First Ever Steam Launch is bad for my health

I thought everything would be great and I was prepared...not even close.

I only post this to maybe help others who have never launched an indie game on Steam. I have read many posts from this site (and many others) talking about launch days, post mortems, and such. I am, hopefully, too soon to post a post mortem (as my game launched last night at midnight) but I have already learned a valuable matter how much planning you do, it will never work out like it did in your head.

On October 3rd at midnight pacific time, I launched "The Mines of Morseph" on Steam.

I will treat this like a mini-post mortem even though I only launched yesterday. This is because I already realize that I made mistakes and those mistakes aren't all of a sudden going to become good ideas just because I wait longer.

Mistake #1: I assumed Steam would equal quick success and exposure...

Although I have no sales data to go by, I already noticed that Steam giving impressions doesn't necessarily result in success. I was VERY fortunate to have my game get the top spot on the "Upcoming" tab on the front page for 3 1/2 hours. I saw the impression data today and I got >130,000 impressions and nearly 3,000 store page clicks during this time. Sales? None since it wasnt released yet. Wishlists? 32...not exactly going to compete with Cuphead with numbers like that. This was sobering...

Mistake #2: I didn't open a Twitter Account soon enough...

I paid my Steam Direct fee in early August. I didn't get my Twitter page started until early September. From September to October, I have grown my Twitter page to producing nearly 80,000 impressions and hundreds of Store page visits. At one point during the "Coming Soon" segment on Steam, I was getting more External Website clicks then clicks from Steam impressions. If I would have started Twitter earlier, this would have grown the impact of social media before launch.

Mistake #3: I wasted time and money on Facebook...

I opened a Facebook page for the game on the same day as Twitter. Maybe I just dont "get" Facebook but I found it much harder to get engagement, followers, clicks, etc on FB than on Twitter. I even got a much better response with free Twitter (no paid advertising) than by using paid advertising on Facebook! I quickly stopped spending money on Facebook after I realized that my HIGHLY targetted campaign was only yielding about 400 impressions and 6 clicks per $5.00...not worth it!

Mistake #4: I should have used Kickstarter to fund the project and did Steam Early Access...

I always hear people complaining about Early Access games but yet, more times than not, when I see indie successes recently, they were/are in early access. Many also had a Kickstarter campaign as well. It seems the ability to build hype for your game while making it does work rather than holding onto a secret and presenting them with a great first impression. Maybe it isnt true that a first impression is all that important.

Mistake #5: I didn't put enough thought into capsule art...

I have realized one thing...capsule art is HUGE! It seriously is the single most important part of selling a game on Steam. Game breaking bugs? Who cares! Terrible trailer? So What! Your trailer and game dont matter if your capsule art cannot even get people to your store page. This is very underrated and a subject that needs to be talked about far more. Don't even get me started at how frsutrating it can be to get readable text in those tiny capsules that Steam uses (and the smallest ones they create themselves so you have no control over sharpness...only the larger source image.)

Mistake #6: I made my trailer with only gameplay and action for excitement...

I read all of the neat articles that gave examples on ways to make a splash with your trailer. Not too long? Check (trailer was 45 seconds.) Don't use cutscenes but real gameplay? Check (all gameplay.) Make it interesting in 5-10 seconds? Check (I used the most action packed scene I had starting at the 3 second mark and kept it tight all the way through.) Don't show company logo at all; or at least at the end? Check (showed it at the end very briefly.) Make sure to follow it up with what's next? Check (Website, release date, Steam info.) Despite all of this, it still did not garner more wishlisters in prerelease from page visitors.

I may, possibly, have set the record for least amount of sales on a Steam launch. If my current data is to be believed, I haven't even sold ten units on launch day! Wow! Despite having a wishlist greater than 100, none of them came out to buy the game at launch.

This launch has been very sobering but at least I know more than I did yesterday and won't buy into fairy-tales about how Steam allows you to go from rags to riches. It may have for some but I am practically 100% sure there was more to the story than making a cool bug-free game and "letting the cream rise to the top." Truth is...someone probably knew someone else or got PR boosts along the way or who-knows? 

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