Monday, July 18, 2016

Steam Greenlight - Lessons learned from Pond Wars

Two months ago I pulled a very cheeky move and put Pond Wars up on Steam Greenlight. As expected, the game didn't get anywhere. But it did give me some insight as to how the process works. So I thought I'd share that here.


Before talking about the process, its worth noting what I wanted to achieve. My goal with Pond Wars was to get a feel for how the Steam Greenlight system works. I also wanted to experiment with various methods of driving traffic to the steam page. And finally I wanted to see if just having a game up on steam could drive downloads of my game on other portals.

Beginnings - Organic traffic

I posted my game on April 26 (a Tuesday) at about 9 pm AEST. There was no special reason for this time, that was simply when I got all of my screen shots in. After one hour I had racked up a massive 25 views. 3 yes. 15 no. That proportion of yes to no stays pretty static throughout the initial portion of the campaign.

At twelve hours in my stats have climbed to 360 views, 44 yes, 193 no. The game is also 4% of the way to the top 100. There are a few positive comments, but they appear to be fairly generic. Seems that Steam Greenlight attracts a bunch of 'publishers' that are probably scams. Most of the genuine comments are negative, mostly saying the art needs improving. That doesn't come at a huge surprise, its pretty much in line with previous comments. Key take away - Steam gamers just don't appreciate Paint.

At twenty four hours I have 500 views, 50 yes, 255 no. The game is two thirds of the way down through the recent submissions page, meaning it will be in front of less gamers. Organic traffic from steam seems to be slowing at this point.

At thirty six hours the game is finally off the front page of recent submissions. So far its had 540 views. 53 yes, 292 no. Without the front page traffic has slowed dramatically. Interestingly enough there is no measurable flow through into my view count. Key take away - Steam Greenlight is not effective as advertising.

Traffic briefly picks up again going into the weekend. The peak is Sunday local time or Saturday in the US. On the face of it releasing a game on the weekend to maximise organic traffic while the game is on the front page sounds like a good idea. I'm not sure this would be totally effective, if there are a ton of other games also doing the same thing you might actually get less time on the front page. Key take away - You only get 36 hours on the front page, use it wisely.

By the May 9, only two weeks after launching the Steam Greenlight page, organic traffic from Steam has dropped down to nothing. In total I got 800 views from organic traffic, 67 yes, 434 no. Interestingly later viewers are more likely to vote no then yes, not sure if this is real or just an effect of my small sample size.

Social Media - Twitter and Facebook

For some context here my Twitter and Facebook following is pretty limited. I have 40 twitter followers, mostly other game developers. I have 250 friends on Facebook, mostly personal acquaintances. Sharing on both of these mediums netted me 40 new views, 3 new yes, and 6 new no. Its a small sample size, but it looks like my own friends and followers were more likely to vote yes.


In the last phase of my experiment I made the Steam video public on YouTube. My channel there has about 1000 subscribers. Somewhat surprisingly I got no additional votes, and very few additional views.

If I was to do it again...

I would definitely spend more time on the art. The art work is the only thing that got looked at or commented on. Along those lines I would beef the video up to, possibly even paying someone else to make it.

I'd spend a little more effort promoting to my own social network. But ultimately my friends and game dev colleagues are not a huge market for actually playing the games.

I hope this helps someone else. And feel free to share your experience getting a game promoted on Greenlight in the comments.

Oh, and if anyone wants to see the Greenlight page, you can find that here


Arc said...

Thank you for this post, its helpful.

Kiwasi said...

Glad to be of use! Just be aware GreenLight is closing down soon, so it won't be useful advice forever.

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