How to conquer Steam

Whether you can already boast sufficient results in a mobile game development, your desire to go further and carve new niches is natural. 
Nothing motivates as strongly as a desire for profit. When you‘ve already succeeded in mobile game business, why not regard moving up the market? Here you may make up your mind to conquer Steam.

                                                   

Though, your motivation isn’t enough for participating in the rat race on such a severe PC game resource.  You should be confident that you have an apt project to be ported to a desktop version. And the last but not least important thing is the sale scheme. Steam offers paid content, while most mobile games you’ve created before are apparently free-to-play. As you see the schemes of generating revenue are absolutely different. If you don’t have an appropriate project, give up your idea. Otherwise, you’ll face unnecessary risk and big expenditure. Making a PC game from scratch isn’t a good idea. 
When you have the apt project and a burning ambition to achieve success in the market of desktop games, let’s see what you may encounter on your way. Steam is regarded by most developers as quite an aggressive ambiance. So you should know what Steam is like.

Steam

If we compare Steam with other systems of game distribution, it will become evident that you have missed the train. Unfortunately, Steam’s changed a lot. The resource isn’t so friendly like it was five years ago. Your game risks being unnoticed among the rapidly growing amount of games released on Steam.

Plenty of market participants are moving to other platforms such as GOG because of intense rivalry and rubbish games that have overloaded Steam over recent years. Despite this downside, Steam with its million audiences continues attracting developers. 

                                                  

                                                           The fresh data from Steamspy.com, November 2017

  • The total amount of games on Steam is rushing to 18 000 while Google Play and Apple Store have more than 1.5 million of games, for comparison. 
  • Active users for 2 weeks: 52,263,456 ± 208,309

The statistics show that Steam is still a competing platform for game launching.

Steam Direct

                                                    

A new system of distribution opposed to the former Steam Greenlight removes the necessity of networking with the audiences at the pre-release stage. It has its pros and cons. On the one hand, it makes easier to get into the market, on the other hand, you will have to attract fans through social networking services, otherwise, hardly anyone knows about its launch on Steam. 

All that you need for publishing your game on the platform is a pile of documents and $100.

What to start with?

The whole publication process might be divided into 3 parts, each part includes 4 steps. 
1.    Registration

                                     

Firstly, create your account on Steam, then move to Steamworks page, provide all necessary info about your company, insert all required data and pay product submission fee of $100. There are a lot of moments you’d better learn in advance to avoid double taxation.

2.    Publication

                                      

The publication includes work with the Steamworks interface. It enables you to develop and publish the games. It makes possible to interact with Steam clients and community, add and edit game achievements, etc. Steamworks is a part of project management system, which also includes API Steam. The article focuses mostly on administration features, so if necessary, search for integration aspects on relative resources.
When you’ve got an access to Game Admin, be prepared to use a lot of screenshots and pictures. Here you’ll need to use not only standard screenshots and photos but also special visual content: the screenshots of achievements play cards and so on.
This stuff creates a big potential for your game popularity among gamers. You may watch a video guide on every stage of your project publication on the official channel Steamworks Development. 
3.    Support

                                     

Steam is an excellent place to gain the strong fan base and build up a social network around your game.  The community is the key driver for games on Steam. The system chooses which games to recommend depending on how the community members interact with each other within these games. Use every possible method of interacting, including Steam Community Centre, which is very similar to Facebook. This option let people share their experiences, place video game screenshots and reviews. The community as a great tool to promote the game deserves additional discussion, so we’ll return to it a bit later. 

And remember to update your game. Even small fixes remain to gamers that you didn’t forget about them and continue supporting the project.

Steam’s responsibility and promotion technics

Steam uses a powerful promotional mechanism. Despite the fact that the resource’s becoming overload with games, and therefore, causes some trouble for smaller developers to be noticed, it is still helpful.

The main distinctive characteristic of Steam is personal recommendations. The major part of people, who pay for games, are active gamers. They socialize a lot, have advanced profiles, often buy new games and make reviews on them. Steam cherishes these users and provides them with the mechanism of personal recommendations and a customized startup page. Let’s see how beneficial this page might be.

