I've been going through somewhat of a creative spurt as of recent. I finished Outer Frontier and got it on Steam, started giving another game I made called UMA away for free (check game page) and created a handful of product designs.
I recently added a bunch of animation type videos to my Youtube channel, which did semi good view wise for me, considering I've been somewhat shadow banned. I have a feeling I could get back in favour with the algorithm if I tried. Which is interesting because there are now videos I want to make and would like people to see them again.
I want to make serious educational type material, but I don't think that will fair to well with support from the viewer, as they want more of a silly/funny type of video from me. I think I'm working on a compromise which may lead to a better product for everyone.
We'll see how it goes as I'm looking to cultivate a new type of audience.
Speaking of cultivating pumpkins are out, the whole family. Squash, cucumber, gherkin, you name it. They have failed me for the last time. It would seem the weather is too much on the cold side for them, which is annoying as about two years ago it was hot enough to grow tomatoes outside.
It may seem like I have a lot on my plate but it works out best for me personally to be working on a few projects at a time. That way I can offset getting bored or burnt out on a single project.
I have the bigger video as mentioned, a new game and I'm slowly working on my first book. Now hopefully I can get the video done and up before Christmas, so people has something decent to watch over the winter holidays, but I can't promise as I am deep in the coding slog.
All in all I'm trying some new styles of designs and video graphics and along with that I'm going to have to change how I go about the videos. I'll have to muster up support by asking for help at some point in the video, most likely the end. By that I mean pointing out they can donate money or buy products with my designs on. I don't think I could bring myself to ask to "like, comment and share" as it makes me feel a bit cringe, but who knows maybe it's what you have to do.
And I think with that you are up to date, alright my little sunflower.
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.
Today I released the last of my mini dev log styled videos produced to advertise my game and indeed set Outer Frontier to "live".
Now the outcome sales wise is as expected, what I didn't consider was how piss poor Steam would be. It's early yet so I might need the numbers to check for sure, but it appears my new game has 10 times less page impressions from the Steam store.
An anomaly which makes no sense given that Valve constantly boast how it's store is growing. Unless you factor in that Steam is actively working against small indie type games.
Like I said we'll have to wait to see the numbers.
Over on my Youtube channel and the views for my videos promoting Outer Frontier were shockingly low. It appears support from that platform has gone the way of the Dodo, an observation from not just my own channel, but that of much more popular channels too.
A massive audience is a must if you are to overcome this viewer apathy. Which brings me to my next sad fact.
Most indie devs will make more money talking about development things like art, sound or programming, than they will actually making games. A lot of channels on game development don't actually have even a single "hit" title to their name. They make their money from Patreon, sponsors and shitty Google ads, which is why they probably don't mention how shit Steam is. They are making their living from people who have dreams of creating a game to make their fortune, when they know from experience it's not going to happen.
I don't blame them, like I said earlier you can't be negative in videos and you certainly can't go against the crowd - doesn't mean it isn't sad though.
On a brighter note I want to say thank you to all the viewers who wishlisted and bought my game. Most of whom will never read this little post and think I'm brash all the time like I am in the videos - but anyway thanks.
I made a little minimalist colony building sim in a month, with the plan to sell it on Steam. I did this for several reasons
1) High class whores aren’t cheap
2) Test if “gamers” actually want something different
3) Test the power of the distribution network (Youtube and Steam for customer acquisitions)
For this I intended on using my existing Youtube channel and four episodes of videos used to promote the launch of Outer Frontier.
A Little Background
I have dipped in and out of making Youtube videos over several years, using it as a creative outlet and producing a varied collection of videos there.
This is a very bad way of doing videos on Youtube. You see the Youtube algorithm is the SOLE entity that decides if you video will be seen by any real number of people. The audience is looking for consistency, be that the type of video and the quantity.
It’s by getting the audience to leave likes and comments that trigger the code to show your video to more people.
Never make different types of content, work feverishly and always side with the mob advise to prosper on Youtube.
I did non of that.
So I went into this little experiment with 32k subscribers who don’t get notified of my content and around 5 million existing channels views.
Why Make Indie Dev videos
Believe it or not, despite game development being a niche genre it can attract a fair amount of interest. And those videos who can make the topic more appealing to a wider audience can get some fantastic viewing figures.
This is why I decided to create four episodes of an entertaining dev log with a short video length to maximise audience engagement and retention.
