Hire a publisher if you want to become visible on Steam

It happens to hear people saying the world is glutted with games, but I wouldn't recommend to take it at face value. Moreover, it sounds like sheer nonsense. There’ll be a persistent demand in really special games. The problem here is how to make people notice your game.

Approachability problems on Steam are so evident that smaller developers need to seek help among publishers. According to Steamspy (steamspy.com/year/), the number of releases is going up from 5048 in 2016 to 5539 in 2017 (up to now data). 

Number of game releases on Steam in 2015-2016

All 2016 5048
Dec 2016 560
Nov 2016 520
Oct 2016 532
Sep 2016 503
Aug 2016 486
Jul 2016 420
Jun 2016 370
May 2016 344
Apr 2016 422
Mar 2016 374
Feb 2016 273
Jan 2016 244
All 2015 2995

Number of game releases on Steam in 2017

All 2017 7234
Dec 2017 328
Nov 2017 758
Oct 2017 855
Sep 2017 873
Aug 2017 820
Jul 2017 673
Jun 2017 464
May 2017 506
Apr 2017 454
Mar 2017 547
Feb 2017 518
Jan 2017 438


In such conditions, developers have to look for effective approaches to survive on Steam, besides there's one more downside which can't be missed here.


Valve’s policy makes it hard to generate sales, mostly it concerns smaller developers who don’t have enough strength to promote something at all or long term. The big part of these developers is practically enforced to use free to play milking model. The outcomes might be different: loss of quality, the decrease of sustainability or a harder effort in post-release period. Such circumstances lead to the necessity of hiring a skillful publisher. 

Wise men learn by other men's mistakes

Let’s look at this situation from Joe Brammer’s point of view (Bulkhead Interactive). He shares his own experience and explains why he decided to hire Square Enix as a publisher for his WW2 multiplayer FPS Battalion 1944. 

Brammer conceived how reasonable it could have been to ask for help professionals after launching his first game Pneuma: The Breath of Life. During his work he was occasionally raising to challenges which the market on Steam was full of. Bearing that experience in mind, he asserts that even if you feel afraid of hiring publishers, they are of use considering massive changes on the video game market. 

After selling Pneuma the team gained enough money to continue the work on a new project The Turing Test.  But that time they reconsidered their previous experience of game launching and found out they missed something. Despite good sales on Xbox and PlayStation, Steam sales fell short of their expectations. 

So they decided they needed a publisher who would give them a powerful incentive to achieving their goal and would go with them afterwards. The only regret that Brammer shared with the public was about a wrong position they took that time when they first went to the publisher. They demanded assistance with the Steam version having said that they didn’t plan to collect revenue from the game.  Now he’d like to have asked the publisher to take Xbox One version too, as he left satisfied with the publisher’s approach.  

From today's vision, Brammer gives advice for start-ups not to undervalue themselves as his team did. If you don’t ask enough money for your work, you make people think that your game is of bad quality. 

What Steam is like?

Let’s take an in-depth look at how Steam works and how Valve is doing to improve it. Steam has already been conceded as a difficult market for new developers, mostly because of approachability problem that impedes the process of a successful launch on that particular gaming platform. Valve has reformed its submission policy, having implemented Steam Direct instead of Greenlight system, which gives them the possibility to charge $100 per one submission. As they said in their defense the new system isn't designed to lower the number of submissions, on the contrary, it facilitates the submission of originally genuine games.


According to recent calculations made by Steam in June, which aim was to assess the work of Direct, 213 games launched on Steam for a week had a spike, and the number reached 730 in a four-week period. There’ll always be the pros and cons as with any policy changes, but you should weigh thoroughly them regarding all alternative platforms for your future game launching. 

It’s believed that the issue of approachability isn’t the real ambition the Steam holder would like to fulfill. He appreciates the work of the App Store and would like to have millions of games come out with the good ones going to the top. 

Clash of views

While the community complains about approachability, Steam continues opening the floodgates, promising to solve this problem with the newly implemented system. What it may result in is supposed to be a big question even for Steam itself.

So as you may see having no universal rule how to succeed and be noticed on popular gaming platforms, you’d better start from assessing yourself or asking others to assess you long before your game is released. Put your game to doubt for a while and you may find out that it isn’t as perfect as you used to think. Be honest; throw it away if it’s a bit shit. You shouldn’t regret having wasted time as this experience will surely give you the ground for creating a better game. The current situation on the market makes you guess in advance. You just can’t release anything nowadays. 

Returning to the necessity of publishers, who are more frequently called now like smaller publishers, than indie ones, which of course doesn’t diminish their importance, let’s point out the characteristics developers expect proficient publishers to have.

From the words of Debbie [Bestwick] at Team 17, if you’d like to make a fair deal where both sides are satisfied, you'll obviously get a better deal out of it. And he adds that also this kind of business relationship is always a bit of push-pull, be aware that if you have to demand something they refuse to give, it isn't probably the right publisher.

Gather information, listen to different opinions, but if you find someone you’d like to work with, don’t hesitate, because only you are responsible for choosing the right publisher who you can trust your game as you do yourself. Reliability is vital. If you happen to find someone you may rely on, you should go forward with him.