Switch & Steam discount strategies? We got 'em.

Different strokes for different folks.

[The GameDiscoverCo game discovery newsletter is written by ‘how people find your game’ expert Simon Carless, and is a regular look at how people discover and buy video games in the 2020s.]

Welcome to the final GameDiscoverCo newsletter of the week - this one covering various discount strategies for console and PC games, as well as what can only be called a ‘gigantic chonk’ of miscellaneous game discovery news.

Incidentally, I keep forgetting to mention that GameDiscoverCo has a Twitter feed now, if you want to check out neat game discoverability news on social media, in real-time. (As opposed to waiting for much of it to be bundled into this newsletter!) Anyhow, let’s go go to the content content:

Experiments in Nintendo Switch discounting?

You may have seen a looong Twitter thread from my No More Robots compadre Mike Rose last week, talking - in non-NDA-breaking ways - about the various Switch game launches that NMR has done over the past few months (Yes, Your Grace, Hypnospace Outlaw, Not Tonight, Nowhere Prophet).

The main takeaway I had from the thread was that unfortunately, much larger discounts are still a way to brute-force Switch sales. This is due to the eShop charts being unit-based, and possibly people having residual Nintendo Gold Points to spend. (I’ve mentioned this a couple of times in this newsletter.)

But I was heartened to see something else. If your game is good quality and stands out, you can actually do pretty decently at lower discounts. You’ll just miss the ‘you reached the top charts’ effect. Look at Mike’s plotting of overall gross revenue for Not Tonight (90% off sale) and Yes, Your Grace (40% off sale):

You can see that both titles are initially hitting somewhere towards 6-10x normal revenue in the sale, initially because Reddit and various deal sites will swiftly boost interesting Switch game deals when they announce. (There’s not really a email/notification effect like Steam for Switch.)

But honestly, I was surprised that Yes, Your Grace had such good revenue ‘staying power’ at 40% off in this increasingly crowded market. It implies that this discount is something you can repeat. And compared to other platforms, it’s a slightly, but not stupidly aggressive discount. (It’s a relatively recent and high rated game, though.)

Yet brute-force wise, the 90% off game (Not Tonight) is getting additional juice from its presence near the top of the Deals and Charts section in certain regions. And Mike does also note that a previous 30% sale for Not Tonight didn’t have much of an effect. So does that imply there’s a class/vintage of game that can only get extra sales on Switch at >50% off. Which… is the thing that encourages this behavior.

Concluding, it does seem like Nintendo is thinking about this trend - and we may even be seeing limited changes soon* as a result of these overly discount-centric trends. (*I couldn’t possibly say.)

But I still think that a move to a revenue-based top chart, as Steam already does (look, I re-confirmed it with Valve’s Alden Kroll, it’s true!) would be another step in the right direction, in terms of incentivizing the best dev behavior for longer-term ecosystem preservation.

(Although it does come with the danger that the non-digital eShop charts would become ‘all Nintendo, all the time’ due to most first-party games’ $59.99 price point. So it’s not a slam dunk. Anyhow, onward and upward.)

What boost does a themed Steam sale give you?

Now, on to Steam discount/sale strategy! In this ‘vanilla, but still useful’ micro-case study, Gary Burchell from Fireblade Software, makers of ‘age of sail’ pirate sim Abandon Ship, passed along some abstracted data and comments from their recent appearance in the Valve-organized Steam Pirate Sale. (That’s peg leg and hook piracy, not ‘copying games’ piracy!)

Here’s some highlights from Gary: “The themed Pirate sale on Steam ran from 17th September 10am PT to 21st September 10am PT. It covered the weekend of 19th September, which was “International Talk Like A Pirate” day.” It was a ‘weekend deal’ highlight, so it appeared in the Special Offers section at the top of the Steam homepage.

Abandon Ship ended up getting in one of the higher tiers of the sale: “On the Steam client, 4 titles were given prominence at the top of the page: Black Flag, Sea of Thieves, Blackwake and Atlas. These have between 14,000 and 32,000 user reviews.. Underneath this in a three-row section was Abandon Ship. This section comprised a total of 7 games.” (The web version of Steam had a slightly different layout, with Abandon Ship rotating more freely in the top section.)

