Where are the women?

One of the blind assumptions I’ve always made about Divinity: Original Sin is that many women play it.  I never had any doubts about this because I saw my partner play D:OS for many hours. She’s quite picky about her games and likes RPGs, so I figured that if the game would be unappealing to her (or womanhood in general for that matter), she would’ve told me right away.

My feeling that many women play D:OS is further reinforced by the people I meet at trade-shows. For every two or three male fans, there’s always at least one woman. Based on that, my lazy mind concluded that at least 25% to 33% of our audience is female, if not more (given that trade-shows are not exactly gender balanced).

I never really questioned this number because it fit with the split I saw for events like PAX. According to this report for instance, 35% of PAX visitors is female, and I think of PAX players as players who would typically enjoy D:OS.

But then this morning, I saw a number that didn’t compute at all. According to the Google analytics page for our Kickstarter campaign, only 4,19% of the page’s visitors is female versus 95.81% male! WTF?

Google Analytics

That didn’t match at all what I thought. My instant reaction was – “oh really, so there’s not a lot of women on Kickstarter. Interesting, I always thought ….”

At which point I did the sensible thing and googled “kickstarter gender distribution”.

The first result I found showed that indeed, Kickstarter is more popular among men (70% male vs 30% female) but that still didn’t really explain the 5% I was seeing. So I reasoned that perhaps there are other Kickstarter categories that are more popular among women, and that games just aren’t that attractive to them, at least as something to crowdfund.

So I went to our Facebook page.

Turns out only 9% of the people following us there are women! I went WTF again! That really didn’t match my expectations. Where were my at least 25% to 35% women? What about my scientifically sound and completely unbiased sampling results from those fan encounters at trade shows? Could it really be so low?

Facebook Stats

So I delved into the Steam analytics.

Sadly, there I couldn’t see any demographic data. This seriously sucked, because it could’ve validated (or invalidated) an idea that had formed on our group chat i.e. The women who play our games will play the hell out of them, but they will only take an active interest when the games are released or about to be released.  Our male audience on the contrary might be more interested in backing us sooner, for what I guess will be a variety of reasons.

This at least fit with my own observations. My sampling subject at home certainly won’t bother reading a lot of gaming previews or watch you tubers, at least, I think she doesn’t. But she will buy a game that comes highly recommended and looks like she’ll enjoy it.

After some more discussion, our hive-mind came to the conclusion that even if we’d know the gender distribution on Steam, we wouldn’t have been able to make any conclusions, because many couples share their Steam accounts  (at least, we assume they do).  And so any conclusion based on Steam stats would be wrong.

At which point someone else said we shouldn’t based important decisions on data as shaky as Facebook or Google analytics.

So I started thinking: I’ve never cared for analytics before, so why do I care now? The most I’ve used it for in the past was to see if the PR people we hired in different territories were doing their jobs. To give you an idea of how much I use it, I actually had to ask someone to tell me how to access my gmail account before I could see the current data because I was curious about how people discovered our kickstarter page.

At which point I reassured the team that we weren’t going to let some fancy numbers affect any decisions. We’ll happily continue making games we care about and would like to play ourselves. Which reassured them because they were starting to worry after I didn’t stop asking questions about this ;)

But of course, that didn’t mean I wasn’t curious and actually also a little bit worried.

Because if we indeed have as many women players as I think we do, does that mean we are communicating on the wrong channels about our games? Obviously we’d like them to know about what we’re making. So how do we talk to them? According to this report, we should at least be seeing a 50/50 split, not a 5/95 or 10/90.

So, since quite a few among you work on the dark side, I figured I might as well just ask you. You boys & girls must have data about this. I’m particularly interested in learning if other CRPGs have the same pre-release gender split like the one we are seeing on Facebook & Kickstarter, and if that then settles out into a 50/50 when the game goes on sale. Or is the analytics thing just broken, and am I making a big fuss over nothing?  Or, are we really doing something wrong? And if so, what?

All input more than welcome!


So based on the feedback I’ve been receiving, here’s a couple of insights that may help explain things. First off, Google Analytics itself – Google’s adwords page explains how they determine gender. It’s quite primitive apparently.

“Sarah’s favorite hobby is gardening. Many of the gardening sites and blogs on the Display Network that she visits have a majority of female readers. Based on this, Sarah’s browser could be added to the “female” demographic category.

As a result, Google may show Sarah ads from advertisers who have chosen to show their ads to women.”

Kind of puts things in context.

Next up, most of the reactions I got from women really do indicate they won’t engage in the communities around games for a variety of reasons. This brings up interesting questions about how they learn about what games they’ll like. My guess would be that critic scores might be quite important here.


Another type of comments puts the fault in our shoes.

We  had a few commenters bringing up the “nostalgia” factor that applies to CRPGs. This factor does not appeal as much to women, as there were less women gaming at the original peak of CRPGs in the 1980s and 1990s, and so us talking about a old-school RPG or reviewers calling it a modern Baldur’s Gate didn’t help.

