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  • 06/20/19 03:39 AM

    So You Want to Have a Kick-Ass Steam Page

    Business and Law
       (1 review)



    Hey there, fellow indie game dev. Let’s cut to the chase: you’ve got a game that you've either just started working on, or maybe it’s already late in production and you need to start building its home on Steam, or maybe your page already exists but it could use some improvement. Whatever the case, you want your Steam page to be as efficient as possible, bringing in good traffic and converting it into wishlists and ultimately sales. I’m going to try and use what experience I’ve gained so far to help you do that. You can either read the disclaimer or jump straight into the thick of it below.



    First off, this is a long, loooong post. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

    Everything I’m going to share falls into either a) common knowledge that is readily available but a hassle to put together from different sources, b) my personal confirmed experiences and experiences other devs have shared with me, or c) some personal speculations. Please keep this in mind, and don’t treat this post as a foolproof guide to surefire success on Steam. I have not released anything on Valve’s platform yet; my game has had a successful Kickstarter three years ago, I’m gearing up for a release soon, I’m currently at ~8500 wishlists, and I’ve learned a lot by both stumbling into good ideas and fucking up majorly. If I am wrong about anything, please correct me in a comment.

    Throughout this article, I will use my own game as an example, mainly because it was my vehicle to experiment and try to better understand Steam. The intention is to bring everything I’ve learned together in one convenient place, and make optimizing your Steam page easier for you than it was for me.


    Quick terminology index

    • Wishlist (addition) - A number that goes up when some poor unsuspecting soul likes your game and throws it onto his “I want to play this later but probably never will” pile of shame;
    • Visit - An unfortunate Steam user has actually landed on your page;
    • Impression - Someone has seen a capsule (a visual asset) of your game on Steam. What you want is to convert these rare, Yeti-like sightings into visits (and, ideally, wishlists & sales);CTR (Click-through rate) - The percentage of impressions that actually end up in visits to your page. It’s important, but wishlist additions are way more important.
    • Existential dread - What your life turns into from the moment you become hooked on checking Steam traffic and wishlist stats daily.


    1. When do I launch my Steam page?

    Short answer: As early as fucking possible.

    Long answer: Still as early as fucking possible, but with a caveat that I’ll touch on below. You probably already know this, but - prior to actually releasing your game and becoming an internationally adored indie superstar - your main goal in life on Steam will be to accumulate wishlist additions (simply called wishlists from here on out for convenience). That’s what you should care about most, and focus all your efforts on. It therefore stands to reason that the longer before launch your page is up, the more wishlists it can accumulate. One year is not too long. I’ve had mine online since August 2018 and we were late as hell because of bureaucratic issues.

    Now for the caveat I was mentioning: don’t launch your page unless you are sure that you have the best video & visual assets and text descriptions you and your team can come up with. Your first day on Steam is bound to net you a lot of exposure and wishlists - significantly more than most days afterwards. Steam’s elusive algorithm will also start judging your game based on how it performs in this first critical day, so please take it very seriously.

    Please do not launch your Steam page without a trailer! This will make your game look bad, or as a low-effort move on your part at the very least. We’ll dive deeper into trailers below.


    This is our first day on Steam in terms of wishlist additions:

    Your first day on Steam is crucial
    Your first day on Steam is crucial wishlist-wise


    We did have a trailer, screenshots, and decent copy. Major fuck-up: no tags (more on their importance below). It could have gone a lot better.

    Also, already having a community that you can bring in and positively influence the numbers day one will help. A lot. If you do, make sure you let them know in advance when your page launches, and remind them that very day via social media. Just like on Kickstarter, it’s best to have that moment zero critical mass for a snowball-type effect.

    Always use “wishlist now” as a call to action basically every time you show your game in public:

    Be consistent with your call-to-action on social media

    "Wishlist on Steam" is now your mantra


    Tl;dr: Bring your Steam page live ASAP but only once you have the best trailer, screenshots and text possible, and ideally with a community boost to boot.

    A quick aside about your game title: in case you haven’t yet named it, keep in mind that certain words fare better than others in Steam searches. I’m not saying name your game “Souls Battle Royale Roguelike Simulator 2021”, but it’s something to keep in mind.

    My game is called Gibbous: A Cthulhu Adventure. I have indeed intentionally chosen a title that the average mortal would have a 0.008% chance of spelling correctly on their first try, BUT it also has both “adventure” and “Cthulhu” in there, which (at least for the time) count towards nice “search suggestions” impressions on Steam. This means that once you start typing either “adventure” or “Cthulhu” in the search bar, my game pops up:


    Your game will pop up if people are searching for terms in the title

    Search suggestions can get a lot of eyeballs on your baby


    Yes, “Gibbous” is hard to spell and remember and nobody knows what the hell it even means, but on the other hand, good luck finding a specific game with “heroes” in its title by wading through Steam search results. It’s a trade-off, choose carefully.

