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August 12, 2020
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Game Discoverabilityland: The Summer Of Games

by Simon Carless on 06/08/20 05:32:00 pm   Expert Blogs   Featured Blogs

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The following blog post, unless otherwise noted, was written by a member of Gamasutra’s community.
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[Hi, I’m Simon Carless, and you’re reading the Game Discoverability Now! newsletter, which you can subscribe to now, a regular look at how people find - and buy - your video games. Or don’t.]

Oh my God, we’re back again. Welcome to hell week 125426. As I noted in my other newsletter, I hope you’re directly donating to support Black communities and Black Lives Matter, as devs, or via the above-pictured Itch game bundle (I did both). And I hope you are thinking about ways to provide long-term systemic support, as well.

In the meantime, there’s a lot of things going on, so it is my solemn duty to tell you what those things are. Starting now…

The Steam Summer Festival Isn’t… Social Distancing

As visualized by ICO’s Thomas Bidaux, there’s going to be quite a few demos of upcoming games in the Steam Summer Game Festival - which got rescheduled to June 16th-22nd:

(Reminder, this Festival is for unreleased games only, and you need to have a demo for your game. It’s completely different to the Steam Summer Sale, which takes place on *redacted but a bit later in the summer*.)

A reply to Thomas’ Tweet notes that there may actually be more games than that. This is due to some titles using Steam genre categorizations that aren’t listed in the sale. You can see a bunch of the early info and a list of demos and Festival-related events here. (It’s a public page that is being shared on Twitter, so I presume it’s OK to link.)

So, two reactions here: firstly, Steam has done a really good job of self-service, given the large amount of featured games. You can get into an event calendar for the Festival by doing a livestream or developer chat, and also do ‘quick pitches’ to fans. It’ll be really fun to see so many people demo-ing live.

Secondly, looks like pretty much all demos submitted to Steam got accepted. Some were thinking, like LudoNarraCon, that there would be some kind of filter. (And there may still be some kind of preferred featuring - it’s not clear!)

Either way, success will be dictated by a) the amount of the Festival’s featuring from Steam and b) the amount that players want to sit down and look at your game pitches/streams. And we’ll be hearing from people about that soon enough… some winners, some ‘participants’, as is life.

Games: The Mac & Linux Question?

Regarding game platforms, I thought this Tweet from Thomas Altenburger (Scourgebringer & a number of other titles) was worth sharing with a wider audience:

I asked around (and also looked at stats I have access to, including No More Robots titles), and I broadly concur with the above data. The only exceptions seem to be Mac games that people feel confident will run on laptops, or appeal more to that demographic, e.g. Hypnospace Outlaw, haha. (Which has closer to 10% Mac sales.)

I’d add to Thomas’ comment the fact that Valve’s clever Proton tool makes many Windows game ‘just work’ on Linux. So that is going to further de-motivate native Linux conversions.

Historically, Mac & Linux tech support has been a stretch for many indie game studios - particularly Linux. I do feel a little nervous about ‘personal computer’ gaming being dominated by a single platform. But now there’s cloud gaming, console gaming, mobile gaming… not a lack of platforms, overall. So maaaybe it’s OK?

Lots more neat info…

Look, there’s other stuff, because there’s always other stuff. Telescoping said stuff down to a paragraph each, and disgorging in your direction:

  • Following my piece on Switch discoverability, Raw Fury’s Martin Lindell was kind enough to point out that the Switch’s News section does indeed have some themed editorial highlights (“strong female leads, games with pettable companions, cyberpunk games”, for example). It’s a separate system to the Store, but it links there for easy purchasing. Thanks for that, Nintendo!

  • Sony’s Shu Yoshida noted on Twitter that Sony has a ‘Monthly Picks’ feature (pictured above) on PlayStation 4, featuring some of the games Sony staffers have been enjoying the most each month. Good news, & another step towards a better blend of featuring on PS4/Xbox, which more naturally favor AAA or AAA-looking titles. (And sometimes have crowded front pages.)

  • I almost never talk about VR here. But yes, the all-in-one Oculus Quest has been better news for beleaguered VR game devs. For example, I Expect You To Die has now grossed $2 million on the platform and sold nearly 100,000 copies. But in general - VR content is expensive to produce (3D! complex!), & the installed base has been fragmented. So the top X% of devs are now getting to profit across 4+ platforms, but it’s still a major slog. Sorry.

  • As noted on Twitter, the #gamedevpaidme hashtag has been some much-needed transparency for how much devs get paid across regions, genders & ethnicities. Notable for us: salaries for West Coast U.S. folks* can be 2x or more UK & European ones, and 4x other localities (Eastern Europe, South America.) But the most skilled folks in those places produce (or could produce) just as good work, arguably. Interesting. [*Important standard of living note.]

  • The subscription-based EA Access service - already on PS4/Xbox - is coming soon to Steam, and Electronic Arts added a bunch more mid-tier games to Steam to celebrate - flooding New & Trending, awkwardly. It’s different from EA’s own Origin Access, though. I don’t see this as a capitulation so much as a ‘have your cake & eat it too’ type situation, with EA using parallel sales channels.

  • Two hashtags to pay attention to on Twitter if you want to see LOTS of games - many of them attractive: #PitchYaGame, which was getting some good traction the other week, and #LoveIndies, which has a fairly involved ruleset but a bunch of nice ideas. Thanks to those who set them up!

  • I imagine we’ll have enough data to work out ‘how’s your standalone Steam prologue working out?’ in a few weeks/months. But one anecdotal example I noted: multiplayer 2D fighter Fly Punch Boom! had its demo make New & Trending and get close to 300 reviews. But the full version only got 40 reviews in the 10 days since its release & didn’t, so the devs ended up hooking up crossplay between the demo & the game to try to juice things. Not concluding anything from that, just thought it interesting.

OK, I guess that’s it for now. Thanks for signing up, take care,

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