Curse You, Starcraft 2!

A while back, I setup a system to track game-updates. It helps give me an estimate of sales on a day-to-day basis since my publisher only gives me monthly numbers. A couple interesting things: I’ve discovered that only about half the copies sold actually get updated. It makes me think I should do more to get players to update their application so they have the latest improvements and bug fixes. I’ve made it extremely easy already, but 50% of the players aren’t clicking that “Update Available” button. I completely understand why Windows does automatic updates by default. I don’t want to force players to update, although, it might not be a bad idea to start popping up reminder windows if players have gone a month without getting an update.

The other thing I’ve noticed is the horrible sales numbers I’ve had since Starcraft 2 came out a week ago. I hope it rebounds soon.

Google Adwords

A few weeks ago, Google sent me a coupon for $100 in free adwords advertising. Adwords is their text-ad service. When you search for a term using google, some text-based ads appear in the right panel or on the top of the search list with the words “Sponsored Links”. I was curious about it, and thought I’d give it a try. I bought ads on the searchwords “Empire” and “Wargame”. Surprisingly, my click-though rate (i.e. the percentage of people who saw the ad who actually clicked the link) was better with “Wargame” than “Empire”.

I don’t have very good sales-tracking data. My publisher gives me monthly totals, but nothing more fine-grained that that. This can make it very difficult to track any effects from any marketing that I do. However, I did set something up so that I would be notified if someone updated their game from the purchased version. This isn’t a great method for measuring sales – since it can give false positives and false negatives, but it’s better than nothing.

Google charged me around 30 cents per click. I got about 30-50 clicks per day, and spent their $100 plus another $30 over 8 days. In total, I saw 383 clicks – i.e. visits to the game’s website via Google Ads. As far as I can tell, I really didn’t see much effect in terms of sales – maybe one or two extra sales. That wasn’t enough to justify $130 in advertising (had I actually been paying for it). While it’s hard to tell for sure (since my sales data is shaky), I think Adwords would only make sense if it cost about 1/4th as much as I was paying.

Battlefront said they spent a lot of money on Google Adwords a while ago, and didn’t see much to justify their advertising costs. I also talked to a friend of mine who said he had tried Google Adwords. He said that a few years ago, when Adwords were first available, it was worth the cost because you could see results from your marketing dollars, but he didn’t think it was worth the cost anymore. At this point, I don’t see enough benefit from Adwords to justify spending the money.

It’s kind of disappointing because I’m increasingly having trouble finding ways to advertise the game that actually make sense fiscally.