The numbers have come back in and as I feared, small indie devs are being fucked over by Valve royally.
You see three years a ago I released a small game on Steam, so unlike many small devs I have numbers to compare. I can tell you now the numbers are in for Outer Frontier, I received 5 times less page impressions and the number of store visits was down compared to the first title.
Now we could argue all day about which seems more appealing, but when a store boasts 94 million users and a trillion daily impressions believe me when I say they are saying you'll sell loads with us. Why else show those numbers?
What's implied is no matter what you have for sale, we have loads of customers to buy it. Steam and in fact the wider reporting on the gaming market is always stating that the market is growing. So how could I or in fact any indie dev only get so few views?
The answer is simple, Valve is fucking over small indie dev companies.
You pay your fee and then Valve hides your game in the softest way, behind many pages of clicks, all the while pushing more "popular" titles.
You'll be placed in the "upcoming" category, well currently to get there you scroll down the main page, pass all big titles with a huge marketing budget, then near the bottom of the page is the "popular upcoming" - yeah we're not there yet.
When the tab opens you'll see a few titles ear marked by Steam to get extra promotion over everyone else, well hidden near the bottom, like a dirty little secret, is "upcoming releases".
Click that and once again more popular games are inserted at the top, scroll down and then you'll again be looking at the "popular upcoming releases" tab, you'll have to click on "all upcoming releases" and scroll down where once again hidden at the bottom is a link saying "see more upcoming releases".
This sad hidden page, with over 4k other developers who have all paid the same $100 fee that Rockstar has to pay (I don't actually know if they even pay to be honest), brushed away under 4 clicks is where the majority of indie developed games will sit.
But why would Valve do this? Maybe there is a quality problem, as in they only want to promote the best.
Well then that doesn't paint Valve in a very good light, why take money from people whose game you don't want associated with your "brand"? The cynical may think it's the money it generates. Even if Valve sees 10k games a year, that's only $1 million, bearing in mind they give that money back if you earn over a certain amount.
That amount of money would be vastly over shadowed by how much could be generated by actually promoting and selling all those games. So what gives?
Valve currently only promotes games that are already popular, games that have a huge marketing budget or have found popularity through social media. Think of it as a financial circle jerk, you have money so let's give you more money.
It appears all the small independently developed gaming studios serve just to bring in traffic for Steam. The constant mentioning of it as a Mecca for selling your game only strengthens their position.
I think they opened their doors as a tool to beat down other digital stores from opening up and competing. It might seem far fetched but consider it.
Think of the shit show that is the AAA space, now think about all the indie games that have come out over the past several years. If Stardew Valley, Binding of Isaac, Hollow Knight and the like, were only found on somewhere like GOG or Itch.io, then they would be the place to be.
As it is Steam vacuums up all those titles, hype, traffic and prominence as the number one store. I would like to remind readers that silicon valley tech giants have been noticed to conspire together to deplatform individuals, a lot of management from these types of companies moves about to competing companies - long story short, big business is very pally pally.
Steam has even publicly acknowledged it will take less money from the mega rich, the over $10 million bracket.
So in effect what we have is a pyramid scheme, Steam like Youtube is not a platform as they are not an open market. They promote certain products while restricting others, that removes their legal protection as a platform as they move into the publisher space.
Now this argument is more for their liability under the law and involves a debate that segways in to politics and artistic expression, which I don't have the time at the moment to go into.
What I do want to do is offer some action that you can take if you want to develop and sell your own game.
Firstly if you are looking to do the Steam thing then you will need to have a Youtube (you could have another social media but it has to grow either way) channel. Start talking about your game as often as you can. If the game is going to take four years - great. You have four years of videos to bring in interest, just keep the videos interesting and stay away from anything that could get you deplatformed.
Secondly you could try another platform, but this is only going to really work if a bunch of interesting games snub Steam.
Thirdly you could sell from your own site, either physical or digital download.
In all three cases you are going to need to drum up support via your own videos or by befriending a popular Youtube channel.
Besides how this post may sound I'm not jaded, I had fun and learned some new things making the videos and the game. It's probably why most people avoid uncomfortable truths as it makes them sound negative, I'm not negative but instead have presented the facts as I see them.
Once again I would like to thank the people who wishlisted and even bought my game, it restored my faith in humanity. Thanks.