Who are the top YouTube influencers for indie game discovery?
Some picks for the top folks you want your game covered by.
[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.]
Welcome to another week in the salt mines, my game discovery comrades. You’ll be getting a ration of Gamer Grub for lunch, your allotted 5 minute butterscotch vape break at 3pm, and you’ll be out of here at 5pm on the dot, ready for the private club.
Or maybe that’s not how your day will go - but we’re happy to have you along for the ride. Thanks for reading, as always, and we hope you learn something you didn’t know from today’s newsletter.
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The top indie game YouTubers for discovery? Tada!
Talking about the breadth of streamers (on both Twitch and YouTube) who make a real difference to game discovery often feels like a fool’s errand. There are so many, and it’s tricky to categorize them - even though their support is vital.
But we were looking at our Plus data on August 2022’s top-performing new Steam games (by total reviews) recently, and many of the smaller-budget indies that broke through - The Mortuary Assistant, PlateUp!, Backpack Hero, and Escape The Backrooms, for example - clearly did so because of some major influencer support.
We can’t emphasize enough - making a game that influencers are excited to play is a game changer for success. Because games spread from influencer to influencer in a delicate, organic way, it’s often very tricky to map for success, too.
But if all you do today is just click through on one or two of these links and try to grok style & interest, it’ll help you understand this massive, complex ecosystem. Here we go:
True ‘variety streamers’: this rare set of streamers really jump around a lot from game to game. The most obvious example is Splattercat, whom we’ve interviewed before. But Best Indie Games tries to highlight a large variety, and Wanderbot & Retromation switch games in and out more than many. (Also, AlphaBetaGamer for Beta testing kudos, and SkillUp for indie game mentions.)
‘Less games, more play’ streamers: these pick 2-3 ‘main’ games, and do multiple (5-10? thousands?) of videos before rotating. Examples: Northernlion, obviously. There’s also also Blitz, Drae, DangerouslyFunny, and plenty of mid-tier folks like Skoottie - you can see how much both PlateUp! and (stealth F2P hit!) Super Auto Pets have caught on, by looking at his output.
Genre specialists: perhaps these folks don’t play all the genres, but they punch above their weight in specific game styles. Examples: Civvie11 for ‘boomer shooters’, Real Civil Engineer for building games, Nookrium or PartyElite for deep strategy games, BestInSlot specifically for dinosaur games (!)
More diverse influencers: this space appears to be extremely, uhm, ‘younger white guy yammering at screen’-centric. So it’s good to see folks like KatherineOfSky (all kinds of titles!) Hafu (going hard on PlateUp!) and CupAhNoodle (horror & creepypasta-centric!) also succeeding in the space.
This is a fraction, as we said, of the possible influencers we could have mentioned. We’ve only covered English language, for one. And if you can get things just right, of course - especially in the horror/jumpscare game niche - there’s even huger influencers to tap like Markiplier & JackSepticEye out there.
(Although to some extent, the biggest channels are more about goofin’ on the streamer’s own fame, or ‘fake feuding with each other’ - and not quite so much about the games that they play. Mo’ subscribers, mo’ metatextual?)
But we hope you learned something. If we were working making games, we’d prescribe mandatory ‘watch influencers and understand how they work’ lessons to your whole company, since it’s the main way many find out about certain styles of games.
Follow-ups: PS/Xbox numbers, curators, & more
We’ve run what we claim (lol!) are quite a few interesting articles, recently. And some of you were kind enough to get back to us on a few of them. So here’s a round-up of some extra data and insight from them:
We followed up with Ampere’s Piers Harding-Rolls after our ‘PS5 increase good?’ piece, and his data estimates that “by the end of June 2022, Sony had sold through 21 million PS5s worldwide, compared to Microsoft’s Xbox Series consoles at 13.8 million.” In other words, Sony is already ‘ahead’ on hardware for this gen, despite its recent sourcing struggles. (Social media buzz vs. reality can differ!)
Of course, as we said in the article, North America is “a traditionally Xbox-friendly locale.” We suspect that Western Europe and particularly ‘rest of world’ are the locations where PlayStation continues to grab a bigger lead on the hardware end. Still, premium AAA titles not in Game Pass currently have a PlayStation-centric sales tilt, vs. Xbox - we’ll have more analysis on this soon.
Following general publicity over badly-behaving Steam Curators, including a story by us (scroll down!): “All curator groups that targeted BROK the InvestiGator with fake negative reviews and allegedly were using the groups to obtain keys to resell have been banned for violating Steam Community Rules.” Valve also replied to the dev with a well thought-out explanation of why the Curator system is like it is right now. (But also that they may consider changing it in the future...)
