Another great and inspirational talk we attended to at Ludicious 2018 was a Steam Update held by Alden Kroll. For the record, yes – I’ve called “great” pretty much all talks of the event- can’t help it, they really were! In this one, the company’s product designer gave everyone a quick update on the market situation and offered a couple tips on how to emerge from masses.
Might be worth an article, huh?
Look around, talk to devs, not many will say a bad word about good guy Valve. Yes, there’ve been some controversies in the past about Direct and curators, I’m aware of that. As of now though, they really seem to be putting costumers at the top of their priority scale, which is what every company should do.
What Alden mentioned in a really proud way was that costumers are like bosses, and that they’re doing their best to satisfy them. That, to them, is more important than revenue. Something we hardly hear from a billions dollar company, that we might find difficult to digest. That’s why I wanted to know how they would’ve made it possible.
This was the next slide, to answer all my questions!
The response to the need of a more costumer-friendly platform consists, for Steam, in an improvement of the game suggestion algorithms, and in adding more and more detailed and correct games descriptions, which should help with the choice of the right game for the right audience. A thing that was mentioned a couple times during the talk, which Valve must be working hard to obtain.
Moving to the developer side of their business, Alden actually mentioned how the number of Steam users increases massively year after year. As of now, there are over 43 million daily players on the platform. The numbers are particularly impressive if we consider how they can reach a 18.5 million peak of concurrent users. The number of 100k dollar games has also increased in the past years, due to the bigger costumer base. There’s no doubt about the fact Steam is the most important selling place for a game, point taken.
The goal is to have more and more diverse games, available in many different languages: as the audience increases, so should the offer. Hint hint.
A thing any expert in marketing will tell you -and Alden could not help but emphasize- is to plan ahead. Decide beforehand what your marketing campaign will look like, how you are going to introduce the publication, who is the final costumer and how to reach them.
Steam offers so many useful marketing tools, such as a coming soon page. It should be opened once you have a trailer, as fast as possible. The trailer has to be properly structured, and focus on the content of your game, more than anything. Your company’s name should be the last thing to appear on the screen, whereas the juicy parts have to be put first. Make it appealing to the right audience, asking yourself what kind of vibe do you want to give to it and who you want to play your game. Hook them from the beginning, and they’ll be yours forever.
Decide a tone to maintain during all the communications, keep your fans updated through the development process. Steam recently added the devlog feature, so you won’t even have the need to rely on third parties for that. Another thing, he added, is to get your game in front of people who can give you honest feedback ASAP. Not your mom, not your grandma not the person who has a crush on you; your best friend? maybe. The sooner you recognize a project’s weakness, the easier it is to fix it.
On Users’ Demographics
It is a widely known fact that most of the people in the face of earth speak English. This statistics increases even more if we restrict it to gamers. Wether they are in UK, Australia or US, speaking it as natives, or in Europe where they acquired it as a second language, they most likely won’t need a translation to understand your game. Then why to spend unnecessary resources or amount of money to target a restricted audience, if there’s no need to?
Think about it: among Steam users, 32% is from North America, 28% from Western Europe, 21% from Asia. This means that by not translating your game in the most widely spread languages in the eastern part of the globe, you’re basically missing out a big slice of the cake. Investing in Chinese, Japanese or Korean translations could be a great way to get some attention.
Mobile or Computer?
Yes, mobile games can be put on Steam. However, Alden wanted to specify something about this particular topic.
- When adapting a mobile game to computer, make its resolution customizable: Ugh! It is so annoying to play a game with weird settings and pixelated graphics.
- Think about how to translate your touch screen input to mouse and keyboard: you should try to give the same kind of vibe converting swipes, taps and such into computer inputs.
- In-game ads are way less receptive on computer: create an effective and different business model for your game, when moving to pc.
On Early Access
During the talk, someone in the crowd raised a couple of doubts about the early access feature, and asked Alden if there was any plan to take it back and make it go away. As expected, that’s not going to happen anytime soon.
Actually, early access can be either helpful or really counterproductive for a project, depending mostly on what you are creating. There’s no need to use it, for example, for a story-driven game, or for single player puzzles. Better to wait till your game is fully completed before releasing it, if that’s your case. You could always gather feedback sending builds or demos around.
What early access can be useful for, though, is multiplayer. It gives plenty of space to test and settle expectations, still working on your game. It really can be a huge ally for you and your game!
And Here’s a Couple Scoops You Might Fancy!
One of the big plans for Steam is to work more and more on VR compatibility they already support the main systems such as Oculus, Vive and MicrosoftMR, and of course they will support future Steam VR headsets!
This sector is something you should certainly consider to invest in. Not many games are created yet, but sales -as Alden told us- increased of a whopping 160%, year over year.
In future, Valve’s plans for the platform include the creation of a Steam dev page, through which followers can be notified when you release your next game. Something that may be really helpful to gather an audience and avoid losing it overtime.
Another thing they are currently working on are Steam events, online events that will include the option to do live streams, play with the devs, start contests and to give and receive any major update. They also are working on tweaking the review system, making it more and more reliable, as well as adding some features, such as achievements and community fan arts to the Steam library.
All with the aim to connect players more, and find the games they really want.