    Alright, let’s start actually breaking down the Steam page.


    2. The Trailer

    As I’ve said above, don’t launch your page without one. There are great articles out there about how to approach trailers; I will not go super deep into it, you’re better off reading posts like this one by people who actually know their stuff. I’ll just touch on some do-s and don't-s, and some generalities.



    • Show off your best gameplay footage up front (it can also be a cutscene if it’s relevant or it helps set the scene). If you plug Google Analytics into your Steam page (more on that below), you’ll notice a lot of users spend no more than half a minute on your page before moving on, and they’re probably checking out your trailer. Many people may only view the start of your trailer
      Try and hook the viewer within the first moments of the trailer, don't faff about
    • Unless you sink your hook into them within those precious seconds, they’re off to the next 50th game released on Steam that day.
    • If your game has both a story and voice acting, make sure that the lines you use in your trailer help set up the premise without spoiling too much. Choose wisely, and choose hard-hitting stuff that summarizes the plot or drives atmosphere.
    • Look up free trailer SFX packs on the internet if “epic” is what you’re after. I like this one, but there are probably a bunch out there. There’s also freesound.org that only requires free registration, but keep in mind you will have to credit attributions in the description. I would not advise using royalty-free music in your trailer, unless you don’t have original music in your game.
    • Whatever is unique or representative about your game - put that stuff up front and highlight it hard. They’re called hooks for a reason; please read Ryan Clark’s excellent post about what constitutes a hook and why they should be on your mind constantly when designing your game. And your trailer.
    • If you can think of anything visually or audio-wise that can set your trailer apart and add a bit of wow factor, it would be great. In our case, I used parallax-scrolling 2D layers on my characters to give them a neat 3D effects (reddit post about it here).
    • If the genre and tone permits, and you think you can pull it off, funny helps. Humor is great at retaining people’s attention. Check these trailers out to see what I mean. Again, only do this if people other than your spouse and that one coworker whose promotion depends on you have told you that you are, indeed, a funny guy.
    • Watch a lot of indie game trailers.



    • Don’t start your trailer with a logo (or, God forbid, multiple logos) unless you are a well-known studio, or it’s two seconds tops. I know you spent entire days making it look amazing in After Fx, but gamers don’t care about anything but the game. You have a few precious seconds to make them stay and watch, please don’t let your ego squander them.
    • Don’t go above 2 minutes unless absolutely necessary. Most trailers are about a minute and a half long, and it seems that they’re lately trending towards a minute. We’re all easily distracted idiots - plan accordingly.
    • Not really a “Don’t”, but be very careful if you choose to go for the “epic trailer” feel. If you mess up the mood, or your visuals are (unintentionally) clashing with the bombastic music and sfx, it might have the opposite effect of what you were intending. If you’re unsure, just show it to someone who you know will not spare your feelings (actually, do this, period). Don’t rely on feedback from friends and family. They love you, but they’re liars. Filthy, filthy liars.
    • If your game revolves around a strong narrative structure, don’t do what most movie trailers tend to lately and just give the entire story away. Jesus Christ, what the hell, people!


    Trailer generalities

    Depending on the genre, it’s sometimes a good idea to think of your trailer as an entire story told in a minute, a minute and a half (again, not giving everything away! Just teasing its high notes).

    Ideally, it should have an intriguing hook up front, a meaty middle part that shows it off efficiently, and a crescendo to a high point and / or a denouement. Read about the peak-end rule and think about how to efficiently apply it to your trailer (and your game).

    Keep in mind that a lot of users have trailers muted by default; if yours relies on audio (especially in the beginning), it might not make sense to someone watching it muted. My trailer starts with the main character asking “You wanna know what my problem is?”. This is meant as an audio hook to ramp up curiosity from the get-go; my solution to the trailer being muted was having the very first thing in the trailer be the text “PROBLEM?”, hopefully making you curious enough to un-mute.

    Sink the hook in early, keep the text snappy and intriguing


    3. The top-right short description

    Probably the most important copy element on your page. Just like the trailer, start strong and try and get their attention immediately. As you can see, I went with crazy cultists and a talking cat; think about what’s impactful about your game. Sum it all up in the middle part, and end with your tagline (mine is “Comedy cosmic horror made in Transylvania”). If you don’t have a tagline, come up with one.


