99% of the time its not a happy ending. Steam is made up of a vicious and brutal market of consumers. Its worse when you release an indie early access title thats not finished and you need funding to finish your great game. Why is it important to make the front page of steam? Thats where steam makes all their money and so do you. How long you stay on the front page could range from one day to weeks. It depends on the fun factor of your game, how much time you spent bug testing, what kind of sales are going on at the time on steam, and how many titles got released that day.
You can have 10k+ followers on twitter, keys and prerelease videos on your video page, a successful kickstarter and still never make another sale after that game leaves the front page. Whats worse if it takes time to add more content to your game with the new sales you just made your community WILL start to find bugs. Now your development turns to fixing bugs to make the customers happy and drain your funds from the initial sales.
Now comes the worst part. The reviews and refunds. Consumers have a limited time after buying your game before they can refund it so you have an average of about .4 hours of playtime and a negative review (there goes your Positive review rating).
Within a very short time you’re no longer on the front page, no one is seeing your game, you’re down to mixed reviews and making yourself sick as a team fixing bugs, and watching the hard earned funds of your labor go down the drain.
So here is my advice having watched four indie titles in just four months, that I supported heavily, run into this same situation.
- Don’t unfollow the people that helped you promote your game on whatever media you marketed on (aka twitter) You might need them again. Having 20k followers and only following a half dozen people will not help you sell your game. You just burned all your bridges that got you to the 20k followers in the first place.
- Get your steam forums ready for the users in advance with moderators to help police the comments on the main thread. The last thing you want is a troll infested rant about how bad the game is. Create subforums and move those threads there. Don’t delete them as that only encourages people to post them again. I recommend, Bug reports, suggestions and feedback, and “Flood” which you can move all the negative posts. Keep the main page clean with questions about the game from real people looking to buy the game. Your fan base will even help answer their questions for you.
- Respond to the posts from the users. Its important that you keep your followers in the loop on how the development and fixes are going. Don’t go silent on your community.
- Ignore the negative reviews and complement the positive reviews. Nothing makes a consumer happier than to have a developer thank him for taking the time to review your game. Suggest to any negative comment on your forum that they refund the game and buy it at a later date. You don’t need them hanging around anyway.
- While your game is out use your twitter account and your followers to tweet out other titles of indie developers that are close to their goal to releasing their game. It shows you care about other developers and their hard work. You should know the hard work they’re going through better than anyone!
- Always stay positive on your posts on the forums. Don’t lead your customers to believe that the project was a mistake. They don’t realize how hard it is to track down a bug and honestly they just want to play the game you worked so hard on, and of course they’re always going to finish the content faster than you expected and be sitting around waiting for more. Use your social media to update, hype, and promote new features including the steam forums with teasers of things to come. I would actually have these ready in advance while your working on bugs you didn’t find with a small base of testers during development.
- Lastly release your game early in the week. Don’t wait for a weekend or during a steam sale. This is the worst time as everyone else is doing the same thing. Steam will be flooded with new games to play over the weekend.
I highly recommend you watch this video as it tells a story about what it means to be on the front page of steam. Its long but you’ll find it priceless in information.