No Man’s Sky has had one of the most successful launches of a game commercially this year. While we don’t have full numbers from Hello Games, or detailed numbers from PlayStation, we do know that the game had the fifth highest concurrent peak of players for any game on Steam, that it was the second best PlayStation 4 launch in the UK ever at retail, and that according to SteamSpy it had picked up around 700,000 copies sold on Steam on launch.
In fact, Steam Spy paints a really interesting picture when looking at No Man’s Sky. Generally speaking, the period at launch and the week that follows sell a large amount of a game’s sales at or near full price, including Preorders. Steam Spy takes about 3 days to get its data in order as it works by approximating through scraping user data for how many people own a game, and thus it takes a few days after launch to have a large enough sample to be representative.
We’ll break this down more, but here is the owners chart by Steam Spy on No Man’s Sky:
To see where No Man’s Sky calibrates, you need to go to August 14th, as that is the first time you have 3 full days of data. Due to releasing at an odd time of day, the 11th can’t be counted as it’s only a partial day in that three day period. As of the 14th, with a ± around 20,000, No Man’s Sky was owned by 692,343 people on Steam by Steam Spy’s estimates. This is likely largely driven by pre-orders of the game. We can see that instead of continuing to pick up more users, the sales rate has highly stagnated with as of August 10th No Man’s Sky having approximately 744,784 owners with a ± of 21,535.
Before anyone goes crazy about the 18th having less owners than the 17th, note that the margin of error here is over 21k and that means the title falls easily inside that with a variance of only 3k. In fact, everything from the 15th onwards is within the same margin of error, meaning there hasn’t been a mass of refunds out pacing purchases like there was last year in Batman: Arkham Knight.
This chart, however, is atypical of games on launch, as they tend to have an upwards trajectory. Now, with the caveat that the following chart is set at a different scale due to the fact that I used it when logged in on Steam Spy to get launch, here is Total War: Warhammer:
Note: Total War: Warhammer shows a decent amount of owners prelaunch unlike most other titles. I believe this is due to preloads, like how Deus Ex: Mankind Divided has over 40k owners right now. I have reached out to Steam Spy to confirm this. It also is why Total War: Warhammer‘s starting point is more gradual than No Man’s Sky or Inside‘s.
You can see here a very different curve that continues on a sharp incline up to around early June, before becoming a steady incline there over time. This is much more common with many sales happening in the first week and you can see the game continuing to sell in those early days. Like No Man’s Sky, this was a highly anticipated game that has a mixed rating on Steam, although in Total War: Warhammer‘s case that is due to DLC and the fact that some Total War fans feel it misses features from other games in the series.
The key here is the type of chart we’re looking at overall. To give a better comparison, let’s look at No Man’s Sky with a similar scale to Total War: Warhammer, albeit with a lot of white space due to it being a new launch
You can see the big difference here in the shape of the graph. While Total War: Warhammer‘s has a sharp increase and then smooth out into a slight incline, over time, No Man’s Sky just shoots up and basically stabilizes. To give another example of a highly anticipated indie game, although this one lacks the might of Sony’s marketing, here is Playdead’s Inside, which released in July:
Note: Inside has significantly less owners than either No Man’s Sky or Total War: Warhammer, which surpass 700k and 800k respectively. Inside instead lists around 150,000 owners, which means that the shifts that happen are more visible as the Y axis has smaller increments of change over the same space. However, you can see looking at it, that its curve closely resembles the general shape of Total War: Warhammer once it calibrates.
So, what does this all mean? Well it appears that many of No Man’s Sky‘s sales were preorders, and with its nearly 97% play rate among owners, people who bought it are launching it at least once. It also appears those who didn’t buy it at launch are quite skeptical of the game and that it appears its going to be slower selling. While it’s within margin of error, we can also see today that the sales spiked some with the updated patch notes for the title.
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