The difficulty of reaching players when you didn’t release a “hit”
Last week, a DLC for March of the Living was released: The Three of Us. You can check it here: http://store.steampowered.com/app/502560/
I also invite you to check this post from the person who wrote this DLC, Brian “Psychochild” Green: http://psychochild.org/?p=1421
While March of the Living (MotL) did well, it doesn’t qualify as a “hit”. This means that the new DLC mostly went unnoticed. To know what I mean by “hit” and “moderate success”…
SteamSpy isn’t 100% accurate but it’s good enough to show what I mean when I say “hit”.
Yes, the press was contacted and Steam keys were sent to everyone who covered (and those who didn’t covered) the original release of the game. Same thing for YouTubers and in this case one person did start a series of videos about the DLC: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cG8zfRUznC8
Yes, the usual press release was sent, Twitter, etc. All of this still didn’t create any noise because it’s a DLC release for a moderate success.
No way to reach owners of the game on Steam
This is the biggest problem I’m facing. There’s potentially around 10,000 persons that might be interested to check the DLC but there are little ways to make them aware such DLC was released. There is an announcement section on the game’s page where I announced the release of the DLC but if you’re like me, you rarely check the announcements section of a game you played a few months ago, specially a single-player game or a game that is not an early access title.
When you apply a Steam discount on your game, people having the game on their wishlist are notified by email of the discount. This makes sense as you can’t expect everyone to check their wishlist every single week. There is no such email though when a DLC is released. You can’t even opt-in to receive such notification.
While it doesn’t mean that everyone would buy the DLC, there is still a big wall between devs and players when trying to communicate new content.
Your own fault for not selling directly and building a newsletter
This is the obvious answer to my complaint but it’s not that easy to do in reality. In fact, if you’re dealing with a publisher like I have, the publisher will surely insist you release on Steam and do everything you can to maximize sales there on the first few days as it can play a role later during seasonal sales (MotL was featured on the front page during the Summer sale probably because it hanged a while in the top sellers list during its release so it means additional revenue).
Sure, if you have a hit or a hugely expected game then it’s easier to get more traffic directly on your website, Twitter account, Facebook page, etc. When you have released a game that did just “okay” on Steam though it means you can’t expect much buzz on your on website. This is how it works now even for devs who were doing fine before Steam allowed everyone to submit their games on this store. For 99% of devs, Steam is the main source of revenue because this is what players care about now (and I don’t blame them, it’s such an easy platform to use).
If I would have focused on direct sales first then I wouldn’t be writing this post today. I’d be working in an office wondering why I didn’t released on Steam first. So I can’t complain too much about Steam as this is how I managed to make a salary but it also means I gave them full power over my financial situation in the future. But then, without the massive reach of Steam to start with my financial situation wouldn’t be so hot as once again, I released a moderately successful game and not a hit.
Then just release a hit!
Well, what can I say. I really didn’t want to release a hit… Seriously though, we all hope to release a hit (it doesn’t even need to sell a million copies, 100,000 copies still would qualify) but we all do what we can with what we have and this is the game I was able to release on April 2016. I had the idea, was able to get funds for it and had the knowledge to complete it in 6 months (the deadline I was given).
Still, even if you didn’t released a hit there could be ways to make Steam owners that new content was released. As a one-man team I don’t need to sell a million copies to make a living, a mere 10,000 can do just fine (out of 125 million+ Steam users it’s really not a lot but still good enough for a solo dev).
The point is that even a game that seems to perform badly in the eyes of the press can still do pretty well for a tiny team or a solo dev and it’s a bummer that there are not better ways to engage with players who bought your game. The forums, the announcements section, the email when a discount is applied are all good things but don’t do much good to reach players who bought your game months ago, enjoyed it and might be interested in a DLC.
I could probably just forget about Steam and build my own contacts list to have a more privilege relationship with players but then if I once again release a game that would do just “okay” on Steam (but would still make me a salary) it would probably mean it would do very badly without Steam.