    Sink the hook in early, keep the text snappy and intriguing


    Keep in mind that there’s a character limit - it’s somewhere between 200 and 300. If your page is localized into other languages (more on that below), be very careful when entering this text in languages you don’t speak, because I’ll be damned if I understand how that goddamned character limit can fluctuate like that.


    4. The release date

    There are actually two aspects to this: the forward facing one (what the users see), which can either be a date or custom text, and a tentative release date that you enter in the Steamgames back-end. You can change both as often as you like, but it’s not advisable to overdo it. As for the forward-facing one, if you do go for custom text then try to be clear and concise, e.g. “Coming soon”, “2019”, “TBA”, or “Never, lol”. Don’t use this space to beg for wishlists, I’ve seen that backfire in very ugly ways.


    5. Tags

    According to Steam, tags can help determine what game has you in their “More like this” section. Choosing your tags so that they drive the right kind of traffic your way sounds easier than it is, and you’ll probably have to experiment a bunch, but what is important is to use all your tag slots available. My biggest mistake for a long time: only using 3 or 4 of the 15 possible. I was an idiot; you don’t have to be.

    I strongly advise you to read Steam’s documentation on tags. There’s very important information there that devs (myself included) typically just skim over. Here’s the tl;dr: tag order itself doesn’t seem to matter, but only the first 15 (out of 20 possible) tags count toward who the algorithm decides to show your game to.

    Apparently there’s talk of Steam intending to reduce their importance within the ecosystem, but for now, it seems that they’re pretty damn’ important, so treat them with the proper respect and attention. And a touch of reverence and fear.

    Anyone can tag your game, but you as the developer wield way much more power when you mess around with them. You can ban and reinstate tags at your will. You can encourage people to reinforce your tags, thus affecting their order, but it’s finicky stuff. What you do yourself is easier to control. You apply tags by clicking the plus button on your Steam page, logged in with your dev account:

    Click the plus button to apply tags
    Do it.


    Ah, but what tags to apply? Good question, and I doubt anyone but Valve holds the definitive answer. Truth be told, I’ve just experimented until I’ve seen good results in both the traffic results and on Steamlikes, which is a neat site that shows what games have you in their “More like this” section. The more, the merrier. My game currently has 44; to put things into perspective, Sekiro has 2000+. I’m not exactly sure how all of this works - it might heavily rely on popularity or revenue. Your guess is as good as mine, you can go bug the Steamlikes guys on Twitter about it.

    You can also use custom tags you come up with, but other than the dubious satisfaction of wasting an important slot on “totes adorbs XD”, there’s not much to be gained. Check out Steam’s handy Popular Tags list and go from there. Look at games similar to yours. Note that Valve do encourage you to use “rarer” tags that better describe your product, rather than widely used ones such as “adventure” or “action”.

    A quick disclaimer: just getting a lot of traffic doesn’t equal automatic wishlist number increase. The two things that heavily factor into that are quality - which is, uh, subjective - and just how relevant your game is to the people that you’re steering in your page's direction. I suspect that driving a lot of irrelevant, non-converting traffic your way might actually hurt your game rather than help it. Also, it’s reasonable to assume that popularity is a big factor here, but I don’t think it’s ever been confirmed by Steam.


    6. Main description text

    You can let loose here, but keep in mind that there’s only so many words a gamer can silently mouth his way through before the irresistible siren call of the next browser tab yanks them away. Your best bet is to have a more detailed description (2 or 3 paragraphs), and a bullet list of key features.

    You can now add animated gifs to this section. A good idea, but be very careful about file size. In their announcement, Valve warn that “If we see a store page with a large load size (e.g. 15MB+), we may remove any animated GIF's to ensure users can actually visit your page.”

    Just snicker derisively from your 100 Mb/second fortress and check your page load in Chrome by pressing F12 and choosing the Network tab - it’s under “transferred” (thanks for the tip, Alex). I’m sticking to just one gif, so my page load is right under 15MB.

    Check your page load in the Chrome developer tools
    Keep your page load under 15 MB to be on the safe side


    7. Localization

    In case you’ve decided to localize your game into more languages, congrats - it’s a wise decision. As soon as you’re positive about offering a certain language, enable it ASAP in the Steam back-end. This will significantly help drive traffic from speakers of that language your way. Again, the more the merrier, with EFIGS being the standard, but Russian and Chinese becoming more and more popular. Keep an eye on your Analytics to see where traffic comes from (more on that below).

    If you do localize, please make translating your Steam page a priority. Actually, even if you don’t have the budget to full localize your game, just translating your page into major languages will help.


    8. Social links

    Pretty much self-explanatory: plug in all your youtubes, twitters, facebooks and twitches, plus your website. Speaking of your website, Steam now offers widgets that, when clicked, automatically add your game to the clicker’s wishlist (mental note: add one to our website).


