Discover more from The GameDiscoverCo newsletter
Have you 'lost track' of Steam key resellers?
Also: new TikTok wins, and lots of discovery news.
[The GameDiscoverCo game discovery newsletter is written by ‘how people find your game’ expert & company founder Simon Carless, and is a regular look at how people discover and buy video games in the 2020s.]
Well, it’s a holiday today in the U.S. and [some of] Europe. So we’ve gone with the time-honored ‘accidentally make the second section of the newsletter way too long, and turn it into the lead story’ solution for getting today’s GameDiscoverCo missive out swiftly.
Hey, anything that helps us get to exciting holiday tasks of… *consults notes*… washing the car and putting the
rubbish bins trash cans out on the pavement sidewalk? Hmm, maybe writing newsletters is a more entertaining use of our time, after all…
[FYI: get actionable info & talk to your peers via a GameDiscoverCo Plus paid subscription. This includes an exclusive Friday PC/console game trend analysis newsletter, a big Steam ‘Hype’ & performance chart back-end, eBooks, a member-only Discord & more.]
Steam keys: do you monitor how yours are used?
Do you know where your Steam keys are right now? Somewhat unique to Valve’s PC platform, Steam gives out free alphanumeric keys on demand to PC game developers and publishers who ask, and doesn’t demand its 30% cut if someone redeems them.
But Valve is trying to lock down third-party overuse & misuse of Steam keys in recent months. And relatedly, new self-publishing/marketing agency Raccoon Business (Shotgun King) made a useful Twitter thread discussing policing your Steam key usage.
Firstly, it’s a legitimate business choice for you to sell Steam keys to third parties like Humble Store or Fanatical (or third-party networks via Ztorm and Genba), to provide keys for PC game bundles (Humble and others!), and also to give keys to influencers if they ask.
Yet as Raccoon Business notes: “To check how much the grey market is hitting your game, go to [places like] AllKeyShop, and search for your title. If there are a lot of offers with huge discounts, you can assume that you have a grey market issue.”
In other words, by doing this, you can see which key types are ‘leaking’ onto sites that also allow anyone to sell or resell keys, like G2A or Kinguin, and at what prices. (BTW: while researching, we discovered that Kinguin also offers Steam accounts with single games loaded onto them? How sketchy.)
But how, and what to do about it? Raccoon Business says: “We advise you to buy [Steam keys from these gray market sources] regularly (not at the same time, you should wait a few weeks between each purchase) to check where the keys are coming from...”
Part of the possible solution here is to get Steam key packages locked to particular regions via a request to Valve. RB says: “we strongly recommend you using the following split: China - RU/CIS - SEA - EU - LATAM - Turkey - ROW and send the relevant key packages after discussing the selling regions with the [third-party] stores you want to sell on.”
Why not just send out worldwide keys? If you’re a smaller indie, it may be fine. And some third-party Steam key stores are better at stopping regional ‘price tourism’ than others. But if “the shop doesn't have a Turkish-facing website but sells 50% [of its] keys [in Turkish currency]?” Some red flags there.
However, Steam’s recommended regional pricing adjustments have helped a lot. Due to hyperinflation, older games’ unadjusted pricing have a LOT of space for arbitrage, with the Turkey price under 10% that of the USD price (!) But Valve’s suggested pricing for Turkey is now just under 50% of the USD price - way better.
Of course, there’s always going to be keys ‘leaking’ from bundles, too - although companies like Humble have been getting more strict on banning Humble accounts that sell/gift too many of their keys. There are issues with ‘fake’ influencer requests, too - do a lot of verification there, and be very suspicious of multi-key requests.
But if you do some monitoring (use tags in Steam back end for each partner request!) and try to proactively clean up and revoke unused keys over time - but be careful about revoking keys - you can stem major issues with gray market Steam key resale.
In the end, GameDiscoverCo doesn’t see this as a major loss of revenue. But equally, it’s not a zero-effect problem, and many buyers on sites like G2A and Kinguin get recommended a discount purchase after a Google search. So you should probably optimize your key distribution to make those grey-market offers not too attractive.
TikTok: another great game discovery journey…
Are you fed up with TikTok success story blogs in the video game space yet? We hope you’re not, since they’re incredibly helpful for understanding how to scale on what we think is the #1 social network for video game discoverability right now.
Which is why we were excited to see Inflexion Games’ Stephanie Herdman post a blog about getting to 6 million TikTok views in 40 days, while discussing the team’s incredibly promising-looking co-op ‘gaslamp fantasy’ survival game Nightingale.
The game’s buzz is already present and correct. It’s #15 out of 15,602 unreleased Steam games in our GameDiscoverCo Plus Hype charts, with almost 100,000 Steam followers! But Stephanie details how the dev’s TikTok account helped amplify things.
She notes in the blog: “Our best-performing videos early on were the Carnute and the Harpy videos, currently sitting at 2.4M and 3.6M views respectively.” But why did these creature video deep-dives take off? Some ideas of hers:
The designs are legitimately eye-catching: she says: “From the concepts to the in-game models and the animations, I think our creatures are quite cool!” We’d agree, and yep, having really cool-looking monster content & showcasing it is a great way to add reach! (The content is the thing!)
