The good and bad of the new recently updated section on Steam
For some reason I didn’t noticed the big change to the “recently updated” section on Steam with the latest discovery update. It fixed a problem while taking away from devs an interesting tool to increase exposure of games.
Better communication with players
When the DLC The Three of Us for March of the Living was released I faced a really big issue. How do I make sure that current owners of the game know a DLC for the game was released? Sure I posted an announcement on the game’s page and then used a visibility round to hope to reach as many people as possible but there was no guarantee current owners would see this announcement.
Before the latest discovery update, when you released a game on Steam you were getting 1,000,000 impressions of your banner on the front page of Steam (and maybe other places). Beside this initial visibility, you get 5 additional visibility rounds of 500,000 impressions each and can earn more apparently if the game did well somehow (the requirement isn’t clear but March of the Living earned 1 additional visibility round). Using such visibility round would display your game on the front page of Steam for everyone to see, even people who didn’t own the game.
It was a problem as of course a DLC only makes sense if you already own the game. Communicating efficiently with current owners was simply impossible.
The latest discovery update fixed this as now only people already owning the game or having it on their wishlist will see your updates when you use a visibility round. It means that if you just released a DLC that you probably have better chances to make more sales as you’re speaking directly to people already interested in your game.
It’s also a powerful tool for games in Early Access to let people know that a major update just happened as it’s possible people bought your game early then stopped playing for some reason so that way you can bring them back to your game again (and maybe have reviews changed if your game is now better for example).
No exposure at all to anyone else
This week, I announced the bundle for March of the Living (it includes the game, the DLC and the soundtrack) so I naturally used a visibility round to give this update some exposure. I was hoping this visibility round could increase wishlist stats in time for possible future sales but then I completely forgot that it wasn’t working that way anymore.
I was checking the number of clicks this visibility round was generating and was thrilled to see it was performing a lot better than previous visibility rounds. The problem though is that I forgot I wasn’t exposing the game to new possible buyers. If you already have the game and maybe the DLC, then this visibility round really does nothing to improve sales. If you have the game on your wishlist then you know there’s a bundle you can buy instead of just the game alone but you’re probably waiting for a discount anyway.
And if you don’t know March of the Living exists? Well you won’t learn about it from this visibility round… (unless the news would be propagated but it’s not the case so far as it’s hard to get people excited for a bundle of a game that did just “okay”)
The result of this visibility round is that I don’t see any increased sales or wishlist addition which was the case before the latest discovery update. At the very least I guess that some people who didn’t know a DLC was released for the game now knows about it because we announced a bundle but the bundle itself isn’t interesting to them.
Fixing a problem by creating a new one
It’s great that we can now better communicate to players already interested in our games but it happened at the cost of not being able to reach anyone else. In my mind, both system could have existed side by side.
First, having to use expendable visibility rounds to communicate updates about a game isn’t optimal. You can only update your game 5 times before running out of visibility rounds and then you lose all means to efficiently communicate with your players base (unless they keep visiting on a regular basis the game’s page to check themselves if the game was updated which isn’t great). Imagine a game in Early Access for a year and then releasing a few DLCs. These visibility rounds will quickly disappear.
These update announcements could be following the same rule as when you apply a discount to your game. You can only do so once every 8 weeks but you can do this an unlimited number of times. This would prevent spamming people with announcements. It could even be time limited (1 week for example) instead of assuring you of 500,000 impressions. For March of the Living, these 500,000 impressions are like showing the same announcement 10 times to current owners and people with the game in their wishlist which isn’t really useful.
Secondly, visibility rounds could have stayed what they were before, meaning allowing to expose your game to people who might not know it exists. With the new setup of the home page I don’t know where it could fit but such system could still run in parallel with one that allows you to communicate to current players.
Maybe Valve is counting that the other changes part of the latest discovery update will be enough to keep exposing games to new potential players but there wasn’t really a need to remove a useful discovery tool so we can communicate better with current owners. Better communication was needed for sure but it’s a bit sad something else had to be removed to get it.