    9. Awards

    Flaunt’em if you got’em.


    10. Achievements and trading cards

    People really seem to like these things. People are weird, but you’re here to give them what they want, not what they need. Incidentally, that’s what gamedev’s really all about.


    11. System Requirements

    Much like talking to the pharmacist before a romantic encounter, please be honest and realistic about what you need in order to perform optimally.


    12. Back-end Safari

    Steamworks’ back-end is a wild ride. Let’s jump in.

    First off, the really important stuff: graphical assets! Let’s talk capsules, first and foremost, since screenshots are pretty much self-explanatory (just choose the pretty ones, and positively no concept art).

    My advice is to have two nicely rendered promo images ready - a big’un and a small’un. Easy!

    The big one - We’ll call him George. Make sure George’s source file is big enough to serve as page background (1438px x 810px), and clear enough that he can be resized and used as the main promo image above the short description. Also clearly display your logo on this latter one, so it’s easily readable at every size.

    The small one - We’ll affectionately call this one Junior. Unless they are magically whisked to your page via your evil marketing machinations or just pure bad luck, versions of Junior are likely Steam users’ first contact with your game in the wild plains of Steam. I am recommending that this little guy be a different image from George, because if you just downsize his detailed, lushly rendered bigger brother you’ll end up with a busy, unintelligible mess.

    George & Junior are brothers, not twins


    As you can see, Kitteh, our feline protagonist, features prominently in both George and Junior (apparently it’s called “staying on brand”), but Junior is way simpler, so he can be easily read and understood at first glance.

    That’s because - like in nature documentaries - Junior has to survive in the very hostile conditions of a quadrillion other thumbnails around it screaming for your attention, and - unlike in nature documentaries - he wants to achieve the exact opposite of camouflaging himself. Also notice that I’ve increased Junior's subtitle so as to improve its readability. Valve are very adamant about the entire game title being included in Junior, so make sure to abide by that rule when submitting assets for approval.

    • An effective trick for testing Junior’s efficiency is to take a screenshot of e.g. the New and Trending row of capsules, superimpose your capsule in Photoshop on top of an existing one, and ask a friend or your Nanna to check it out sight unseen, being honest about which of them grab their attention and which don’t. Survival of the fittest and most readable.
    • George and Junior are brothers, and equally important to your game family. Make sure they look related, make sure they’re as pretty as possible.
    • Further watching: check out Valve’s Tom Giardino beautifully explain the concept of capsule readability, with examples. Actually, just watch the whole thing, there’s very useful stuff about trailers in there that I’ve echoed in this article, it’s very good.


    Store traffic stats

    I never got either math or graphs, but I find myself returning daily to this collection of numbers and pretty colored lines you can find as a tab in the “Marketing and visibility” area of Steam’s back end. You should too, since it’s the best way to gauge how your traffic has been doing the previous day.

    You’ve got a nice big visits graph, an impressions graph that isn’t visible by default, but is a click away, and a detailed traffic numbers breakdown below, divided into a boatload of categories.

    You can “mute and unmute” specific traffic sources on the graphs to see how they’ve been faring, and it never stops being interesting, educational, and terrifying to compare visits to impressions. You can worry about CTR, but don’t obsess about it, because it’s relative and very dependent on how much traffic you are getting. Before starting to appear in search suggestions, my CTR was way bigger; now it’s a fraction of what it was, but daily wishlists have gone up, and your daily number of wishlists is the only thing that matters, really.

    As a general rule, you will of course want your external traffic to be strong, but how you market your game outside of Steam is a whole different discussion we won’t go into here.

    Each traffic report category can be clicked to reveal subcategories. There are way too many to go into detail about here, but the “Other product pages” category is where you can gauge how strong your tag-fu and capsule game are.

    This is good daily information, stay on top of it and use it wisely


    Research all categories via Steam’s documentation, and keep an eye on them daily. For me, at least, this page updates every night at around 12 AM CET.



    As stated before, no matter what you do, you want these to go up every day, or at the very least not plummet. If you’ve done your homework, they should at least be stable, or gently rising.

    Good news for fans of tension and suspense, you can get a hefty dose of both by checking your progress every day around 12 PM CET. Not much else to say other than restate that doing good in this area is what all of your on and off-Steam efforts should be focused on at all times.

    I know a bunch of folks who’ve lost a lot of weight, and the thing they all have in common was not letting one day slip by without weighing themselves, regardless if it proved exhilarating or discouraging. Always being aware of where they were motivated them to stay focused on the task at hand. Same with checking wishlist additions daily - sometimes it feels good, sometimes it makes you shake your fist at the screen in anger and dismay, but at least you always know where you’re at.

