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Indie games, itch & Steam

A topic by Tobop Productions created Dec 08, 2018 Views: 524 Replies: 19
Viewing posts 1 to 7
(1 edit)

Recently I've been talking to the 'target demographic'. Pretty insightful so I thought I should share this info.  Some may know this already, it might seem like common sense to some but anyway.

Steam game collectors, will only buy from Steam. They consider itch to be low-par. Which is funny to me, because they seem to not really try itch... Anyway.

The time it takes to upload into Steam can take days, costs 100$ for Steam Direct (which his ok I guess because it goes to charity, probably tax deductible because its then technically a donation?) 
Itch is a bazillion times easier to use, and updating a game is easy. 

So my plan is to:
1. Release early access games / in development games, on itch 1st. 
2. Refine the game, ready for Steam.
3. Anyone who purchases on itch will also get the Steam Key when that's ready.
(game price will be more on Steam, so people who help support the game from the start will be saving money.) 

Is this a good plan? If 'game collectors' only use Steam then they're missing out, imo. Not that my games are 100% great at the moment. I guess I'm trying to make an excuse for myself. I uploaded a game on Steam ages ago, and it hasn't gone well - and that's ok because it was really a test. I should've researched the current state of Steam and what people's honest opinions of indie games are. Sure there'll be awesome indies on Steam, but from now on, I wont be putting any of my games on Steam until they're ready. 

(+1)

no this is not a good plan and it is a common myth. First of all, Steam is the one collecting the tax free when they donate not you. The views you get on steam and itch.io are the same, only marketing will decide your game fate. Lastly, Steam does not care anything about you, they will lie and cheat to get money, many indie dev felt that way and you might make the same mistake.

I see what you mean. Marketing is key, I agree with you there. 

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My personal opinion is that there's no point in releasing on Steam unless you realistically expect non-trivial sales. If you're releasing cold, with no serious marketing and little interest following you, then all you're doing is spending $100 for the privilege of drowning in a more prestigious sea. 

(+1)

I think you may want to try out your plan first to know whether it works. If it fails, you learn something.  Then Steam's new algorithm is making it worse for indies.

Btw, you will get back the 100 dollars once you reached $1000 in sales on Steam.

(+1)

some indie developers have not reach the $1000 and also Valve takes ??% (there is no real number of percentage). So you not getting the $100 back you just lost it.

Yeah but Steam is still currently the best place to get eyeballs and sales.

nope that is a myth, many developers do not get their games sold and sometimes they don't get people to see the game. This explains it: https://www.pcgamer.com/a-steam-bug-has-reportedly-halved-the-revenue-of-some-in...

https://www.gamasutra.com/view/news/332038/Devs_say_a_problem_with_the_Steam_alg...

"once"

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No, it's a horrible plan and if Steam learns of you purposely giving Steam users more poor deals and you're literally trying to screw their userbase, they'll decline your ability to give keys to Itch.Io


Besides you get the 100$ back when you sell 1000$ worth.

You say that like Steam actually pays attention to what developers do

(2 edits)

@TuomoL

Are you accusing me of trying to, basically scam people? 

@DStecks

I think the Steam admins like to give people from all walks of life, a chance. It's basically up to the community to either buy or not buy, right? The SteamWorkshop is one heck of a confusing place. If you try to do 1 thing, chances are you have to do 15 other things. Plus everyone needs a passport to even register as a partner.

No, I just said that Steam wouldn't like that business model and it relies on you being able to get the keys from Steam. Steam may deny your keys.

Why wouldn't Steam like the business model: 
A) Develop the game, early release on a different site.
B) Release the final version on Steam.

From what I can see so far, people on Steam want the final version. Yes, steam can deny keys - but they haven't so far. Out of interest sake, are you in the SteamWorkshop / released a game on Steam? 

its the same story i keep hearing, they make a early release here on itch.io and then they go to steam for final. You forgetting that most of itch.io customers hate steam and steam customers hate other platforms. You are clashing two things that makes everyone angry. You need to understand your customers as well as balance it because right now most of the customers won't go to steam while steam customers will not find you due to being so new.

They hate each other? Interesting, I was not aware that would be a problem because I'm new to both. So I just removed steam achievements and cloud save and made a DRM free version for itch.

I did heard of stories steam rejecting large amount key requests because said game barely sell on steam itself though. I have lurked on the forum for a while and seen topics like that.

Hate is such a strong word. We're talking about computer games. 
Yes, I need to understand my customers but they also probably should understand the processes involved. And I think the numbers of people who hate - are fairly low to the number of people who love games. And as other have said - it comes down to the advertising which helps with being seen. 

(+2)

This isn't a bad idea on its own, the bad idea is not investing money into marketing your game correctly. Otherwise your game will get grounded in the sea of garbage, even if your game is worth a play. Gotta pay the price if you want to serious.

Marketing is hellish. What would be the best option?

