[The GameDiscoverCo game discovery newsletter is written by ‘how people find your game’ expert & GameDiscoverCo founder Simon Carless, and is a regular look at how people discover and buy video games in the 2020s.]
We’re back again, somehow. Thanks to the thousands of you who choose - willingly - to read the GameDiscoverCo newsletter every week. We have a couple of big free newsletters coming to you this week, so let’s get straight to it!
Steam and the ‘More Like This’ conundrum…
So I think I’ve mentioned before that the concept of the Steam algorithm ‘plucking you from obscurity to success’ is not - generally - a very workable one to plan your game’s marketing campaign from.
Nonetheless, it’s important to understand how and when Steam recommends your game to others. And historically - if you go back 5 years or more - the ‘More Like This’ section was the key Steam section you wanted to get recommended on.
It appears just under the Description and System Requirements for each game. And there’s a box featuring 12 other games on every single Steam game page. For example, here’s some of what you see from Stardew Valley’s page in the ‘More Like This’ embed:
Then, when you click through to ‘See All’, you can check out a lot more games still - specifically, 9 ‘particularly similar tags’ titles, 6 upcoming releases, 3 new Steam releases, and 9 top sellers. You seem to need to have a certain medium-term popularity level to make it in here.
Our view is that appearing in the ‘See All’ section is a slight benefit. But it’s really appearing in those Top 12 games - that can be easily seen without clicking through - that’s the main traffic driver.
Some important things to understand about More Like This:
Realistically, there’s no way you can ‘plan’ to appear in this section, whether your game is out or not. Pre-October 2018, a much more diverse set of titles appeared in it. But an algorithm change back then ended up prioritizing games - at least in the ‘Top 12’ that appear on a game’s actual details page - that are a) very popular b) already released.
But I’ve been impressed/surprised to see a few unreleased games break into that ‘Top 12’ at times. For example, right now in Stardew Valley’s More Like This box, both Stairway Games’ Coral Island (fresh off a blockbuster Kickstarter) and niceplay/Tinybuild’s Potion Craft: Alchemy Simulator (fresh off a big Steam Festival demo appearance) have made it into that coveted ‘above the fold’ recommendation area.
In general, you’ll see already-released blockbusters fill up the high-profile ‘More Like This’ space. It looks like there’s an internal ranking system, and only the Top 12 of the 27 total recommended games make it in. So unreleased games have a harder time competing. For example, Sea Of Thieves’ ‘Top 12’ recommended titles are all already released, and it’s all titles like Rust, GTA V and Valheim. Even upcoming relevant games like Skull & Bones don’t make it into there.
Finally, you can check out the handy third-party Steamlikes website to see what the most recommended games are, across every single Steam game’s ‘See All’ section. (You can see Coral Island doing great there, as well as the newly announced Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles game from my buddies at Dotemu, which is top right now.)
Just be aware that the Steamlikes site doesn’t track the ‘Top 12’ picks. And it doesn’t try to work out which games are recommended from high traffic pages. So a lot of the time you’ll see unreleased games atop Steamlikes that one suspects are getting less real-world ‘More Like This’ traffic than titles lower down the list. But it’s interesting - and indicative.
Anyhow, it’s probably not possible to reverse engineer ‘More Like This’ too much. And really nowadays, it’s the Steam Discovery Queue and other real-time site features that are the things that help an average game. Valve has spent a lot of time on these. And the results after an external traffic boost are measurably positive - and far more complex and dynamic than other console/PC game platforms.
Briefly: if you get an incoming traffic boost from an announce or streamer, then Steam will detect it & include your game in more front-page & other recommendations to logged-in users. This is a dynamic process which is way more individualized and targeted than ‘you’re one of 12 recommended games on a certain page or not’.