Startup page 

The listing Featured and Recommended, which consists of 12 games, shows the games recommended for a particular gamer.

                                                    

It is based on:
•    The recommendations of curators the gamer is signed to
•    The recommendations of friends
•    The global sales
•    The games growing in popularity

Special offers

                                                    

This block comprises:
•    Weekend discounts (games on sale, free weekend’s play)
•    A day’s offer
•    Other discounts

Personal recommendations block for socially active gamers includes:

•    Recommendations from friends
•    A tag referring to a big list of recommendations, built on basis of users’ game experience

Recommendations of curators

It’s a fairly new option, which is being actively improved. Steam curators are physical or juridical bodies which help others find interesting games in Steam catalog by the use of service of recommendations. Steam watches your activities on the platform and chooses curators, whose recommendations are the best to satisfy all your requirements. 

Recently updated

All here is simple and analogical to Apple App Store and Google Play. You should update your game as frequently as possible to hold it in the current listing.

How games become noticed

When someone plays your game, his friends see this. The information is distributed by different means such as screenshots, the messages of achievements or the review of the game. Thus your game may achieve overnight success as it happened with ZUP series.

What marks out Steam?

Is it was already mentioned, Steam is a quite unique platform with interesting mechanisms of maintaining a developer-gamer relationship. Let’s talk about options you should obviously use.

Firstly, it’s an early access to the products, which are still developing. There’s a lot of criticism around this option as plenty of developers fail to fulfill promises and the game leaves stuck at this stage. But it’s a great possibility for honest developers and their audiences who strive to support them. One of good examples of work with the audience at early access is Amplitude Studio and their Endless Space series.

They allowed people to participate in the development process through Games2Gether service, particularly, users influenced the choice of features. This early access attracts people to the game and helps to build up the fanbase, which will support the game later on.

                                                    

Last but not least option that distinguishes Steam is the mechanism of search. Even if you don’t have a budget for promotion, you still have a chance for your game title to be promoted through personal recommendations for a gamer.

The list of recommendations is always on the startup page; moreover, Steam is used to reward those who look through the listing to the end.

The above-mentioned Community Centre is the option you should use to communicate with audiences. Create your blog, answer questions, respond to reviews, and upload patch notes. The community like when the developer respects their opinions. This work may create the reputation, which will help sell sequels or additional content to the currently promoted game. 

                                                   

You may also use the system of tags. Steam tags are distinct from ones in mobile stores as users themselves may add them.  The tags from users are added to the genre you chose during publishing. Tags also influence who the system recommends your game. It makes possible to obtain the audience even if the game is of a quite specific genre. 

Account registration tips

Being a mobile game developer you should be aware of some clues to step into Steam society and be supported. Steam users don’t like games ported from mobile platforms, Facebook, etc. At the time of Greenlight, the ported games were treated as an unnecessary flood on the game market. So games shouldn’t look like ports from mobile devices. Being a mobile developer, convince the public that you aren’t going to make cruft games.

                                                   
                                                                       An example of an honest approach to a mobile game port

If your name hasn’t become renown yet, it’s better not to overload your account with games, 5-10 is enough. You may surprise but a big amount of games will make users of Steam feel suspicious of their quality.

One more piece of advice – each game, even small one, should have its own project site. You may create a simple landing with links, but do so. 

Recommendations on how to fill the game page

Let’s talk about the outlook for your project page.

Your game logo, screenshots and a brief description are as usual on the top. It should be mentioned that promo screenshots, processed ones and different artworks are forbidden on Steam. You are allowed to use only real game screenshots.

                                                   

In the middle, you place a more detailed description of the game and other additional information. There're also links to game achievements. What differs Steam from mobile markets is that you can format the text and use pictures in it.  

                                                   

Steam’s rating system

What marks out Steam is that users can’t click 5 stars and leave as they can do on Apple App Store and Google Play. Steam introduces a more complicated system of comments, where the estimation isn’t based on an arithmetic average. 