    Your heart stops. Then you remember Steam only shows you yesterday’s wishlists, never today’s.


    Google analytics

    Stick it into your Steam back-end. That sounded worse than intended. It’s the tab right next to the Store Traffic Stats. Congratulations, now you can spend the rest of your days up to launch with one eye permanently fixed on GA’s real time results. By the way, Steam almost always shows me ~2x the traffic GA does. I have no idea why that is; if anyone does, let me know in a comment.

    Plug & pray



    Streaming your game live on Steam isn’t just a neat way of showing it off more than in a trailer and a bunch of screenshots, it can get you some super nice exposure via tag pages.

    Here’s what you need to do: download OBS, join this beta broadcast group, then read all about setting up the stream here, go here to get your stream key (aka token) and to pick a server. Go into OBS, choose “custom” as a streaming service, paste in your server address and your token/stream key, and fiddle around with the stream settings until they match what Steam recommends in the previously linked relevant page. I won’t go into OBS scene set up etc, there are plenty of tutorials on YouTube; don’t worry, it’s not exactly rocket science.

    The broadcast will appear at the very top of your page, and, more importantly, it will appear on your main tag page if it reaches at least 10 viewers, and if other broadcasts with more viewers aren’t already hogging those slots (they are).

    Anything over 10, really


    E.g. my main tag page is “adventure”; usually there’s 1 to 3 active streams at any given moment. Any user that scrolls to the very bottom of the tag page can see your stream there if it's above 10 viewers. Another chance at decent traffic, so do consider it. Don’t forget that you can click “Show Chat” and be insulted in real time by smart-asses with nothing better to do. Delightful.


    Other back-end stuff

    Here are some other important things that might be easy to miss in the intimidatingly dark and twisted corridors of Steamworks:

    • Genre: Tick the appropriate box for your game. Also tick “indie”, maybe.
    • Keywords: To be honest, this one is still a bit confusing for me. Mine are a bit of a mess, since they're a combination of stuff similar to my tags, and intentional misspellings of my title so that people typing it wrong can still reach my game (i.e. gibos, gibbios, ktulu, chtulu, etc).
    • Saving and publishing: Whenever you are editing your store page, saving does not mean your changes are reflected in the page automatically. You need to hit “publish to public” in order for the public-facing page to reflect how you’ve now made it uglier and more confusing. It’s on that tab they've sneakily labeled “Publish”.


    13. Steam page discussions

    • Pin a thread about your Discord server. You do have a Discord server, right? Make a Discord server.
    • Be nice. Gamers will ask when the game is coming already, constantly. They do not do this to annoy you, they do this because they care about your game, and that’s huge. Someone actually cares about what started out as such a beautiful thing, and now gives you headaches and nightmares and uuuurgh! Be thankful and respectful and as honest as possible when you lie to their faces that it’s almost done and right around the corner. But seriously, be honest and nice - there’s no situation where this advice doesn’t apply.
    • Some of them will also say that they won’t buy your game unless it’s translated into their language. Solution #1: be nice and, if this is true, reassure them that it will be available as soon as budget permits. Solution #2: localize your god damned game already. But, again, be nice. There are exactly zero scenarios where you freak out and let loose on a potential buyer and things end up well for you. It should come naturally, but if it doesn’t, clench your teeth and at least try to be nice.
    • Don’t leave discussion threads unanswered, especially the ones consisting of direct questions to you, even if you don’t yet have the answers. Be honest, and I think I already mentioned being nice a bunch, so let’s move on.


    14. Wait, that’s it

    I’ll stop here, this was already a lot to take in at once. Congrats if you made it all the way through, you are probably super dedicated and you want to give your game the best shot at success on Steam possible. You’ve got the right attitude, now you just need a Steam presence to match. I really hope this guide helps you find your audience with less hassle - ultimately, it's all about connecting the right customer with the right product, and everybody wins (but Steam wins more).

    If you feel this post has been helpful or interesting, consider thanking me by wishlisting my game and telling a friend who’s into narrative games about it. We’re about to launch soon, and it’s as scary and stressful as it’s exciting.



    Note: This post was originally published on Reddit and is reproduced here with the kind permission of the author.  The author is developing Gibbous - A Cthulu Adventure and would appreciate wishlists on Steam.

