Guide for an indie developer:How to get money from your Steam game
Why doesn’t Steam promote indie games?
You would think the ability to publish games on the internet to Steam should ensure equal rights and opportunities for all developers, but reality is different.
I won’t write “alas”, because I don’t think it’s inherently wrong. Now, I’ll try to explain, why it always was, is and will be that way, and what should young game development studios do.
In the last five years, there’s been roughly 8 000 games released on Steam per year. Every year the number of releases and the service’s user base continues to grow. Steam’s ultimate goal is to maximize income from one user on a platform, and for that, the following conditions must be met:
- The user should be happy with content provided by the service, that will keep them from switching to competitors. The longer they use the service, the more money they’ll bring to it.
- While fulfilling paragraph 1, it’s necessary to sell content to the player for the maximum price, because Steam gets a fixed fee from each sale.
- The service should work consistently and correctly, so that user wouldn’t leave for the reason of poor service quality.
Now, let’s assume that Steam recommends 3 games to the user. What should they be like to meet the requirements from the paragraphs above?
The games should:
- Have good quality – when buying through the service, the player will subconsciously evaluate the usefulness of Steam depending on impressions from the game.
- Have images, trailer and description that will make the player excited to play the game, and therefore, make them want to buy it.
- Bring the maximum income to a platform, due to the game’s high price that won’t scare the user’s interest off, or due to additional in-game purchases that will allow to get high income from an average player
What games do you think Steam will show to the user, having 500 new indie projects and 10 AAA games, each of which consumed more money and effort than those 500 indie games combined?
Let’s not forget about marketing. Audience activity in the community section on Steam indicates how big is the audience that’s aware of that product and waiting for its release. Instead of showing you brand new games that you’re unlikely to notice, they’ll be showing you something that you’ve heard about before. It makes sense and it works.
Which is why it’s totally normal for a young studio to have a lack of organic outreach on Steam. That way it’s good for the user and the game store itself.
What should indie studios do?
To fully analyze trends of successful games using GameSensor, carefully calculate budget for their game and understand that releasing games isn’t just about the development, but also about marketing.
If you want to just focus on development, you should start searching for a publisher that will be responsible for promoting the game.