#100: Not out

We're still here! Let's have a quick look at how it's going.

[Thanks for reading Hit Points! If this is your first time, then a hearty welcome to you. If you enjoy today’s edition, note that you can sign up for free to get this thrice-weekly look at the latest goings on in the game industry sent straight to your inbox. It also gets you access to the full Hit Points archive. Have a look! It’s far less navel-gazing than today’s edition, I promise.]

Those of you who made it to the end of Wednesday’s edition (well done!) will have noticed that I planned to spend today talking about Hit Points’ progress. I figured I’d do another big post, similar to #50, talking through not just the data but my feelings on it, plans for the future, hopes and dreams, all that.

Well, I changed my mind. Firstly because I finally filed my Elden Ring review this morning and I’m exhausted and a bit emotional. Secondly… well, look. It’s not brilliant news — though it’s far from a disaster either — and I figure with everything that’s going on out there at the moment1, the last thing anyone needs is another downer in their inbox.

So, let’s be quick. When I published #50 on September 13 last year, roughly three months after launch, Hit Points had 943 readers, and 55 paying subscribers. Now, almost six months later, it has 1,484 readers, of whom 125 are paid.

This is not bad. Growth is slow and steady, and the free-to-paid conversion rate of 8.4% is good by Substack standards (and paid subs have grown much faster in the past six months than free ones). But it is still small potatoes overall. My annual revenue has been hovering at just under $8,000 since well before Christmas — and that’s the gross figure, before Substack and Stripe, the payment processor, take their cut. Obviously I didn’t expect Hit Points to become my main source of income overnight, wildest dreams aside. But I am a bit worried by how stagnant it is.

Part of this is my fault, but it’s also sort of unavoidable. I’ve had to scale back plans for Max HP, the subscriber-exclusive interview series, because my days are pretty full as it is with the free side of Hit Points and the freelance and consulting work I have to do to pay the bills. I’ve had the next installment half-written for three weeks now but keep failing to find the time to finish it off (though I can now guarantee it’ll be going out to paid subs on Saturday, March 12).

But look. I find it hard to complain too much. I still really enjoy the work, and it certainly appears to be resonating strongly with the people that read it. I just wish that more people did.

At the start of the year I decided I’d prefer to grow the free side of the newsletter than the paid one. I figured the free list would be easier to grow, and would scale better over time. And the data suggests that once I’ve got people on board, a decent number of them eventually like the work enough to want to pay to support it. But it’s been a grind at times. There are great weeks where it’s flying and I feel like it’s finally turned a corner, but there are also weeks where I’ve been really proud of the work but the graphs don’t move at all. My story about the challenges facing Microsoft in acquiring Japanese studios got picked up by quite a few outlets, and I had over 1,000 new website visitors in 24 hours. Of that, around 30 decided to subscribe. That was a good day! But it’s a very low conversion figure. I hope the Eurogamer partnership will prove a bit more successful over time. Early indications are positive, and I’m eager to see how it develops.

So, while the numbers may not be stellar, I think there’s a lot here to be happy about, and proud of. I think often about this post by Tom Ley, co-founder of the subscription-funded sports-and-other-stuff website Defector, written last September to mark the site’s first anniversary. Hit Points was a few months old at the time, and I saw in there something I wanted to aspire to.

“It is admittedly a little rich for me to be complaining about [a lot of things around subscription-funded media] just one year removed from publishing a big honking story about the righteous creation of this website and why it was vitally important for people who hate venture capitalism but love worker solidarity to support it. But since we are friends now I can tell you I wrote that post because I needed to sell you on something, and at that point in time all we had to sell was our story. But now I have a whole website to sell you.


I went back and read Defector’s inaugural post before I wrote this one, and what struck me was how distant it felt, and how little all of it mattered to what the site is now and will be. I think, I hope, that’s because Defector has become bigger than its origin story. How this website was created no longer matters as much as the fact that the website exists and can be judged on its own merits. I want you to subscribe, or continue subscribing, to Defector not just because you believe in our cause or think supporting us is a good thing to do, but because you enjoy the work we produce and want to see us continue producing it. The stakes don’t need to be any higher, or more complicated, than that.”

I don’t think Hit Points is there yet. Given it’s a one-man band, I am not sure it ever will be. But I do believe that while the stuff I said at launch about free media, ads, SEO and all that is true, I no longer think it is the main reason I do this, or the main reason people read it and like it. I also don’t think it’s the reason people should want to pay to support it.

