analyzing Slapshot Rebound ‘s F2P Steam success


[The GameDiscoverCo game discovery newsletter is written by ‘how people find your game’ expert & GameDiscoverCo founder Simon Carless, and is a regular look at how people discover and buy video games in the 2020s.]

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Slapshot: Rebound – the data behind the success?

There’s
been very little detailed data exposed by devs of Steam free-to-play
games. But there are definitely good opportunities here – even for
indies.

So, back in March, GameDiscoverCo did a deep-dive into Steam (and mobile) F2P battle royale King Of Crabs. And now we’re back again, looking at rather popular multiplayer ice hockey game Slapshot: Rebound, thanks to Oddshot Games founder Gilles/Erveon.

Slapshot:
Rebound is an oddity, since it’s a F2P sports game with realistic-ish
physics and deep gameplay tactics, but sporting a relatively cute look
for the characters (as can be seen in the above YouTube video!)

And
it’s struck a chord with players, as can be seen from the game’s Steam
numbers below. Sorry, no exact revenue here, but we can see reach, with
over 650,000 ‘free licenses’ since December 2020:

We asked Gilles what made him decide to go in this particular direction, and he explained: “I
inherited the hockey theme when I took over development of the first
Slapshot game from a hobbyist developer. People were looking for a
hockey game on PC and the popularity of the first Slapshot – which was more or less a prototype – proved a product market fit that I was happy to explore further.”

We
can also see the daily Steam free downloads for Slapshot: Rebound
below, which is how it got to nearly 600,000 total downloads:

There’s
obviously a launch spike, but all of the other spikes in the download
graph are from influencers somewhat ‘randomly’ picking up the game. This
makes sense, since this isn’t a title with large themed updates, but a
continuing eSport that can be discovered at any time. (BTW, the
download slump in June is the Steam Summer Sale, when F2P games get
de-emphasized in Steam’s UI, and seems to happen to all F2P games.)

The largest spike, in late August 2021, was thanked publicly on the Slapshot Twitter account and revealed to be Polish-language influencers Xayoo Industries.
Their play sessions peaked at around 64,000 simultaneous Twitch viewers
(!) and significantly boosted Polish players of the game.

Relatedly,
you can see the effect on Slapshot’s CCUs and daily active users here,
maxing out at around 15,000 daily actives after ‘the Polish onslaught’,
haha:

We also asked Gilles about the most surprising good and bad things about Slapshot’s success so far. He explained: “The
most surprising thing has been the size of the community. It exceeded
expectations at launch and has remained stable almost a year after
launch. It has definitely required a lot of work to get to that point –
but we’re genuinely happy to have created a big enough community to
sustain the game and ourselves.”
The game spent $0 on paid marketing during launch, incidentally – and has still thrives despite that.

But on the bad side? Having a large competitive-focused multiplayer community “…where
a small but loud subset of the player tries to ruin the experience for
fellow players and harass our development team. We’ve spent a lot more
time than anticipated working on tools and community systems to help
counter this toxicity. I’m extremely grateful for the people who help
keep Slapshot as safe of a space as possible with us.”

How does Slapshot monetize on Steam?

While
Oddshot isn’t revealing exact monetization numbers here, they say that
around 50% of the total monetization of the game is via Steam DLC or
Steam Wallet purchases.

The IAP (in-app purchases) is all in-game
Steam Wallet cosmetics in the form of outfits and accoutrements for
your ice hockey players. And there’s also a ‘Lifetime’ Premium DLC for $15 which includes premium excusive cosmetics, and a boost to earning experience and in-game currency.

Cosmetic
purchases range from $5 to $50 for in-game currency, with $50 being the
most in-game currency for your money. Gilles says that cosmetics make
up the majority of their Steam revenue: “The ones that perform the
best are usually seasonal items. For example, the Santa hat is still the
best selling cosmetic, despite having only been in the shop once.”

He also notes: “We are evaluating more forms of monetization, including season passes, but are in the early stages on this.”
As an indie, the idea of trying this more complex kind of monetization
may be potentially stressful – and F2P multiplayer games with IAP do
need to do very well to be financially worthwhile. But it can really
work out.

A surprising PC game revenue source – display ads!

Oh,
and that other 50% of the total current monetization for Slapshot:
Rebound?Surprisingly, it’s in-game ads! Oddshot works with a bunch of
sponsors to do seamless in-game advertising on the boards of the hockey
rink.

As Gilles notes: “In sports arenas, people are already
used to seeing advertisements as a part of the aesthetic. For the first
iteration of Slapshot, we had joke graphics on the boards. It didn’t
take long before community members expressed interest in putting up
their own images to advertise their Slapshot teams or livestreams for a
small fee. When working on Slapshot: Rebound we wanted to explore this
further; automating the system and getting actual brands on there.”

One
thing that helps Oddshot quite a bit with leverage on ad deals is the
split of the countries playing the game. Unlike King Of Crabs, which had a lot of players
from Russia, China, Thailand and Vietnam (nothing wrong with that if
you can monetize, btw!), this split is very Western/higher-GDP centric:

Gilles continues: “After
some research, we discovered that there are several companies out there
that already serve as a broker between brands and games to [automate
sales]. Through this, we’ve had some amazing brands advertise in
Slapshot: Rebound including Lexus, Pizza Hut, Energizer and Microsoft.”

Bonus: the eSports opportunity?

Finally,
while we’re a bit fed up with eSports being roundly over-hyped, it’s
clear that Slapshot: Rebound is very eSports-compatible. It’s an
engaging digital version of an existing competitive sport that many
people love, even as a smaller indie game.

