Publishing on Steam

Steam is such a complex beast that I shall go into a fair bit more detail than
for the other portals. Let’s start with the basics:


Revenue Split: Negotiable
Contact details: Via Greenlight for new developers. It can be a very difficult
process to get onto Steam!
Monetisation methods: Outright sale and DLC

I’ll be honest; I don’t really like the approach Steam adopts with the whole
Greenlight process. I think it is a very negative way to try to get a game
onto a service; it can be very demoralizing for the developers and it creates
an overly competitive environment. Then there is the way Steam does
business: the secrecy, the dismissive responses to developers, the closed-door approach. It reminds me of how the platform-holder concept approvals used to be.

That said though, it is what it is, and if you want a successful PC game you
have to try to get onto Steam at some point. One very encouraging bit of
recent news is that Valve are looking to abolish Greenlight and introduce a
new, more open system for developers. In preparation for this, Valve have
ramped up the number of games they are Greenlighting, and right now they
are approving batches of 75 games every two weeks.

Flippfly recently published an excellent blog post highlighting the challenges of getting onto Steam with their game Race the Sun, and how important it is to make sure your game genre is compatible with the Steam audience:

The other thing we feel is a factor in our sales, is that we inadvertently shoehorned ourselves into the“Endless Runner”
genre, without realizing the damage this would do. We felt the concept of an
arcade-style, high-score focused game deserved a pure, HD treatment, free of micro transactions and with a focus on depth—and our customers seem to agree. But there seems to be an immediate and general stigma around this genre (thanks to the mobile revolution no doubt)—that “runners”
should be free, and they don’t belong on PC.


Once you launch your Greenlight campaign, you will get a whole load of
views and votes without having to do any promotion at all. The reason for
this is because your game will be automatically added to everyone’s
Greenlight voting queue. Alas, this will trail off after a few days and your
traffic will rapidly drop. A good way to boost traffic is to take part in a
giveaway via a large Steam group. Gift a certain number of copies of your
game, while asking nicely for people to vote for the game. This can be a
really effective way of getting quite a few more visitors and votes once the
initial rush has tailed off.

To have a good chance of getting your game greenlit, you have to earn a
large number of Yes votes. To really stand a chance of success you need to
get your game into the Top 50 of highest votes, which can require upwards
of 10,000 Yes votes. The current ‘Average Top 50’ split is 55% Yes / 45% No
votes, with an average of 11,500 Yes votes.

One plus point is that there is no time limit, so you can run a Greenlight
campaign in addition to your other sales activities, and just keep plugging
away trying to increase the Yes votes. The general consensus on Greenlight
seems to be that you need a thick skin, a lot of perseverance and maybe a
good dose of luck.

A few more things to bear in mind for a successful Greenlight campaign:

Uses Images Within the Description

The description of your game is your shop window, and second in
importance to the video trailer. Rather than stick with a block of plain text,
keep visitor attention by inserting images into the description. To do this,
add the line ‘[img]image url[/img]’ into your game’s description, and
images will then appear within the description text.

Release a Demo on Your Site, Link It to Steam Greenlight

When releasing a demo of your game on your game and/or studio website,
prominently link it to your Steam Greenlight page. A good demo can make a
big difference to attracting visitors to your Greenlight page, and getting the
all-important Yes votes.

If the Game Is Out, Link to it and Give Steam Keys Once

f your game is already out elsewhere and available to buy, specify this and
say that if you purchase the game now, you will receive a Steam key if the
game is greenlit.
Jay Koottarappallil, of WhiteMoon Dreams, offers this advice following their
successful Greenlight campaign for their game WARMACHINE: Tactics:

  1. Launch the Greenlight campaign shortly after you start your
    Kickstarter. Constantly advertise between the two.
  2. Just like Kickstarter, follow and handle the comments on your page.
  3. Great screenshots are even more valuable on Greenlight than
    Kickstarter. People spend a lot of time looking at the text, video and
    rewards for a Kickstarter so there’s a lot of content there.
    Greenlight only has text, which is less interesting than screens and

Once you have been successfully greenlit, you can then publish your game
on Steam.

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