The implementations of the creatures are unconventional: Stephanie notes: “for the Harpy video, a number of people mentioned how our Harpies don’t match up with various other media depictions of harpies… our creatures aren’t meant to be accurate depictions of myths.” So this ‘explain-bait’ approach, if largely unintended, created a lot of stickiness, since people started weighing in on the monster interpretation.
There’s some major ‘creepypasta’ overlap: the horror aspects of Nightingale are particularly viral-worthy: “I knew creepypasta has been popular in online spaces… so I leaned into those aspects of our lore. I also don’t mention our game at all in these TikToks! I made a conscious decision to just talk about the creatures and lore.”
The full blog also talks about why you shouldn’t do endslates promoting your game (big bounce rate!) or signposted multi-part videos. It even has a concrete Steam wishlist takeaway, woo: “on [TikTok] videos which performed well (100k views or more), we could see our daily wishlists [reach] 10-40% higher than average.” Useful stuff.
The game discovery news round-up..
As we kick off the week here, there’s still a bunch of news left over to feast upon. So let’s grab a knife, fork, and tuck in for a bumper game discovery & platform meal:
Continuing the Microsoft x Activision complexity, Microsoft has appealed the UK CMA’s decision to block the deal, citing “fundamental errors in its calculation and assessment of market share data for cloud gaming services”, not taking account of switching between cloud & digital/disc-based gaming, and more.
Related: the European Union’s antitrust chief Margrethe Vestager made a speech explaining the EU’s deal approval, saying: “An important finding was that the overall market share for Microsoft and Activision was generally low in Europe. It's only when you look at specific segments like ‘shooter games' that you get to above 20%. And for consoles, Sony sells about 4 times more PlayStations than Microsoft sells Xboxes.” And as for cloud gaming: “Where we diverged with the CMA was on remedies.”
Sounds like Remedy’s Alan Wake 2 is currently planned as digital-only, since we presume neither Remedy nor Epic Games Publishing wanted to deal with physical distro. Comps? GI.biz got GSD data to show that “55% of Star Wars Jedi: Survivor’s sales were digital” in Europe, up from 35% for Fallen Order back in 2019. (This 45% doesn’t represent lost sales - tho of course there will be some.)
Bloomberg’s Apple expert Mark Gurman went hands-on with the Meta Quest 3 (‘unofficially’) ahead of the Apple XR reveal on June 5th, noting of the Quest 3, possibly out in October: “there are two areas where I saw major improvements: video pass-through for mixed reality and the device’s speedier performance.”
Understanding complex, multiplatform mobile/PC F2P hits like Honkai: Star Rail (above) vital - and Zombies, Run! co-creator Adrian Hon did great, subjective write-up of his impressions: “As a game, its battle system is dreadful; as a world, it’s deeply engrossing; and as a business, it’s troublingly efficient.. It’s nearly impossible to play Honkai: Star Rail the ‘right’ amount.”
Amazon’s Prime Gaming benefits are a platform worth keeping an eye on, and the upcoming June 2023 ones include Turnip Boy Commits Tax Evasion & Calico for free PC download via the Amazon Games App, Batman: Arkham Knight, Citizen Sleeper cloud-streaming free on Luna, and free IAP from Overwatch 2, League of Legends, and World of Warcraft.
Chinese government game approvals keep trucking on, with another 86 domestic titles approved last week, including Lilith’s extremely popular mobile CCG x RPG Dislyte - here’s a good analysis of it, btw. But: “Game sales for the China market in the first three months of 2023 fell 15 per cent year-on-year to 67.5 billion yuan (US$9.24 billion), according to a report by video gaming analytics firm CNG.”
This is a clever promotion from Microsoft of its ‘not E3’ showcases: “Xbox Games Showcase and Starfield Direct will be screened at select [U.S] theaters with Fathom Events, along with a $10 credit for snacks ([and] free tickets).” Those showcases are on June 11th starting at 10am PT, by the way.
Roblox monetization tweaking news: the platform is making some changes to how creators can sell limited-run virtual gear, “including the ability to sell them within a custom experience, which can earn them more money.” (BTW, we recently found Bloxy News’ weekly updates, which are great for Roblox platform updates.)
How good has Nintendo Switch been for Pokemon? According to Pierre485 on Twitter, pretty darn good: “[Recent Nintendo platform] Pokemon games shipped by system (main series): Switch - 92.74m (and counting); Game Boy - 75.81m; DS - 62.15m; 3DS - 56.7m; Game Boy Advance - 25.28m.” As he adds: “Pokemon has been crazy on Switch, just like every 1st party franchise.”
Finally, we had forgotten that Will Wright’s 2008 ‘god game’ title Spore came with a truly scary ‘Spore the vote!’ campaign, with candidates “created with the game's Spaceship Editor”, to encourage voting in the U.S. election that year. But it totally did:
[We’re GameDiscoverCo, an agency based around one simple issue: how do players find, buy and enjoy your PC or console game? We run the newsletter you’re reading, and provide consulting services for publishers, funds, and other smart game industry folks.]