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Since nearing completion on my EA game, my thoughts are turning towards indie game marketing. Is Steamgifts useful? I have had conflicting advice, but I see many giveaways with marketing copy on them.
So I did some little experiments. I have posted my results here. I thought I'd let the people of Steamgifts see it, comments/issues/experiences very welcome.
A giveaway for the discussion readers: Penarium (private, level 3)
Another giveaway that was supposed to be private for this discussion, but since I have never made a private giveaway before, I got it wrong: Tiny Troopers (public)
... and a shameless plug for my game, Concealed Intent
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This comment was deleted 6 months ago.
Creating a thread is definitely worth a try. I'll post up the results when the giveaways end (although I ruined the Tiny Troopers one by making it public).
I would expect greatly less people to see forum giveaways as they require an extra step to find. So while I agree the CTR.interaction rate will probably be higher, I expect the total number of clicks to be less. For example, something like on a forum GA 100 entries resulting in 10 clicks (10% CTR), opposed to a public GA with 1000 entries and 12 clicks (1.2% CTR). I can't claim to know much about advertising, but my first though is the second is preferable if the cost is fixed (as is the case with a GA). Is that right?
Normally, yes, but this site has tons of automated entries and people not caring about descriptions. Active users on the forum are more inclined. But the final result may be similar.
By the way, using up keys you can make any time for promo purposes here will not be a huge loss in revenues anyway. If you want sales, eventually Steam review ratings will be a lot more valuable, along with hoping some semi-popular Let's Player channel/stream shows it for at least 2 hours. And to get reviews, you may have to send out a few hundred free copies.
How many people actually leave reviews? Based on my experience it would take much more than a couple of hundred copies to generate a few reviews. Plus, I think my game is a bit of a niche product (most of my sales have come from people who previously wishlisted it). Free copies may easily land into the hands of people who will never enjoy it. Then again perhaps they will feel positively about it just because it is free. This marketing stuff is harder than I thought :)
When I released the game to EA I was quite stingy with keys. In retrospect that may have been a mistake. Sales will be very low if people don't know about your game and getting coverage can be hard (extremely hard).
But still I find the idea of handing out large number of keys mentally difficult. I want to know that it is having a useful effect and not just going into the hands of scammers (so many have contacted me!) or resellers. Having said that I've built up a list of around 100 suitable YT'ers & media people (so far) over the last month, and will send them keys in the few weeks before release. In that event, putting some on SG feels much easier.
If people use Enhanced Steam, they may see the predicted sale stats. If the game has low ownership, they think it is bad and leave it. This is one of the reasons indie devs just send out a few thousand keys to the Original Group or other similar extortion bands, who then distribute them among the members. The keys just sit there unplayed forever (in some cases maybe some post a generic positive review that reeks of the person never playing the game), but it still shows that people have "bought" it.
Since you are a self-publisher, you have to push it out. There are dozens of new indie games released on Steam on every week, sometimes daily. If you want a game to get any interest with a 15-dollar price tag, you either have to pray you just made the next Nuclear Throne/Undertale/Rocket League, or you aggressively try to make it known through streamers and these review groups of questionable morality. Heck, there are even a few people on Steam with some credibility who take keys and make honest reviews of them. (The downside is, of course, that those are, well, honest. And can end up in a massive negative review.)
Or cave in, make a contrat with an indie publisher, pray he doesn't utterly and hopelessly fuck you over, and let them handle all the marketing. The downside—apart from likely getting fucked over—is that they, as publisher, will very likely drop price and/or put it in a cheap low-tier bundle to try to make more coverage.
Obscurity definitely appears to be the greatest enemy of the indie game!
I hadn't considered people looking at sales numbers before purchase. I don't do that so it didn't occur to me - reviews yes, numbers no.
You have given me much to think about, thank you.
Let's say over the lifetime of a game, because you avoid bundles, and because you don't go too crazy with the free copies, you manage to move 10,000 units with an average revenue per unit of $5, and of those 10,000 units 8,000 people actually launch the game and play it.
Or you try to get your game in some good bundles, do a bunch of giveaway promotions, and you end up moving 100,000 units but only make $1 per unit. Of those 100,000 units only 4,000 people do more than idle the game for cards.
Which do you prefer?
