[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.]
Welcome back to another week of GameDiscoverCo newsletter goodness, yay. Whether it’s granular information on how your favorite game platforms are changing, actionable tips on how to get more popular, or Steam reviews from users with terrible nicknames, we’ve got all of them in this edition. So let’s get to it:
The Wandering Village: a route to lotsa wishlists!
The folks at Swiss dev Stray Fawn Studio - whom you might know from titles including genetics survival game Niche (3,200 Very Positive Steam reviews) and space drone sim Nimbatus (1,200 Very Positive Steam reviews), have an excellent track record to date.
So it’s not surprising that its new ‘citybuilder on the back of a giant monster’ title The Wandering Village is already getting good buzz. It’s already in the Top 200 among all unreleased Steam games in our Plus member-only GameDiscoverCo Hype charts, even though it’s only been on Steam since last October:
In a recent newsletter, we covered Stray Fawn CEO Philomena Schwab’s excellent deconstruction of the game’s successful Kickstarter. But in addition, Markus from Stray Fawn was kind enough to provide GameDiscoverCo with an annotated version of The Wandering Village’s impressive daily wishlist numbers to date:
There’s lots to take in here. (We previously looked at The Riftbreaker in a similar way.) But we wanted to highlight five ways the game has done well that we think everybody should pay attention to:
Kickstarter: although crowdfunding campaigns like this one can be quite a lot of work, they can be as useful for overall publicity and interest-gauging purposes as funding reasons, nowadays. (There’s a reason PlayWay does a bunch of them, and it’s not needing the money.)
Imgur & Reddit: it’s interesting to me that more attention isn’t paid to these (especially Imgur), given some of the interest spikes they can create. Chris Zukowski wrote a very useful blog post about Imgur tips, and Reddit virality is a lot about your hook/approach and subReddit targeting - here’s one of the viral Reddit posts for The Wandering Village. But all worth considering.
Cross-promotion: if you look at the Steam page for Niche, you’ll see the ‘CHECK OUT OUR UPCOMING GAME’ link/wishlist button for The Wandering Village. There was a short period in early March 2021 where these ‘widgets’ were broken by Valve. So you can see the value of having it vs. not having. (Looks like maybe 50 wishlists a day or more?) While many of these wishlists can be ‘bookmark’-y, many aren’t. If you have a fanbase to promote similar games to, consider it!
Steam ‘sales’: again, maybe not as hot as organic wishlists. But if you can get in a themed sale like City Builder with an unreleased game, you already know players browsing it love the subgenre - so wow, that was helpful for Stray Fawn. And keep looking for other third-parties like The MIX doing pre-release Steam features - there’s no master list of these, but they can all help.
Articles & videos: Obviously, you know that press articles and YouTuber videos can juice your interest/wishlists. But just wanted to point out that The Wandering Village took trouble to have a (brief, but great-looking) trailer with gameplay available at the start of the game’s publicity campaign. A gameplay trailer on launch - everyone should do it, even if roughed-out. Cos it leads to, for example, a French YouTuber listing the game in his list of ‘don’t miss’ 2021 titles:
Just to remind everyone, in conclusion: your base ‘organic’ daily wishlists for your unreleased Steam game are definitely indicative of how you might perform sales-wise.
Absolute worst-case organic wishlists for The Wandering Village (when their cross-promotion is broken) looks like at least 50 per day. With cross-promo on, more like 100+. So… that’s good. And overall, the game has a good subgenre (city builder) and a clever hook (city on top of animals!) So we expect good things. Good luck to the devs.
A word on sustainability & video games
Look, you may be fed up of hearing about this global warming thing. But it’s really going to eff the planet up in a few short decades (or sooner). And video games aren’t immune from being able to both message and act to help out.
So wanted to point to The Green Games Guide, which “…is the UK's first resource that contains practical advice and outlines steps that games business can take to reduce emissions and waste across their offices and operations. The partnership between Ukie, Games London and the Playing for the Planet Alliance will also encourage the sector to think about how it can use its huge reach – the games industry has the potential to reach 1 in 3 people on the planet – to inspire players to change how they think about the environment and to start conversations about the wider collective efforts the sector can make.”
Although this is a UK publication, it really applies worldwide. And it’s great to see Space Ape Games mapping (above), improving, and offsetting their carbon footprint, for example. At one point, I was thinking about starting a ‘Carbon Offsets For Games’ movement and website - sadly derailed for now by COVID-19.
But in the meantime, should more profitable companies always be offsetting 100% of CO2 emissions generated by players as they play their games, as Space Ape majority shareholder Supercell is also doing? We think so. And if some industries take high-profile steps, then more industries will follow. Let’s do it.
The game discovery news round-up..
There’s plenty of other things going on - and if you’re not a GameDiscoverCo Plus subscriber (psst, why not?), there’s been no newsletter since last Wednesday! So let’s get to the meat of the new info here:
Metacritic has released its 2020 game publisher rankings by review score, and here’s the summary table, reprinted in part above. Not convinced that this style of ranking always makes sense. But it definitely illuminates a few things (Annapurna as critical darling, publishers like Sony and Sega being relatively picky and high quality with their releases), and am obviously happy to see No More Robots in the Top 10 too!
You might have seen Derek Lieu’s TikTok about not putting your logo(s) in front of your game trailer. In general… yes? Well, Derek’s latest newsletter (sign up for more!) goes into detail on some of the pushback, including “You can't build a brand without showing your logo… Logos on the end slate won't be seen since very few watch until the end… Logos at the beginning give people time to get situated.” Interesting.
Here’s a couple of notable online festivals open for game submissions: Guerrilla Collective, streaming in June around ‘E3 time’, is opening up to all devs & publishers this year; Digital Dragons’ indie game contest is also open until April 9th. Pretty sure the selected games for both of these get Steam ‘sale’ featuring, even for pre-release titles.
Talking of streaming showcases and online festivals - Microsoft’s [email protected] indie division had a big video showcase last week which also announced that 20 of the games were coming to Game Pass on Day 1. Given our comments that Game Pass negotiations seemed more accessible if you had a publisher, it’s good to see a number of self-published indies make it into Game Pass this way - keep it up!
Although it seems like Remote Play Together has solved this somewhat for Steam, it’s cool to see that EA’s very co-op centric It Takes Two has a whole separate PC/console ‘Friend’s Pass’ app, also for PlayStation and Xbox. Using it, you can “invite a friend to join the adventure in It Takes Two for free, even if they don’t own the game!” Co-op has got hot during the pandemic, and we don’t expect it to slow down, given playing WITH your friends, not AGAINST them is delightful.
Microlinks: an interview with the creator of the DekuDeals Switch discount website; the Game UI Database has expanded with a new HUD section and more; the Future Games Show: Spring Showcase was another - slightly lower-profile - streaming game showcase last week - lots of the highlight videos are here.
Finally, we really don’t think this is representative of how all Steam players feel. But we stumbled across this review of The Survivalists on Steam which shows a) some people have odd ‘$ per hour’ expectations for games, and b) some people don’t have good taste in Steam avatar names. At all. Food for thought, anyhow:
[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.]