News How Steam users see your game (Gamasutra)

Ascheroth

Writing in the Megastructure
Nov 12, 2018
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There's lots and lots of interesting observations in there and it's a very illuminating read.
I found it also matches my own browsing habits.

In case you didn’t watch the video or got distracted for 1 minute and 45 seconds that person wishlisted the game after they thought the game’s capsule image was cute, watched 13 seconds of an animated gif version of the trailer, read 12 words of the short description, SKIPPED the trailer, looked at exactly 4 screenshots (which took all of 5.5 seconds), checked 5 user-defined tags, jumped over the full-text description, glanced at the curators, and skimmed through 1 negative review.

If you thought she was some speed-reading super-shopper, she is not. What you just saw was the typical behavior I witnessed when I spent 5 hours watching gamers shop on Steam.
Screenshots (and their order!) is important:
This “hover behavior” participants exhibited made me realize that your screenshot selection and placement are more important than your trailer because the hover tooltip cycles between your first 4 screenshots and not the trailer. Participants wanted those 4 screen shots to show them what type of game they are hovering over. So I would recommend showing the 4 distinct points of your game’s core gameplay loop. For instance if you have a survival/crafting game I would prioritize the following 4 screenshots:
1 that is someone exploring a beautiful open world
1 that is them collecting something (including the UI that says “pick” or “cut” or whatever)
1 of the crafting menu
1 of the character holding up the newly-crafted item
Barely anyone cares about trailers and I think he's right on the money with this:
Now you might think trailers are the first thing they watch (it makes sense - they auto-play they are fully animated etc) but time and time again I saw most participants click right past the trailer to the screenshots. Most participants didn’t even turn on the sound. I think this is because too many trailers have long logo intros and cinematics which participants didn’t care about because it doesn’t tell them the gameplay or the genre.
 

Samson

boop
Aug 2, 2019
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Oh yeah definitely, it's really irritating when there's like 5-10 different trailers on a store page when I just want to see some screenshots.
This is an awful aspect of some store pages.

One example that springs to mind is Oxygen Not Included, which literally has 8 goddamn videos on the store page ahead of its 8 screenshots. I can't remember if we've seen a store page example from the upcoming redesign, but if we haven't, I hope they find a better way to separate out the two media types.

Personally, the issue to me isn't necessarily cinematics over gameplay, I just want one, good, curated option shown. Don't shove a trailer, a character trailer, a gameplay demo, a launch trailer, and an accolades trailer all onto the front-page. Pick one good one.
 
OP
Ascheroth

Ascheroth

Writing in the Megastructure
Nov 12, 2018
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This is also a point I never really thought about consciously, but reading about it, it's totally true:

Genre, genre, genre
When trying to pitch your game to publishers or press, the general advice has always been “tell them why you are unique. What distinguishes your game from all the rest?” That is still true for gate keepers and curators. But in the hours of user testing I did, none of the participants said “I wonder what makes this game unique?” or “What is the unique selling proposition for this game?” or “hmm why is this game different from all the others” Instead I heard a lot of people saying “Oh so this game is just like game XYZ” or “this is right up my alley because I like these games” or “Ah this is my type of game.”

From what I saw, people know their genre and they don’t want to wishlist something with unfamiliar gameplay. They want to wishlist something they know.

Note: you should still try to make your game have a unique hook. It should still have unique visuals that impress. But, the average Steam player is not looking for what differentiates your game so your Steam store page shouldn't either. Buyers are looking to see what makes your game fit within their preferred genre. You need to include the subtle clues such as UI, key words, and camera angles that tell people what genre your game belongs to.
 

Wibblewozzer

Robot on the inside
Dec 6, 2018
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I own the one game this researcherr created, just bought during the Summer Sale, and to unlock the fourth character you have to sign up for a mailing list and he did send direct emails which shows he's way into figuring out this stuff. Neat.

I agree with many of the things he observed, though not everything matches how I go through things (I rarely pay attention to tags or if I do look they account for like 1% of the decision making that goes on).

Agreed on trailers. I have them muted and skip the majority of them. Sometimes I'll skim through them quickly to try to find gameplay. Didn't Valve some years back say that the initial trailer must include gameplay or something after complaints about trailers just being cinematics? Or was it just to have less CG trailers? I seem to recall something years ago about them putting some rule in place. Regardless, so many games have useless trailers and screenshots I find I have to look to YouTube just to see the game played by some random person to actually see how it's played.

