Extraction shooters like Escape from Tarkov are very hardcore and multiplayer-only titles. But what if you cut the online aspect and use the core gameplay formula to make a pixel art top-down game? This is exactly what solo developer Luca Carbonera did with his debut project ZERO Sievert, which eventually became a new hit on Steam.
Game marketing expert Chris Zukowski analyzed ZERO Sievert’s road to success in his recent blog post. He also consulted on the launch strategy for the game, so the original article contains many insights and valuable data.
- Luca Carbonera founded CABO Studio in 2020 to make a 2D shooter inspired by S.T.A.L.K.E.R.
- ZERO Sievert launched into Early Access on November 15, 2022. It had 277k wishlists and 23k followers at the time.
- In its first week, the game reached $1.3 million in revenue. It made $2.4 million one month after its EA launch, with its total revenue now surpassing the $3.1 million mark.
- These are really impressive numbers, especially for a debut game led by a solo developer. So what helped it catch the audience’s attention?
- One of the key success factors for ZERO Sievert, according to Zukowski, is that Carbonera chose the genre that is hot right now and put his own spin on it without trying to make it casual.
- The so-called “extraction shooters” such as Escape from Tarkov or Hunt: Showdown are extremely popular among hardcore players. But Carbonera decided to get rid of the multiplayer element that discouraged some gamers, while maintaining a high difficulty and deep mechanics.
- ZERO Sievert is essentially a pixel art single-player Tarkov with a top-down cameran and some S.T.A.L.K.E.R aesthetics. What is also important is that Carbonera understands the genre, so he knows what makes these types of games fun.
- Zukowski pointed out that it was a clever decision from CABO Studio to launch the Coming Soon page on Steam shortly before presenting the project on Kickstarter.
- Carbonera launched a Kickstarter campaign in November 2021, collecting $19.4k from 659 backers in one month. This is nearly $12k more than the original goal.
- Because ZERO Sievert already had a Steam page, Kickstarter helped the game with initial visibility. It had 625 wishlists the first two weeks after the launch of the campaign.
- Carbonera also released a free playable build at the time, which helped him grab the attention of some streamers and YouTubers. This coverage increased the number of wishlists to 7,277. “If you have a systems-heavy game you must get a playable version of your game into streamers’ hands as soon as possible,” Zukowski noted.
- Videos from streamers also provided ZERO Sievert with a long visibility tale. The game averaged 35 wishlists a day even during months when CABO Studio did no additional marketing.
- Thanks to the free demo, Carbonera signed with publisher Modern Wolf in August 2022. It helped the developer with a new trailer (it generated 117k views), Gamescom participation, Steam’s Survival Fest, and other marketing stuff.
- As a result, ZERO Sievert earned 70k wishlists in August alone. Thanks to this boost in popularity, the game was featured on Steam’s front page and earned over 64k wishlists during the Steam Next Fest in October.
- Zukowski also noted that around 15% of the 70k wishlists that ZERO Sievert earned in August turned into actual sales.
- The conversion rate for the Next Fest was also high — almost 15%. So this participation alone eventually earned CABO Studio over $177k.
- “My theory is that Streamers and Festivals act as a professional endorsement for Steam shoppers,” Zukowski explained. “They trust their favorite Streamer. They Trust Steam and the featuring Steam gives the game in the festival. If there is no outside entity telling shoppers ‘this is interesting!’ then they don’t attach as much value to the game.”
More information on the ZERO Sievert promo campaign, the developer’s pitch for streamers, and conversion rates can be found in the full article on How To Market A Game.