Recently I was approved for and today just launched Steam Trading Cards, for my title originally released in October 2019. During this process, I found that a lot of the public information on the topic was out of date or incomplete. So, here's a 2020 Guide for Steam Trading cards!
What are Steam Trading Cards?
‘Steam Trading Cards’ is the catch-all term for a set of custom art assets that take the form of trading cards, badges, emoticons and profile backgrounds.
By playing a game that has them enabled, players receive a partial (50%) set of its trading cards in their Steam inventory. By collecting all of them (which typically requires purchasing the remaining cards on the Steam market from other players), players can unlock the associated badges, emoticons, and profile backgrounds. These can then be used to customise and ultimately 'level up' players’ Steam profiles.
The public Steamworks developer page for Trading Cards is here: https://partner.steamgames.com/doc/marketing/tradingcards
And the customer page: https://steamcommunity.com/tradingcards/
What are the benefits for Developers?
When a seller sells one of your Steam Trading Card items, 10% goes to the developer, 5% to Steam, and 85% to the seller. With a minimum payout of $0.01 for each, this also establishes a minimum price of $0.03 for all items on the market.
Probably more importantly, Steam Trading Cards are a big indicator of quality for the game overall, and the ability to unlock them (and sell them) is attractive in their own right. Their existence may help players justify purchasing your game.
How do I get access to them?
Steam Trading Card functionality is disabled by default, disabled soon after the opening of Steam Direct to $100 submissons. To access them for new games since 2017, your title needs to pass a certain revenue or sales threshold. This seems to occur at about 5,000 x $10 units sold based on my experience and that of others.
Its possible that developers/publishers with a successful track record can request to have them enabled at launch, without waiting for the sales threshold to be met.
The availability (or not) of Trading Cards thus serves as an indicator of quality for savvy Steam customers, since very roughly only about the top 10-20% of new titles will go on to meet this threshold. It also indicates that the (Indie) developer has continued to support the game post-launch.
What are the requirements for their design?
In addition to the requirements listed on the Steamworks page (linked above), since Trading Cards are accessed globally you will need to minimise any use of text, and focus purely on graphics. Some badges which incorporated my game's title were rejected, for example.
What trading card art did you create, and how did you do it?
Its a good idea to re-purpose as much of your existing 2D and promo art as possible, since players will be familiar with it from playing the game, and it also showcases your art and game for players who come across the items on the Steam market.
For the trading cards, I decided to use the HUD weapon art from the game, with a custom background and unique blood spray effects for each card. This square image is then placed in the centre of a standard Trading Card border, with your logo on the bottom, and a border color of your choosing. (These standardised elements are added automatically, you just provide the 206x184 PNG image)
For the badges, Achievement art was repurposed:
I also submitted 5 emojis, which were already available and had been created previously for the Discord channel of the game.
The Profile Backgrounds (one of them) can be viewed on a live Steam Profile here: https://steamcommunity.com/profiles/76561198849587765
For more references, you can browse the Trading Cart art for all other games that have them here: https://www.steamcardexchange.net/index.php?showcase
Any final tips?
Take you time to carefully check each piece of art that you submit - they cannot be changed once released. Ensure that you are taking advantage of each available pixel to maximise image size, and that there are no artifacts in the final images as a result of things like compression or conversion from PNG to JPG.
When your Trading Cards have been approved by Valve, you can release them immediately - there is no additional waiting time. Its a good idea to synchronize their release to a large update (I synchronized the release to Update 1.5 of my game)
You will need to add the 'Steam Trading Cards' feature manually to your Store Page list of features.
Players that have played your game in the past will be given cards immediately when you enable the feature, even if they only played the game before the cards were actually enabled.
Release only 5 (the minimum) or 6 trading cards, since the market value is split across them. More cards will make the collection process more burdensome for players, and if each individual card is less valuable, they will be less likely to be transacted on the Steam Market. 6 cards seems like the most common number, since each player will unlock 3 cards.
Hope this is helpful! As you can see the effort is mostly for the art, the administration is pretty straightforward. I’m happy to answer any questions in the comments.