Your first, last and best hope of getting a sale
Heathen isn't a marketing guru or anything like that but we have been around for a minute ... or decade or so worth of them. In that time we have learned a few things and more importantly made connections with people and groups that do know what the hell they are talking about 😂
Below we share some incites learned through experiences and teachings gathered from across our industry. This is simply a bit of guidance and we do strongly recommend you work with a marketing partner to devise and execute a proper marketing strategy for your game.
Steam is the largest distribution point of PC games, this makes it both critical to your success and a unique challenge due to the absolute deluge of new games released daily.
First lets understand the environment we are going into.
Steam has around 44,000 game developers that publish on it, before you panic and run for the hills understand that about 60% of those aren't really trying to compete. Steam has a vibrant community of student devs, hobbyist and passion projects. Another 35% give or take or about 15,000 developers fill out the typical first time indie or solo dev bracket with the last 5% or so being small but established studios and big players.
( figures are revenue per title for life of title )
- approximately 25k developers or 57% of developers < 1k revenue
- approximately 9k developers or 20% of developers 1k to 10k revenue
- approximately 6k developers or 13% of developers 10k to 100k revenue
- approximately 3k developers or 7% of developers 100k to 1m revenue
- approximately 1500 developers or 3% of developers > 1m revenue
This is useful for understanding what sorts of projects are on Steam, how many and what that distribution looks like.
These points are listed in no particular order, every part of the Store Page is an opportunity to engage your potential customer. You should put as much care into crafting a store page as you did into crafting your game.
Choosing a good title isn't as easy as it sounds and is usually harder for you the author of the project to do well than it is for the outside observer. Taking that on board work with your marketing partner ( if you have one, if you don't consider getting one. ) or at the very lest your dev or gamer community to help you zero in on a title that
- Is not easily confused among other games
- speaks to the identity of your game e.g. the memory of it reminds the player of your game
- is simple enough to remember and compelling enough to entice
This is the first and often only thing the player "reads" before deciding to buy or pass up your game. It has a 250 character limit so "concise" is critical. Again get feedback from outside the development team as to what works best here. In particular this is the sort of thing a professional marketing team will accel at ... so use that marketing partner.
Key things to remember
- Its a Hook, a short, catchy, call to action that inspires to player to paly your game
- Concise, this needs to be short and to the point. Its only 250 char long and most players will decided to pass up your game based on the artwork and the first few words in this description alone.
- Call to action / inspire, its a game ... you got to make them want to play
This topic will get its own full write up and really depends entirely on the methods of monetization you plan on using. Market research is a key component to choosing the proper monetization model and price points. Do your market research and strongly consider engaging a professional partner to help you get it right.
For an "In a Nut Shell" take
The model Heathen prefers is to offer the base game free to players and to monetize with add-on aka DLC content.
We like this for our own games as it keeps the barrier to entry at zero and we can easily control what the max possible spend is to play our game so we avoid accidental predatory monetization. DLC-Hell is a thing however Steam has a concept of dynamic bundles that can be used to insure that no player ever need spend more than X to "catch up" or fully buy into the game at any point in time. Heathen chooses to keep X at a reasonable full buy in price akin to a traditional full price game.
The traditional model, here you have a sticker price and that is that.
This is the simplest to get right since you only have 1 value to figure out.
Mixing Pay to Play with additional models such as DLC, MTX, etc. can work but is the most difficult to balance well.
- Only about 30% of games that made €5,000 or more had a price below $10.00
- 48% of performant games have a price between $10 and $20
- Average price of all performant games is $18.00
- Its easy to lower your price from a high point Virtually impossible to raise it from a low point
You will be blown away by how important the proper set of tags are to getting your game discovered. Selecting a marketing partner with experience working with Steam is very important fortunately, basically every PC game goes to Steam so basically every professional marketing studio/firm will have some level of experience here.
If tagged correctly, with solid art work and description your game will be categorized by Steam. Meaning when a user goes and searches a genre or tag your game will show up on that landing page and its lists.
Follows are some quick tips to help you get started.
- Avoid the over used and meaningless tags such as "Indie" ... this means nothing to the gamer, is basically never searched except for by fellow indies doing market research 🤪and even when people search it, its so flooded that your unlikely to be found in the noise.
- Organize your tags in order of Steam appearance
- Monitor user assigned tags, they are good indicators of what your audience sees in your game
- See what tags other games like yours (that are being categorized by Steam) are using and in what order
- Obviously choose tags that describe your game, its themes, etc.
Your capsule images as Steam calls them are the first things a player will see. These images need to be well branded, clearly readable, contrast well as to stand out in the noise and of course "paint a picture" of your game that entices the player to read your short description.
Don't forget to update your capsule artwork and take advantage of seasonal overlays as this helps highlight to the player ... and Steam store that your product is active. This set of images is more than important enough to weren't extra time and budget to get right. An armature looking capsule image may draw in a few but will put most off and will defiantly get lost in the noise of the Steam store.
At minimal you should strive for at least 2 videos and 4 high resolution gameplay screenshots. Players that bother to view these are already interested in your game (usually) so these are not "hook" materials these are "set pieces" to set that hook. Your images and videos need to be honest and clear about what the player is getting without spoiling the fun of course.
Three types, we recommend at minimal a Trailer and a Gameplay ... remember this is not materials to hook in browsing players as much as it is materials to set the hook.
- Teaser Length - Few seconds, less than 1 min This is a usually very short video designed to hook the viewers attention and encourage them to learn more. Not terribly useful on your Steam Store page as by the time they get to your videos they have already been hooked. This all the same can be very useful for external marketing efforts.
- Trailer Length - Minute or two This can be thought of a bit like a video version of your "Short Description" it should inspire the player to go play the game yet be short and concise and focus on grabbing the player.
- Gameplay Length ... variable Their are different approaches to gameplay trailers, from long in depth dives or slices of the game to snappy quick cutting sizzle reals of gameplay. What works best for your project is something a marketing partner could help you figure out or even a bit of peer review.
The game description or the body of the Steam store page is likely the last thing your customer will see before committing to buy your play your game so you might think it needs the least amount of attention.
You would be very wrong,
The main description of your game is where classic SEO style optimization comes into play and this goes for Steam store search as well. This is the only long form section of your store page so you have some more freedom in what you can do here.
Step one should always be to check out your peers, what do other store pages look like, what do you like, what do games like yours do, etc. When constructing your own description treat it with the same attention to deliberate design that we hope you put into your game.
- Create an outline early and work with your marketing team construct a design that has the same deliberate attention to detail that your quality game design has
- Make natural use of your game's keywords throughout
- Negative space is your friend
- Use gifs ... they are eye catching ... but keep them short, clean and light wight as Steam already loads like a lame dog most of the time
- Call-to-action, if you have a marketing partner your probably hearing this a nauseating amount of the time but its true. Give your players a call to action in your description, this is after all your last line of marketing before they buy or move on.
- Mention your wider community, Steam Community Hub, Discord, whatever it is you have and actively use, encourage the reader to join. Many gamers window shop quite a bit before they buy so engaging them and keeping them engaged is a common and effective strategy.