How Do You Sell Your Video Game If It's Not Doing Great On Steam?
What you're about to learn is going to break all the rules about selling video games. And this is going to be my most hated post. But if you're like me, and you want to innovate, and don't want to be ruled by a "gatekeeper", then this article is for you.
Not only are you going to get 7 reasons why to avoid selling your video game on Steam (or Kickstarter, or Humble Bundle, or anybody), you're also going to get a 3 step strategy on what to do to help you sell your video game.
You don't have to agree with everything I say here. But I promise you, you'll learn some insights about how to sell your video game and not put all your "eggs in one basket".
My goal here is, to help you market your video game so it sells itself, and so you can build a games company that supports your life.
Ready? Let's learn video game marketing insights that not a lot of game devs will know...
Good Reason #7: Finishing a Game and Selling It On Steam Doesn't Guarantee Sales Anymore
A few years ago, if you finished your game (this includes early-access), than that's all you had to do. Finishing a game WAS the achievement.
Fast forward to today, finishing your game is NOT enough. The days where all you had to do was put up anything on Steam, and you may get some sales are gone.
Because there's a video game developer boom. I bet you know a few people that are either in school for game development, or are making a game just like too.
This video game developer boom has made the market place so crowded. And to get any attention from gamers to play and buy your game is now getting harder and harder.
This is why I say finishing a game is not an achievement anymore -- it's only half the achievement. The other half of the achievement is what you'll be learning in this article and video.
Good Reason #6: The Future Is Scary, So It's Better To Cling To The Past... Right?
A big mistake a lot of game devs make is they look to the past and see what has worked. And so they follow that formula that has worked in the past for other game devs. But when they follow that formula, and it doesn't work for them, they get frustrated.
What's wrong with that? Isn't it smart to study how other video games are successful, and follow that? Isn't it smart to follow traditional video game selling methods?
My insight for you here is, that gamer behaviour has changed since that last few years. The video game industry and climate has also changed.
The game dev that doesn't understand these changes -- in how gamers buy games, and find games -- is not going to survive. If they don't adapt to the changing market, they're going to die.
But if you accept that what use to work doesn't work today, then you'll be willing to take some risks and try new methods of selling your video game. And sticking to Steam is sticking to the old way.
Good Reason #5: The Future Of Your Game Company Depends On ONE Single Day
There is a metric in the video game industry that is bullshit. And they use this metric from hollywood. And that metric is based on opening week ticket sales. And for video games, first day sales is the best indicator for how well your game will do in the future. In video games, they also look at the first week. But launch day sales is very important.
So, how does this directly impact you if your game is on Steam?
Well, sometimes Steam will give you a chance. When your game is launched, they may showcase your game on the front page. If your game sells a lot, you'll be showcased on the Popular New Releases tab.
But after a week, all that exposure is gone.
Steam, the gatekeeper, will move on, and put up the next new game. Your exposure is OVER. That's it. If you didn't do good that first day (or in a week week), then your game lost most of it's exposure it'll get.
But hold on... Steam is smart, and they want games to keep selling. So you do have another chance to get more exposure on the front page. And that's when Steam puts up their "Steam Sales".
But here's an insight that you may not know...
Good Reason #4: Gamers Are Conditioned NOT To Buy Your Game -- Yet
So, one way to get exposure from Steam was when your game launched, and you may be put on the front page. Or, if your game got a lot of sales within a week, you'll be put on the Popular New Releases tab.
But once your launch was over, your second best option to get on the front page again was to be part of the Steam Sale.
But here's why "sales" are NOT a benefit...
Years of Steam Sales have conditioned gamers to wait for a better price. Sure, a lot of gamers will buy a game full price, on launch day. But those are the games they are expecting. And most of those games are AAA games. Game publishers spent thousands or millions of dollars to promote the game before launch day.
So what's wrong with a gamer saving a few bucks, and buying your game? Isn't it anti-consumer to not give them a sale?
