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After multiple websites reported that Steam Spy is dead, I think it is time to discuss what is actually going on.

What happened?

As you might know, on 11th of April, 2018 Valve has made changes to their Steam Web API, removing owned games from user’s information, unless they actively opt-in.

Many people, myself included, at first attributed that change to GDPR compliance, but it doesn’t seem to be the case. Valve still exposes your real name, achievements, groups, screenshots, and friends by default and still hasn’t updated their EULA to comply with GDPR. …


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How Steam Direct, PUBG and the rise of China affected the biggest PC gaming marketplace in 2017.

The following article is based on the presentation I gave at GDC 2018. The data was gathered during February 2018 and by now is probably slightly outdated.

Obligatory Fine Print

Steam Spy only tracks owners and players, not sales. Steam Spy doesn’t track DLCs or MTXs.

It’s impossible to distinguish between games sold on Steam, sold elsewhere and given away for free. For the purposes of this article we’re measuring the market Steam controls, not the sales coming directly through Steam.

Steam Spy uses 98% confidence range and is very inaccurate for small games, especially the ones below 30K owners.

Geography on Steam Spy relies on self-reported data. Only engaged users fill out the country field in their profiles, therefore the geo-data is inevitably skewed. …


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An average indie title these days is priced $8.72 on Steam. During the last Summer Sale the price went down to the mind-boggling $4.63 and yet the average sales are at their lowest at 21,000 copies.

Small indie titles usually have a smaller audience save for a few outliers. The problem with our approach is that people seem to normalize extremely successful breakout hits while assuming everything that didn’t sell north of a million copies is a complete failure.

This is simply not true. It’s understandable to follow the famous American dream “get rich or die trying”, but to have a sustainable market for indie titles we need to accept the fact that most of them will not sell hundreds of thousands of copies. …


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You’ve heard this talk before: iPad was supposed to replace PC for the majority of casual users dragging us into the sci-fi future of thin and powerful devices that can do everything.

Of course, it didn’t happen and is unlikely to happen shortly, but iPad can indeed replace PC in certain use cases. The exciting news is that the number of these use cases is growing.

I’ve been using iPad as my travel computer since iPad 2. Emails, simple texts (like this one), presentations, coding, and even spreadsheets — as I changed the devices, their ability to do more serious work grew. …


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In 2016 there were 5,245 new games released on Steam — the biggest year yet for new releases. Yet, the overall sales and revenue from paid titles were roughly the same as the last year.

Important note: The following data was gathered using Steam Spy service. Steam Spy estimates ownership of games on Steam using statistical analysis and is not 100% accurate!

More games every month


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Over 4000 games were released on Steam this year alone. Some of those games, to put it mildly, are of dubious quality and got bad reviews. So gamers started asking: “Why won’t Valve filter new games like it did before Greenlight”?

I don’t work at Valve, so everything below is just my personal opinion. But I believe, Valve is currently in the position where it would not be possible to implement any kind of a review process.

Ye olde game store

Let’s start with how the things worked in the ancient times. And by “ancient times” I actually mean the ’90s.

By that time the gaming industry was already that — an actual industry, not a loosely-tied bunch of enthusiasts making games out of their bedrooms and basements. …


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Recently there have been several reports about some AAA titles under performing in what considered to be a traditionally good season for big games. Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare and Watch Dogs 2 are two prime examples, although people seem to forget about Battlefield 1 that got double the audience of Battlefield 4 at launch.

Rob Fahey wrote an interesting article at GamesIndustry.biz about the transition our industry is going through, but his version of the future seems to be focused exclusively on console and maybe PC titles without taking into account all other gaming platforms and niches.

Who is a gamer anyway?

What’s going on, in my opinion, is a further fragmentation of audience where more people now have a better selection of games tailored specifically for their needs. Not everyone, mind you, we still have a long way to go (and a tremendous opportunity to grow). …


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This was the first Steam Summer Sale without any daily or flash deals. And despite the perception of some of the core gamers, it ended up better than the previous one for both game developers and consumers: gamers bought more games, developers earned more money. And that’s what makes a sale great, right?

Caveats

When estimating revenue and number of copies sold I’m doing my best to filter out free giveaways, new titles without any discounts, and account for the regional difference in pricing.

For example, Limbo was free on Steam for a limited time, and therefore I assumed that all of its new 1.9M owners are coming from that promotion. Of course, in reality, some people bought the game after the giveaway, but it’s hard to tell just how many. …


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As a person born in the Soviet Union and raised in Ukraine, I grew up in a bit different culture than most people reading this. The post-Soviet culture was patriarchal, favoring young and healthy over the people with disabilities.

Despite that post-Soviet game developers were one of the first to go beyond classic “dudebro” gamer audience and develop different games for different kinds of people.


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Analytics for indies 101

Along with marketing & PR, market research and analytics are still considered to be something reserved exclusively for “the big guys” — either major publishers or free-to-play behemoths.

Some indie developers even go as far as to declare these tools “evil”, and stand by our ancestral ways of doing things, i.e. relying purely on instincts and luck.

In this article I’ll try to explain some of the basic research you can do yourself to improve your game without investing significant resources or buying expensive subscriptions and white-papers. …

About

Sergiy Galyonkin

Steam Spy, game development and marketing.

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