by Ariella Lehrer
June 14, 2021 via ariellalehrer.com
I started out 2021 with a plan, and now, not even half way through the year, it’s out the window. What’s the problem? When I came back to Legacy Games full time last October, I was focused on building up our digital business. We sought out developers to obtain digital distribution rights and rapidly built up our catalog of casual games like hidden object and match 3 for both retail and our website.
Sadly, I thought that the casual PC downloadable business was in better shape than it was. Sure, I knew that sales were declining, but I thought that Legacy could ride the long tail online, just as we have at retail, where we are the “last man/woman standing.”
But unfortunately, PC digital sales aren’t just declining…they are falling off a cliff. I don’t have to look any further than Legacy’s royalty reports from our competitors, like Big Fish Games and Wild Tangent. Games that ten years ago generated $10K a month in royalties are now generating less than 10% of that. Every developer and portal that relies on PC downloadable sales of casual games is suffering. The customers have either migrated to mobile, console, or Facebook Instant Games. Or, as a competitor told me, “They’re old and dying.” (I certainly hope that’s not true!)
In addition, some popular sites like GameTop allow customers to play PC casual games entirely for free. It’s legit, because as the CEO recently told me, they offer desperate developers a flat fee and then monetize their investment through advertising. If you are a PC game portal selling casual games like Legacy…it’s very very hard to compete with free.
That’s all by way of introduction. Being the experienced business person I am, (especially experienced with pivoting), I searched around for what to do next. I could either change my customer base (primarily Walmart customers), change the kind of products we sell (casual), change the platform (PC), change the business model (premium), change the distribution method (downloadable) or some combination of the above.
I then did something that I don’t do often enough, but find it MORE HELPFUL THAN ALMOST ANYTHING ELSE. I took advantage of my long tenure in the industry and called on colleagues who are smarter than I am, to ask their opinion about the state of the business. I spoke to a buyer at retail, game publishers, an executive at a streaming company, a PC hardware manufacturer, a game agent, and many developers. We talked about Legacy’s strengths – retail distribution, large catalog of games, known brand – and where there might be new opportunities.
Long story short, Legacy announced a new distribution initiative for Indie developers. You can read the details here, and in these two excellent articles, https://gamedaily.biz/article/2048/legacy-games-announces-new-indie-publishing-initiative and https://venturebeat.com/2021/05/15/how-legacy-games-still-has-a-good-business-selling-cd-games-at-walmart/
It became obvious after my various conversations that indie developers need more distribution outlets. They get lost on Steam where there is zero curation and more casually-leaning customers can’t find them. The discoverability issue is excruciatingly difficult for independent developers who have thrown their life savings into the games they create with loving attention to detail and innovative gameplay, but have no money left over for marketing.
So pivot #437 at Legacy is underway, and you can see our fledgling efforts here: www.legacygames.com. We want to find and elevate the “best of the best” indie games available, and introduce them to new customers and distribution channels. We think that our Walmart customers are ready for a bit more challenge, plus we are soon to launch a promotion with a major hardware company that will result in a flood (we hope) of new online customers. Our goal is to begin distributing 100+ indie games by the end of the year.
Bottom line. If you have a great PC indie game, we’d love to meet you and offer up our unique distribution channels, both retail and online. We think there is an opportunity to help the indie game community and shine a spotlight on its achievements. Wish us luck!