But on the very rare occasion when an unreleased game manages to get enough hidden points to get into More Like This ‘Top 12’s for higher-traffic games, the spoils can be great. I’m sure there’s a lot of Discovery queue and direct traffic involved too. But look at the follower curve for Potion Craft after their Steam Festival demo debut & appearance on high-profile More Like This pages:
Looks like Potion Craft is still adding 70 followers (500-1000 wishlists?) per day, a month later, and probably has 125,000-175,000 total wishlists already. That is… pleasant, to say the least.
A lot of this is positive buzz around the Potion Craft demo and word of mouth. But it’s amplified by the dynamic nature of Steam as a platform, from Discovery Queue to (in this case!) More Like This & beyond. Let’s all inspire to similar for our games, eh?
The game discovery news round-up..
Well, it’s been almost a week since a round-up section last appeared in one of these newsletters. So unsurprisingly, there’s quite a bit to talk about. By the way, you can always contact us if you’ve seen something you think should be mentioned here - news tips always welcome:
Just a reminder that it’s GDC Showcase this week, which is the Game Developers Conference’s free virtual event. It sports a mix of new talks, interviews, sponsored sessions, and ‘classic talks’ with the devs available in the text chat. Looks like HowToMarketAGame’s Chris Zukowski is making an appearance that would be of relevance to this newsletter’s readers, for starters.
There’s no doubt that Loop Hero has been one of the hits of the year so far in the indie space, and the 500,000 sales announcement allows us to check Steam sales/review ratios. Looks like it had 7,725 reviews at the point of the announcement, which would be 66.2 copies per review. But it simul-launched on Epic Games Store too, so maybe splitting sales there would take it under 60 units/review? BTW, here’s a take on why it feels so good to play.
The big Bethesda/Xbox coming together has now happened, with a bunch of Bethesda titles now available on Game Pass, and Phil Spencer explains that “this is about delivering great exclusive games for you that ship on platforms where Game Pass exists.” So after some Bethesda multi-platform games are shipped, sounds like it’s going to be Xbox, PC and cloud streaming all the way down for their games. More fuel for Game Pass supremacy there.
Apologies for not plugging ahead of time, but The MIX put on a Game Dev Direct virtual event/livestream showcasing indie games over the weekend on Twitch, YouTube (via IGN) & elsewhere. Here’s video archives of Day 1, here’s similar for Day 2, and here’s the Steam sale page for it. Seems like a lot of games that participate in The MIX’s normal physical events at GDC/E3/etc. signed up, and the Steam feature was useful for incremental wishlists.
Twitter threads with lots of info: Mat Piscatella’s latest NPD U.S. retail & select digital results: “Monthly sales of video game hardware increased 121% when compared to February 2020, to $406M. This is the highest total for a February month since the $468M reached in February 2011”; Piers Harding-Rolls’ 2020 platform sales recap: “Sony maintained its world market share lead with spending on its console hardware, games and services for its devices worth 46% of the market, down from 49% in 2019. Nintendo increased its share to 31% as consumers bought over 26 million Switch consoles & spent heavily on games.”
Microlinks: how you accomplish the rare feat of marshalling a mobile game to a successful Kickstarter; want to read good writing about video games? Check out GoodGamesWriting.com; President Xi Jinping of China is worried about video games’ effect on the youth, which may inevitably lead to additional regulation; Midgame Fund is a dev-run microfund putting in €10k – €150k per game with fair terms - just for Dutch devs, but seems like ‘a good thing’; IWOCon is a free digital convention as a Steam app using Unreal Engine - looks ambitious.
Finally, seeing the additional news that Xbox has grabbed Outriders for a Game Pass debut on its launch, and also is adding Undertale on its Xbox debut? Thought it might be fun to highlight what I saw when shopping at Target last weekend:
Xbox not going narrow with its Game Pass marketing roll-out, then. ð pic.twitter.com/A3neHubPCj— Simon Carless (@simoncarless) March 14, 2021
[We’re GameDiscoverCo, a new agency based around one simple issue: how do players find, buy and enjoy your premium PC or console game? You can subscribe to GameDiscoverCo Plus to get access to exclusive newsletters, interactive daily rankings of every unreleased Steam game, and lots more besides.]