserve it.

      Novelty is what we haven’t experienced yet. Right now, novelty is what drives the resurrection of old genres (because the newer generations haven’t experienced them enough), until we make it to the point of saturation, then we’ll want something radically new (something that’s not ‘survival’, for example). Note that new doesn’t mean better, it might be cleverly repackaged, or it’s simply something you’re not prepared for, and as a buyer, you have no clear biases or prejudices against. This may also further reinforce the Dream factor (think No Man’s Sky again).

      While any particular success depends on the exact rhetoric and marketing model used, as well as the financial energy of the target demography, mental manipulation is here to stay. It is actually incredible how major companies are blatantly transparent in what they’re doing (for ages now), yet the populace acts so gullible that the industry is bound to sleep on the laurels. Once this happens, and this generation gets oversaturated, the next novelty will be not to trust any marketing/PR department. This is when the big crash happens.

      • AngoraFish says:

        That’s all genuinely interesting, thanks for taking the time to comment.

        • syndrome says:

          Thanks for taking the time to read it.

          I forgot to mention that the state of the gaming industry shows symptoms of the late expansion phase. Or, as economists like to call it, the growth — well, it has to slow down, and it’ll come suddenly. For them, it’s taken for granted, but as time passes by, and new souls are introduced to the novelty of gaming (as a whole), which is happening at large post-2005, the point of criticality has to be reached at some point.

          This has actually happened before, not once, but thrice.
          1) Atari collapse (1984)
          2) IBM-compatible PC market boom (1992)
          3) Dot-com bubble, Steam inception, and the resurging indie scene (2000-2002)

          Digital distribution has made things so much quicker, that for the first time since we’ve entered the digital era, the sense of novelty can’t wear off as fast as it can be conjured, and this “old news” effect is known to cause crashes in volatile markets.

          In other words, the industry has to outpace itself, by introducing new things quickly, but coated with the old value system. This is reflected heavily in the software development, with management methodologies such as Agile, but also with the broad movements that let the indie scene do the heavy-haul of research and reiteration (think UDK and Unity3D, but there is a much deeper history involved with this).

          Volatile markets in general, I’d define as markets that sell luxurious products and services with qualities that deteriorate with popular perception, and not by their real-world usefulness.

          This is because their usefulness is questionable. And so there is a time of realization. Realizing the actual usefulness of the game is basically the point in time when the Dream factor wears off. Some games are designed with such obsolescense in mind, while very few are designed as toys, playgrounds, or sandboxes (and generally fare much better, from the economic perspective). As soon as people begin to understand that XY game isn’t particularly useful, because it does not deliver the Dream factor it sold, or because it’s rendered completely predictable during the first playthrough, the next thing is introduced into the market.

          High concepts that vibrate better with the sensibilities of the buyers, leading to the best public retention, tend to become IPs with a market value of their own. Sequels and spinoffs of such products belong to what we understand as franchises. These have the best Dream-factor to Novelty-wear-off ratio, the one that makes its shelf life predictable, as well as its development economy.

          Franchise sequels are always designed to deliver bite-size chunks to their audience. They typically try to improve technology, and novelty of their approach, while surfing on the same Dream factor.

          Novelty itself might be explained by notion of friction, as if gamer’s perception itself was a force of friction, that would wear and tear the goods themselves. Any resulting “heat” would diminish the sense of pristine novelty typically associated with the original product.

          So you either plan for this effect by having bite-sized chunks delivered regularly, but ones based on a highly vibrant Dream factor, a premise that you cannot possibly change, or you have a truly useful product, one that might be expanded in scope as the time passes, but that is probably slow to catch early on.

          The development of the latter is how we got to the point of needing the concept of Early access. Such early-adopting demography would help shape up the raw product that has a great potential, but much of it has yet to be fleshed out, something that’s typically an insane business model in the AAA industry.

          But the whole concept is such a critical novelty for some people, that a business solution had to be found. It is important to understand that such revenue model is practically a system of credit.

          This has further segmented the gaming scene, and introduced such variety that many people don’t realize we’re on a brink of a major software development collapse that will mark the beginning of the 2020’s.

          Whenever there is credit, there is a (rather volatile) perception that drives the true market success. People tend to move in crowds, and when that perception takes a turn, a major perturbation happens and the money stops moving around.

          Not only the apparent growth has to stop somewhere, it is the market appetite that has become humongous, yet the tools we use (namely programming languages, and typical game dev paradigms) don’t scale up as fast.

