This is the second part of how did we set our campaign just in sixteen days for the Galactic Rangers VR title. This time we will cover dealing with Steam, how to actually do it the very tight way.
As you decide to sell your game with Steam, the first thing you must realize is that Steam is a black box, with no one knows how to work in detail, but it has a huge potential for your game marketing.
Here is exactly how Steam works:
First it is a social network with millions of users. Gamers in particular, and they want to know about new games, and, more importantly, acquire some new games. How comes Steam may be useful for marketing?
To be honest, the Steam mechanics is somewhat mystery. It definitely has some social graphs with some particular entities, each of them with its own weigh and dominance factor.
That may be: games you played before, games you wish-listed, how many of your friends recommends that particular game, is that game relevant to some another title, etc.
On the seller side some stats that comes into account is how much peoples following your game, does your game perform well with media coverage, do you have some Twitch or YouTube streamers playing your game, and so on.
Keeping in mind that exact mechanics are unknown we may presume some of mentioned factors are quite critical for successful sales. One thing that one may state for sure – nothing will sell left by its own devices. If you come to Steam, pay a fee and upload your game, none will buy it. Period.
At the very same time Steam gives you a lot of opportunities to perform well and if you do so, Steam will give you even more featuring, which will lead to impressions.
So in short, we need impressions, which will convert to your page visits. Then visits will convert in to sales. Sales are good, Mkay?
Steam is confusing and hard to understand!
We saw our title, Galactic Rangers VR, as relatively short but self-contained experience, so we decided not to go for Early Access (EA. Not ‘Electronic Arts’, but just for ‘Early Access’).
EA is quite a unique entity. It may allow you to collect some funds for your further development from early stage and you will receive constant feedback from real gamers, from your audience. This audience is your best friend, those people are loyal, and they believe in your game just like you do. EA is very handy for viral marketing of your game as well – people like to communicate to other players and discover your game directly to them.
However, if it happens you did whole development already and came with almost complete game, EA may, in contradiction, affect your sales as many buyers does not trust to EA games, especially from unknown developers/publishers. There are titles which were abandoned by developers soon after launching via EA, so people who got them felt like they have been cheated.
This is pretty uneasy one; to decide if you need EA or not. We came to conclusion we do not need EA, just because the game was 100% done and polished.
Yet now it is clear we could go for EA just to receive a lot of feedback and comments not after the release, but prior to one. Thus, we got evolving and dynamic community of players who would likely formalize what they like and what not. This is what we actually missed, and what could help us a lot.
Instead, we omitted the EA phase completely and were faced some after release patches. Not that many bugs we fixed, but rather some vital feedback was implemented for even more gameplay enjoyment.
So do not throw EA idea just because you do not like it. It is a complex and quite handy tool. And it is free.
Also, every game on Steam has a median rating. It may be Mostly negative, Mixed, Positive and Overwhelmely Positive. On release day we didn’t pay close attention to all reviews, this led us to 67% positive rating, dangerously close to brownish marked Mixed. You don’t want mixed rating for your game, because it will not be featured by Steam in any charts, and its impressions will be artificially minimized. So please pay specific attention on user review within first week of release, and work with all negative ones, trying to solve the problem. After you will deal with negative feedback, usually by trying to address issues or give an explanation, user may change negative to positive, depending on how persuasive you were.
But what we did absolutely wrong is that we rushed into release, not having our game wish listed in high numbers. But we managed to survive that for just another reason.
Steam is just brilliant!
We started with some serious analyzing job for close rivals and compete products. I had collected whole information about at least 5 rival titles. My best friends were Steamspy, Steamcharts and SteamDB services. I look for genres, hashtags, audience and any other secondary information available. Even how many times the description was changed prior the release may be interesting too.
All collected data went to a sheet, which later secured maximum impressions for our game’s page.
Also, there is a Steam curation. Your game needs curation may I assure you. So you will need to act quickly prior the release, communicating with curators directly. Do not be afraid to ask them for curation and offer release code.
The traffic from curators is absolutely insignificant, but the more curator reviews you got, the more impressions will be given by Steam.
Immediately after the release curators will ask for game codes, so just check those requests and do not ignore them.
Back to the page itself. We started with some organic traffic just after our Steam page become available. Then with some media AND YouTube coverage we secured a place with “Upcoming” titles. Thanks to user defined tags we were featured a lot of times on other product’s pages. About 40% (in total) of incoming traffic was sourced from other title’s pages.
At the release day and a week after we pushed maximum coverage on all available media. Combined with Steam organic traffic all above gave us featuring on 11th place of New and Trending.
And in turn we had about 3 millions impressions and about 45K visits for our game’s page.
While a lot of impression, the visits were pretty low on numbers, because Click-Through-Rate (CTR) was about 2.5.
The CTR was somewhat low, so I felt like we need to work on it some more. We tried different product cover badges (the one you see when Steam makes an impression) and we managed to increase CTR from 2.5 up to almost 4%. Overall, dealing with Steam impressions-feature-visits mechanics we came to 13th place in the Top Selling chart.
Naturally it was the real selling performance, but heavily relied upon smart usage of Steam mechanics and lot of marketing efforts. I was pretty pleased with such a result.
Trivia – do you know, Galactic Rangers are actually crossing the space on sort of space Hoverboard? And enemies are too!
Next time – Game production “How to” s and life after the initial release (sales, bundles and game evolution).
Alex began as a writer and then as an associate editor for IT hardcover paper magazines, followed by a Senior Editor position at Game World Navigator (Moscow, Russia) 1998 - 2000. Having worked as a journalist Alex always dreamed of being a developer, and his journey began when he joined the Revolt Games team, releasing 6 games in 4 years, all for PC. Alex then worked at GLU Mobile, where he developed his English skills, and later moved to My.com to help launch the ambitious Skyforge. Following his time climbing the corporate ladder at large scale development studios, Alex is now working with indie game developers helping them with gaming press PR and marketing.