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My Experience with the 2020 Summer and Autumn Steam Game Festivals

This summer Steam introduced their games festivals, tri-annual events on Steam where users could try out demos for upcoming games. Anyone who’s a Steam publisher can enter them and the demos are featured on Steam. For indies, it’s a win-win.

However, with the second Steam Game Festival now coming to a close, it’s clear this isn’t the marketing goldmine we’ve all been looking for. Today I’m going to quickly go over my experiences with both game festivals and what I hope to see in the future.

Summer Game Festival

When it was first announced I quickly put together a demo for the Summer Steam Game Festival. There were several steps to it but overall not that hard, which was great. The first festival started on June 16th, 2020, and lasted until June 22nd- as soon as it started, my game Asterism was on the visual novel tab.

Asterism had a demo out before this but this version now included RPG battles. I didn’t do much for this festival. The GUI for the battles was placeholder so I didn’t email press. I had a small Q&A session in my Discord server, but that was it (aside from posting about it on Twitter & Instagram). I also didn’t do any other Steam events with it and didn’t try broadcasting.

However, as you can see, my game was part of the Featured section on the VN tab. It became pretty clear that this section was a rotating collection of all/most of the demos in this section.

Since I didn’t do much to promote this demo release and the game festival was new, I was pretty happy with the 150~ extra wishlists I got (as I was waiting to contact press and make a bigger splash with the finalized GUI).

It wasn’t too long after this that Steam announced that several more game festivals would happen and would be a regular occurrence.

Autumn Game Festival

The Autumn Game Festival happened from October 7th, 2020 to October 13th- it just wrapped up as I’m writing this. This time I entered my game Drops of Death, which is prominently both a murder mystery and a romance VN. I polished the demo a fair amount to make sure it was my best foot forward.

Problems

For starters, when the festival started, my game was no where to be found on it. Not in the Featured section, not in the Mystery section, not even in the longer list if I searched. Note: My game was opted in, and the game festival banner appeared over it on the Steam page. I let an hour or two go by to see if the problem would correct itself (we all know how fickle Steam servers can be) but when it didn’t I had to contact them. Several acquaintances complained about the same thing- their VNs were nowhere to be found. It took several hours but finally our VNs were added (not all at once). However by this point it was past 5PM CST, meaning I’d lost several hours on the launch…

I didn’t initially have any events for it planned but I quickly wrote up an Artists’ Statement (a festival exclusive event) and then set a time for a broadcast. Thank you Chris for the extremely helpful guide on Steam broadcasting! I played live for 2 hours until my internet had enough and then played a prerecording for 3 hours afterwards. My peak viewership was around 15 with a steady 7-8 for the duration. However, Steam only starting featuring my broadcast during the last 15 minutes I was live. When I started broadcasting there was only 1 other person broadcasting on the VN tab. When I was almost done with my live portion there were 3 other people broadcasting on the VN tab. I had made a festival-specific event, but yet Steam didn’t feature me until 2 hours in.

The last part is more of a curious thing- my game was and still is only visible in the Mystery section despite having several romance-related tags highly ranked on the backend. I don’t understand why Steam was trying so hard to suppress views on several VNs, as again I knew others with the same issues.

Doubles?

As you can see in my first screenshot, several games that were part of the Summer festival popped up again in the Autumn festival. In fact, the Summer page is still up. For some reason Steam allowed it this time around but have put a limit on future events. This doubling up is frustrating namely because those were the games on the Featured section in the Autumn festival, the same section that was selective this time around. During the Summer festival the Featured section had 6 pages; during the Autumn festival it only had 2. Meanwhile myself and several other devs couldn’t even get anywhere on the page without begging Steam.

Wishlists

To reiterate, for this game festival I:

  • Wrote an Artists’ Statement
  • Broadcasted for 5~ hours

But yet, despite this, I got the same amount of wishlists I did for the previous festival.

This is the lifetime wishlists for Drops of Death- as you can see, I got more wishlists by announcing the Steam page was up than from broadcasting during the festival. My peak day during the Autumn festival, where I streamed on Steam for 5~ hours, got less wishlists than launching the Steam page. In total I got 153 wishlists this time around.

What happened?

I can’t help but ask why. Why did the first festival run (seemingly) so smoothly but this one didn’t? Why did I and others have to message Steam just to get our games, which were opted in, on the page? I don’t have a good answer why this previous game festival felt rushed. I didn’t hear any complaints about the first one but I’ve heard countless this time around.

If you’re an indie dev considering entering a future Steam Game Festival, go for it. It’s easy to enter and unless your game doesn’t end up on the page for some reason you will get extra wishlists. However, I can’t say this is the goldmine for wishlists as it could have been.

I hope in the future Steam automates the system to some degree. My game and several others should have been automatically included in the proper sections due to tags. My events also should have been picked up and auto added to the events calendar (which they never were). Hopefully Steam will make some (good) changes to the festival system, as it has potential to be extremely helpful to indies.


