[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. Don’t forget you can sign up to our Plus subscription for exclusive Discord, newsletter and data perks.]
G’day, my learned friends - and thanks for all the support and feedback on this darn GameDiscoverCo newsletter. It gives us a lot of motivation to keep putting it out thrice weekly, even though there’s so much information floating around there on the Interwebs.
Actually, this edition of the newsletter doesn’t really have a lead story - more a whole bunch of useful tips and follow-ups that have accumulated over the last few days. So let’s get to it!
Your MVP Steam trailer… shouldn’t be complex
We’ve referenced Derek Lieu’s great writing on game trailers before. But his latest piece, about the ‘minimum viable product’ for your Steam trailer, resonated with us. It echoes a number of pieces of feedback we’ve provided to clients in recent months. And we’re not trailer experts - but he is!
The context: you need to get your Steam page up significantly before your game launches. There may be causation/correlation issues (bigger, better organized games announce early, and then get delayed!) to the link - but Valve research has shown that games adding a Steam page earlier do better:
So maybe you don’t feel like your game is ready to go up on Steam 6-12 months or more before release. But we’d highly recommend it. And as Derek explains, making a basic Steam trailer with a few key elements - potentially different to your major trailers - is a great idea:
“A lot of people treat the trailer on the Steam page as a receptacle for moving images from the game; they'll literally click through the progress bar to get a sampling of moving images so they can determine a few things: What is the genre? Is the art appealing? Is it the sort of game I like?”
The items he suggests you concentrate on are simple:
Show the game loop
HUD/UI should be turned on
Make each shot clear and easy to understand
No logos or cinematic shots with no player interaction
Derek’s full article cross-posted over on Gamasutra has more detail - but I agree with all of these points. A particular highlight: some believe that turning off HUD/UI makes your ‘major’ trailers more attractive, which we agree with.
But we’ve had to search YouTube multiple times to work out what a game actually plays like, even after release (due to no videos or sufficient screenshots with ‘real’ gameplay on the game’s Steam page!) You need to blend utility and glitz here. Otherwise your prospective players aren’t getting information they need to evaluate their purchase.
[BONUS: Chris Zukowski, who somewhat masterminded this whole topic, also just put up ‘Yes, you need to create a Steam page right now’, which riffs on a lot of the same points, and discusses the psychology of why you DON’T want to put up your Steam page, but should.]
Do you want.. even more data points?
Look, you may already be drowning in data points about PC games already. There’s SteamDB, GameDataCrunch, Games-Stats, Steam250, our own Plus back end, and a host of other excellent sites which get information on the entire Steam - and sometimes console - output.
But there was a recent Twitter thread by CCCP communications/marketing director Hegor that exposed two extra sources that we’d either a) forgotten about or b) never seen before. So we wanted to put them out there:
Alexis Martin’s ‘Steam top 25 in the last 24 hours’ page grabs the ranking of each worldwide top-ranked Steam game by revenue every 15 minutes, and then makes a graph and an average ranking. Useful if you want to see whether a game recently going on sale is the reason for its unusually high ranking, etc.
Want to know what percentage of a Steam game’s reviews in each language? Kris Antoni from Toge Productions made Steam Scout, which can show you, for example, that it’s the Chinese and English-language market who are into the Touhou-themed Metroidvania title, and not the Japanese market, as I thought! (There’s also CCU info and the ability to trigger ‘reviews by hours played’ data.)
There’s plenty of other data sources out there, of course. So feel free to ping us and recommend the ones that you actually check out regularly!
(Semi-related: it looks like PlayTracker - a multiplatform player-centric game tracking tool that also aggregates info that can be used by devs - also added some new Insights data, too. But we haven’t had a chance to check it out.)
Follow-ups: release timing and TikTok goodness!
We have a couple of follow-ups from last Wednesday’s newsletter that talked about both TikTok and the best time of day to release your game, thanks to our Plus-exclusive Discord members weighing in. As follows:
On the rise of TikTok: Wren Brier, co-developer of ‘zen puzzle game’ Unpacking, also had a great wishlist-boosting experience: “We had a similar experience [to Before Your Eyes] with [KimChica] making a TikTok of Unpacking about a month ago. As of right this moment it has 828.5K views, 240k likes and nearly 2,000 comments. We got a huge wishlist boost on the couple of days when the TikTok first went viral, and the boost has had a long tail, keeping our baseline quite high since then.”