Some commenters also suggested that we didn’t reach media regularly consumed by women and suggested we highlight female Larian game dev staff to do that.

And then there’s all this feedback that really has nothing to do with the subject and which reassures me the world will remain an interesting place for a long time.

If anything else pops up, I’ll add it here.

Returning to Kickstarter

Hi Everybody!

I’m so glad I can finally talk to you about this! It was getting hard to talk about what we’re doing without actually saying what we were doing, so I’m really relieved that it’s finally in the open and that I can share my excitement for this.

In case you missed it, I’m of course referring to our recent announcement that we’ll be returning to Kickstarter with Divinity: Original Sin 2; our biggest and most ambitious RPG to date — one that will either sink us, or go on to be remembered as our best game ever!


We’re saving the announcement of all the features for when the Kickstarter campaign launches on August 26th, so I won’t discuss those just yet. Instead, I thought I’d talk a little bit about why we’re returning to crowdfunding, and what our hopes and aspirations are.

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The why of our third secret project

Dolores & Daniel got married the other day. They are one of the couples that used Divinity:Original Sin as a marriage proposal tool and represent one of my favorite examples of why I love my job so much. Their thank-you-mail complemented with wedding pictures arrived just as we were preparing the announcement of Divinity:Original Sin – Enhanced Edition for Xbox One/PS4/PC/Mac/Linux/SteamOS and was eagerly shared in the office – it really is the type of stuff that makes developers tick.

EOC_Pitchv13 notext

Their mail brought to mind an image we used to pitch Divinity:Original Sin to console publishers, back in 2011. It features our two main heroes sitting on a couch, playing Divinity:Original Sin together with a controller in local coop. For some reason, the vision wasn’t strong enough to convince the publisher acquisition guys back then, even if I told them I thought this was the best thing to happen to console gaming ever. Maybe they would’ve changed their minds if we’d put in a picture of Dolores & Daniel.

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Making time to develop

I have to fight to find time to breathe these days.

Things are moving so fast now and we’re doing so many things simultaneously that my previous concerns over our growth scaring the hell out of me can now be considered to be a big understatement. Still, I’m having lots of fun and I’m damn proud of what we’re achieving here at Larian. We finally figured out when we’ll start announcing some of our new stuff (around E3) and if things continue to progress as they are, I think we’ll be showing a lot between then and the end of the year.

I’m just back from lovely Quebec City where we’ve been interviewing candidates to join our new team there and I’m quite excited about the talents that’ll be joining us. Sometimes I feel like I’m in a candy store when the person in front of me turns out to be exceptionally gifted in his or her craft and indicates he or she’s willing to work for us. The complementing of our team with extra capacity & talent together with having a cool RPG engine to build our future work on is empowering us and I’m anxious to see all the little building blocks come together. Obviously, since we’re in the business of making RPGs, I’ll have to exert some patience, but from where I’m sitting it’s already clear that this will become something special.

Because we’ve picked E3 as the period to announce our next big thing, I can’t say too much right now (otherwise we won’t get the press coverage we’re hoping for etc…) so for today’s long overdue entry, I figured I might tell you a bit about something that’s been bothering me.


Three stooges posing for the opening of the Larian Quebec office

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Leaked: The Larian plans for 2015/2016 and beyond

No, I never I expected us to win PC Game of the Year on Gamespot. Not in a million dreams. But I’m damn proud we did. It’s the cherry on top of what has been a fantastic 2014 for Larian Studios and it’s incredibly motivating for all of us to see that all that effort gets rewarded at the end of the day. I was a walking corpse by the end of development but given the amount of support we received, I’d do it again in an instant.


We’re really proud of being able to make this type of banner. It’s incredibly motivating.

And even if we already said it a thousand times, I’ll say it again – we couldn’t have achieved this level of success without the help of all our Kickstarter backers, the people who made suggestions during Steam Early Access and forums like RpgCodexRpgWatch and of course our own Larian forum. It deserves to be said over and over and any dev not listening to the hivemind yet really should be paying attention.

Since I like contrast, today’s blog entry is going to be about everything that sucked about Divinity:Original Sin ;)

Or rather, it’s going to be about how we hope to do better in the coming years, and what steps we are taking to make it so. In other words, I’ll try to tell you without telling you exactly what our plans are for the next years.

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The halo effect

Not so long ago, in fact, just a few weeks ago when I posted my last blog entry, I said that Kickstarter might not be the right route for our future projects. I argued that it’s a limited pool and that it would be wrong for us to fish in it if our games are earning sufficient money for us to invest in our future projects.

I immediately received a few strong reactions, both publicly but also privately about how I got it all wrong, and that in fact I should steer Larian back to Kickstarter. The reasoning is that successful crowdfunding projects send more people to the crowdfunding scene and that benefits the smaller projects. This is referred to as the “halo effect” and one particular bright person compared it to “a restaurant sitting alone or on a block with many others. They all do better with more traffic”.

I have to say that that got me thinking.

