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How streamers & game devs can work in... perfect harmony?

Or at least, ways to not piss them off, according to Devolver's Clara Sia.

[The GameDiscoverCo game discovery newsletter is written by ‘how people find your game’ expert & company founder Simon Carless, and is a regular look at how people discover and buy video games in the 2020s.]

W-w-w-welcome to W-W-Wednesday, at least on the W-West Coast of the U.S., and the GameDiscoverCo newsletter has returned. We want to wow, and we are wefinitely woing to wo that, as part of this wew wewsletter. (Oh wear.)

So, in a week where nothing has surprised us more than Apple Arcade getting a 'Solar Opposites vs. King Of The Hill’ kart racing game, what are we going to concentrate on today? Ah yes, streamers…

Streamers & game devs: keys to good relations?

So yes, the third episode of our Tales From GameDiscoveryLand podcast is here! (Reminder: you can easily listen in-browser via our official podcast page, and also via Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher and Pocket Casts. If you need it, here’s our podcast RSS feed.)

In this episode, we talk to Clara Sia. She’s currently the ‘influencer strategist’ at noted indie publishing label Devolver Digital, but has previously worked in streamer relations for a number of years, and streams on Twitch herself.

Our subject? The vitally important - and very complex - YouTube and Twitch ecosystem. This is one of the primary ways that PC and console players discover games in the 2020s - and one that you should be thinking about more.

We’ve done a full, lightly edited text transcript of this podcast alongside the audio, with lots of great detail. But we wanted to highlight a few key points up here:

Get to know YouTube & Twitch culture by.. partaking

One thing Clara makes crystal clear? As a dev, publisher, or game industry watcher, you need to actually consume the media to understand what makes influencers tick:

“Join the streams, watch the videos, be in their chats or Discords, interact with them on Twitter… It is a culture with many subcultures. And it's not just understanding the lingo.

It's also - and this is probably the biggest disconnect here - understanding their needs. There's a massive, massive lack of appreciation for what influencers want in a partnership with brands, which includes game devs.

Ultimately, they want engagement, they want viewership. It's how they make their revenues, how they grow, how they obtain notoriety, and garner and hold on to ‘influence’ - whether or not they like that word… They want to legitimize their long hours.”

Be present - but don’t be overwhelmingly ‘in their face’!

Along the way, Clara makes a good point on how devs can respectfully interact with people playing your game on stream. Maybe they’re not doing it ‘right’, according to your definition of how the game should be played.

But maybe that’s something you need to correct in some other way than telling the streamer what they need to do: “One thing that I think developers don’t understand is how to interact… with influencers in a stream chat. For instance, I see all the time - very key mistake - they backseat [the] game.

You know, they just don't want the streamer to miss anything, so they go: “No, look under the box, there's something in there.” Don't do that, please. Seriously, let them experience it themselves - nothing will kill the stream faster.”

Make games with replayability, or ones that create ‘stories’…

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Of course, we all understand that not all games are influencer-friendly. And Clara also concludes that, while explaining what she thinks does work:

“Not every game is made for streaming. Not every genre will appeal to influencers, and some of them are just as a whole tough to sell. So point and clicks, for instance, or puzzle games. That's always going to be: “You're fighting against the stream”.

There's always going to be the one or two breakouts here and there. But for the most part, it's instantly: ”Oh, we've got a lot of work here”. So any game where the playthroughs are unique to each player, typically have a better chance to pick up [interest]. Like sandbox, survival, branching story paths, ‘choices matter’ - even if it's vanity [choices].

Anything where the influencers can make their own hilarious stories. We just actually launched an immersive sim called Weird West [above] that I knew would generate some crazy shareable moments on social.”

Paying influencers can work… but not the games you think?

We also talked about paying Twitch and YouTube streamers to play your game. Clara has an interesting and valid perspective on this:

“Sometimes the advice is not to spend any money at all. There's a misconception that if you have a big game, that's when you should have your big budget. For [bigger] indies… the sorta double A area, that's just not going to be the case, and definitely not for triple As.

I definitely had some triple A clients back at the agency. They had so much power and influence as the brand… those games will get coverage, and you don't _need_ to spend money there.

I mean, you can and you'll still probably get something out of it. But it's the ones that need the visibility, that's where you need to put the budget. It’s reversed. That's one thing that I’ve tried to get out there.”

Some other key influencer-centric takeaways…

This was a pretty wide-ranging conversation overall! We also talked about the ‘anthropology’ of different types of streamers and YouTube channels, and lots more besides. Just honing in on a few of the bite-sized specifics to end:

  • A great way to think of the influencer ecosystem? “Not ‘country by country’ but [by] language, because they are all over the place [geographically].” So rather than ‘French streamers’, think about ‘French language influencers’ - ditto Spanish, Portugese, etcetera. And non-English language influencers can be super vital.
  • Why you should be a little cautious - especially when it comes to paid promotion - of ‘meme or troll channels’, where: “Their viewers are there to watch [the streamer] & their personality, and they aren't really there to buy the games at all.”
  • How long-term strategy and building relationships is a key part of getting influencers on your side: “I've never really kept secrets from my clients… I just send the same email that you do. Mine might be even more boring, because otherwise I end up in spam. But they respond to mine.”

We also talked about the role of third-party websites ‘matching’ streamers and publishers/developers - we’ll feature that separately in an upcoming newsletter. Anyhow, thanks again, Clara - and hope you all found this interesting.

The top (not new!) Steam games, by review #s?

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Something we’ve been talking about a lot recently, as we look into supply & demand in the PC/console game space, is older ‘evergreen’ games continuing to sell spectacularly, months or years after they launched.

So, for GameDiscoverCo Plus subscribers, we’ve just rolled out a new interactive daily-updated chart, which is ‘monthly most-reviewed Steam games’. (It currently doesn’t include games released in that particular month - just any released previously.)

Above is the Top 12 non-F2P* games on Steam in April 2022, listed by number of extra Steam reviews gained in that month. And as you can see, there’s plenty of much older - often GaaS, multiplayer-centric - titles hanging out in there. (*Except Stumble Guys, which went F2P on April 1st and has foxed our data, lol.)

What’s particularly interesting is quantifying the difference in the ‘all-time’ vs. ‘new’. charts. For example, co-op psychological horror smash hit Phasmophobia - #5 on the list - gained a whopping 9,000 new Steam reviews in the month.

That was more than any ‘new’ title released in April 2022 except one (Lego Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga.) And looking at Phasmophobia’s long-term reviews by date, as seen in the GameDiscoverCo Plus back end, it also impresses: 

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The game just got 225 extra Steam reviews in the last 24 hours, with a 97% Positive rating for its lifetime. So it may realistically be selling 10,000 units a day, forever. That’s some serious staying power.

The message from this? I guess - just keep an eye on games that keep selling, not just those that do well initially. Another example to peruse? You can search by Steam tag in this data set. So I sorted by the ‘Action Roguelike’ tag, for replayable action games:

https_bucketeer-e05bbc84-baa3-437e-9518-adb32be77984.s3.amazonaws.com_public_images_656295eb-be50-47b8-94f6-53e060e6ec21_800x616.webp

A few notable things in here. You might have been up to speed on Hades and Deep Rock Galactic selling great long-term. But were you aware of the impressive ‘long tail’ for Noita or Gunfire Reborn? Or the crazy big 1.0 bump for Revita? You’re welcome…

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