Game Discoverabilityland: Welcome To The Summer Of Indie Direct
Getting the message to the people.
[Hi, I’m Simon Carless, and you’re reading the Game Discoverability Now! newsletter, a regular look at how people find - and buy - your video games. Or don’t.]
Well, back again, and the amount of news in the discoverability space doesn’t really ever get smaller. (Even if the window for me to parse everything seems to be getting every shorter, for various reasons!) So let’s get on with it, shall we?
Video Game Summer Showcases, Eh?
Well, COVID-19 & the cancellation of E3 2020 has left a big hole in the summer game announcement schedule. Or more accurately, expanded the timeframe of the virtual/streaming showcases that used to happen around E3 anyhow - and allowed extra third-parties to get involved too.
I mention this because the first of these showcases, Wholesome Direct, just took place yesterday, showcasing “over 50 cute and cozy indie games” in a 37 minute showcase:
There was some slight Twitter drama about ‘cute/cozy’ as a descriptor, which we’ll skip past for now. But in general - people will tune in or pay attention for these showcases, if they show new and interesting games. And if you’re an indie, this may play in your favor.
But which of the billion showcases should you watch and/or be in? (You probably know if you’re in them already, in MOST cases.) Here’s a quick rundown of the most indie/triple-I (sorry) showcases I’ve spotted coming up for the rest of the summer:
The most obviously indie-centric showcase is Guerrilla Collective, which is running across three days (June 6th-8th, starting at the same time each day) & has a whole heap of notable participants.
These span Coffee Stain through Raw Fury to Humble Games, Good Shepherd, Fellow Traveller, 11 Bit Studios, New Blood, Modern Wolf… you get the idea. It’s co-ordinated by The MIX & Kinda Funny Games and I’ll certainly be tuning in.
The iam8bit & Double Fine-organized showcase already has confirmed participation from indies like Panic, Annapurna, Thatgamecompany & more. (And deadline to submit is Thu May 28th.)
It skews a little more ‘core PC/mini-AAA’, but the PC Gaming Show from Future on June 6th is also likely to have a bunch of Steam/Epic Store announcements of note. Previous years have had announcements from Rebellion & a number of other notable independents.
There are also a host of other E3 timing-adjacent showcases, some single publisher or developer-centric, which this Fanbyte guide has done a useful job of rounding up. There’s more confirmations to come, of course. (I’m waiting very eagerly for Devolver Direct, for example.)
And folks like Nintendo and Xbox and Sony are running virtual showcases a lot more regularly than they used to, and will probably include smaller games in them for ‘flavor’ over the summer. Hurray!
Overall - any organizer can do a game showcase year-round, and people MAY pay attention. But for now, it makes more sense to situate them around the ‘obvious time hole’. And if you can time your trailer reveal to an inclusion in a showcase that lots of people watch - of course I think it can help discoverability.
Switch demos - empirical proof (?) of goodness!
You may recall in the last Game Discoverabilityland newsletter that I was singing the praises - potentially - of making a demo for your Nintendo Switch game.
Well, the nice crew at SMG Studio (Death Squared, Moving Out!) kindly pointed me to a sales charts for Switch they posted last year, showing a ‘fatter tail’ after releasing a Switch demo for Death Squared:
So I won’t say that’s conclusive, and clearly things have changed since July of last year, but… I do see a measurable difference there. (And on a note more related to the last newsletter - also note how much discounts spike sales on Switch. These were the days when 25% discounts got more notice.)
Lots more neat info…
Just rounding up the other stuff that’s arrived in solely the last week or so - there’s a lot of stuff happening, right?
Looks like Steam’s top game releases for April 2020 are now displayed for all to gawk at, “were developed in 14 different countries [and] saw nine development teams finding success with their first-ever Steam launches.” It’s wide-open for global success out there, folks.
A clever new tool from Andre ‘aRestless’ Becker, Steamreviews.app works as follows: “Not all Steam reviews are relevant for everybody. Use this page to aggregate Steam reviews based on the total hours played by the reviewers, explore historic data, and more.” Fun for looking up the ‘negative reviews after hundreds of hours’ crew.
If you didn’t spot, Steam’s Spring Cleaning event is live until tomorrow (28th) - “it recommends a selection of games from your library, and by launching seven of them you’ll get a new badge and a bit of Steam XP.” Great idea to encourage going back to overlooked games, & incredibly rare to see a store do a promotion that isn’t ‘buy this’. So I dig it.
Kitfox Games’ Victoria Tran is doing some hilarious TikToks (!) about game dev & community management - check out this one, xposted on Twitter, for example. (BONUS: here’s her great Twitter thread on why devs can’t tell you the release date for their game right now.)
Neversong game dev (and very popular game dev-ish YouTuber/generally charismatic person) Thomas Brush did an interesting Gamasutra blog that twins self-help with stats and some borrderline humblebragging. But I think he has the right approach - lots of income diversification, & sounds like an Apple Arcade deal was the cherry on top. Congrats to him for a (relatively) stress-free launch.
It’s rough out there, mentally, thanks to COVID-19 - even if there was a revenue spike for some game devs which is now gradually normalizing. Which is why I appreciate nonprofit Take This’ approach to mental health & games/game dev.
Most recently, Take This did a ‘Mental Health In Games’ Twitch stream on May 26th - here’s a Twitch archive. Before that, the IGDA and Take This collab-ed on a Game Development Crisis Conference stream - videos for that are up on the IGDA’s YouTube page. Check ‘em.
Finally, a small correction on my last newsletter. For some reason, I said that Switch was the only ‘major platform’ that allows you to set discounts at any time you want (with cool-off periods). Obviously, I meant ‘major console platform’ - Steam does allow this! Thanks to those who wrote in to point that out.
Well, that’s it - for now. I’m watching Scooby Doo in a tent in my living room with a four-year-old, so I can only presume that quarantine is still ongoing. (Either that or my office ambience got pretty weird.) Hope yours is going… acceptably. Until next time!