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      ===PROs and CONs===
      + HUGE natural reach thx to non-existent entry curve (we are talking millions of players)
      + no refunds (you can't refund DLCs and the base game is free)
      + Higher % of positive reviews (its kind a harder for people to bash something they had been given for FREE)
      + Massive Good PR
      + Bigger media/streamers/letsplayers coverage
      + No WL grinding before the release
      + Could be used as groundwork for your next - paid project.
      - No chance for Trading Cards
      - No chance for landing on frontpage
      - 'Leap of Faith' in terms of monetary viability (as the players are not charged for playing and the game must be truly captivating to push them into willingly purchasing a 100% optional DLC, which is borderline donation at this point)
      - Due to no guarantied revenue - the game design and genre is limited (no online/MMO)
      - Impossible to spread the awareness of your game by selling Steam Keys on other storefronts as the game is... umm, well - freeware? o.o

      === My take ===
      In perfect world - this would be THE model. As you know - we are artists. And the dream of any artist is for his/her creation to reach as many players as possible. And when some money actually rolls in - you know you earned it. Less steam-natural toxicity, butthurtness and hairs going bald or white due to refunds or some freaks review bombing your game.
      PS: Keep in mind this model makes any sense only on Steam - where it will have a massive organic reach. Doing the same on some 'flashportal' defeats the purpose as there - you are just another one, out of many. Where on steam - you'll be one of few.

      === The Question ===
      Seriously - this route is 'as indie as you can get'. But we all need to eat, pay bills and perhaps not be homeless lol. Any of you went this route? Could you share your take on this? maybe some data? Anyone-anything?
    • By Akupara Games
      Publishing 101 | Publishing 102 | Publishing 103
      Hi! David Logan here, CEO of Akupara Games! We get a lot of questions about the game publishing process and I decided I wanted to write a series of articles to help guide developers throughout decisions surrounding the release of their game. Before we get too nitty-gritty, let’s start with the biggest decision every developer has to make: should you partner with a game publisher?

      Akupara Games is a video game publisher, so it is no secret that we believe publishers can bring value to a lot of games, however that doesn’t always mean that a publisher is right for you. I’d like to outline some of the perks publishers can offer, to try to encourage you to consider them as an option for your team and title.
      In this article, I will be going over the services and benefits a publisher provides – such as distribution, development support, marketing, and community building. While publishers may offer some of these services, many will not provide all of them. Each publisher will specialize in various areas, so as you read, consider which are most important to you, and let that guide you if you choose to seek out a publisher.
      What do Publishers Get?
      Publishers are a business too, and have various ways of recouping their costs and making money. In exchange for their assistance, publishers will often receive a revenue share of your game on each platform they work with.
      Gross Income vs. Net Income
      Revenue share agreements will specify between sharing Gross Income or Net Income.
      We recommend going with Gross Income whenever possible. Net Income allows publishers to pay themselves back first for whatever expenses they deem necessary For instance a publisher may try to deduct expenses like marketing, or localization costs, before paying out the developer Gross Income will be the split payment after the distributor’s share (Valve, Nintendo, etc.), but won’t include other miscellaneous expenses incurred  
      Share Percentages
      The more effort and cost required from the publisher, the larger of a percentage they’ll ask for. Especially in the case of lending money, publishers will usually have a higher rev-share percentage they receive pre-recoupment, and then drop down to a more standard rate after that. The rev-share amount may be different per each platform, for instance, if a publisher handles all the porting costs and management for Nintendo Switch – they may receive a larger percentage on that platform.  
      Other Elements
      Occasionally publishers will ask for things such as IP ownership. Our opinion is to never sell IP, unless it is an insanely fantastic deal (lots of $$$). A publisher may also ask for right of first refusal for future platforms Think carefully if you want to commit to terms like these, and whether they would have a long-term positive or negative impact for your project.  
