Can influencer-branded game stores work?
Everyone gets a store!
[Hi, I’m ‘how people find your game’ expert Simon Carless, and you’re reading the Game Discoverability Now! newsletter, a regular look at how people discover and buy video games in the 2020s.]
For the next few newsletters, I’ve decided to shift between a few topics, due to the sheer amount of fascinating trends out there in game platforms and discoverability in 2020.
So let’s start off this week with a look at a new concept that’s trying to harness the most potent force in the game discoverability universe - the streamer/influencer.
Is the future… streamers with their own game stores?
The other day, I stumbled upon the Beta for Nexus.gg, a new concept from the folks who made streamer-promoted PC game key deals site Chrono.gg. The company raised $5.5 million in VC earlier this year to work on this idea, described in the linked VentureBeat article as follows:
“[The money will] help grow the existing team as it focuses its efforts on expanding Chrono.gg’s turnkey solution for content creators to build their own fully branded and personalized digital game store.
The original stores, created for Chrono.gg’s content partners, provided solid proof-of-concept and surpassed expectations. The new store platform will provide any content creator the ability to create a branded store within minutes.”
And yep, it’s early but we’re starting to see streamers announcing that they now have their own Steam-like stores, featuring their favorite games. A recent example:
How is this working? Well, Chrono/Nexus has been going out and negotiating with major games (I see titles including X-Com 2, UnderMine, Battletech, Slay The Spire, & Monster Train on TorNis’ store) to sell Steam keys directly via their service.
This is possible because of Steam’s surprisingly relaxed attitude to key reselling. Although not 100% without friction (lol), services like Humble, Green Man Gaming and Chrono.gg work, because Valve believes giving keys to devs (who can give them to third parties) helps the Steam ecosystem as a whole grow.
So Steam doesn’t demand a cut. And that 30% is opened up for Chrono/Nexus to work with. Interestingly, you can see the exact streamer cut listed on each game’s page. It looks like it changes on a per-game basis, and is anywhere between 7% (rarely!) and 15% of the gross. And the Nexus.gg homepage is clear: “Every time a fan purchases a game through your storefront, you earn 50% of the profits from the sale.”
So the business mode is clear - taking the Steam cut and dividing it between Chrono/Nexus and the streamer. Will this break out? I would call Chrono.gg a qualified/partial success so far - its deals seemed to be picked up by deal sites as much as streamers.
So will larger virtual stores with less discounting but ‘exactly’ the right games lead to more sales/referrals? How motivated are streamers to promote partnered store sales versus, say, Twitch subs or merchandise - two more established streamer revenue modes? Can streamers get enough people clicking to the store and buying from it?
The jury is out - there’s definitely a long way to go to prove the model, which needs critical mass to work. But the good news (from the dev and streamer perspective!) is that it’s very easy to participate. All you have to lose is.. time and opportunity cost?
A State Of Steam, January-June 2020!
Over on Twitter, Richie De Wit from Dutch Game Garden (he of Guesstimator for Steam ‘fame’) made a thread analyzing Steam game launches from January to June of this year.
There’s a shorter version of the presentation shared via Google Drive (a longer one is linked in the thread), but just summarizing the highest-level takeaways for ‘middle of the pack’ games on Steam:
“According to the January-June 2020 data, the average game on Steam will:
Sell 2,144 copies (2,144 median, 8,656 mean)
Make $9,586 in [take-home] revenue ($9,586 median, $65,339 mean)
At an average price point of $9.99 ($9.99 median, $11.46 mean) in their first year on sale.”
Now, I’m the first one to admit that trying to extrapolate to exact numbers like this is incredibly difficult, and sometimes can confuse things. (For example, Richie removed the top 5% and bottom 5% of all games to try to concentrate on the midsize-selling games. So if you’re like ‘X game makes so much more $ than all this’ - ahem, Fall Guys - it’s not in there.)
But I still think the analysis - which uses both my Steam reviews/sales estimates and Danny Weinbaum’s 5-year game revenue sales curve - is (my favorite word!) indicative of how launches can go.
And I did think this point on pricing was interesting. It’s more indication that games that have higher prices sell more copies (& get more net revenue) on average:
However, there is an obvious counterpoint on this. Developers/publishers who made larger, more complex games will price them higher, because they are more confident about them.
So you can’t just take all games priced at $7 and make them cost $20, and still see this effect. (But equally - I see a lot of great games priced at $14.99 on launch that I think should be at least $19.99. So still pay SOME attention to these stats, haha.)
Other neat stuff…
Just finishing off this newsletter iteration with some interesting smaller links, as follows:
Subscription 'bring incompatible/abandoned iOS and Android titles back' service GameClub had slightly unfortunate timing, due to Apple Arcade. But interesting to see they're now freshly converting PC games (like Tokyo 42) to mobile.
There’s a new Xbox/PC Game Pass article on Bloomberg with a couple of notable claims: “A Game Pass subscription leads to about 20% more playing time. Users sample a wider variety of genres, and they generate 20% more in sales, both on titles not included in the plan and on extras such as downloadable content.” So, at least for now, that’s the reality.
How did the multiplayer party game Among Us get huge on Steam, almost 2 years after release? Reddit got on the case and apparently: “Twitch employee, Pluto, recommended Among Us to Twitch streamer Sodapoppin. Sodapoppin invited a lot of his friends to play this game... it became popular enough to get the attention of more streamers, non streamers, and youtubers.” This is an insane/random breakout story - yes, influencer-driven - which can give us all hope.
Two minor but cool things: the SteamDB crew found a ‘weekly top sellers’ Steam chart that I didn’t know about (it was RSS?) and made a page for it, and you can now cancel Switch eShop pre-orders, up to one week before release. Well, I guess that’s not cool for us devs. But it’s a good thing to do!
Finally, Rust & Garry’s Mod creator Garry Newman is hilarious, and I missed his take on ‘is 30% a fair cut?’ on Twitter. Here’s the full thread:
“If Valve only took 10% instead of 30%, Facepunch would have made over $50,000,000 more. I've never really had a problem paying Valve their share, I owe everything to the opportunities they gave me. It's also nice to keep in mind that before Steam came along, PC gaming was pretty much dead.
And yes, $50m more would have been nice. Is 30% fair? It's what we all agree to when adding our games to Steam. Minecraft didn't agree and they did fine. Just make a game as good as Minecraft and process all the payments yourself then sell it for 2bn then block me on twitter.”
Quality. Watch for another newsletter later this week,