This image is now part of Larian's history

Blasting through our Kickstarter goal was a very important moment in Larian’s history and we’re forever indebted to the people who made it possible.

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Thoughts after releasing Divinity:Original Sin and what comes next

Ok,  let’s do this thing. Lots of people have been asking me for numbers and thoughts on the release of Divinity: Original Sin, so here are a few.

Divinity:Original Sin did pretty well. At the time of this writing its Metacritic critic rating is at 87%, it’s user rating at 89% and it’s been at the top of the Steam charts for most of the summer, occupying the nr. 1 spot for around a month.

It has sold well over half a million units by now– mostly from Steam, with 10% from retail.  ”Break even” has been reached, our debts have been paid and we are now in the profitable zone. While not all of the money is for us as we had private investors on board, the game did sufficiently well for us to envision funding our next endeavors with it, meaning we’re pretty happy about its performance.

Divinity:Original Sin was received well by both players and critics

Divinity:Original Sin was received well by both players and critics. It has the highest user score of all recent PC games.

So much for turn-based fantasy RPGs not selling, crowdfunding not working and a developer like us not being capable of bringing a game to market without the help of seasoned publishers ;) .

It’s now been two months since release, so I’ve had the chance to recover somewhat and organize my thoughts.

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The power of crowd funding

It’s now been one year since we successfully completed our Kickstarter campaign for Divinity:Original Sin , one of the most intense and rewarding periods in my game development career.

Now, as we’re approaching the moment where the game is going to be released, I think it’s safe to say that without any doubt, the two smartest things Larian Studios did this year were deciding to put the game on Kickstarter and subsequently deciding to put the game on Steam Early Access.

Having access to a pool of over 60,000 people who supplied us with feedback during development, and at the same time enabled us financially to act upon that feedback, is nothing less but a developer’s wet dream, and we’ve had the luxury of living it.

It’s something for which we at Larian are very grateful and it’s something for which future players should be grateful too, because the game experience they’ll get will be so much better because of all that feedback.

I’m aware that there’s a lot of negative out on the internet regarding Steam: Early Access, but reflecting on my earlier blog entry in which I was pondering whether or not to release Divinity:Original Sin via Early Access, I think the positives for us far outweighed the negatives, and I think our game is an example of Early Access being a boon both for the developer and the players.

Barring a disaster, we’ll be shipping Divinity:Original Sin in 6 to 8 weeks, the target date being the day before the next solstice, June 20th.

I know we lost a lot of credibility in the release date department, but this particular deadline is pretty much set in stone now, if only for the reason that if we postpone releasing again, we’ll be taking turns at the divorce lawyer. Of course there’s also that other reason and that’s that we’re slowly approaching the stage where the game will actually be ready.

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Here we go!

Today is an important milestone in the development of Divinity: Original Sin. Until now, even if we were already heavily into bugfixing mode, we were still incorporating new ideas, systems, and features into the game.

We just released this Kickstarter update which announces that as of next week that period will be over. We will now shift all of our development effort towards reading incredibly sexy reports that start with phrases like “We’re only 3240 bugs away from release – here’s what needs to be done”.

The exception to this will be the end of the game. That part still has some room for us to indulge our creative selves in. Other than that, it’ll be a whole lot of “he and she did this and that and that and then this happened and that’s not how it’s supposed to be.

We’ve been working hard these last few weeks to integrate the last of the features we really wanted. Looking at the net result, I’m pretty proud of what my team has accomplished. We’ve amplified limited means into a lot of gameplay– a testament to the creativity of my team.

You will be able to check out our work as early as next week (most likely on april 3rd 2014) when we upload the beta version of Divinity:Original Sin to Steam Early Access. Or you can watch our twitch tv session, next monday at 18:00 CET where we’ll be showing off the new stuff.

We’re a bit over budget and over time, but I have no regrets whatsoever about that. The game’s quality is a lot higher than any of us originally expected, so we’re very happy about that. Obviously I now hope that this extra push for quality will transform itself into extra sales, because in the end it’s going to be those sales that will shape what opportunities we’ll have for our future RPGs, but even if that doesn’t happen, I’m sure that somewhere along the line we’ll reap the benefits of all the effort we poured into Divinity:Original Sin.

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Educating players

I’m doing the press tour thing again, spending some time in the US, France, Poland and Russia, demoing the game to several media outlets. You can watch some of the output here, here or here. There’s also a big interview with me here in case you want to know about what’s driving us, where we’re hoping to go and where I think RPGs went wrong. More is coming but it’s essentially the same presentation in various incarnations.

I need to admit that I did pretty much everything I could think of to avoid this particular tour. I really didn’t want to go because I was loath to leave my family behind. They already don’t see me much these days and I cherish every moment I have with them. But our young PR manager can be a tyrant and he put a lot of pressure on me to show up at these media outlets.

“Game Informer will never write about us” I told him and he replied “Yep, if the PR manager shows up, that’s for sure, but maybe if you show your face that may make a difference”

I have to commend him because it turns out he was right.

This particular presentation was for RPS and occurred in a shady hotel room

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