Wren added: “This is actually the second TikTok about Unpacking to go off like that -- Wholesome Games made one last October that got 640k views.” And you can actually see both of the TikTok bumps clearly on Unpacking’s SteamDB follower graph (pictured above - the big September 2020 bump is because of a limited-time Steam demo + PAX Online feature, btw.)
Unpacking has a great visual and viral hook, of course, so not all games can do this. But Thomas Reisenegger just got another viral TikTok for Omno which is largely just a super-cute, well edited gameplay video. So it’s not just concept that matters…
On the best time of day to release: Lorenzo Pilia from Curious Expedition 2 dev Maschinen-Mensch tried a different approach to a ‘3pm-5pm CEST’ launch for CE2: "Our team is based in Europe, our publisher too, and a sizeable portion of our audience is in Asia (China, mostly.) So we decided to launch on Steam at noon CEST. That way, we had the opportunity to be active with the community during our normal working hours - reply to questions on social media, Steam forums and Discord, update announcement posts and FAQs if something wasn't clear...”
That way, the team got a full evening of Asian sales, and by the time North America woke up, already had some buzz and reviews. Lorenzo notes: “It worked well for us - the only downside is that if anything goes wrong and you need Valve's support, you have to wait until they start working in Seattle...” But worth considering for European teams!
The game discovery news round-up..
Look, I’m sorry, every single picture in this newsletter so far (except the Kraftwerk one) is a boring graph. We’ll do better next time! So the least we can do include a screenshot from the Vapor Mario Bros. trailer as an attractive lead-in to the news round-up:
The latest Deloitte survey on digital media trends is certainly showing video games in the ascendancy: “About 26% of Gen Z said video games are their top entertainment activity, and 87% of those in the age bracket said they play video games daily or weekly. That’s followed by listening to music (14%), browsing the internet (12%) and engaging on social media (11%).” This top-line percentage compares to only 16% of millennials, 10% of Gen X, and just 2% of boomers.
Interesting to see Microsoft trying to revitalize its Windows 10 Store app starting later this year, given it’s not exactly been a first port of call for, uhh, anyone recently. Zac Bowden at Windows Central says it might “…allow developers to submit unpackaged Win32 apps to the Store; Allow developers to host apps and updates on their own content delivery network (CDN); Allow developers to use third-party commerce platforms in apps.” Unsure how this will fit in with PC Game Pass, etc, but let’s keep an eye out.
Enjoyed this Protocol newsletter that led off with ‘Does cloud gaming have room for everyone?’ The point about cloud gaming only working as part of a larger ecosystem has been underplayed by many - but not all - analysts. And as the piece says, referencing real or potential issues with Shadow, Stadia & more: “Maybe a plurality of platforms can exist, each catering to different niches. But it seems likely that only the biggest will survive.”
Microlinks: Sony may be adding value to PlayStation Plus by introducing a Video Pass, though details are hazy and it may be more of a test; free online multiplayer for Xbox players who don’t have Xbox Live Gold/Ultimate Game Pass is now a real rolled-out thing; Netflix is teasing how it’s already doing ‘interactive experiences’ and also loves video games and might do more - albeit in such an obscure way that it may not be a big deal.
If you think the scale of Xbox Game Pass is impressive (and it is!), Jeff Bezos just revealed that Amazon Prime now has 200 million subscribers worldwide. Obviously, a great number of those people don’t take advantage of the Prime Gaming perks, which include free PC games, in-game content for big free to play games, and a free Twitch channel subscription every month. But - despite their dev studio troubles - I still think you sleep on Amazon at your peril.
News emailed to us direct from your learned friends at Valve: “The Steam Playtest feature is now fully released, allowing the developers of any game on Steam to set up and run a playtest within Steam for free. Since launching as a beta in November, Steam Playtest has seen over one million players participate in playtests across 161 different games.”
Microlinks, Pt.2: Google is replicating its ‘pre-order Cyberpunk and get a free Stadia controller/Chromecast’ deal with the also high-end Resident Evil Village; you can tell VR is ‘coming back’ from the amount of requests for VR game trailers; an academic paper on improving discovery for indie games on Itch and Steam.
[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.]