      Getting your game to various platforms is a lot of work with all of the various rules and procedures for each. Mobile platforms tend to be the most straight-forward, but consoles in particular involve a fairly lengthy process. A publisher can handle the entire process from getting approvals, uploading the products, writing the store copy, creating the proper graphics and videos, to actually getting the product approved.
      You will often need a rating for the various regions around the world you’re releasing.
      The publisher can handle the management and cost for these regions, which include: ESRB (America) PEGI (Europe) CERO (Japan) USK (Germany)  
      Partner Relationships – Distributors
      Another part of the process is leveraging opportunities to get your game featured at events, blogs written, social posts about your game, or having your trailer posted to a distributor’s YouTube channel. Publishers have pre-existing relationships with platforms and account managers to get your game opportunities easier This will help your game stand out from the pack Oftentimes distributors want juicy details to share – such as a release date announcement, or the first showing of a trailer. Guacamelee! 2 recently partnered with PlayStation’s YouTube channel, for their release date announcement It is important for publishers to build fantastic relationships with distributors, so that they can more easily receive these opportunities. The best opportunity is getting featured in the storefront by a distributor, which directly brings your game extra sales. Ask potential publishers how they have worked with distributors to feature their games and what potential opportunities they would push for your game
      Partner Relationships – Other
      It’s also important that your publisher has good relationships with other partners as well, such as hardware manufacturers like Alienware who can provide sponsored machines for events, or Limited Run Games who can create physical editions of your product. Logitech featured The Metronomicon when introducing their new G560 Lightsync PC gaming speakers. Limited Run Games partnered with Thumper to make physical Switch and PlayStation 4 versions of the game, as well as limited T-Shirts. By leveraging these partnerships the publisher is able to find other opportunities to make your game money or get awareness, past just the initial digital sales.
      Regardless of where your game development is at, publishers can assist you. Keep in mind that different publishers might be looking for games in different development stages.
      Publishers will be able to advise your team on the design of your game, from art, to audio, and everything in between. They will be able to identify traits and features of your game that could be pushed further, to increase sales and exposure, such as adding daily missions or overall achievements to increase replayability and player retention.  
      Some publishers are able to provide financing to assist with your team’s development costs. This can allow developers to fully focus on creating the game, instead of having to work other jobs to support themselves part-time. Searching for financing may limit the publishers interested in taking your game on, or may make certain terms in the contract harder to get, however finding financing can make your game development smoother and faster.  
      Publishers will have or partner with teams who can help bring your title to additional platforms. This allows you as the developer to focus on developing the overall game, instead of splitting focus with porting. For Desert Child Akupara Games is currently working with the developer, Oscar Brittain, and while he focuses on the Steam version, we are porting it to Switch, PS4, and Xbox One. Oftentimes indie games will launch first on PC, with the intention to port to consoles if they’re successful. Even though it’s a more risky upfront cost, Akupara Games actually prefers all platforms to launch at once, as having multiple launches often means less press for each subsequent release, and combining them together helps create more noise, as there are then articles for every platform. Multiple releases also mean additional costs and efforts for marketing There are examples of the former working though, for example, Terraria launched successfully on PC, and then was picked up by publisher 505 Games who brought it to consoles.
      Publishers can provide QA testing for bugs, device testing on a multitude of low and high-end devices, and assist with the requirements your title needs to pass to get through certification. For example, publishers can provide extensive mobile testing across dozens of devices to find the minimum specs and platforms to release the game on Events can be a key way to discover bugs and issues. When you attend events, work with your publisher to monitor and track player interactions so that you can record where they get stuck.  

