Welcome to another round-up of all the good things happening in the game discoverability space! And thanks to all the new subscribers who hopped on after the ‘wishlists to sales’ post. I’ll be doing another survey or two over the next few weeks/months, so please expect it.
We start out, although it’s early days, with the Steam Summer Festival…
Steam Summer Festival: Early Impressions
So, the Steam Game Festival Summer Edition just went live, and is running through June 22nd. There’s a pretty spectacular amount of demos available to play for unreleased Steam games (over 900), and around 190 of them are in the ‘Featured’ section at the top of the Festival page. A very select amount of games also got video interviewed by Valve, which is super neat. But this is… not a small showcase!
Right up top, I would like to note - I think Valve has done a great job of both building out new/DIY features and being egalitarian for this demo showcase, and are continuing to be the most adaptable & technology-driven game sales platform.
For example, Lars Doucet built tools for subcategories to allow Valve’s curators to better pick and categorize games in the Festival. And the self-scheduling of video showcases is a great way to do things.
Probably the best ‘hot take’ on the Festival so far I’ve seen was from Rose City Games’ Corey Warning (feel free to click through for the whole thread):
After talking to a bunch of other devs this morning, it’s time for some Steam Summer Festival hot takes!— Corey Warning (@coreywarning) June 17, 2020
1) There are way too many games involved. We’ve participated in so many digital events lately, and I can say without a doubt that strong curation has benefitted us the most. pic.twitter.com/nHa3vx6gST
From what I’ve seen so far, here’s the over/under:
THE GOOD: This is a whole bunch of pre-release exposure on Steam that devs have a lot of trouble getting otherwise. The winning-est set of games are getting 2,000+ wishlists a day, and lots of extra fans watching. And the featured games are literally ones that Valve thought were standouts - no publisher favoring, etc.
THE LESS GOOD: Perhaps expectations were confused (for devs) for how exclusive this would be. There’s a LOT of demos to try, and hundreds of them are high quality - this may be a bit overwhelming for players. Many games are (naturally) going to get a bit buried and end up with hundreds of demo downloads and new wishlists.
So we’ll leave a more detailed postmortem until after the whole thing. I would say - most of the perceived issues are literally the massive amount of great-looking games due out soon.
That particular supply/demand issue is very difficult for platforms to legislate for. (Besides excluding games from being on the platform entirely, which I think most of us have decided is ‘not a good thing’.)
Rise Of The Not-E3 Showcases?
So, we’ve had a chunk of the game showcases timed around E3, with a bunch more to come.
Notable in the past few days was the PC Gaming Show (full video archive), the Future Games Show (full video archive), the 3-day Guerrilla Collective (day 1 video, day 2 video, day 3 video, Steam highlights page), and The Escapist Indie Showcase (full video archive).
There’s still a number of publisher-specific streaming events coming soon, as well as some wider showcases like the largely Japanese-centric New Game+ Expo stream on June 23rd.
As for the reaction to the showcases so far - well, I saw a bunch of excited devs and publishers that their games were featured! And a showcase was a good platform to launch standalone trailers from, which you can then hype alongside wishlists on your own YouTube channel or embedded.
I’m not sure, again, that people were expecting quite so many showcases and games - also from a player perspective. Here’s a slightly grumpy thread on fan forum ResetERA which… well, I could take or leave some of the narrative in there, but I thought this comment was notable:
PC Gaming Show - 52 games shown in 75 minutes
Future game show - 35 games shown in 80 minutes
Guerrilla Collective day 1 - 44 games shown in 90 minutes
…then on the 14th:
Guerrilla Collective day 2 - 69 games shown in 120 minutes.”
I didn’t do the math on the other showcases, and there’s a few overlapping titles, but you can see this is a LOT of games. So, similarly to the Steam Summer Festival pushback, that was probably the main fan complaint. (“I love watching these games, but there’s just too much stuff, please pick less stuff for me!”)
On the flip side, the reach on a number of these showcases was surprisingly broad. The video streams were often simultaneously on YouTube, Twitch & elsewhere. Plus, with Guerrilla, the major game media sites (GameSpot, IGN, etc) also broadcast them direct to their audiences, there were related Steam showcases, etc, etc. So that’s great.
So, given the ‘too many games’ pushback, was there one place you wanted to be? As part of the PlayStation 5 reveal last week (full video archive), and as noted on Twitter:
Multiple indie titles did great metrics from the PS5 showcase— Benji-Sales (@BenjiSales) June 16, 2020
Kena: Bridge of Spirits - 1.6m
Stray - 1.5m
Little Devil Inside - 1m
That's 3 indie games doing over 1 million views each in 5 days on YouTube. It's important to give smaller titles visibility during "big" shows pic.twitter.com/m3V6JRxvSE
I’ve already gone pretty long on this newsletter. And there’s a lot more to fit in before we’re done. So let’s switch to paragraph-long links to get this sucker finished:
Now that PAX Australia and PAX West have shifted to online-only, there’s a new $15 ‘submit to the PAX Online Indie Showcase option’ for the 9-day (!) virtual event in September. Not everything accepted, but Steam featured if you do!
Did I mention that The First Tree dev David Wehle has started a YouTube channel and related pay-for-online-course GameDevUnlocked.com? It’s a little more for the novice YouTube-watcher who wants to make games from scratch for the first time. But the videos, like ‘3 tips for making great/catchy game artwork’, are thought-provoking for all, yay.
Two things from the Epic Games Store - firstly, it has a Top 20 selling games chart (now?) that I don’t recall having seen discussed much, and may be real-time-ish. Lots of big-publisher stuff, but also some AA games like Satisfactory and Soren Johnson’s Old World. I’ll monitor this! (Bonus: Matthew Ball has an Epic Games Store ‘explainer’ as part of a gigantic ‘why Epic is hot’ article written for the tech industry.)
Excellent game trailer maker Derek Lieu (he has a newsletter, folks) is now doing a series of ‘game trailer how-to’ videos. The first is about why turning off the HUD to make trailers is a good idea. Useful stuff - game trailers are vital and can get botched pretty easily.
Here’s some fun data from Kris at Toge Productions (Coffee Talk) about how many games Steam users tend to review as a percentage of their overall library, sampling from 10,000-ish Steam accounts. Spoiler: “The majority of users (73.8%) only review less than 10% of the games that they own.”
Here’s a very long GI.biz piece on how to price your game for Steam (and how to discount), with quotes from Valve, my buddy Mike Rose at No More Robots, Curve’s Simon Byron, and many more. (Myself and Mike both think you shouldn’t price your game any less than $20 USD before discounts - and you’ll see some of his justifications included.)
Continuing to help out devs, Steam added some new ‘how-to’ videos for things like how to set up franchise pages on Steam, and the different types of Steam key. This stuff is very handy, especially in a visual format.
Finally, I enjoyed this Gamasutra blog from Kevin Lin about his successful journey on Steam with Starcom: Nexus. It’s very data-driven and rational in its approach to possible success - there’s full Steam revenues in there. It’s also a notable example of a game that did decently in Early Access, but only really ‘broke out’ after its full launch.
Until next time, hope you appreciate the info, and thanks.