Hello! I’m part of a two-person indie game studio, LunaBeat (follow us on Twitter! @lunabeatgames). Steam’s NextFest just wrapped up a couple weeks ago, and we just survived our first festival. We participated with our VR escape room game “Paranormal Detective: Escape from the 90’s” and we are very pleased with the results.
I already wrote a little about our NextFest experience in general, but this post is just about the NextFest event livestreaming.
About NextFest Livestreams
When we participated in Steam’s NextFest, they offered up two separate hour-long events where they’d show your livestream on the NextFest page, significantly boosting your visibility.
You chose the hours and set up the events, then Steam added them to the livestream schedule so it shows that your game would be streaming at a certain time on a certain day. Then you did the stream, and collected the views and hopefully wishlists. Simple enough, but we ran into some issues, so hopefully you can learn from our missteps.
You’re given the option to set up your livestreaming events a few weeks before the festival. We were crunching on our demo so we put this off, figuring we would settle it right before the event. That was a mistake.
We tried to create the special livestream events. However, if you changed the times on the events, it ate up your available NextFest events and marked your new event as a regular event, then said you were out of festival events. Since we waited until the last minute, this was a problem- we were trying to schedule events for the next few days.
The day before the festival started, we had no livestream events, we weren’t on the streaming schedule at all, and couldn’t figure out how to fix anything.
Thankfully my partner was able to get one festival event back by fiddling with the Steam site, and I contacted Steam support and they were able to quickly set up our 2nd livestream event.
Lesson #1: Decide your livestreaming times early, and set up the events as soon as possible. Don’t change the times unless it’s necessary, and if you do, allow enough time to contact Steam support for any issues before the event is set to start.
As for when to schedule the event, I don't know when is the best choice- there was a big influx at the start, but so many devs were streaming in the first hour, so there was lots of competition. We decided on times that would work best for us, Friday and Monday afternoons.
Visits to our game page started high throughout the fest then declined over time, but the Monday stream gave us a nice bump in visitors towards the end.
One Hour Only
You can schedule your livestream events for as long as you’d like- my partner did 2-hour streams for both of our events. However, Steam only boosts your visibility by putting you on the schedule for the first hour. After that hour, you’re off the schedule (but your game will still be listed as streaming further down).
Our audience dropped off noticeably after the one-hour mark. It did stay pretty high though- in the hundreds- more than enough to keep the stream going. It tapered off pretty much completely after about 6 hours.
Lesson #2: You’ll have one hour of focused promotion from Steam per livestream event, despite your event’s length. Try and pack as much advertising/streaming/content into that first hour as you can, that’s the hour that matters.
ABS- Always Be Streaming
You want to be streaming pretty much the whole festival. It’s free real estate!
Even if you’re not on the schedule, you’ll be shown as streaming on the fest page, so you’ll still get people coming through. Our audience for the event livestreams was in the hundreds, but we still had tens of people watching at any given time. This is well-worn advice for Steam festivals and it’s true.
We didn’t actually play our game the whole time, we recorded a nice playthrough of our demo and looped it. We also recorded our livestream event and looped that after- so our stream had a commentary/host that made it more lively.
Lesson #3: Record a nice playthrough video and stream it as much as possible throughout the festival.
One stream at a time
This lesson stung!
I was streaming the video from my computer, letting it play up to our scheduled event time. I thought we could collect up some viewers ahead of time- and we did! I had a ton of viewers on my stream, over a thousand.
My partner was the one hosting the livestream though, and he messaged me shortly after he started- we had two streams running on our Steam page. I had the lion’s share of viewers. I had to shut my stream down for his stream to be recognized as the event livestream. I panicked and shut mine down without any warning, losing the whole audience.
I should have announced the stream was switching, and I should not have been streaming from my account when it was my partner going who was live. Oops. Our event stream’s audience eventually grew over the hour, but we never recovered the numbers I had before I ended my stream.
Lesson #4: Whoever is running the NextFest livestream should be streaming from their machine for an hour or so before their event to accumulate viewers. No other members of the team should be streaming at this time.
Chat is Quiet
I joined a great discord- Chris Zukowski's “How to Market Your Game” (join us!) and we all compared notes on the festival as it progressed. We all noticed all the chatrooms in the streams were quiet- so if your chatroom is quiet, it’s not just you. No one was expecting this, so we didn’t have any solutions at hand. Some suggestions included reading out and answering any questions you do get, and a Steam key or merch giveaway.
Lesson #5: Chat will likely be quiet despite large audience numbers. Plan for a way to interact with the audience to get them talking and hanging around for longer!
I hope you found our livestreaming tips for Steam festivals helpful. If we can help one dev avoid an event streaming mishap, it’ll be worth it!
Thanks so much and happy streaming!