If you’re a game developer or publisher on PC, you need to think of Steam as way more than just a platform that people use to buy and play your games. Steam can actually be one of the most powerful marketing tools you have at your disposal.
When used effectively, Steam can help you get your game in front of millions of potential players. Even better, Steam’s algorithms can help make sure that the people who end up seeing your game will probably like it enough to buy it, too.
But much like Google’s, Steam’s algorithms and inner workings are a continuous work in progress, and often wrapped in secrecy. New features are constantly being added to help developers and publishers promote their games, meaning there are no hard and fast rules to getting your game on the front page.
While there’s no secret recipe to finding success on Steam, there are some steps you can follow to help optimise your game for Steam and increase your chances of converting visitors to your Steam page into customers.
Knowing this stuff is important, especially when Steam users had over 11,000 new games battling for their attention in 2021, taking the total number of games on the platform to over 50,000 and growing every day.
Nobody is going to look at all 50,000 of those games, so making sure your game is one of those that stands out and gets people playing means having a solid Steam page as a foundation.
From choosing the best visual assets to finding your way around features such as the Steam Playtest and the Steam Games Festival, here are our top tips and recommendations for getting the most out of your Steam page.
Writing your game’s about section – keep it short and sweet
Finding the right words to describe your game without getting bogged down in all of the detail can be tricky when you’ve spent so much time working on it.
You can let your trailer videos and screenshots do most of the talking. Keep any text you write to describe your game short and to the point. Avoid long paragraphs and sentences, and don’t be afraid to use bullet points for the game’s key features (a bit like how we did for our work on maritime trading and strategy game, Sailing Era).
An important thing to bear in mind is that you’ve only got so much room to write about your game. Once you hit a specific word count, readers will have to click a ‘read more’ section to see the rest of your description.
While it’s important to provide enough information to players so they know what to expect from your game, don’t overburden them with information. That might risk ruining the surprise for them!
Make sure your game’s assets, including your trailer, show off the various elements in your game
Pictures speak a thousand words, so make sure your Steam page has plenty of them, from in-game screenshots to key art and anything else that players might find interesting.
As well as standard images, you can also upload gifs as artwork, which is perfect if there’s a particularly snappy moment in the game you want to showcase.
But while images are important, your game’s trailers are arguably the most important part of your game’s Steam page, as video content is often the first thing that most players check out first.
Your first announcement trailer and your launch trailer can vary significantly depending on which stage of development your game is at.
Most first announcement trailers are significantly shorted than launch trailers as they’re used to drive up hype and anticipation, but regardless of how much content you use, it’s important that any trailers for your game are properly structured and tell a story.
It’s no good just sticking together various bits of footage in no proper order. Just like a film or TV trailer, you should start by introducing your world, setting up expectations and then jumping into footage that shows the game in action.
Many trailers feature overlaid text with the key messages or features of the game. Like the trailer, it’s important to keep any text in your trailer short and snappy.
Like most things, you can learn a lot about putting together amazing trailers by taking a look at some of your favourites for other games. What makes them stand out? What is it about them that makes you interested in them? We were particularly fond of the prologue trailer for a game we worked on, I am Jesus Christ, which was shared by IGN.
There’s plenty of specialist advice on nailing game trailers too, like this advice on the dos and don’ts of making game trailers.
Help people find your game with the proper tags
Tags are an essential discovery tool for your game but think beyond the most obvious, genre-specific ones.
If you’re working on a first-person-shooter multiplayer, what kind of FPS game is it? Is it an arena shooter? Does it have co-op gameplay? Is it a battle royale game? Has it got online co-op? Maybe it’s got pixel graphics or you might want to tag it with ‘zombies’ if you’re releasing the next play on Black Ops’ zombies mode.
One of the game’s we supported with its global launch and announcement, Minute of Islands, uses tags to great effect on its Steam page with terms like ‘hand-drawn’, ‘comic book’ and ‘cartoony’ to highlight its illustrative art style.
These tags will help people find your game depending on their interests, so make sure you think carefully about the tags you’re using.
If you share the same tags with other games, this can also increase the chances of your game appearing in the ‘more like this’ section in other pages.
While niche tags can help boost your visibility in areas where there isn’t much competition, we’d recommend checking out this list of the most popular game tags on Steam to make sure you’re hitting all of the key ones.
Steam’s wishlist feature is one of your most important tools
From the moment you announce your game, anyone that adds it to their Steam wishlist will get automatic updates and notifications when it’s released (whether that’s through Early Access or the proper launch) or goes on sale.
