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Nintendo eShop Sales Driven by Discounts and Metacritic, Publisher Says

Some game developers might struggle to figure out how to get good Nintendo eShop sales, but No More Robots seems to have cracked the code: don't hand out game keys to reviews willy-nilly and take advantage of steep discounts. No More Robots has been publishing games for the last couple of years and they've created some pretty great games. Unfortunately, No More Robots' Mike Rose had discovered a troubling fact: Nintendo eShop sales were, in some cases, as low as 8-20% of the sales as the same games managed on Steam.

This conundrum led him down a path to discover what does and does not work for selling digital games on the Nintendo Switch. The discoveries he made were somewhat surprising.

How to Game Nintendo eShop Sales 101

No More Robots' Mike Rose wrote out a lengthy Twitter thread where he discusses this topic.

The thread involves the sales history of four games, all of which are available on Steam and the Nintendo eShop: Not Tonight: Take Back Control Edition was the first of these four games released on the Nintendo eShop in January 2020. Considering its content, it didn't get much in the way of promotion from Nintendo itself.

The game ultimately managed to do 10% of the "crazy numbers": that it managed on Steam. That was soon followed by Yes, Your Grace in June 2020. This time, No More Robots did three different things for this game's launch: it had a 20% pre-order discount, Nintendo would promote the game on its internal channels, and the eShop version would launch much closer to the game's original launch on Steam.

Yes, Your Grace did 8% of the units that the Steam version did in its first month. That was soon followed by Nowhere Prophet a month later which did 20% of the Steam sales. Nintendo eShop Sales Driven by Discounts and Metacritic, Publisher Says

With three games launches, No More Robots decided to explore how Nintendo eShop sales work a bit more. In that time, it made a discovery: Metacritic scores determine whether or not you get placed in sales and featuring and it appears that these scores are a factor in whether or not people actually buy the game. Mike Rose then set out on a path to pump up their Metacritic score.

He looked at the sites that gave lower Metacritic scores to Switch games on average and then just didn't give them any review code for the next games. What were the results? Not Tonight's Nintendo Switch score ended up being 7 points higher than PC on Metacritic. Nowhere Prophet's Nintendo Switch score was 8 points higher. In both instances, games moved up from "Mixed" to "Positive."

Come June 2020, No More Robots bucked its previous sales trends and put Not Tonight on a deep, deep discount -- 90% off. (Incidentally, the game also happens to be 90% off on the Nintendo Switch eShop right now.) In 4 weeks, Not Tonight sold nearly as many units on the Nintendo eShop as it had done in its entire lifetime on Steam. A similar experiment was attempted with Yes, Your Grace at a lower discount, but that didn't quite work out so well:

So where Not Tonight kept going strong because of the charts, YYG did not... I think it's time for a GRAPH

Here is Not Tonight's 90% off month, plotted against Yes, Your Grace's 40% off month (with numbers removed so I don't upset anyone) pic.twitter.com/n0QfzMF6M0

-- Mike Rose (@RaveofRavendale) September 25, 2020

Sales of roughly equal length (but with different discounts) had different results. Yes, Your Grace sold 13% as many units as Not Tonight, but it also made 60% of the revenue. What's the takeaway, here? According to Mike Rose, crazy discounts aren't the only driver of sales.  Here's the ultimate result of his experiments with Nintendo eShop sales:

4.

You should do pre-orders. Your first week of sales will be roughly 3x your preorder numbers, so it's a good early sales indicator
5. You should do a demo.

You can get extra spots on the eShop when you do
6. Do a decent launch discount to catch eyeballs on the store

-- Mike Rose (@RaveofRavendale) September 25, 2020

Granted, No More Robots' experiments with Nintendo eShop sales aren't necessarily definitive; this is a small sample size in an unusual time when a lot more people are buying games digitally. That said, Mike Rose has made a strong case that what works on Steam and elsewhere will not work on the Nintendo eShop.

If you're a game developer launching on the platform (or you're just curious about the business), you should take a few minutes out of your day to read the entire Twitter thread about Nintendo eShop sales. As for the future, No More Robots will be announcing the launch date for Descenders on the Nintendo eShop sometime soon. For now, you can buy Descenders on Steam for £24.99 or your regional equivalent.

What do you think of Mike Rose's experiments with Nintendo eShop sales?

Do you think Nintendo could do more to curate the store experience on the eShop?

Let us know in the comments below!