What most game devs don't realize is, that once they see a sale gets them some revenue, sales become like crack. They get addicted to sales. Their only marketing that they come up with to boost sales is to put on a sale.
Putting up games for sale is not marketing. It's a gimmick. And it feels good because it's low effort and you see some revenue in the short term.
That's the key insight I want you to learn...
Sales are short-term. And your teaching gamers NOT to buy your yet, and for them to wait for a sale.
If you want a successful games company that supports your life, that allows you to keep making games far into the future, you can't rely on short-term gains like sales.
There's a better marketing strategy for sustainable growth that sales can't give you. And I will be teaching you other marketing tips that don't rely on gimmicks, like sales, to help you sell games so you can have a sustainable games company.
Good Reason #3: Your Biggest Source for Gamers To Find You... ARE GONE
Steam (or Kickstarter and other websites like this) was the best way for a gamer to discover new games. That was the biggest benefit for a game dev: exposure.
But you know what they say about "exposure". You can die of exposure.
I'm being tongue-in-cheek there, but my point here is this...
Your biggest source for gamers to find your game, play it, and buy it, all depend on one or two big stores.
Let me say that again...
How a gamer finds you...
Plays your game...
And buys your game...
...all depends on one or two stores.
What if Steam changes something. Oh, like say you have to pay $5000 for each game you want to sell? On the day I'm writing this, Steam got rid of Steam Greenlight, and replacing is replacing it with something else.
Your video game company hangs in the balance of what Steam does. And they WILL change. Like I said before, the game dev that clings to the past is going to get a big shock when their environment changes, and they don't adapt.
And the environment is changing. Steam just got read of Greenlight. It was a big source for gamers to find new games. I'm sure Steam will replace it with something similar. But video game devs are now uncertain. They put all their eggs into one basket.
Good Reason #2: Your Biggest Source of Income Is Controlled By a Gatekeeper
I've talked about how on launch day your game may or may not get on the front page. Your game development company's future depends on that day.
I've told you about how your video game can get on the front page again, through Steam Sales. But then now you're teaching gamers to wait for gimmicks and sales. Sales condition gamers NOT to buy games, and teaches them to wait until the price gets cheaper. Worst of all, game devs get addicted to these sales, and not think of better ways to market and sell your game -- at full price.
And lastly, I've told you about how Steam can (and will) change how they do things -- and that will impact you hard.
All these things that Steam controls, are out of YOUR hands. And this directly impacts how much money your video game will make.
Most game devs are ok with that. They just want to focus on making a game, and then let Steam, Kickstarter or other websites control how and when their game sells.
But if you're like me, and you're truly independent, then you don't want to rely on a few gatekeepers who control how your game sells and when.
Every penny you make depends on a big giant looking over your shoulder. It's like you have a boss again, and you have to follow his or her rules. If you don't, you're fired... and no more income for you.
So, what do you do? How do you get rid of this gatekeeper? How do you control how gamers find you, play your game, and buy your game?
Let's keep going, and you'll learn all this soon...
Reason #1: You'll Sell More By Learning How To Market Your Video Game and Self-Publish
The video game industry has gone through a Golden Age. It's where a game dev made a game, put it up on Steam or Kickstarter or other websites. And those websites made money. And the game dev made money.
But the Video Game Golden Age is over. There are so many new games coming out, that it's overwhelming for the gamer.
Gamers are changing how they find their games, how they play their games, and how they buy their games.
What use to work, is NOT going to work in this new video game environment.
So what will work?
Remember how I told you that finishing your video game was half the achievement? Well, the other half is learning how to do the marketing yourself.
The successful game devs are not only talented game makers. They are also learning how to become successful video game marketers.
You have to. It's the only way to adapt to this new video game environment. The game devs that don't learn, that don't grow, will stick to the past, will die out.
3 Step Video Game Marketing Strategy: How To Make a Game That Sells Itself So You Can Build a Successful Games Company
So, what do you need to learn? What sort of marketing? You're in luck today, because in the next sections, you'll get a 3 Step Video Game Marketing Strategy to help you market your game so it sells itself, and so you can build a successful games company.
