Indie developer Tobias Springer, who created Shapez.io as a more approachable and less stressful version of Factorio, has discussed his title’s viral success. So what helped it skyrocket from a simple web game to a $1-million hit?
GameDiscoverCo founder Simon Carless spoke with Tobias Springer in the latest issue of his game discovery newsletter.
Like many other indie projects, Shapez.io’s journey started on itch.io. Springer’s plan was to make a game and improve it with community’s feedback. First, he released it on web, which gave the developer a lot of free traffic and first playtesters.
Shapez.io came out on Steam on June 7, 2020. Initially, it cost only $3.99, with the price later increasing to $6.99 (which is still pretty cheap).
Key elements to the Shapez.io success
- The game only had 958 wishlists at launch, but people who knew it from itch.io still bought it and gave it the initial push.
- Shapez.io started appearing in people’s recommendations on Steam. It even got featured in the “similar games” for Factorio, which also boosted the sales.
- Springer also promoted Shapez.io on Reddit, with the most successful post being posted on the Factorio subreddit.
- Soon after that, streamers started paying attention to the game. Giantwaffle, who has more than 800K followers on Twitch, played Shapez.io, which also helped with the sales.
- Springer discussed paid promotions with several YouTubers, and the most successful collaboration was created by blogger DangerouslyFunny. The video now has around 1.28 million views.
The biggest spike in sales here is Steam Daily Deal in November 2020
- Despite the initial success, Shapez.io almost “reached the long tail period” in the first half of 2021. That’s when Springer realized that it was time to work on DLCs and add achievements to the game.
- The developer was also contacted by publisher Doyoyo Games, which offered him a deal to release and promote the game in China. “They arranged a partnership with some key selling sites, and they also managed to sponsor one of the biggest influencers on their YouTube-platform equivalent (BiliBili),” Springer said of the successful partnership.
- As a result, the Puzzle DLC has sold around 17,000 copies, which is $62,000 in revenue. And, thanks to the deal, China accounted for 30% of these numbers.
There were, however, a lot of things that Springer did wrong. The list of the least successful marketing moves includes paid traffic from other .io games (it resulted in 8000 clicks and only 4 sales), as well as Reddit, Facebook, and YouTube ads.
The full article about the Shapez.io success can be read here.