The requirements for leaving a comment:
•    A text message is obligatory
•    You have to play at least 5 minutes to add a review
•    You assess a game leaving a positive or negative comment, there’s no gradation in rating. You either recommend it or not 
•    The final mark is defined by quite specific calculation.

                                    
                                                                                     The statistics from www.steamdb.info

Steam is a very aggressive ambiance. It might throw you overboard if you aren’t prepared. New comments are written under the influence of previous ones, which creates the effect of storage of similar comments. But despite this, positive or negative feedback may come unexpectedly, as the reaction to an event. Try not to irritate the audience and publish high-quality products. The public on Steam won’t forgive you the mistakes.

The assessment system has been recently reviewed a lot, so the calculation doesn’t regard promo codes now. It results in the impossibility to distribute the game for free to gain positive recommendations.

Pricing on Steam    

How to decide on the appropriate price? It’s an easy question to answer for those who have market analysts on board; otherwise, it needs special consideration.

First of all, take into account the regional factor, as Steam use the flexible system of regional prices. Russian gamers, for instance, are used to prices indexed in Russian rubles. Other countries of Commonwealth of Independent States don’t use indexing at all.

A special service Steamprices was created to search for prices, but Steam intensively fights against cheating such as purchases made not in the real region. Those who do so risk earning a ban. The pricing policy together with indexing is what you should think about in advance.

Learn to assess your product adequately. Avoid the underestimation of your work and resources the same as tagging an indie game the price of AAA product. When the gamers see the exorbitant price, they often start critiquing it. The negative reviews may affect considerably the future of the game on Steam.

                                                   

Comparing two lists of expensive and low-priced games you see how the price affects overall ratings of the games

                                                   

 It’s happened a lot of times that a game started losing high rating because of price rise. The company Paradox Interactive may serve as an example: after 10-30% rise in prices offended gamers lowered the ratings of their games. Even a new project called Tyranny suffered from this unexpected change in attitude. 

Such a method of influencing developers is assumed to be wrong as their work undoubtedly deserves being paid. So be cautious about defining prices when you plan to publish your game on Steam. 

If you want to know more about the pricing, check KapKan Games’s blog for the article 'Indie game developers keep balancing on market prices', where you’ll learn how to develop the pricing policy and become aware of psychological aspects of pricing. 

Localization 

If you can’t understand why the game rating is falling, check game’s localization. It may occur that your game has high rating among the English-spoken audience, while Chinese audience constantly leaves bad comments. Check Chinese localization then. 
When you make your game available for the whole world, remember about translations. The more attentive you are to the gamers, the better your reputation is.

Steam's sales campaigh

                                                   

Let’s imagine that you’ve just published your game on Steam, started building up the community and then … sales! The startup page becomes unrecognizable, making you do something. But what to do?

Steam sales campaign is similar to the siege. The community anxiously watches the prices till Steam pulls a trigger and a million of people spend a fortune at discounted games. The sales are devoted to particular celebrations such as New Year and Halloween. The biggest sales campaigns are summer and Christmas ones. There’re also plenty of other discounts, for instance, thematic, the discounts from publishers, etc. 

                                                   

Sales should be planned in advance, learn prices of your competitors and work out your own price policy. Use an excellent chance to attract gamers’ attention by organizing your own event or at least participating in global events held on Steam.

As you see Steam is quite a hard nut to crack, but being prepared, you’ll obviously do this. The article’s presented an overview of basic procedures, options and technics to help mobile developers and publishers form a holistic image of Steam as one of the most popular platforms for PC games publishing. 

Steamworks - the startup page of SteamWorks where publishers go through all necessary procedures to upload the games on Steam 
Steamworks - a big portal with all documentation on the integration of Steam services into a game 
Steamworks Development - the official channel on YouTube, offering a plenty of video-tutorials and examples of work on SteamWorks
Steamworks.NET - a framework for integration of Steamworks API into Unity
Steamworks Unreal - materials on how to integrate Steamworks API into Unreal Engine 4