Year-by-year analysis of Omnibus data (CoG and HG)

I think the Twine Revolution precedes the time period we’re talking about by a good few years. It’s true that some authors who first discovered interactive fiction through ChoiceScript started writing in CS, then switched to Twine for a range of reasons, and that awareness of that in the CoG/HG audience increased over the last few years. But in the big picture, the audience for CS has grown over the same period that Twine’s been around, and the paying audience for CoG/HG is substantially bigger than the one for Twine games.

9 Likes

This is a big thing that makes me unsure why anyone would ever want to use Twine, besides for hobby projects. There just isn’t a market, not in the same way as Choicescript. You have to brute force things entirely by word of mouth, self-publishing is super risky.

4 Likes

If you want to write games which are heavy in adult content and monetize it, you’ll have to use twine since CoG/HG wouldn’t publish something like that. I think someone on intfiction mentioned doing this under a separate identity.

But I would suggest using renpy for such things.

5 Likes

It’s not that there’s no market, it’s just that you need to work waaaay harder to be found by audience. Just because self-publishing a book is hard doesn’t mean there’s no market for books, either.

I wouldn’t, if you don’t have an artist. Ren’py for a pure text game sounds… excessive.

8 Likes

I love when people put together things like this so I’m popping in to say thanks :sparkles: This whole thread is a cool read.

2 Likes

I’m not sure this is necessarily true; if you’re talking games with explicit content, A Kiss From Death, The Magician’s Burden, Blood Moon, and The Midnight Saga (and possibly others I’m forgetting) have a lot of it, HC has a number of very explicit games, and CoG has a couple.

For me, when writing and playing Twine and ChoiceScript are apples and oranges that work better for different things and don’t always bring the most benefit from treating them the same (eg you can mimic a ChoiceScript-ish interface and stats in Twine and make a game with hundreds of thousands of words but it will be very arduous to bugfix and likely be less accessible, and why not take advantage of things Twine can do that ChoiceScript can’t). You can get perfectly delicious things from both, though.

9 Likes

This was my main takeaway. I was taught that when looking at a graph, the first thing to look at is the numbers at the source, and the frame of reference for the scatter plots it 3, not 1 and not 0. That’s pretty significant.

There is a trend with modern five-star ratings towards interpreting anything less than five stars as some kind of failure, but traditionally, three stars has been a pretty good rating, and four stars a very good one. If almost every game has an average rating of above four, then either the overwhelming majority of readers enjoyed the books and didn’t regret their decision to buy them, or people are rating using a completely different frame of reference to mine.

…which is quite possible. That’s the main drawback of five-star ratings.

7 Likes

I meant very extreme levels of content, such as sexual violence and non-consent. I’m guessing CoG wouldn’t allow this sort of thing on any of the three labels, and neither would the app stores. Steam has adopted a very liberal policy on such things, which has led to a recent explosion in indie games (mainly visual novels) serving this dark corner of the market.

Mathematically, I believe the ratings can range from 0.5 to 5. In actuality, prior to 2024, the actual range was 3.3 to 4.9. The majority of games (about 85%, I think) are in the 4.0 to 4.9 range. At this point, 0.1 can feel like a huge differentiator (since the size of the ‘effective range’ is 0.9), and it’s possible that customers who care about ratings may judge games on these tiny increments when trying to choose a game to buy.

Not to mention, we’ll also need to account for the fact that word counts (quality :slightly_frowning_face:) have been increasing at the same time the ratings have trended the other way, however slightly.

Personally, I don’t care that much about the ratings (unless it’s under 4.0), since there’s a free demo, but I suspect customers may use that to make a decision. Not saying that’s fair, ‘cause it’s not, but it is what it is.

1 Like

Just to sneak in for those wanting to dig up Twine wips and completed games for sale there’s itch.io and a bunch of IF tags on Tumblr. However, if you want adult twine wips you’re most definitely going to have to crawl over Tumblr since either Itch doesn’t surface adult wips or authors are flagging them as unlisted.

I can’t speak for the development process of CS vs Twine, but as a reader, I much prefer Twine - especially from more experienced Twine devs.

3 Likes

Anyway, just want to say that I’m not writing this to discourage anyone from being a published author. Far from it. I just hope to give everyone some additional insights and help you know what to expect.

Also, if you released (or will release) a game this year and it didn’t rate as well as it should, don’t be too hard on yourself about it. Because ultimately, I have proof here that it’s not you or your game, but simply the increasing expectations of the audience.

