Sunless Sea Sales and Funding Deep Dive, Part I: Kickstarter

By Adam Myers, March 24, 2015 · Sunless Sea

Hello! Adam here. It’s been over a month now since Sunless Sea left early access. It was our first downloadable game. We weren’t entirely sure what to expect. Back in early 2013, when we first considered making it, very few kickstarted games had been released. Greenlight was less than a year old. And there wasn’t a lot of public sales information about indie games.

In case it’s useful to other developers, we’d like to share our actual results through the entire process — Kickstarter, through pre-orders, Greenlight, early access, and of course our launch sales.

Let’s start at the beginning, with the Kickstarter.


We launched our Kickstarter campaign on 3rd September 2013. The funding goal was £60,000.

We received £100,803 (168% of our funding goal) from 4,271 backers. This graphs shows our funding progress.

Kickstarter Cumulative Sales

This pattern seems to be typical – lots of funding at the start and end of the campaign, and a slow, steady stream in between. More than 50% funding was raised on the first or last three days.

We did slightly better than usual on the day we reached our funding goal, and there’s a noticeable bump on 2nd October as we approached our underwater expansion pack stretch goal. More people raised their pledges on that day than on any other during the campaign.

A question I’m interested in: do stretch goals have the biggest effect on funding just before they’re achieved, or shortly after? For us, it was clearly the former. But the Moon Hunters Kickstarter achieved twelve stretch goals, and in every single case they received more funding the day after meeting a stretch goal than the day before (source: Tanya X Short’s really excellent postmortem).

Why the difference? It might be because of the unusual scope of our stretch goal (an entire expansion pack, free to all backers) and the excitement of our existing Fallen London fanbase. But of course, this isn’t a lot of data to go on – if you’ve run a Kickstarter and are willing to compare notes, I’d love to hear from you!

The next chart splits pledges by whether they came from inside or outside Kickstarter.

Kickstarter Referrers

Two thirds of the funding came from elsewhere – our mailing list, Fallen London, social media, press coverage. Getting a third from within Kickstarter is apparently pretty unusual; it probably helped that we were a staff pick, and got some visibility from being one of the more highly funded projects that month.

Once we reached our funding goal we also allowed pledges from within Fallen London where we received £1,570 from 95 backers, for £102,373 total.

Alexis has talked in more detail about what we learned from our Kickstarter, here and here. I already linked to the Moon Hunters postmortem; the CodeSpells post on their Kickstarter and Greenlight campaign is also really useful. If you know of any others, let us know in the comments!

In the next post, I’ll talk about pre-orders and our Greenlight campaign.


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Jabberwok Apr 3, 9:43am

Haven't read the Moon Hunters post, but I wonder if the stretch goal difference might be because existing backers were raising to meet the goal in your case, whereas for Moon Hunters the bump could have been from new backers who were holding out to see stretch goals unlocked. Personally, I waited a while before backing Moon Hunters. Can't remember why.

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