Step 1: Screw Traditional Marketing
Traditional marketing, the old way of doing things, is to go out and FIND your customers. You know, advertising, branding, PR, commercials, promotions. etc.
But with so many games coming out, with the video game environment so crowded, going out and trying to find customers is harder and harder. It's getting tougher to get heard because there are so many game devs doing the same thing you are -- trying to get a gamer's attention.
Also, you'll have to spend MORE money on traditional marketing to get heard because of all this competition. And it's the game dev that spends the most money on advertising that will win.
Now traditional marketing becomes an arms-race to see who can spend more on advertising. And you got to keep feeding the beast. If you stop, all your efforts into getting noticed will stop.
If you have thousands or millions of dollars to spend on branding, PR, commercials, great. If you don't, here's a better marketing strategy... and it's free!
Step 2: Don't Find Gamers... Get Them To Find YOU
Gamers love discovering a new genre, or a new game. Gamers are novelty seekers. It's a drug for them. And to get that high from novelty seeking, they will search the internet, far and wide. They'll go on reddit. They go on neogaf. They'll listen to video game podcasts. They'll watch youtubers.
This is the NEW way gamers find new games. Steam use to be their biggest source to discover new games. But with more and more content like Let's Plays, podcasts, and streaming, gamers have a new way to find games. And it's more exciting. Window shopping is less gratifying than listening to your favourite video game podcast talk about a new exciting game.
Step 3: Don't Outspend Your Competition... Out Content Your Competition
So, let's put those two first steps together: Step one is where you don't spend money on ads, PR, commercials. That is the old way of finding gamers. The new way of finding gamers is for them to find YOU. And in step 2: gamers are novelty seekers, and they will consume content to get that high of finding something new.
Now, this is where the brilliance of step 3 comes in...
What if YOU were part of that content? What if gamers listened to YOUR podcast, watched your youtube, or your streams?
But hold on....
I'm not talking about you becoming a youtuber or podcaster full time, playing OTHER people's games.
I'm talking about you creating content like youtube let's plays, podcast, streams about YOUR game.
What kind of content?
Talk about your game design philosophies. Talk about the history of how you become a developer. Talk about all the stuff you hate about the video game industry. Talk about what it's like being a indie game developer -- the trials, failures, success.
This is the content gamers love to consume. It's better than what's out there on TV and in the movies. And instead of relying on Steam, and hoping a gamer window shopping one day finds your game, buys it, plays it, and tells people, you are taking control.
By learning how to market your video game, you're are controlling how gamers find your game, buy your game, play your game, and talk about your game.
So? How do you do this exactly? Let me give you an exercise that you can do RIGHT NOW.
An Easy Exercise To Help You Market Your Video Game So It Sells Itself
- If you want to build a video game company that is successful and supports your life...
- If you want to take control over how gamers find and buy your game...
- If you don't want a "gatekeeper" determining if your game gets discovered or sold...
...then do this simple exercise to start your journey into mastering video game marketing...
Do this right now. I'm serious. You just learned a lot. And the best way to remember what you learned is to put it into action.
So, open a word doc, or get a pen and paper.
On the top, write these questions down:
What are the top 10 things you hate about the video game industry?
Tell me the history behind your video game? How did you get the idea? What influenced you?
What is the hardest part of being a indie video game dev?
What feeling do you want your gamer to have when they finish your game?
What failures did you have as a game dev, and how did you overcome them?
How long did it take you to learn how to make video games?
Answer the ones you can right now. The reason I want you to answer these is, I want you to see that you have A LOT to talk about regarding video games. I want you to see that you can create interesting content. And use these as your foundation in creating more content.
Get out as much content as you can, and gamers will find YOU. It's free. It's the best marketing you can do. And publishers, PR people, and online game stores will hate you because they'll lose money if you do this. It's not in their best interest if you take control over how gamers buy your game.
Things have changed. Following the rules doesn't work anymore. You have to innovate and find new ways for gamers to find you.