          All of this serves as an explanation why Steam is devaluing the working hour. Discounts help push large quantities of goods and services, and help shape up the perceived value of the market. But discounts also erode the workmanship, and thus quality (in the long term), because they squeeze the expenses with the market demands, and that has become a very tight spot, so that in turn, companies without decent monetary buffers, and aggressive marketing campaigns are less likely to survive.

          With many companies that usurp preordering and early access models, increased wariness of the buyers might completely crash the aforementioned credit system. And this is where journalists, such as RPS bunch are shooting themselves in the foot. By advising people ‘not to preorder’ — even though this might be a good advice, on a case-by-case basis — they practically catalyze this shutdown process inexorably.

          So in the end, what’s the conclusion of all of this? What is it that we need to change?

          Most AAA companies will go the ways of the dinosaurs. Something radically new will emerge from the ashes: agile decentralized tech companies that serve as backbones for the new system are my first guess. We also probably require new monetary system, new dev paradigms, new ways of transacting, and new laws for intellectual property and digital distribution.

          But before any of this happens, the human nature is what matters the most: it is the human that experiments and explores and plays. The game is just a language worth exploring, a language that manifests as complex as the life itself. And now that we have discovered it, soon enough we’ll enter the Age of play — sort of reality reverse engineering.

          It would take a generation or two for us to realize this, that there is a true physical usefulness to gaming, but it doesn’t work the way we have historical examples for. I may sound drastic or crazy for saying all this, but our economies will change to adapt to this new world, because what is happening is similar to the times when we discovered currency. There are discoveries to be made, not just money by selling dreams. Money has no worth all by itself, although it takes some time for the crowd to gather up my logic for the economy.

          It’s the dreams that can change people. When a dream manifests, a value is created from nothing. Money simply backs it up. Serves as a proof of value being there.

          • Oddzelot says:

            Sick two reads sir. Agree with your analysis.
            But always skeptical on predictions about the future in general.

          • b00p says:

            *slow clap*

      • Axolotl says:

        I second AngoraFish. That was a really interesting read.
        Edit: And now you’ve made another one. Thank you.

      • hfm says:

        True. All you have to do is watch those product ads for “Seen on TV” stuff where they SLASH THE PRICE (Like there was a retail price for it anyway). LOOK. It’s a $70.00 value for just $19.99! And we’ll give you two! PLUS SHIPPING AND HANDLING which is usually super expensive ripoff, like we haven’t figured out how to ship something for pennies…

        That probably sells a lot better than $15.99 each with free shipping.

    • SuicideKing says:

      Well this was well timed, ExtraCredits just put out a video about it:

  3. Ghostwise says:

    Did you manage to soothe that poor building ?

  4. Andrew says:

    I got discounts on Warhammer bringing it to below £30. Given I got to play with the Norsca as a result for 10 days or so, and low risk that this will be a bad game, seems worthwhile.

  5. AngoraFish says:

    Divinity: Original Sin II really should have been named Divinity: Secondary Sin.

  6. Neutrino says:

    “Utopia, this entry’s DLC pack, is only down 20% on its own, costing £12 alone. Which is a frankly terrible deal when the DLC bundle above is only £4 more and includes the original game, this, and two other packs.”

    I don’t see this DLC bundle, anyone got a link or is the reviewer wrong?

  7. King in Winter says:

    A stellar performance.

  8. fish99 says:

    If they want the XCOM 2 DLC to sell its launch should have coincided with a deep price cut for the base game. Charging £35 for the base game when it has been £10 in a humble monthly bundle means you’re pretty much limiting potential DLC sales to people who already have the game.

    Also as someone who paid the above mentioned £10 for the base game, £35 for DLC still seems awfully pricey.

  9. Premium User Badge

    Carra says:

    Glad to see that Divinity is doing so well. Played for ten hours and I’m having a blast.

    Also nice to see a Belgian developer doing great! Means we can expect more great games from them.

  10. Rince says:

    I like Stellaris and all, but I’m waiting for a more juicy discount to get the DLC.
    And I’m so lost by the amount of DLC of Europe Universalis IV that I do not what to buy anymore.

    PS: The terrified building is cute.

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    calcifer says:

    You made my day with that Lemmings screenshot John.

  12. lancelot says:

    PICK ONE OF THEM.

    Ha. What about Finalest Fantasy X-10-b.

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    quasiotter says:

    The Books! Thank you xx

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