Even though competition has increased in recent years, Steam is still king for PC game developers. It is by far the most important distribution platform for premium PC titles and basically no game developer can afford to ignore it. Even huge publishers that have their own store fronts like Ubisoft and EA are distributing their games on Steam and willing to pay a hefty chunk of royalty to partake. Even minor changes to the internal Steam recommendation and surfacing algorithms can have a huge impact on your sales.
For game developers it is not only a place to sell games but also a treasure trove of information about the current state of the PC game market as a whole. Digging deep into Steam analytics is not only a good idea before committing to a game production, but also important for optimizing your already selling game presence. Monitoring closely how your Steam store page changes affects your game visibility is as important as ever.
In this article I’ll feature steam developer tools for analysing the Steam market. I think you’ll find some of these invaluable for your own research. Here are some questions these tools can help to answer:
The Steam partner backend provides a lot of very useful information, most importantly your revenue information segmented by time, region, platform and other dimensions. Additionally it also provides a couple very interesting benchmarking signals, allowing you to compare your wishlist conversion rate, refund rate and other information to Steam averages (unfortunately you can’t specify a specific target genre or game).
Steam also allows you to apply a Google Analytics tracking ID to your store page, which allows you to gain statistics about visitors to your store page. This can be interesting for identifying referral sources that are featuring your page, like figuring out which press outlets are directing the most traffic to your page.
If you already have a game on Steam, the backend should be your first stop for understanding your game performance.
SteamDB feels like an extremely optimized version of Steam that drops all bells and whistles and just gives you as much raw data as possible. As a gamer you’ll appreciate how quickly you can browse categories and quickly scan the ultra fast loading gifs of games. As a game developer you’ll love the amount of information that is compiled for each game, like the full regional price table of each game.
It also provides a lot of historical data like sales discount history or concurrent player counts. The nice thing about these is that they are 100% accurate as they are generated from scanning the data point from the official Steam page itself and plotting it for long time periods.
The Steam Database is the swiss army knife of Steam developer tools and will probably be your second most valuable resource after Steam’s native backend itself.
Steam Spy primarily focuses on estimating how many units individual games sell on Steam. Just right for researching those addressable market numbers. The numbers used to be calculated by crawling all public player profiles and scanning their game lists and extrapolating to the general audience. This worked pretty well since Steam used to default profile visibility to public and they were freely accessible by browsing Steam and guessing user account numbers.
Once Steam Spy started to take off, Steam decided to set profiles to private by default for supposedly data privacy reasons. This basically prevented getting accurate statistical data using Steam Spy’s old method. It now uses a heuristic of various metrics, probably including remaining public information like review count, community members and concurrent players to guesstimate revenue. To reflect the lower confidence in the new stats the displayed estimates have become much more vague, often only mentioning large ranges. More detailed stats and charts are still available to Patreon supporters but it’s unclear how reliable the numbers are.
Interesting side fact: Since it was disclosed that the founder of SteamSpy Sergiy Galyonkin is working for the Steam competitor Epic Games some have questioned how unbiased the data actually is.
During its hay days Steam Spy used to be invaluable. Unfortunately it’s importance has ebbed quite a bit as Steam closed its data leak. The current estimate for Curious Expedition 2 is around 200,000 to 500,000 units sold, which is pretty vague and leaning towards being a bit over optimistic.
Play Tracker allows to set up global player profiles that aggregate information from multiple platform-specific player accounts. It’s insight program is aimed at providing interesting insights into the data gained from these accounts, especially when comparing the same game on different platforms. The page is fairly young and does not contain a lot of information for smaller game titles.
You can get access to more charts when supporting the project via Patreon, but at the moment I think that the information from the other resources will most probably be much more relevant for you.
Game Stats aims to be an alternative to SteamSpy or SteamDB. It allows some quite extensive search operations on the Steam catalog and features estimated sales revenues and historical charts for games. The page is relatively new and can’t quite compete with SteamDB or Steam Spy in terms of features and usability. If you want to help the developer to change that, consider supporting them on their patreon.
Checking the revenue estimates for Curious Expedition 1 and 2 I can say that the page misrepresents the revenue for both games by a factor of over 2, so don’t base your business plan too much on these numbers.
When you browse a game page you’ll notice that Steam surfaces 12 other similar games in the “more like this” section. This section is not based on your personal steam profile but looks the same for every user that sees that game page. Netting a link from a popular game page can be a huge boost to the visibility of your own game. How these links are exactly generated is not exactly known, but your Steam game tags seem to play a role. Carefully optimizing the tags via trial and error can improve your ranking or make you show up on a game that you’re specifically targeting.
The Steam Likes page really homes in on this use case. Most importantly it does not only allow you to see all outgoing links from any game, but more importantly which other games are linking to a specific game.
Definitely worth a visit. Don’t take applying tags to your game likely. They might have a bigger impact on your game visibility and Steam’s recommendation system than you think.
This app is a spin-off from the fine folks at Superhot and allows you to browse your Steam sales records in a more convenient and powerful way. It especially allows to aggregate sales data from multiple stores at once - including various PC and console stores - so you can see all your revenue in one place broken down by various dimensions.
The app is currently still in beta, but you can apply for an invite on the homepage. It looks quite promising and might have a shot at becoming a standard tool for a lot of game developers and publishers who are wrestling with managing multiple games and store systems.
Steam Scout is an app by our Indonesian friends at Toge Production and allows to analyze Steam Reviews by region. You can analyze the amount of reviews and also average sentiment for each region for games. This could also be a great tool for identifying underserved markets and which language to support next.
For Curious Expedition 2 the most favorable reviews are from Germany. Maybe there is something like a home market advantage after all.
Game Discovery Co is an agency focused on figuring out how people discover and buy premium pc and console games. It is founded by none other than Simon Carless, former IGF chair person and indie games summit GDC creator. They have an excellent free newsletter that contains a treasure trove of market insights and commentary. From the impact of subscription services, to reports on the legal battles between the big store platforms and also how game devs are finding ingenious ways to test and market their products.
If you sign up for the premium newsletter you get additional exclusive articles and also access to their own Steam Hype charts which ranks upcoming games based on a variety of criteria and anticipates the hot sellers of tomorrow. You also get access to charts that feature top wishlisted and followed games currently.
Super interesting and well worth supporting for the excellent articles alone.