There’s lots of discussion about Indie Devs struggling struggling to sell their game on Steam. The barrier to creating and selling a game is lower than ever, but that means the market is more crowded than ever, too. Despite being crowded, Steam is still the best platform to sell games on PC, and Steam offers many tools to increase the visibility of your game. You just have know how to take advantage of them!
In this post I’ll be discussing how indie game devs can use Steam effectively. Two Glass Hams released our first game, Ashi Wash, recently and these are some of the things we learned in the process. This guide will be most useful for developers who are new to Steam, but since Steam changes frequently veterans may learn a thing or two, too.
Before Your Steam Release
- Documentation: The first thing to note is that Steam has pretty thorough and up-to-date documentation about how its store works and it even lays out some best practices. Anytime you’re unsure how to do something, the documentation should be the first place to look. Check it out here.
- Reference other games’ Steam pages: When you’re creating art or designing game systems, hopefully you’re referencing how other games do things. You should do this when designing your store page layout on Steam, too. Look at games that have sold well and are kind of similar to your game. What are they doing on their store page to make their game look attractive to potential buyers? For example, a simple thing we noticed was that many games had a bullet point list of “Features,” so we added a simple feature list on the Ashi Wash Steam page. Here’s a few good looking Steam pages to get you started:
- Trailer: It’s literally a requirement that you have some kind of video on your store page. There are some things you should consider when making a video for Steam. Perhaps the biggest thing is that most people have sound automatically muted. Does your video communicate what it needs to without sound? If sound is crucial to your trailer, does the start of your video encourage the viewer to turn the sound on? Another thing to consider is that you only have a few seconds to grab your viewer’s attention. Typically, a viewer will watch the first 5-10 seconds of a video and then move along to something else. You have to grab their attention in those first few seconds. Maybe your video starts off mysteriously or with a big action packed opening. Don’t assume the viewer will politely wait 30 seconds for your video to get to the point. In hindsight, these are both points that we feel we could have done better with the Ashi Wash trailer.
- Google Analytics: If you’re not using Google Analytics, the launch of your first game is a good time to start. I’m not going to go into the value of metrics in this post. However, setting up Google Analytics on you Steam page only takes a few minutes and you’ll find the data useful later down the road. Check out this quick guide for setting up Google Analytics on your Steam page. It’s easy and you’ll thank me later.
- Price: Don’t undercharge for your game. You’ve put a lot of work into it and you deserve compensation for it! Some people won’t be willing to pay the price you’re asking and that’s just fine. Additionally, the Steam platform is driven by sales, so you’ll want to leave your game some room to go down in price.
- Wishlists: Wishlist numbers are very important. Whenever you’ve launched your game or it goes on sale, people who have wishlisted your game will get a notification. Steam’s algorithms also take your wishlist numbers into account when deciding how to place your game on its store pages. Before your game is released, you should be encouraging folks to add your game to their wishlists.
- Steam keys: Curator Connect is a convenient way to distribute keys, but I’m personally not convinced that it results in many wishlist additions or sales. Services like Woovit give Streamers a convenient way to ask for Steam keys from you and are free to use, but they seem to attract mostly smaller streamers. The best way to distribute Steam keys is good ol’ fashioned emails, though. Sending emails with Steam keys to your contact list allows you to make a case for why your game is worth playing and is more likely to result in meaningful exposure.
After Your Steam Release
- Visibility Rounds: Visibility Rounds are pretty neat. They’re an easy way to tell Steam’s algorithms to boost your game’s visibility in the store. Steam gives you five Visibility Rounds when you first add your game and they encourage you to use them whenever you have a large update announcement.
- Discussions: The discussion board for your game is place for your fans to hang out, and being active in your disccusion board builds goodwill. Setting up email alerts for your discussion board is a good way to make sure you don’t miss anything without having to manually check it every day.
- NEW: Creator Homepages: Steam recently released a new feature called Creator Homepages. They’re basically Steam pages for developers and publishers. I’m excited for this feature since fans can “follow” your studio and be alerted to your next game.
Got any more tips? Share them with us in the comments below!