(+1)

Yeah, marketing in general sort of sucks, but it's unavoidable and if you've made a great, creative game and you poured yourself into it, for years on end... and then priced it reasonably, then you shouldn't have too much trouble marketing it. You'll find it's easy to promote your game just by default, because you actually genuinely believe it is a worthwhile game that people will like, maybe in some cases even love if they only knew it existed. But the biggest key takeaway in any case is your game must provide great value for buyers. The buyers who buy it will then be far, far more likely to support you as a result. They become your fans.

I'm convinced that indies can punch above their weight marketing their work, even if their budgets are small. The less important keys, after you've made a great game, are:

1) leveraging and growing existing social networks, online and offline, posting your release announcement on FB, Twitter, etc. I also really like Pinterest, as it's inherently visual - so it's a perfect place to post beautiful images of your game's artwork. 

2) Signatures in any forums/bulletin boards or online communities you frequent. Just a simple .JPG banner image of your game and its title, with a link tot he game's website or store page,  and then just have it there as your default for the bottom edge of your posts. Best if the posts are substantive and the community is a relevant group that might actually be interested in your game. If you have a website for your game, like, an actual one with a nice domain name, then you can make and post those banner signatures on a page there, plus desktop wallpapers, printable poster art, social 'follow us' links, etc. Maybe a few of your connections and followers, fans, what have you, will actually use them and this will go viral. Make it as easy as possible, for your stuff to go viral.

3) Advertising. I hate how expensive it can get but sometimes you can get amazing results by testing out variants of an ad and seeing what works and what doesn't on each platform - or in marketer speak, A/B testing) and then pouring the rest of the budget into whatever form is proving most efficient. I'm kind of thinking Google, FB and Twitter are popular but there is potential in smaller and less obvious ad networks if you know what you are doing.  I've had modest success promoting stuff on Quora and Bing, as well as Reddit. Key with the more cynical Reddit though is not to be overly sales-y. You should write simple casual ad copy that includes a pic that encapsulates your game, the name of the game, its most interesting features, etc. I used to get amazing mileage with a few banner ad networks including Project Wonderful, but PW is gone now, too bad. In general know what the terms mean. CPM is 'cost per thousand views' and usually it is about $0.10-$1, more precisely targeted ad networks frequently can cost more in CPM but deliver higher CTR or 'click through rate' - the percentage of people who see the ad and click on it. Typically this is around 1% at best, as people tend to ignore ads, but a great ad can sometimes be fine tuned to 2% or more. Finally, CPC is 'cost per click', meaning the amount spent for each person who actually clicks the ad. But the key at that point is to find the RIGHT audience so they're more likely to respond to the ad no only by clicking but actually *buying* your game, at which point hopefully, if you optimize it all well enough, you wind up with a few ad setups that have a great ROI, or 'return on investment' such that every dollar spent results in multiple dollars worth of sales. I have NEVER had a product with a substantially positive ROI from any of these networks but hopefully with more and better product lines, over time, that will change. Marketing... while the options vary, in general the ad itself and the subset of the audience it displays to, are usually more crucial than the network used.

4) Multiple games, multiple product lines. The more stuff you've got that is actually decent, the more the probability of a visitor finding something they like and actually want to buy. Also make sure your game pages include links to the bigger store and that each game or product includes a little .PDF readme or something, that gives any help needed for players, with controls or whatever, and also identifies the creator of the game and links back to the official site and storefronts. 

5) Finally, incentivize retention from past customers and try to keep them in the loop post launch. Email lists or social network follows are great; if  people like your first game they are the best chance for immediate sales of your next one. It's not enough to grab sales, try to build a following and while you should not constantly spam people, you SHOULD respond to comments and questions from players and you should post when there's real news relating to what you are doing next. I've seen so many successes fail to repeat because the audience drifted away. Don't be that game developer who was a one hit wonder, and then was ignored in every game after that. Do what you can to build on your momentum instead of allowing it to disperse and dissolve.

Incidentally, here's a small .GIF related to my upcoming game:


http://www.miniaturemultiverse.com

https://matthornb.itch.io <- I also have some stock media collections that are similarly very extensive and like my game have been built up over multiple years of work before any of it wound up on Itch.

I've put well over $1k into MINIATURE MULTIVERSE, and I do realize it's an oddball project - a first-person panoramic interface graphic adventure game with O scale miniature graphics.

It will be launching this summer hopefully... barring surprise delays. Over ten imaginative and varied worlds in handcrafted miniature, 25 major 'areas' and 200+ panoramic nodes. It'll be on Itch.IO and Steam at a standard price of $1.50 and the two versions will launch at roughly the same time. (I intend to submit the Steam version first, then post on Itch shortly after that.)

Think of it as a 'Myst-like' art/narrative game (made in Unity), but with the charm of miniature graphics and far less obtuse puzzle design than the old-school adventure titles, so that I think won't alienate most players.  Lots of challenges in designing this but I'm excited to finally see it through.