      Publishers work with lots of indie developers, so they can assist you with finding the right talent to fill your team’s needs. Sometimes publishers will even dedicate resources from their internal team to assist with your game. Akupara Games used our composers for an original soundtrack, and programmer to help recreate Keep in Mind in Unity (originally Game Maker Studio), for the release of Keep in Mind: Remastered.
      Localization isn’t just translating the words in a game, but can also mean tweaking details for various regions to be more culturally appropriate. For example, in certain regions of the world, like in China, talk of death is taboo. This could also mean changing up key landmarks, flags, or references to make more sense and become more accessible. In Stardew Valley not only did they localize the languages, but the artwork as well such as portraits, and the UI HUD. Publishers will have localization expertise to make your game translatable and fun for all languages and cultures

      Generally when developers think of needing a publisher, marketing and publicity are the first things that comes to mind. A good publisher will have a wide array of marketing and promotional tools at their disposal for bringing awareness and praise to your title.

      Media Outreach
      One of the more traditional ways to get exposure for your title is through media outreach. This includes reaching out to journalists, bloggers, and other game-related press outlets about your title. Publishers will have established networks of contacts who they’ve worked with over the years, making these outreach efforts more efficient and effective. The ideal goal with press outreach is to get interviews, reviews, and articles on your game; a publisher’s connections will make outreach easier and more successful.  
      Media Buying
      Another aspect of traditional marketing is media buying and ad placement. Publishers will often have teams that can plan social media and display ads to reach key audiences. Media Buying can be done with any level of budget and digital ads often have immediate measures of success whether you are looking to build awareness of your game or increase downloads or sales.  
      Influencer Outreach
      The goal is for influential Twitch streamers and YouTube content creators will talk about your game to their audiences. This is a major driver for sales, where a few large influencers can sway a product from “unknown” status to trending title. For example, One Hand Clapping is a game that was created by USC students which was then picked up by YouTubers PewDiePie, Markiplier, and JackSepticEye that received millions of views and have translated to over 75,000 downloads on itch.io Similar to media, publishers will have established relationships with influencers. Some publishers create exclusive influencer programs, where influencers can get special perks from that publisher. Akupara Games has recently started our influencer program – which allows us to thank these influencers with early access to our games, and opportunities for in-game avatars or voice-overs.
      A trailer is a great way to showcase the gameplay, or tease content of your game in a short and engaging video. Publishers often have video editors who can create top-notch trailers, or they can advise your team to create these materials. They know what makes a successful trailer and can guide steps like storyboarding and editing. There are articles based on the top game trailers that come out every year such as Gaming Trend’s Best Game Trailers of E3 2018. Akupara Games loves making buzzworthy trailers using everything from gameplay footage, to animation, and even live actors like in the trailer for The Metronomicon.  
      Social media and community management are important aspects of any successful game launch. A publisher can help you determine which social platforms your game studio and title should be present on and which kind of content you should be showcasing on each of the channels.
      Community Management
      A publisher can teach you how to properly engage with your community to retain users. Often this means promptly answering questions and providing regular updates about the game. A publisher is able to leverage their existing communities and introduce them to your title, which will further grow your audience. The more engagement there is about your game, the more visible it is to others outside of your community as well.  
      Social Media
      Social media can be a tough medium to navigate through. It is a valuable tool for digital marketing since you can reach hundreds if not thousands of people if a post goes viral, but it also can be a platform for negative sentiment that you have to manage. Proper knowledge of what is appropriate to post on each platform, valuable and engaging content, and responding can elevate the visibility of a game.
      Facebook prefers users to stay on their platforms and users tend to enjoy video and photo over text content. This is where big announcements should be made. Instagram is a large hub for photos and great to show off concept art, development, and screenshots. Twitter is where updates big and small should be made. It is also the best platform to directly engage with users on. With social media, it is important to note that it should not be just about advertising your game for sales, but a big emphasis should be on building and engaging your audience and answering questions or comments to develop a better sense of community.

      Game trade shows, conventions, and events are a great way to bring awareness to your game, but you need a proper plan in place. Often the major takeaways of conventions are receiving player feedback, bringing press by to see the game in person, and building your mailing list. A good publisher will book you a solid press schedule, and set up ways to grow your mailing list – with easy signups and giveaways which will incentivize attendees. Events can be expensive if representing a single title, but often publishers will have pre-existing space that they will use to showcase your title A publisher can also take care of the booth set up, getting the swag manufactured, and arrange for the development team’s accommodations including flight, hotel, badges, and meals. Presentation is everything, and your publisher should try to find ways to best showcase your title, to be attractive to attendees walking by. Recently we showcased Desert Child on a custom-built arcade machine at E3. This allowed us with a relatively small budget to still create a unique presentation which stood out. The Walking Dead at E3 had zombie actors that effectively spooked a lot of people walking by, which was great for the awareness of the booth as well as social media buzz of people taking pictures and videos with the zombies.
      When a Publisher Isn’t the Right Fit
      Retaining full revenue, creative control, and IP ownership is a huge perk for not having a publisher. These are the most common reasons you wouldn’t want to use a publisher and would be better off yourself.
      Your Team has the Necessary Skills
      The point when you don’t need a publisher is when you’re able to accomplish what they can offer on your own. To successfully pull off self-publishing, you should be set up with the following:
      A large and engaged audience – which may come from conventions, past games you’ve developed, or even came naturally from social posts you make. You want to make sure you have a following already to make sure your game is as visible as possible. Social posts you create get picked up, shared, and talked about frequently. Established press and influencer connections, or large press and influencers that approach you on their own to write about your game. You will want to be able to reach out and follow up frequently. It is also a good idea to meet in person when possible to keep a strong relationship.  
      Your Team has the Necessary Financing
      An alternative would be if you have the financial backing to where you could partner with teams to fill in the gaps for the services you can’t provide. Common services you can partner with for would be:
      Marketing Porting Localization QA  
      Of course, if you go through the entire pitch process and do not find a publisher that is the right fit for you, that doesn’t mean your game won’t succeed. Often a game with a small release on one platform can gain momentum and become more attractive to publishers later.
      Stay tuned for our next article on game publishing – “How do You Find the Best Game Publisher for Yourself?”
      If you have any lingering questions, or feel I missed something, let us know on our social media @AkuparaGames on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and Discord!
      Akupara Games is an indie game studio based in Los Angeles, California. Composed of veterans of the game industry, Akupara Games focuses their energy and resources as an "indie for indies" studio by providing premier support to other indie studios through development, publishing, porting, and advising. Their mission statement ensures that each project receives a unique experience and personalized support.
      Website | Discord
      Note: This article was originally posted on the Akupara Games website, and is reproduced here with the kind permission of the author.

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