One other good tip, leading from the ‘when to launch your game on Steam?’ matrix we published? Don’t launch directly before a big Steam sale (esp. Summer Sale, Autumn Sale, and Winter Sale) if you’re hoping to chart & want visibility & Discovery Queue momentum. (All those discounted hit games will start vying for the same attention pretty swiftly!)
We’ve now manually fixed it, but thanks for the heads up: yep, we kinda knew that Bethesda’s Starfield was delayed to 2023, even if our automatic data-gathering algorithm didn’t for Friday’s Plus newsletter (where it still appeared in this year’s release list.) Said algorithm has been summarily decompiled and whipped.
Otherwise, if you have any other comments or tips, feel free to reach out - we’d love to hear from you.
The game discovery news round-up..
And there’s an extra load of interesting game discovery news & links, since it’s been nearly a week since our last round-up. So, with our ‘we’re hiding in the basement because California is way too hot right now’ hat on, here’s what we’ve got:
Over on SteamDB, they continue to roll out interesting data scrapes. And the latest is a capture of all of those square Steam news pop-ups, starting last week. You can a) see which games get them b) gaze upon their design and rejoice. (We don’t think these are all displayed to everybody, though. Some are, like Midweek Madness titles, but some are likely more selective?)
The latest Microsoft x Activision acquisition drama? The UK gov entity the CMA is ‘taking its analysis to Phase 2’, saying it “could lead to competition concerns.” Enter, stage left, Xbox’s Phil Spencer, with a policy position piece and a handily timed leak that Microsoft already told Sony it “will keep Call of Duty on PlayStation for ‘several more years’ beyond existing deal.” But as Stephen Totilo noted, Starfield and Elder Scrolls VI from the Bethesda deal are currently (?) positioned as Xbox console-exclusive. So… the tightrope walking continues!
In ‘what a milestone’ news, Re-Logic’s Terraria “is the first game on Steam to cross a million reviews and maintain an Overwhelmingly Positive status. The game has received 1,000,308 reviews, 97.86 percent of which are positive, and has an overall rating of 97.11 percent.” Congrats to them!
There’s some interesting stuff happening over at Apple Arcade, where the initial three year deals - as mentioned back in July - for a _lot_ of games are coming due. There was an orderly transition at one point, but now: “both ChuChu Rocket Universe! and the excellent Tangle Tower have left Arcade this time without any notice or mention on the App Store.” We’ll try to keep an eye on this.
Microlinks: PlayStation VR2 should make it easier for developers to port their games from other platforms; Valve’s Steam Deck booklet says it will “build new versions to be even more open and capable”; Epic has an Unreal Fest event coming up in New Orleans in October, with lots of UE5 technical specifics.
So, The Callisto Protocol’s Mark James, by way of explaining why it’s not on Game Pass, said that services like that “are built towards some of the open-world style and repetitive multiplayer games”, adding: “I still think you're going to see the platform holder[-owned] studios provide [higher-budget] single-player games in them.” When you’re talking about expensive (>$5-$10 million?) titles, we reckon that’s about right.
We’ve mentioned the ‘games within Snapchat’ Snap Games platform/division before, but Snap’s recent layoffs - partly prompted by an 80% stock price drop in recent months - meant “it’s abandoning a number of projects, including Snap Originals, Minis, Games, Zenly, Voisey, and also its recently launched mini drone Pixy.” So, uh, no more of that, but more focus on augmented reality…
It’s still only available in select countries, but here’s the official Irish ‘soft launch’ page for Xbox Game Pass’ ‘Friends & Family’ deal: “With Game Pass Friends & Family, you and up to four players can enjoy Game Pass Ultimate for just € 21.99 a month… Add up to four friends and family members, whether they live under the same roof or not.” Although they do all need to be in the same country...
Microlinks: Google launches third-party Play Store billing pilot - but only cuts fees by 4%; an interview on how Kickstarter’s new director of games will fight the growing lack of trust in the platform; a new ChromeOS gaming overlay puts touch-based Android games on your PC; Day Of The Devs is back in San Francisco this November and you can submit your game(s) until Sept. 13th.
Finally, we love to see unique game controller ideas, and this example is just a doozy - enjoy. And see you for the second free newsletter of the week on Thursday:
[We’re GameDiscoverCo, an agency based around one simple issue: how do players find, buy and enjoy your premium PC or console game? We run the newsletter you’re reading, and provide consulting services for publishers, funds, and other smart game industry folks.]