Nice question. The 100K will better enable me to make more games, so I would probably pick that, and just be incredibly disappointed at the number of people playing, instead trying to make a more engaging game next time.
However, the numbers are a little off. $5 rev is about right for non-bundled, but the revenue per unit to a dev from a bundled game is closer to $0.2 according to the postmortems I've read (except for Humble). In that case the first case is definitely better in every regard.
The second figure is not meant to be a per-bundle figure. It was an average price per unit from all sources combined.
Anyway, you answered my question. You'd rather have twice as much money even if you had less fans because you aren't independently wealthy and in the game business for shits and giggles.
So keep that in mind as you pursue your strategy. Every unit that you give away or heavily discount that primarily ends up in the hands of people who would not have bought your game anyway is not a squandered opportunity--it is a mere opportunity for at worst passive advertising.
However, there is an upper limit to how much you can give away or discount a game before the apparently lack of value you've placed on the game becomes self-fulfilling. In other words, when you see a game get bundled over and over, or given away for free a lot, a game that does not have a previously well-established reputation (such as when Left 4 Dead 2, Portal, or Metro 2033 were free), it begins to be thought of as a shit game.
So you gotta find that balance. Don't be afraid to give it away. Just be sure to give it away smartly, and in moderation.
Agreed. Nothing else to say really, just that I agree with what you say here.
I demand something of you.
When you move your 100,000th unit, I want a hug. A free hug.
Suspensions be damned--I will solicit hugs!
Sounds like a fair deal to me!
This comment was deleted 8 months ago.
True, the CTR rate would be higher with higher level GA, but there would also be less people entering and seeing the marketing text. Since the cost is fixed, perhaps
I guess the question is, do higher level members avoid low level GAs? I don't, but if they did then that would suggest I was missing more involved people by having a low level GA.
Or, have I got my metrics wrong? I show CTR as a percentage of entries, partly because that is the only info I have. It might be better to show it as a percentage of GA page views?
Fair enough on EA games, I don't tend to play them either (except for mine of course :)
Hmm, very interesting. It seems a higher level GA is necessary to reach as many people as possible.
Same here. If there's over 1k entries on a single-copy GA, chances are I won't even open it.
As with JustDucky, I can only speak for myself, other opinions may well differ.
I'm a level 2 member, and have only been a member for a short while (a few months now). I will happily admit that if I see a giveaway for 50 copies, I'm likely to enter it whether it's a level 0 game or not. The same goes for anything on my wishlist, or that appears on my "recommended" page. I do try to at least put a couple of hours into any game that I do win, so with the exceptions above, I'll tend to look a little more closely at any other GA before deciding whether or not to enter a GA. Having said that, for me the level of the GA doesn't really make much difference to whether or not I do enter a GA - I don't automatically ignore level 0 or level 1 GAs.
However, I would agree with JustDucky's post above - level 1 or 2 GAs tend to attract fewer leechers, and will avoid the majority of bots. Were I considering JD's advice though, I'd actually say its better to make the GA a level 2, since you can reach level 1 with a bare minimum of GAs, so even leechers and bot users can (in theory) enter level 1 GAs with a minimum of effort.
The other thing to consider is using something like itstoohard.com or Jigidi - the additional effort put in to actually obtaining the GA link actually means I pay far more attention to the GA than I would to (for example) a level 2 GA for a game I've never heard of. Throwing together a 90 piece jigsaw with the GA link as the reward means that leechers and bots will definitely not be entering. Of course, this method is relying on people watching the discussions pages, and some people just won't enter jigsaw puzzle GAs. (If you want to compare the two, then I'd suggest making two GAs, one level 1 "open" GA and one level 0 GA hidden behind a jigsaw, and/or one hidden behind an itstoohard quiz). On the other hand, if the jigsaw puzzle is a screengrab from your game, or something along those lines, it can act as additional marketing in and of itself. Just a thought :)
Hah, a jigsaw of a marketing image - brilliant!
I'm similar to you with how I enter GAs. I just take the leechers to be a cost of having a great site like this, they are very hard to get remove and maybe they will contribute later. Of course if they are true leechers and would never buy my game, then the GA is not even a lost sale and so technically free :)
Still it doesn't seem right does it. I think a GA for higher level contributors is worth a try, I'll add it to my marketing todo list for closer to release.
