Steam watch – 2018

an overview of the Steam offer & competition in 2018

Once upon a time, getting your game on Steam was very difficult but it was almost synonymous to becoming financially successful.

In July 2012, Valve launched Steam Greenlight, a service that allowed developers to submit information about their games, and players would vote whether these games should be published on Steam or not. In June 2017 – 5 years later – Valve replaced Greenlight with Steam Direct, a gateless process that allowed almost everyone to pay a fee of 100 dollars and publish a game on Steam.

The democratization of publishing games on Steam led, of course, to abundance – more and more games now became accessible. Today, Steam features a catalogue of approximately 20,000 games, and since the launch of Steam Direct, this catalogue gets an additional 150-200 new games every single week. This means that every new game now competes with every other game on Steam, so theoretically your competition is 20,000 other titles – some of which, wildly successful, like PLAYERUNKNOWN’S BATTLEGROUNDS, Counter Strike or Stardew Valley. And you compete with all these games for visibility in the various corners of  the Steam Store page.

The good news is, the rise of available games on Steam led to an impressive rise in players. In 2018, Valve reported 125 million registered users worldwide, out of which 90 millions are playing monthly and 47 million of those play every day. Every month, some 1.5 million people create new accounts on Steam, and Valve reported that 27 million people bought something on Steam as soon as they registered an account.

So publishing a game on Steam means getting access to million of potential fans. But how do you make all these people interested in your game more than in any other of the 20,000 games already available on Steam? The biggest issue now is visibility.

And here is some more data, via SteamSpy:

  • In 2017, the top 100 games, the most popular games on Steam, accounted for 50% of the revenue. That’s 0.5% of all games of steam, who took 50% of the revenue
  • The impressive rise in players numbers is also correlated with the availability of Steam in more and more regions of the world, with millions of players joining for example from China. But compared to another huge market with is America, Chinese players own less games and spend up to 6 times less money on Steam
  • Another interesting data is that over 60% of Steam players use the platform in another language than English. Valve added extensive support for localization in Store page, in the Community hub  and advertising it in games, and has been very upfront about the fact that they favor products that are localized. This means you’ll get a much higher chance to get your game listed in front of players if you offer localized versions or at the very least, localized store pages
  • When it comes to indie games , the median price in general reported on Steam was 3.99 dollars and for games released in 2017, the price was even lower, at 2.99. The median owners of an indie game in general was 5000 – that’s 5000 copies sold, including discounts, promotions and bundles – and in 2017, that number sits even lower, at 1500 owners for an indie game released in 2017.  Do not count on these numbers as they are median – so there are 50% chances a game will perform worse

To publish your game on Steam, you pay 100 dollars and 30% of your revenues – on reaching 5 million dollars in sales, this revshare changes. When you exceed 1000 dollars in sales, Steam will refund the submission fee, but you still pay 30% of every single copy sold, and those 30% are taken off any sale, regardless of discounts, promotions or bundles.

To offer some perspective, if you sell your game for 10 dollars, you will pay Valve 3.33 dollars for the service and remain with 6,66 dollars in hand, for which you have to pay normal business taxes. Furthermore, a 10 dollars game’s equivalent is not 10 dollars around the world. The most valuable service that Valve offers from my perspective is the pricing tool, which performs automatic conversions in 40 other currencies. This is not a 1:1 conversion and takes into account market conditions. So a 10 dollar game in US can have a default recommended cost of maybe 20 Turkish lira, which means close to 2 dollars in real conversion. You can adjust your price for every currency, but keep in mind that many other developers don’t. So if you decide to sell your game in Turkey for 53 Turkish lira, which is a conversion close to 10 dollars, your game might have a very high price in Turkey.

Publishing a game on Steam is not cheap. But those 30% get you access to a very large and constantly increasing market and a very consistent set of tools that can help you list your game in front of millions of people. Using those tools in the best way possible is the responsibility of every developer.