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Stadia's 'Click To Play' - the future? 2

Does Stadia's 'click to play' functionality change the game for the cloud gaming platform? And all kinds of other game discovery news besides...

Simon Carless, Blogger

July 16, 2020

7 Min Read

[Hi, I’m ‘how people find your game’ expert Simon Carless, and you’re reading the Game Discoverability Now! newsletter, which you can subscribe to now, a regular look at how people discover and buy video games in the 2020s.]

Welcome to this week’s GameDiscoverabilityLand round-up, in which I discover I have yet again found too many things to talk about in the world of ‘how people find out about your games’.

Which is good, right? Lots to discuss this time, so let’s get going…

Stadia’s ‘Click To Play’ option… the future?

So, Google knows it’s a marathon, not a sprint, when it comes to its initially maligned Google Stadia streaming game platform. And this week’s Stadia Connect announcement-cast reflected that:

The upside: Google is starting to sign more ‘Only On Stadia’ exclusives, such as Splash Damage’s Outcasters. The company is also bringing a bunch of medium-sized or larger titles across to the platform as non-exclusives.

Some of those new titles like Hitman & Hello Neighbor will be ‘free’ for Stadia Pro ($10 per month) subscribers, and others (Sekiro) are simply debuting on the Stadia store for purchase.

But it’s the ‘click to play’ concept - as an embeddable URL, which can be anywhere from YouTube descriptions to forums or beyond - that starts to get interesting:

There’s an example on this Orcs Must Die! 3 YouTube trailer that just debuted, for example - which is one of the games bundled with the Stadia Pro subscription. So if you have a Stadia Pro sub (and are in an eligible country, etc), it’s literally single-click from YouTube to immediately start playing the game. Interesting, right?

The jury is still out on Stadia, clearly. It has some diehard fans, but also a fair amount of skeptics, especially among core gamers who prefer the concept of ‘owning’ data on a physical PC/console. (Whether they really ‘own’ it is another question, but you know what I mean…)

Anyhow, the allegations that Google might see Stadia as a foldable experiment and would cave early aren’t really panning out. The company is opening new internal studios, signing a lot of games to fill out its catalog, and starting to do bigger deals with Harmonix and Supermassive for exclusives.

So there’s opportunities for devs here - both in signing upfront deals with Google to have their existing games on Stadia Pro or the Stadia store, and also for exclusive games and simultaneously-timed releases. The user-base is still - shall we say - ‘evolving’, and the platform is still fairly closed compared to the likes of Steam.

But it’s not something that should be 100% ignored, and it’ll be interesting to see where Stadia is in 3-5 years time. (I genuinely have no idea - tell me if you do.)

Welcome To… Devolverland?

Given I’ve been hyping it, it wouldn’t be a round-up without discussing Devolver Direct, the very silly indie publisher’s answer to these live ‘hype’ streams we’ve been enjoying all summer. The video itself is as entertaining as always:

…though a bit light on game reveals, perhaps. But that didn’t matter, because a key reveal was a free Steam game that’s also a ‘first-person marketing simulator’, Devolverland Expo:

So, there’s the hilarity of the space being ‘inspired’ by the Los Angeles Convention Center - which Devolver studiously ignores every year, instead renting adjacent space and getting into fights with E3 organizer the ESA.

But separately of that, this is a really well-done gag that Devolver & Flying Wild Hog put a lot of time into, and it even has Steam achievements for watching game trailers. That’s good discoverability, folks.

Finally, I was reading Stuffed Wombat’s genius ‘made up game design terms’ article, and was tickled to read this one about Devolver:

Other stuff…

OK, here comes both a bunch of compressed discoverability info, and some excellent feedback on previous newsletters, as follows:

  • Some great feedback from Codename Entertainment’s Eric Jordan (Idle Champions) on my recent DLC article and F2P Steam games: “If you make a F2P game, paid DLC is the only way to participate in Steam sales. Hard to discount a free game! DLC also helps with discoverability (such as Featured DLC section on the F2P store page). Finally, if you continue to add new DLC, then it is good to retire older DLC, so you can keep your game's DLC fresh.”

  • Wondered what was happening with Steam China, after 2019's Perfect World collaboration announce and subsequent radio silence. But just spotted the regular Steam client got an China Alpha in May with 'healthy gaming' messages & time restrictions. Maybe Valve is hoping to go that way, vs. making select games go to a separate China-only client? (I know Chinese gamers buy a lot of Steam titles, but it’d be nice if it was slightly less… governmentally precarious?)

  • A new Gamasutra blog from Karl Kontus tries to calculate how easy it is to make a living as a full-time indie, and comes up with the following: “Only 15% of indie games make more than $100k… [gross.. and they think the net revenue is $54k.]" Probably some things you could argue with in there, but it’s always good to be realistic in some way, right?

  • In my last DiscoverabilityLand round-up, I talked about games that let you make games inside them, and Andrew J. Smith popped up in the comments to point out one I forgot: “Crayta has launched on Stadia (as a ‘Stadia First’ title) and is very much a top-class "games-creation" game… They've announced a scheme to encourage people to make games on their platform, and we've already made Super Doom Wall for it as part of their indie fund ahead of launch. They also have a Black Creators Prize Fund & Mentoring program.” So now you know.

  • Rattling through some Steam things: it’s the first anniversary of Steam Labs, and Valve says “we’re celebrating with the official release of Community Recommendations, introduced to Steam via Labs.” Some Labs experiments like Deep Dive are being retired, but there’s new things coming, including new ways to browse the store and “adding the ability to include news from Steam Curators you follow, enabling posts from some of your favorite press outlets to appear right in your personalized view of Steam News.” Here’s the latest on News Hub via a detailed post. Possibly related: PC Gamer’s Robin Valentine says Steam has become exhausting - I think mainly quibbling with the sale metacurrency shenanigans, haha.

  • Missed this when it first came out, but Wings Interactive’s Cassia Curran’s recent GI.biz talk on researching the game market is extremely good, since it takes a very metrics-driven approach to evaluating for game success. She makes the same point I do - data isn’t absolute, but it’s broadly indicative and important. Oh, and the Boxleiter number is mentioned - I’ll be doing a survey on the ‘NB number’ (new Boxleiter number - yes, I just made that up) soon!

Finishing up this week, Ashley Ringrose at SMG Studio has done a super-transparent interview with NintendoLife about Death Squared sales (300,000 copies, more than 50% of those on Switch, units often discounted but hey, aren’t everyone’s?)

Read it all for Ashley’s other thoughts about sales & discounting, Xbox Game Pass possibly boosting Switch sales, etc. But here’s the full graph of units sold for Death Squared’s entire history on Switch, to give you an idea of what drove sales:

That’s some good graph-based action there! Until next time…

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About the Author(s)

Simon Carless


Simon Carless is the founder of the GameDiscoverCo agency and creator of the popular GameDiscoverCo game discoverability newsletter. He consults with a number of PC/console publishers and developers, and was previously most known for his role helping to shape the Independent Games Festival and Game Developers Conference for many years.

He is also an investor and advisor to UK indie game publisher No More Robots (Descenders, Hypnospace Outlaw), a previous publisher and editor-in-chief at both Gamasutra and Game Developer magazine, and sits on the board of the Video Game History Foundation.

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