Something you didn't touch on in the post is also the more extra copies you give away, the more chances for a review to be posted, which can give extra advertising, plus it creates a buzz among the people that win them and their friends. Of course, that's only good if they liked the game, and that's where you, as a dev, have to have some faith in your own product. :)
Good point! I didn't think of that and didn't consider it. More players, might well equal more reviews, or even just more word-of-mouth. Any idea how to measure that?
Another benefit is that for mainly online games, getting the game out to as many people as possible is also very helpful. Although, online play in my game is a side thing, so it wasn't a consideration for me.
In order to measure it, you would have to consider doing a bigger giveaway (50 copies) to be able to correlate new reviews with those copies. A bonus for 50 copies is that your game will be on the top of the list in the GA section for the duration of the GA, which would create publicity. But it is, as you say, a "cost" factor giving away so many games. I'm going to assume that those 15$ / game are just potential losses of revenue and there's no actual cost making a key for your own game, or does Steam take a small charge for that?
In my opinion though, games need a bit of a jump start to get out of the gates if they don't have a publisher that can deal with advertising. This platform is as good as any for something like that. You can also give out review copies to known reviewers, but some can be a bit shady.
Steam charges nothing for making keys (or at least they haven't for me so far). So yes, it is just an opportunity cost. And it probably is not really a $15 cost. Much less really. Most people will purchase at a sale, and then a load goes to Valve, and tax too.
A big giveaway is something to consider. That (and bundling) feel very final. I am not sure about, but will think about it more.
Very true about the jump start.
I honestly believe you have next to zero success to succeed without "sacrificing" at least a few hundred few keys at the start. The lowest amount you can get away with is those you send to game review sites, but most don't care about self-published independent games.
Over time (the last few months) I've increasingly come around to this way of thinking.
Yeah, bundling is something I'd stay away from at the beginning of your game's life cycle, it only devalues your product. Giving away a finite amount of keys though is something I believe can increase the value of it, if the game is good enough to get positive feedback. And I hope it is. :)
Before you have people playing the game, people need to know about it, and to get people to know about it, people need to play it. It's a bit of a catch 22 situation that can be remedied via advertising or creating a scenario that gets you reviews or word of mouth. Do keep us updated on whatever your solution to that is, it's always interesting with first hand experiences like this.
Definitely a catch-22.
Yes, I will do an update closer to release, someone suggested a discussion thread just for the game, maybe I'll combine them. I'll also do a postmortem on Gamasutra after the release. I've learnt a huge amount by doing this game (and still leaning too). Seems a shame not to let other people know.
Maybe I am reading it wrong, but the steam visits for the games seem insanely low, Under 10% of people even seeing what game seems really weird to me.
Still interesting read, although I think, you might get more CTR+WISHLIST with higher level giveaways.
Higher leveled people often are more active in the community, which often has them actually reading descriptions.
Honestly, I think a level 6+ giveaway would probably get more steam views and such, because the people would see if they were actually interested in the game.
I'd be interested in seeing a level 1, 2, 3, etc for the same game with the same experiment stats.
You are reading it right. I suspect Google is not counting all the visits - how many people visit Steamgifts with privacy on? Although I also suspect many people just enter any GA without caring about what the game is.
I agree higher levels would probably result in higher CTR, but also less entries.
I think based on the comments so far, that a higher level GA may be a worthwhile experiment. Just to see.
Seems like a pretty solid game. I wishlishted it :) Looking forward to a great release!
Thank you for the article! It was a very interesting read :)
thanks for experiment, this was interesting piece of reading :)
and your game looks nice too so hope you'll succeed
Most of my thoughts have already been mentioned by others previously so I'll just leave a comment on your game for now. I think it looks great! The interface looks sleek and the visuals are pleasing. The game looks pretty complex for someone who's not familiar with the genre so that might scare newcomers away. I think I might've missed your previous giveaway before but I'd enter it for sure if I didn't! :)
I think the best ways to get views from SG users is by making a dedicated thread to showcase the game. Those who frequented the Discussion section tends to read almost everything so there's a higher chance of your game getting more spotlight and I knew some of the users here are very big fans of space/strategy games in general.
Thanks! Yes, the complexity has been an issue for people, especially with the early versions. I have tried simplifying it, and hopefully it is better now. However, it is definitely not a game for everyone. I hope that people who enjoy games like Homeworld and Frozen Synapse will like it (those were my influences).