And his last point that there's a tax to get people to buy because people don't buy games at full price but add to the wishlist to then buy later. This isn't entirely true for me as I do buy things at full price (but usually cheaper games around $20 or less) but I'm curious what ideas there are to help entice people to buy stuff at full price:
  • This goes into how Steam isn't always great at surfacing updates from developers because it gets mixed in with Rock, Paper, Shotgun articles and other bullshit, but if they had a better listing of when games were last updated I know that's gotten me to remember to buy stuff or enticed me when a big update hit that interested me.
  • Also, I wonder if they would ever let them include a bunch of extras when bought at full price but when the game is on sale all those extras are sold separately? Stuff like soundtracks, digital artbooks, etc. That way people get a bit of a bonus for ponying up full price purchases and when people buy it on sale but end up wanting to support more or really like the game and just want the stuff they can then buy them separately, which means part of the sale price recouped for the seller.
  • I highly doubt this would ever fly and there'd probably be a lot of negativity, but make it so full price purchases make the account flagged for that game as like a loyalty thing and let them have access to a separate message board or Discord or whatever. And like above let people that bought it on sale have an option to jump in on this developer access method of contact by paying some minimal fee if someone bought it on sale wants to be able to get in on that. I'd be fine with this but I bet it would be met very negatively.
 

daxy

MetaMember
Dec 6, 2018
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Buying games full price is a tough nut to crack. I don't buy many games full price at all unless I'm familiar with the developer and would like to pitch in a little because I appreciate their work. Usually I wait for a sale like many others so as to mitigate possible disappointment or to feel less bad if it ends up in the backlog. So when I do it's usually smaller games and rarely a first game. A few notable exceptions in recent memory have been Stardew Valley, Golf Story, Hollow Knight and Blossom Quest. The first three I read up on extensively and knew I'd enjoy for sure. Plus, they were around 15 euros so buying them didn't exactly break the bank, That last one I got a burned on though. I was craving for a Zelda fix at the time, and it seemed decent enough. Unfortunately, it didn't really meet my expectations. It could've been avoided if I took the time to go over gameplay videos, but I rushed into buying it.
 
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Wibblewozzer

Robot on the inside
Dec 6, 2018
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I think some people will buy stuff full price at or near release, that's just a given. If you want a new game that's just how it works.

Outside of that one other time I buy (cheaper) games at full price is during the large Steam Sales. I usually buy 30+ games a sale and out of those inevitably around 3-5 are full price cheap games. When I go through my (too large) wishlist and hunt for which games to buy during the sales I still look at some of the stuff that isn't on sale and if it scratches an itch I'm having at that moment I'll toss it into the cart.

That alone isn't a reliable way to sell their games but if any of my above thoughts somehow could be paired up with the large sale periods, so maybe it's when some update is pushed out and Steam did a good way of surfacing that, it may help push people when they're in the mood for opening their wallets.
 
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texhnolyze

Role Player
Oct 19, 2018
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One of the major keys to reap as many full price sales as possible is regional pricing. I'd be happy to wait for a sale if you're not accommodating my region. But in the other hand, I've bought countless games at full price too. They have one thing in common: fair pricing.
 
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gabbo

MetaMember
Dec 22, 2018
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For me, this article does kind of ring true. If the capsule and it's screenshots catch my eye, I'll click through. But for me, I actually like trailers. If i'm on your page something has caught my eye, and it's likely ive already determined from the capsule screens the basics like UI and genre. Hence my liking trailers. I like two kinds of trailers and there should only be one of each on a store page. gameplay with dev description in voice over, and a story trailer.
I enjoy story driven single player games, so while screen shots can mostly tell me how to play, a story trailer fills in the other bits I want to know and clarifies any further digging down I need re:mechanics,/art style/etc; while also telling me just how much of a story is there. (re-the resurgence of retro engine shooters where the trailers show that gameplay is the focus and the story is mostly driven through that and flavour text).

He is dead on about trailers with long intros and screens/trailers that hide the genre too. If I can only discern a genre from screenshots and I need to get through more than two trailers to see them, your game better have a damn good art or thematic hook to keep me looking. because that shit is annoying. and I'll often move on. Also, I really don't care what engine you're using, who produced/funded your game or what other games you've made. If it's gameplay ,jump in with a short "Hello" and get to the playing. If it's story, I still don't want to see UE4 splash screens and credits but I'll take a 'developer of' here.