Due to the sale traffic, “a “Sales Page” option was displayed in the marketing section of the Steam back end. This accounted for nearly 3 million impressions & 37,532 store page visits at a click-thru rate of 1.27% (low compared to our lifetime stats).”

Gary also notes: “As with any general increase in Steam popularity, a temporary boost to Discovery Queue occurs.” And with the game picking a 30% discount - almost as high as their highest-ever 33% off - “sales during this period represented a 742% boost over an “average” week.”

He adds: “Approximately 50% of the sales during this period came from our Wishlists, the vast majority through the Wishlist email. [In addition], the Wishlist balance for this period represented an 847% increase.” That’s useful too.

So the conclusion? Keep watching out for eligibility for these Steam sales, especially those where you can be featured higher up on the page, or with less games. (Sometimes Valve will reach out, sometimes they’re organized by third parties.)

Other Stuff..

You know, there’s plenty of other fish in the sea. If by fish you mean ‘links’, and sea, you mean ‘the rest of this newsletter’:

  • Lars Doucet just posted a Patreon update discussing his v0.3 update to his GameDataCrunch website, including a "find games similar to..." link on detail pages, with three methods: similar tags, similar audience, and a blend of both. I’ve already been joking about the gothic font-fest i found when looking at similar games to Yes, Your Grace. But seriously - some great data deep dives.

  • Here’s the newest attempt to corral the massive amount of virtual and physical (& hybrid, I presume!) game dev events out there - GameConfGuide.com. And good luck to them - there’s a lot to keep up on.

  • An odd Stadia-related note, via The Verge, here: “Google’s new $50 Chromecast with Google TV will support a lot of the streaming services most people would want… but the new Chromecast does have one very strange omission: Google’s own game streaming service, Stadia… Google says support will come sometime in the first half of 2021.”

  • Steam’s Digital Tabletop Fest (Oct 21st-26th) got officially announced to the public, and it includes “virtual let’s plays, panels, talks and more streaming activities” organized by Auroch Digital at Valve’s request, with guests including Sandy Petersen, Steve Jackson, and Elizabeth Hargrave. (Steam’s still keen on ‘virtual fests’ that include both community content and game sales.)

  • This Protocol story about Amazon Luna’s plans confirms my suspicions that Amazon’s VOD video channels is the conceptual model for Luna’s expansion: “"You'll see other channels over time," Amazon's VP of Entertainment Devices and Services Marc Whitten told Protocol following the announcement.” Wonder which other major publishers will be hip to launch Luna ‘channels’?

  • As a follow-up from my Wandersong column, the crew at review data/ranking site Steam250 pointed out to me that they have a full review history for each Steam game as part of their (currently free) Club 250 section. Handy if you want to know exactly how many reviews a game had on a particular day in the past.

  • Didn’t have time to check out the many, many games featured in the #PitchYaGame Twitter showcase? GamersPack picked out some of their personal highlights, including Rain On Your Parade (pictured), where “you play as a jerk cloud. But…you do a heck of a lot more than to just rain on people’s parades (and weddings). You also dabble in arson, art-theft, and mass extinction.”

  • Paradox’s Jacob Jorstedt posted a FutureGames marketing course lecture that I thought was neat - “Target audience research - Choose your tools wisely, from $0 bootstrapping to multi-million $ research investments." It features “27 minutes of tools I wished I had access to back when I was starting out in the video games industry.” It preaches the gospel of data-based decision making - which I’m a fan of, duh.

  • Microlinks: you can see the Steam Game Festival Autumn page-in-progress, including already-booked events, EA Play is coming to Xbox Game Pass Ultimate on November 10th; you can now buy Epic Games Store games via the GOG Galaxy meta-storefront.

Finally, here’s an ‘amusing story’ about platform % cuts, which is possibly not that amusing in the end, but hey:

[This newsletter is handcrafted by GameDiscoverCo, a new agency based around one simple issue: how do players find, buy and enjoy your premium PC or console game? We’ll be launching a ‘Plus’ paid newsletter tier with lots of extra info/data - watch out for it soon!]