There will be a few more GAs for it, but closer to release (in a few months), hope you see & enter them. A dedicated thread is a good idea, its on my "ideas for marketing list" now.
nice. got another wishlist...
love space games. mostly 4x, but this looks nice as well :)
Thanks, if you play it, I hope you enjoy it :)
when, you meant when :)
but seriously, try to keep from bundles for a while after launching. if you can afford it that is
I certainly intend to keep it out of bundles for a while, regardless of how well it does. I'm lucky in that if this game fails, I will have to get a job, but will not be in financial difficulty (that was a requirement before starting). So I don't need to bundle.
Having said that, the game will probably end up in a bundle eventually - it the nature of modern indie gamedev. My current thoughts are to release in a few months, and definitely wait one steam sale (so at least 9 months post-release), and probably two (which would be a year after release). Possibly longer. How does that seem to you?
Amazing! if only all devs were like you
I am not a fan of space games so I am clearly not the target group, I have to say I was pleasantly surprised with how balanced the graphics style looks though. I think your conclusion on giving away unrelated games is pretty spot on but it's nice to hear SG wasn't a waste of effort for you. :) Best of luck with your future ventures, it's always good to see someone dedicated to their work because of pure interest and love.
No problem, I expect it not to be most peoples' kind of game. I largely wrote it for myself, based on the games I like.
Thanks, a great deal of effort went into the GUI (it was reworked so many many times), it is always nice to hear kind words about it.
I read your results, interesting. One bit surprised me though - that both winners played it immediately. One of them played it for almost 4 hours, without getting any achievements, and has done the same thing with all the games played in the last 40 or so days. Seems an awful lot like the games are just being farmed for cards and not actually played, sorry :(
Doesn't mean the game won't be played for real in the future though, but only running games in the background for cards is a fairly common thing here on Steamgifts.
Going to check the game now :)
Damn, you're right! I hadn't noticed that. Very disappointing - I thought I had a fan :(
I looked at the Steam Store page, the game looks like it has quite interesting mechanics, and you seem to be putting a lot of work into it, nice!
Does the single player campaign include a story/narrative, and are there any persistent upgrades/progression to your ship/abilities in between the levels, or is it more like a number of skirmishes in a row?
Lots of work :)
The campaign does have a story but it is not a strong point. If you are after a story-driven game, this game is definitely not it. The components you have on your ship at the end of the previous mission carry over to the next. There is some re-provisioning allowed at the start of some missions. Although in the first half the component choice is greatly restricted, so there is some progression there. After half-way all components are available for nearly all missions, so from then on it is more a series of skirmishes. Hope that helps.
A think I haven't seen during SG marketing while it could work: attach pictures of your game, not only the link! !(pic link) there are so many giveaways about raising attention to this game, to that game, and so, so-so rare to see an original one, that I often don't even check the links, and I'm pretty sure that I'm not alone with it. Attaching the picture feels more like handing out flyers instead of just asking people to come over and check some stuff, it's closer to the buyers
Nice, I'll do that!
Actually, I just have. Images attached to both the current GAs as a test. Although they just come up as links. Still worth doing.
Congrats , your game looks great btw and wishlisted ;) .
Read your article , and from very recent experience , SG is great place to get some exposure .
In my case the game was on mobile phone , which is a bit harder to market compared to PC steam game .
I created steam group , created GAs on different platforms , and it looks good , now i'm considering Facebook and other places to do some ads on , even tho our first Facebook campaign was not a big a success .
Check my current post , it may be beneficial
Good to hear this site worked for you.
A steam group is a good idea, another item for the possible list. Thanks.
I'm very interested in how your Facebook advertising went, that is something I am considering too, but not sure if it will have much effect (same with google, twitter & reddit).
wasn't very good , just few days and very cheap plan , but i think the error was from my end , since we did not have much knowledge about Facebook ads and how they work ,and not enough planning .
Now we are trying to learn more about it and how to make it work , especially some of my friends who tried it , said, it worked great for them .
OK..i looked at most of these replies and also read your article/analysis... there are some good suggestions and perspectives in these comments. But I believe you are missing a giant ingredient in your analysis that skews the results immensely and makes them invalid to a degree.