Also he's on the money about negative reviews and tags. I only use tags to filter for things I don't like even with tag filters already in place. if an mmo or anime game slip into my queue, and the screens or trailer don't make it obvious (more so for mmos than an anime-styled game) than seeing massively multiplayer or mmo will stop me in my tracks. I don't care about story or thematic elements for tags. if you can prioritize - genre is king.
And reviews, while I will read some positive, I do tend to read mostly negatives. I want to know why a game gets teh thumb down- and rants generally aren't informative. Lest the dev kicked your dog and slept with your mother, your feeling on anything besides the shortcomings/bugs of the game are meaningless to me. A positive review needs to follow NGJ - how did it make you feel but also how mechanically did the game play? Mind you if I'm looking at reviews, there is a good chance i've already wishlisted your game and am using it to decide whether to buy now or later because I generally don't read steam reviews - I prefer long form things like RPS's Wot I Thinks since it can cover a lot more ground on a game than most steam reviews ever do.


edit: also, yeah my wishlist is basically a 'to remember for later' list that has over 120 entries. I don't buy all the games I put on there in a timely manner, but games on it are never forgotten. It's just for games I want when I have the cashmoneys, not a statement on game quality. I don't need to buy into a hype cycle to buy and like a game, so sitting in there well past launch is not bad in my eyes

Hopefully devs take some of his advice to heart, but clearly this is something of an extreme example, as not all indies would need to feed into thi if they're not first timers
oh and if its a dev I'm already familiar with, then none of this matters at all, except the number of trailers on the page. Fuck off with more than two already.
 
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Milena

Slow Player
Jan 4, 2019
372
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Pretty spot on for me: I click on a game only if the capsule and first screenshots look cool, I skip trailers unless the game really intrigues me, I watch for tags to understand the genre, I don't find it useful when the description at the top is a story intro, and I look at reviews to see if the game has problems running / obvious glitches.

Regarding the last parahraph: well, it's true that I don't buy right away the vast majority of games I wishlist (there are too many!), but I still do buy a lot. And I won't lie, a discount at launch for a game I'm fairly interested in is usually all it takes to convince me.
 

Arsene

Unpaid Weeb Game Shill
Apr 17, 2019
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I usually click on games with interesting capsule images/logos, then I look at the screenshots/tags and if im interested ill watch the trailer.

And yes I know judging a game by its logo is weird 😬
 

Wildebeet

Junior Member Forever
Dec 5, 2018
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OP Ascheroth thanks for pointing out this article. Really interesting observations. Some makes sense to me and some doesn't at all. I've for a year or two now almost stopped browsing steam for new game recommendations. In fact, now that there is a "Steam new releases and pages" thread pinned to the top here at Meta, I don't need Steam for finding new games. There are so many games that you have to make a snap judgment.

So for me, that capsule image thing isn't superficial. An image that shows me some kind of artistic merit, or is sort of window into the game world, an exciting way to show the spirit of the game somehow, that's where I start for games I've never heard of before. And that's just to wishlist, which I'm more inclined to do than not (got over 1100 wishlisted, but I really only care about the top 50, maybe 100). A competent logo image to represent the game indicates to me the level of effort being made on presentation overall.

I totally disagree with his screenshot order idea. What do I care what the crafting UI looks like for god sake. I want to see the world they've created and see if it would be fun to check out. I use the tags to try to figure out genre. Agreed that indie and female protag are useless.

Totally disagree on GIFs. I'm on a fairly slow connection because I live in a very rural area. So if a page is loading 63MB of gifs, I'm either script blocking like crazy or just closing the browser window in defeat. Often (increasingly VERY often) I can't even load the screenshots, which is all I really wanted to see in the first place, until the steam page loads a million flashy but useless gifs. It makes so, SO many steam pages impossible to navigate if you're not on good broadband.

Also trailers waste my time and bandwidth. I almost always, just out of habit, will immediately skip to about 20 seconds in to the trailer so we can get on with it and see the game, instead of overly cinematic opening nonsense. IN A WORLD of DARK and MAGIC and .... swirling smoke. Slashing sword. Closed eyes... wait for it.... OPEN SCARY EYES. Ok.... what is the game? I'm not stuck in a theater seat. Skip.

Interesting that so much of this is just because of the way valve decided to design their store over time.
 

Wibblewozzer

Robot on the inside
Dec 6, 2018
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Anyone here use What's On Steam ? I don't always keep up on it but I used to check it every day and skim it to click through and add things to my wishlist all the time. For people that hate the trailers pushing screenshots down or too much extra stuff on the page it's a real quick way to skim quickly to use screenshots as a quick judge if you want to click further.
 
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