6 Likes

Totally get the rising expectations. As more things come out, more words are produced, later iterations of series continue stories that people like, etc. then audiences are going to expect more.

However, there’s some accountability that I think needs to be taken here. I think the main takeaway is, if someone writing a game in CScript and they are satisfied with the final product, they shouldn’t worry about ratings. Let’s face it, 99% of people who write under CScript don’t make a living off of it and they’re creating because they like creating.

However, as an industry evolves, expectations are going to rise. As people see stories they like that do certain things or are made a certain way, they will no doubt compare other things in that medium with the thing they really like, and I think that’s fair. It’s what happened when BG3 came out and even RPG’s like Starfield were being compared to it and criticized in comparison. An audience has every right to compare products and expect equal value/quality, especially if they’re paying the same amount of money for them. In fact, that expectation in quality increase is partially what helps an industry and creators evolve and become better. From a consumer standpoint, it’s a healthy thing.

All that being said, since the people who write in CScript usually don’t make a living off it, they do not have an obligation to meet those higher expectations. What you get is what you get. So while it’s fair for the consumer to expect more as the years go on and what’s possible in IF evolves, I think it’s also fair to say most people who write here should just continue to write what you want to write since their livelihood is not dictated by consumer happiness.

6 Likes

Just adding some additional statistics.

Dragon of Steelthorne had about 1.8k sales (Omnibus only) in the first month. It had about 170 ratings over that same period of time, so about 9.4% of buyers left a rating. After gathering up some scattered numbers here and there, it seems that a substantially lower proportion of buyers are leaving ratings this year. This might explain the lower rating counts this year, but this is pretty much just a guess on my part.

I don’t have enough data to make a solid conclusion on this theory, and my game does have a confounding variable - ‘completing’ the game and leaving a rating means losing all your saves (due to the way choicescript is designed), so I suspect some players might have forgone the ratings in order to revisit their saves at a later time. The game gives players very explicit warnings that finishing the game means losing all saves. Other games probably have their own confounding factors too, so its hard to say anything. All I can say is to use this 9.4% figure with extreme caution before trying to estimate the performance of other games released this year.

If any other writer wants to voluntarily share some numbers* to help us better make sense of the low rating counts this year, by all means. We could always use additional data to work out what is going on behind these statistics.

*Sharing sales data is up to individual authors. Please do not ask them for data if they do not wish to share it.

8 Likes

I’m already kind of surprised at some of the things that have gone through. (I guess the app stores have gotten a bit more liberal in what they’re letting through?) I’m wondering if COG/HG is going to move away completely from anything aimed at kids (there are a few including official games) as if it was me, personally I’d be pretty hesitant letting someone underage play on an omnibus (the only option for apple) as it may contain games with explicit/violence scenes and there seems no discussion of the M+ type games going into an adult rated omnibus separate to the others. Some of the things that get suggested on the forums/reddit though for inclusion in games at times though… If any of those get to completion (a big if) I think some lines may well be crossed there.

2 Likes

I’d say not really. RenPy out of the box brings a number of very convenient QoL enhancements for the reader (rollback, multiple levels of text skip, saves at any point etc) as well as ways to spice up even entirely text-based game, that you’d struggle to achieve otherwise. Also makes it a bit easier to publish your work on place like Steam which is oriented towards games being executables.

2 Likes

I would say the steady decline of COG/HG is pretty much on par for the course.

Number of reasons for the rather uninspired releases are twofold:

  1. Not many are interested in certain type of games that come off as preachy or let alone are uninteresting. A certain climate one comes to mind. It made me feel like my brain left its residence. Not to mention a number of ‘fan’ writers works are at most times hit and miss, yet HG keeps accepting applications that are either enjoyable enough or somewhat lacklust. There hasn’t been a real hit in terms of the book department other than maybe Two Cranes this year.

  2. All the known books (ZE, Keeper, Wayhaven, etc.) are in long build processes and thus take time to release. While certainly the fans and hype for such series are there, the wait for them can be tedious, though thats the nature of the beast.

  3. There are other means of releasing IFs. Itch, Steam, Patreon. Not to mention there are some alternatives to creating IFs that aren’t choicescript. Sure, going through CoG in terms of publishing and market would be more upside but given… let’s say a certain set of politics that surround the place… some are willing to try alternative means to releasing their stories.

-Take this, this is simply my observations from afar on the matters here-

3 Likes