Simply put, it’s one of the easiest ways to keep players updated about the progress of your game with minimal effort, as Steam is contacting the interested players for you.
But the real beauty of Steam’s wishlist is the data it can give you, allowing you to get a decent idea of how many players might purchase your game at launch, or earlier if it’s going through Early Access.
Wishlists also determine your game’s visibility on other areas of Steam. As we’ve already mentioned, Steam’s algorithm changes all of the time, so while it’s impossible to put a definitive figure on the number of wishlists you’ll need to appear in Steam’s top wishlists section, many developers estimate you’ll need between 10–50k to start trending.
With that in mind, it’s important to make wishlist requests a constant call to action across all areas of your game’s marketing campaign. Any news or trailer releases relating to your game should always be used as an opportunity to ask Steam users to get the game onto their wishlist.
Steam’s Playtest feature can improve the way you promote your game
Pre-release testing is an essential part of game development, and Steam made that process even easier for studios by introducing its Steam Playtest feature back in 2020.
This feature allows you to run test builds with players without managing keys or external mailing lists. Basically, it can save you mountains of admin time that you can invest in other areas of your game.
You can conduct Steam Playtests alongside Early Access, but you can perform Playtests without going into Early Access and risk negative reviews impacting your game.
Because the Playtest is an independent app with its own depots, you won’t need to specify beta branches either. This is a huge time saver, preventing the need to create a build with multiple branches during development which can become quite the spider’s web.
This could make things a lot easier for PR activities, as media and influencers can get directly into the playtest version and don’t need to enter passwords to get onto a particular beta track. The time spent managing keys can be invested somewhere else in the project.
The Playtest version of the game will not have its own store page. Instead, it will be listed as an option available on the main game’s store page. So any search traffic and store recommendations all direct towards the real product for users to wishlist and follow.
The Playtest app has its own community hub that developers can use for discussions, feedback and announcements too. This is helpful to direct media and influencers in order to help them stay in the loop and up to date with the latest news and updates as the game develops.
You cannot monetise Playtests like you are able to with Early Access or full release keys.
“It’s not OK to monetize (Playtests) with in-game transactions, or sell access,” says Valve.
So if your game has in-game transactions, be sure to keep in mind that until you remove them or disable them temporarily, you won’t be able to take advantage of Playtest.
Another benefit to Playtests is that you won’t have to worry about key resellers on third-party platforms, and the feature even has a breakdown of testers along with their status.
Of course, it’s important to advertise Playtest as part of your marketing strategy, otherwise you may not be able to reach the audience that you need to properly test your game.
The only other important thing to note is that the Playtest isn’t available to any games with in-game transactions.
Use Steam broadcasting to improve your game’s visibility
Once your game is ready to show off to the general public, you might want to tap into Steam’s broadcasting feature to improve the visibility of your game on the platform.
True to its name, Steam broadcasting lets you stream playthroughs of your game directly through Steam. The benefits of this are that you’re tapping into Steam’s massive organic audience on a platform that’s less competitive than the likes of Twitch and YouTube.
Steam has built-in features that allow users to search for broadcasts depending on the tags that they’re interested in. Your broadcast will also be displayed on your game’s homepage, so you can time your broadcast along with any marketing announcements that you expect will drive traffic to your page.
You can also broadcast onto your Steam page through OBS. All of the information that covers how to broadcast on Steam can be found here.
Steam Festivals are a great opportunity to get your game in front of potential new players
Steam Festivals are events where Steam users can learn about upcoming games on Steam, play demos, watch livestreams and chat with developers.
Loads of the games featured in the Steam Festivals are promoted on the front page of the platform and on the unique page for the Festival, but you’ll need to register in advance and put your game through the verification process in order to get featured. Games are organised via the categories and tags that they’ve been assigned.
While Steam does most of the heavy lifting in terms of marketing and PR, which even includes selecting trailers and demos to be promoted to journalists, it’s vital that you promote the festival in your own marketing activity if your game is featured.
You can only feature in one Next Fest every year. If you missed out on February’s, you can still get involved with the June edition of Next Fest.
Your Steam page should be constantly updated post-release
Once your game is out in the wild and the positive reviews are flooding in, you can use these as part of your own marketing campaigns.
You should constantly be updating your Steam page with new assets, footage and information where relevant to keep the content fresh.
And remember, both the Steam algorithm and the platform itself are constantly changing and being updated with new features.
We appreciate how tricky it can be to balance keeping your Steam page solid, or even knowing what to include, so if you need a helping hand from the experts when it comes to marketing and promoting your game, make sure you get in touch!