I continue to believe there is a place for game-industry commentary that can entertain and inform, that can be silly and very serious at the same time, that can be deeply personal while also surfacing and examining wider truths about the medium we all love, and the business that surrounds it. That’s what Hit Points does, right? I think that is a good thing to have plop into your inbox two or three times a week for free, without ads or search optimisation or commercial needs interfering with how I approach the work.

I also think it’s worth paying for, but I’m biased and don’t have to pay for it. But as I say, for now, I’d rather have a big free list with a smaller proportion of them paying than vice versa. And I’d like the people who choose to pay do so not because of the promise of regular premium-only #content — though I do intend to keep doing it — but because they want to support me to continue writing the free stuff.

And so we end, once again, with an appeal for your help.

You know how you can’t watch a YouTube video anymore without being entreated to like, comment, subscribe, hit the bell, all that? I always figured that was about a #content creator gaming the YouTube algorithm for more favourable treatment, and sure, it is to a point. But I now realise that it’s also because, no matter how often you ask people to do it, hardly anyone ever does. This is not a complaint, nor a slur on you, dear reader. I am equally as guilty of it myself. We have become inured to this stuff, because it is everywhere.

But I wouldn’t keep asking if it wasn’t important. I’m going to stick at this until the first anniversary of Hit Points in June. If by then we’re still trundling along, I suspect I will have to make some changes. I do not know what they will be: perhaps I’ll have to start posting less and focusing more on consultancy work. Perhaps it’ll mean putting some, or all, of the currently free side of Hit Points behind the paywall. It all depends on how the next few months go, I suppose.

So, in the meantime, if you’d be so kind, smash that etc and so on. Spread the good word as best you can. Have an excellent weekend, and I’ll see you on Monday.

Wow, that ended up being quite long, didn’t it. And it ended on a bit of a downer. Argh! I can only apologise.


  • With the excellent Gran Turismo 7 launching today, its real-money car store has come online, and oh dear. Cars that cost just $5 in Gran Turismo Sport will now run you up to $40. Looks like Sony saw my line about dads having disposable income in Wednesday’s Hit Points and decided to run with it. Sorry about that.
  • Sounds like there’s a bit of a battle going on for the soul of Twitch — between old hands with their creator-first mindset, and new arrivals hired from non-gaming Big Tech firms who are more focused on shipping products and monetising them. Sad stuff, this, but helps put in context some of the stranger decisions the company has made over the past couple of years.
  • Capcom has promised to re-examine a controversial new licensing agreement for Street Fighter V tournaments, after its announcement was met with community uproar. The legal ramifications of, and likely thinking behind, the move are finely unpicked here by David Graham, who I only clocked about halfway through is better known as ultradavid, who for years has been a fixture at the commentary table on the US fighting-game tournament circuit.
  • Epic Games has bought Bandcamp. Still not sure what to make of this, as is tradition, but my muso pals seem quite unsettled by it all.
  • Despite there being so many good new games around I remain stupidly excited for the new-gen versions of GTAV, which are due on March 15 (here be details). I’m particularly chuffed about Performance RT mode, which does ray-tracing at 60fps with a resolution tradeoff masked by upscaling. I wish more games would do it, it’s a lovely middle ground.
  • Babylon’s Fall, PlatinumGames’ long-in-development live-service action-game thing — that is too many hyphens, isn’t it — has had a rough old launch, with less than 1,000 people playing it on Steam. To be fair I had no idea it was coming out this week, have seen no reviews or coverage of it anywhere, and launching it in the thick of the busiest few weeks for new releases we’ve seen since the start of the pandemic is just mad. Your inner cynic might wonder if Square Enix, recognising it is sitting on a stinker, has sent this one out to die. My inner cynic reckons you might be onto something.

There we go. Good weekends, all. See you on the flip.

  1. In case you were wondering, though you’re probably not, you’ll find no mention of Russia’s illegal invasion of Ukraine in Hit Points (apart from this bit, obviously). Not because it’s not important — obviously it is more important than any of this. But, firstly, I think that there is more than enough being written about it already. I personally have found it difficult to read gaming websites this week, with their coverage of how the game industry is responding to the crisis, without getting dragged into another mental-health death spiral. I can only manage a few of those a day and I would prefer to get them from The Guardian as per usual. Secondly, if you do want to read about this stuff, I think you should only read reputable sources you trust. Obviously I am both reputable and trustworthy in many areas — the game industry, whisky, big cardigans — but this is not my area of expertise. Anyway, yes, consider Hit Points a safe space in this regard, albeit one that urges you to keep as informed about the crisis as you can, and can handle. Thanking you.