Say you want to target users who BUY games, and not just steamgift users that are looking for freebies...
People who buy a lot of games on steam (who have 100's if not 1,000's of games in their account) must have some disposable income, its safe to say... so they may be part of your marketing target group.
Now a great majority of steamgifts users in general, (and especially these targeted Buyers) purchase many if not most of the bundles when they come out, as they are so relatively inexpensive.
Leading us to the fact that...
When you use steamgifts, each member has a personal custom feed of the giveaways. You CANT see giveaways for games that you already own!! You account will auto-sync weekly, removing giveaways for games that are already in your steam profile. Many members sync their accounts even themselves immediately after they buy a bundle that way giveaways for those are cleared from their feed. A site rule is that you are not allowed to win a game you already own.
What it means is if you create a marketing campaign with Bundled game giveaways.... MOST members, especially the majority of ones with disposable income, are NOT going to see your giveaways. They already own the bundle and it will magically disappear from their personal giveaway feed. I myself am only aware of your bundle efforts because of this thread where you posted them.
So your #'s that you got on those bundled games were probably accurate as probably mostly bots entered those giveaways unfortunately.
If you want people who spend $$$ to see your game marketing campaign, you would have to offer a giveaway for a game they don't own... hence many of the people who use steamgifts as a marketing platform buy newer unbundled games to make giveaways out of. Many use the steamgifts wishlist for this.
In my personal entry records of past giveaways, i am seeing some AAA game giveaways that were used in promotional means averaging between 10k - 14k entries. Depending on the length of the giveaway.
Many of the steamgift members that offer AAA games are repeat giveaway creators, so something must be working for them.
Continuing to look at my entry history... there are also some newer unbundled Indie games where people giveaway 50 copies as a mass giveaway, these seem to get 17K - 22K entries. Again depending on duration.
So my suggestion, to make a more accurate analysis for yourself, you can either
a) create a AAA giveaway yourself, and a 50 copy giveaway.. and compare results.
b) to contact the creators of both types of giveaways and see why they continue to do them, maybe they will share their experiences and numbers with you.
Good Luck with the game, i hope your efforts pay off and you find some successful marketing ideas!
Nice analysis of why bundled games won't work, sounds about right to me. To paraphrase: the larger the ownership of a game (or more common a GA for it), the less useful another GA for it will be as far as marketing is concerned, as the more engaged Steamgifts members won't see it (more likely to be hidden, or ignored due to # of entries). I think that might apply for all games, but of course the effect is immensely larger for bundled games.
Still I will probably continue with occasional bundled GA marketing, simply because I still have a few such keys for games I already own, so it costs me nothing to add a CI message on a key I was going to GA anyway.
I think your suggestions for further work are very good. I agree my experiment was lacking a bit in the full range of possible situations - the 50+ GA, the AAA GA and the restricted/forum GA being the main things I missed. But this a starting point. Not sure I'll do a), but b) is worth a try when I have some spare time.
If I do this, I will share the results on Steamgifts.
no, what i mean is that your steam profile is linked to your steamgifts account. And any giveaways for games that you already own are not going to be visible to you by default. So bundle games are popular,.. the people you are trying to reach, to buy your game, probably already own the bundle game you are marketing with, meaning.. they won't see it/can't see it in their feed.
So the bundle game marketing ends up going to people who are NOT likely to buy much of anything ( in a general sense).
the reason is simply because of the link between games owned on steam and steamgifts Auto-Sync.
think about it and you'll see, its pretty wasted effort, as your #'s suggest.
oh.. and let us know if you accept a bundle deal somewhere.. always wanted to know how effective that is.
anyways.. GL with the sales!!
Fair enough, I agree with you here.
No plans to bundle for some time, I can wait. But when I do, I will post the details as long as I'm allowed (not sure, but some sites have restrictions on that sort of thing - eg Steam says you shouldn't post sales numbers, although I have seen people break that rule).
Until then here are some other dev's bundling experiences:
Think Before You Bundle
Bundles: Approach with your Eyes Open
Rubicons Bundle Stars Postmortem
yes, that's sg bots and leeches at work
lol that numbers
Game looks pretty good but I rarely play strategy games. Wish you luck!
This is the first time I hear about that game, so it's safe to assume that the giveaways you've set up didn't help me find out about it.