The results used expect for this, providing your videos aren’t dogshit, would be around 200-400 for a brand new channel. With better produced but still niche channels getting between 2k-5k. Break out channels that can make the topic appeal to the general public can get in the algorithm and get 10’s of thousands if not in the 100’s of thousands of view range.
Well my channel has 32k subs remember, so I should get 3k views easy and when you see the type of view it is you’d understand it would grow much, much higher, right?
The first video I put up at the time of writing this has 66 views, 1 comment which was me sharing a link to the Steam page. It has a total of 8 rating with that consisting of 7 thumbs up and 1 homosexual.
Maybe my thumbnail was clickable enough, maybe the content wasn’t what a Youtube audience wants?
Without sound like I’m high on my own farts -this is complete bullshit, daddy knows how to make a thumbnail. As for the content it’s specifically targeted at the Youtube audience.
So what’s occurring?
There are several factors at play here.
First it is evident my channel has been put under some kind of restriction, as I mentioned earlier the numbers I should be getting compared to the actual number of views would suggest this. There are videos dealing with Youtube’s shady practises if you’d like to know more.
It seems to be a tactic to make the individual feel isolated, in the hope they will lose interest. If they ever lose their government protected status, then it would be interesting to see what they would face, seeing as they are a publisher and not just a platform. A title they have earned ever since they implemented a forced wall of content dictated by their algorithm and got rid of the free market.
Still the channels isn’t on the real naughty step where they unperson you - yet.
Secondly and more importantly is the wider implication for the platform as a whole and what it’s doing to the customer base.
You see Youtube’s strict control over who it promotes inevitably creates an us and them mentality with the viewers. Then pair that with content having to constantly push boundaries to stay afloat leads to a great apathy in the audience.
The videos get more outrageous and the video producer asks for likes constantly. The savvy viewer only wants to promote the content they like, so they don’t comment or rate as they used to do so often before. The crowd being lead by the crowd see a lack of engagement being the reason for them not o engage and the cycle continues.
A note has to be made about audiences themselves in that they are highly creatures of habit. Go to your favourite channel or a very popular channel and look at the views for the thing they are found for versus content for them or about them. You know the “channel update” or “I’m starting a Patreon” types of video.
Despite the following they have these will always perform poorly in comparison. This isn’t just because people are self or tight fisted, although that can play a big part for some people. It has to do with repetition.
They found you for one type of thing and they want to see that over and over and over again. For this reason it maybe be better to make a separate channel for each type of content you make, otherwise your own audience will punish you in results.
My own subscriber base assumed my dev logs would be serious, when they come for the comedy, zany pop culture type of stuff. They viewed them as just a “support me” type of video so ignored, when in fact they are an awesome piece of internet history that they have missed out on - the bunch of cunts.
Luckily I went into these videos like I do all my videos and that’s is do them for me.I launch the game in a few days so I’ll do an update on that too.
Getting anything noticed has always been an art form, like eating beans on toast and avoiding all the beans sliding off the toast and leaving you with a gloopy bean juice soaked slice of bread.
Let's say you make videos and upload them to a site like Youtube, you are putting your one video in a pool of already existing videos. Some of which are featured by the platform and will already rank higher than your contribution will.
Not deterred by this, you start working on another video and a week later you upload another piece of work. Now you have two videos to compete against the already existing titles - yah! But here's the kicker, you aren't just competing against several billion existing videos, but also the 70,000 videos that have been added since you last uploaded. Oh dear.
The same can be said for Steam. In 2019 it was reported that Steam had 30,000 games listed and you can probably safely say another 10,000 were added this year.
Now I have one game on Steam, so I have a 1 in 40,000 chance to be found by sheer luck. But things don't happen by luck, GTA V isn't popular by chance. It's popular because it's a good game AND they spent millions of pounds getting it discovered.
I'll tell you straight, I haven't got the skill to make a game like GTA, nor do I have the budget to get any game I do make noticed by anyone.
So I make the games I can manage and a drop a video on Youtube, in the sea of billions of other distractions, in the hope I'll get noticed.
Don't get me wrong I'd love to be loaded, but the thought that someone comes across my random eclectic channel. Then discovers a game I've made on Steam and buys it, is kind of special.
It's like a meteor falling to Earth and you get the tiny piece of rock that lands. Yeah there are lots of other rocks around your feet. But this one was a special find.