Which Steam games are slow burners, and which are swift droppers?

What is hype, but a miserable pile of secrets? Fortunately a few charts from Steam Spy offer a little data on what separates the different kinds of hype and what secrets they may contain.

Predicting a game’s success on Steam can sometimes feel like an act of alchemy. Will your game become a viral hit like Undertale? Will it launch fast and crash hard?

The answer is rarely predictable, but sometimes comparable data can help offer some kind of clarity for why games sell the way they do. 

In a set of tweets last Friday, Steam Spy’s owner Sergey Galyonkin tweeted out an interesting pair of charts analyzing two different patterns of concurrent user behavior on Steam, and how they can define the kind of "hype" surrounding a game. 

The first chart, labeled “the hype chart,” shows the top games of 2016 that have seen the largest percentage of conccurent user drop since their launch day. It doesn’t reveal anything about the games’ sales or quality specifically, but it does show a pattern of games that had a high amount of concurrently players on launch that dropped a few weeks later. 

If you were to look closely at this chart, you might notice one clear pattern—the games in question had strong pre-launch marketing campaigns of varying types, and all are of somewhat shorter length. Hyper Light Drifter can be finished in a span of seven hours or so, and ABZU and Firewatch in an even shorter amount of time. 

In other cases, the game in question may not be short, but it’s still accompanied by a heavy marketing campaign/press cycle emphasizing a launch day purchase, such as Mighty No. 9 (Which was under high scrutiny given its long dev cycle)

But in an inverse chart, Steam Spy has also gathered a list of games that have MORE concurrent players than on launch day. Again, this confirms nothing about sales or quality of the given titles, but shows an interesting pattern of games that received more discussion and play among players and the press after their release. 

Galyonkin calls this the “surprise factor” chart, and while he says neither chart represents a valid metric for making clear business decisions about game development, it’s worth a look because there are some clear patterns in player purchasing that show how different kinds of word of mouth can potentially impact game sales. 

On this chart, games like Enter the Gungeon, Salt and Sanctuary, and RimWorld make an appearance, all games that were essentially treated as “surprise gems” after their launch. 

This of course, all in an attempt to track that nebulous concept known as “hype,” but if nothing else, it’s helpful for developers to at the very least, separate what kind of hype they’re talking about. 

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