The individual giveaways were easy to miss. With hundred of games being given away every day on Steamgifts, it's easy to miss giveaways especially if it's not a game you're looking for. The other thing is that by advertising in bundle games' giveaways, you're not reaching those who buy the bundles and aren't seeing these giveaways in the first place. You're left with the people who can't afford to buy even bundle games, those who enter anything without reading and the few who will actually look at what's on the screen.
Here are some ideas that I've seen before and that could be helpful:
(I might be repeating some things others have said, I didn't read every reply in the thread)
Featured giveaways - By giving away 50 or more copies of the game, the giveaway get featured at the top of the front page. You're more likely to get noticed than a single giveaway lost in the mass.
Multiple consecutive giveaways - Making 10 giveaways for your game, ending one minute from each other, I would suddenly see a wall of the same game in my feed and it would definitely draw my attention. I've seen people do this and make the giveaways for incrementing levels from 0 to 9. The people with, presumably, the highest disposable income will see more copies of it than the base user who only leech from the site.
Promo inside a top-wanted game giveaway - A Fallout 4, Witcher 3 or GTA V giveaway will certainly gather more attention than a bundle game. If you can find something that target a relatively similar player base as your game, then it would be even better. You will still get the leeches, but you can always set it to level 1 or 2 to weed out some of those.
Group giveaway - Have a Steam group for your game (or your company) and make a group giveaway that you advertise in your other giveaways, or in the forum. (People need to be made aware of the group's existence in the first place.) The group entries will give you a better idea of how many users actually read the description and care enough to join the group. Plus you can have announcements in the group from time to time (updates, sales) so members are reminded about the game in their activity feed.
Thanks, those are all good ideas, I'll add them to a list of things to consider/investigate. Another one I would add is making GAs that end at different times of the day and week.
I wasn't active a month ago so I missed this post. I read through it all and you got some good advice here but there was a couple points I didn't see mentioned.
Your biggest enemy at the time is certainly the low number of reviews however. Steamgifts is not gonna help much on that aspect, it's a good place to raise exposure under the right conditions but that's pretty much it. What I'd personally do is go through several store pages, some in the same genre, some not, and try to find some independent reviewers(unaffiliated with any review group) with a good number of reviews under their belt and approach them directly. However if you do this be very clear from the get-go that you're not "exchanging" your game for a positive review but for an HONEST review and I cannot stress this enough. Some of them might have bought it themselves at some later point so you might lose a few sales but if their reviews come back positive I feel it's an investment that can benefit you.
I'm personally rooting for you, game looks pretty solid and it's obvious how much effort has been put into it. Wishlisted it for now and will quite possibly get a copy down the line, although not soon since Summer Sale has left me low on funds and the few I have left will probably go to another EA game that I want to support as well. I'll feature a small promo for it in a forum giveaway I'm gonna do later tomorrow though, hope that brings some more traffic. All the best!
Nice suggestions, and I will soon find out about both. My release plan includes multiple GAs at different levels to end in the release week (plus a few others the week before). I also thought around five was a good number, but not sure I'll go to all the way to level 8, there are only about 500 people at that level or above (thankyou for being one of them!). Still considering the details.
I completely agree about the reviews. The number of reviews deeply concerns me. I'm not sure what the average probability of reviews is, but is seems very low on my game. Which is troubling, but then I suppose many people have huge backlogs. The achievement stats suggest most people hardly play at all - and that seems similar with most games. I'll take a look at your suggestion here - it seems like a good idea.
No problem with wishlisting. I'm very happy you liked what you saw enough to do that. A few percent of the wishlisters have bought the game (mainly during sales), but that accounts for over half the sales!
Bumping just because this thread is so fascinating, and should be read by more people. I discovered your article about the experiments by accident, while googling for something else. I agree with other users comments about the limitations of your previous marketing efforts. Any updates?
Thanks, and well done for finding this! I did a little more. A few months after that initial post I tried a survey of other people doing Steamgifts GAs for marketing. I collected the results here and mentioned the conclusions in a post here.
Other than that I haven't investigated more. My game didn't make enough to justify making another fulltime (maybe I needed better marketing :), so I've been working in a day job the last year. If I do manage to finish & release another game I think I would still do some GAs for it here (probably smaller numbers, higher level GAs).
TLDR 2nd article;