Thanks for reading my quick thoughts on the previous 2 Steam Game Festivals- I hope they went better for you! If you want to read more of my ramblings on indie game marketing, you can check them out here.

Art

Free to Use Battle CGs

I was playing around with Clip Studio Paint recently and was able to make several battle CGs. I made more than I’ll ever use, so I’m releasing them here under CC-BY 4.0.

You can edit these, adjust them, and more, even for commercial projects, just credit mikomikisomi.com. Please do not use these for anything bigoted including things that have homophobia, hate speech, and the like.

Feel free to comment or @ me on Twitter with how you use these, I’d love to see!

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Articles

2020 Social Media Calendar for Indie Games

So a year or so ago I released my version of a social media calendar for indie game marketing. Now, I’ve spruced it up a bit.

What is a social media calendar?

A social media calendar is basically a cheat-sheet for marketers to look at to figure out what to post that day. Don’t think of it as something that’s set in stone- think of it as an idea. Feel free to take some ideas from this and form your own weekly social media calendar!

(Right click -> Open Image in New Tab to see it fullsized)

I listed 3 ideas for every day of the week. This doesn’t mean post 3 times a day, this is just an idea for what you can post each day! If you’d like more ideas for social media posts, check out my article on over 40 different post ideas for your indie game studio.

Here’s the text version of the calendar:

Monday

  • #MotivationMonday- post something motivational
  • Post a link to a devlog or editorial
  • Share a piece from the soundtrack

Tuesday

  • Post a poll- ask for feedback, something silly, etc.
  • Post a preview of something new to come
  • Share concept art

Wednesday

  • #WIPWednesday- post a WIP of whatever you’re working on
  • #IndieDevHour- 7PM UK time post something indie dev
  • Do a giveaway

Thursday

  • #ThrowbackThursday- post something old and compare it to how it looks now
  • Ask for feedback on a new asset / screenshot
  • Introduce a team member

Friday

  • #FanartFriday- RT fanart of your game
  • #FollowFriday- thank some of your followers and tag them
  • Link your trailer or new gameplay shots

Saturday

  • #ScreenshotSaturday- post a screenshot from your game
  • #CutieSaturday- post art of a cute girl from your game
  • Show a behind-the-scenes look

Sunday

  • Post a funny quote from the game
  • Say what inspired you to make your current game(s)
  • Write a devlog on the process for making part of the game

Feel free to share this article or the calendar itself around. If you liked this post, I’ve got plenty more marketing & game dev articles on this blog under the Articles tab.

Articles

Partnering with Similar Audiences

So a few months ago I ordered some stickers from Shutterfly. In case you’re unaware on who they are, they’re a typical photo print site where you can upload photos and get it printed on about anything.

Anyway, they were having a sale so I said sure and tried them out. The package was a flat cardboard envelope.

I opened up the package and there was my stickers in a sheet. They’re not too bad quality, but I wouldn’t recommend them unless they’re over 50% off (cheaper to get stickers elsewhere).

However, something else was included in my package…

A wine voucher with my stickers? It’s more likely that you think. At first I thought this was some weird cross-promotion, but the more I thought about it the more it made sense to me…

Think about your audience

Shutterfly was clearly incentivising its customers to buy more. At this stage in the marketing funnel I’m clearly a customer- I’ve bought something from them and have received my product. But why wine?

My best guess is because of their target audience- who likes ordering custom photo gifts and wine? That’s right, women in their 30-50s. And uh, the occasional 22 year old college grad, minus the wine part.

Shutterfly’s homepage.

In most of their example images, the models are women of varying ages; some of the photos show families, but most are of women.

While wine clearly isn’t a gendered product, Naked Wines is most likely expanding their awareness by partnering with a company that has a similar audience.

Partnering with others

The biggest takeaway I have for this is two things:

  1. Know your audience
  2. Don’t be afraid to work & partner with groups with similar audiences

While the Shutterfly example is more of a company getting adspace with another company’s audience, you can partner with other groups to cross promote. Sharing each others’ games, boosting them all, etc.

With games it’s safe to say that if a player likes RPGs, they’re not going to play one and then abandon the genre altogether- they’re going to look for more RPGs. Consider teaming up with creators for similar games!

The easiest way for us game devs to partner together is to share each others games- retweet posts or make new posts sharing each others games. Another way is to participate in bundles and collections with other devs. Although I’ve yet to try it, you could go more personalized with collaborative events.

To summarize:

  • RT / share posts
  • Participate in bundles / collections
  • Host collaborative events

At the very least, get out there and talk to others who are making games with a similar audience to yours!


I like to learn from example, so I thought this quick post would be an interesting read to at least somebody. Feel free to tell me what you think on Twitter or in my marketing channel on Discord!

Articles

Game Development Checklist

Often when developing games we find ourselves in a bubble of development. We trick ourselves into thinking things are set in stone when they aren’t. We start believing that we have to do things a certain way. Everyone does it eventually. So I created a series of questions to ask yourself while in different stages of development. Did I miss any important ones? Send them to me on Twitter or Discord!

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