So, first steps in this direction – before this newsletter hit, Oddshot announced
a campaign with Microsoft and Intel, committing to the competitive
scene in Slapshot: Rebound by pledging $5,000 or more to its community
organized initiatives.

Gilles notes: “There haven’t been any
cash prizes for Slapshot events before, so this could cause a big shift.
That, in combination with the new in-game “eSports hub” feature we
launched, has seen viewership triple on livestreams.”

And
with Oddshot starting the process of organizing tournaments with
multiple major eSports leagues, the pledge will fund cash prizes,
production value boosts, and other ways to help the scene. In other
words, it’s good marketing for the game and also great engagement for
the community.

Conclusions: better visibility for F2P on Steam?

So
that’s Slapshot’s current profile! Ending: one comment I’ve heard from
multiple F2P devs on Steam is that it’s tricky to get visibility for
your base game through what we’d consider ‘normal’ Steam visibility
channels. You can’t be in any sales or Midweek Madness with your F2P
game, for example, removing some obvious discovery points.

When asked about visibility in general, Gilles noted: “Steam
visibility contributed in a notable way right before and right after
launch, when we were featured on the Popular Upcoming and Popular New
Releases lists. We also made it into their ‘December’s top releases’
post, but didn’t see much of an impact from that.”

He added: “From
the Steam stats I’ve shared you can see that in terms of page visits,
external traffic is over a third higher than Steam store traffic. So a
lot of our downloads come from word of mouth, or influencers that have
picked up the game organically. We’re also experimenting with having the
game on other platforms such as Trail.gg to increase visibility.”

So
I don’t think we want F2P titles to overwhelm all the charts and
discovery methods for existing paid games. And ultimately, discovery is
your own problem! But it’s possible that they are slightly underpromoted
on Steam right now, particularly because the main ‘top selling’ charts
only list paid game SKUs (base game or DLC.)

There’s been some
vague murmurs from Valve that we may see some updated public chart data
for Steam. And I’m wondering whether ‘top grossing games’ will be one of
those, in addition to ‘top selling’ by SKU. (‘Top-grossing’ exists on
tag pages right now, but not in a centralized place or as a global
chart.) That might help expose interesting F2P titles, without
overwhelming the existing balance. Guess we’ll see!

The game discovery news round-up..

Since
the lead story is expansive today, we’ll be moving straight on to the
notable links and stories from ‘the Internet in general’ in platforms
and game discovery. And it goes a little something like this:

  • So ‘Netflix x games’ is kicking off earlier than some expected: “Starting
    tomorrow, all Netflix subscribers on Android will start seeing a row
    labeled either “N Games” or “Games On Mobile” inside the normal
    video-streaming app. The games are exclusively for smartphones and
    tablets.”
    Just a few titles for now, and iOS versions ‘coming soon’, but Ars Technica “is familiar with at least two Netflix Games projects that are more surprising than the games we saw in today’s roster.” Oo.
  • In case you missed it, Steam is launching a Steamworks ‘virtual conference’ on Steam Deck on November 12th. “Topics
    will include: Steam Deck Hardware; Development without a dev-kit; Steam
    on Deck; Proton Support; Steam Input; Steam Deck Verified; APU deep
    dive with AMD.”
    Sounds worthwhile to us.
  • Over at Gamesight, they have graphs proving that streamers/viewers love spooky games at Halloween: “Horror
    game viewership received an incredible increase around mid-October. The
    difference in viewership between September and October is a whopping
    38.763% for the entire genre. On the day of Halloween alone there were
    3,263,346 hours streamed.”
    That’s a lot of creepy!
  • Microlinks: yes, that chip shortage is hitting Switch consoles, with output 20% under Nintendo’s target, according to Nikkei; in ‘new cloud gaming hype’ news, Nvidia’s updated GeForce Now tier seems pretty good; none other than Crash Bandicoot co-creator Jason Rubin helped spark Dr. Cortex’s, uhh, Mark Zuckerberg’s interest in the ‘metaverse’ space.
  • You may remember the reports last week that Steam’s ‘Weeklong Deals’
    mini-banner had gone missing. Well, as folks in our subscriber Discord
    spotted, it’s back again, as of this week – see above! (So: either a
    policy change or an inadvertent removal? Either way, it’s all good.)
  • We were talking about eSports earlier in this very newsletter, so it’s great to have Joost van Dreunen cover the state/future of eSports in his latest newsletter (and I just read that Neil Postman book, too!): “Esports
    is, and always has been, an entry point into the broader array of
    practices around live-streaming, online gaming, celebrity (an important
    element that has historically been notably absent from gaming when
    compared to music and film), and fan culture.”
  • Do you have a relatively simple-looking PC game that uses excess GPU? Well, if you’re the Fall Guys-esque Steam game Bro Falls, you may get constantly accused of bitcoin/crypto mining. A player message pinned by the devs notes: “I
    love this game a lot (unironically) and I’d love it if more people
    played without claiming “Bitcoin miner” because it isn’t one.”
  • Microlinks, Pt. 2: this video showing how games perform on xCloud versus an Xbox One shows the long-term power of cloud gaming; some interesting mini-interviews re: working at home/hybrid in this ever-challenging era; Samsung has announced that it’s jumping into cloud gaming with its Tizen smart TV platform.

Finally, we like running graphs from ICO’s Thomas Bidaux. And his latest one
on Switch game releases per month across the last 3 years is
intriguing. Will Switch games stay at 200 releases per month for the
rest of 2021? We’ll seeeee….

[We’re GameDiscoverCo, a new agency based around one simple issue: how do players find, buy and enjoy your premium PC or console game? We run the newsletter you’re reading, and provide consulting services for publishers, funds, and other smart game industry folks.]





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