A Rising Tide for Game Discovery
Recently, in the newsletter Game Discoverability Now, Simon Carless posed the question: “Can influencer-branded game stores work?”. Well, our (the people behind the game stores referenced in the newsletter) response to that question is an unequivocal ‘yes’. Here’s our perspective:
Developing a video game is hard. Finding an audience can be harder. Thousands of games release each year, most of them bound for the dustbin of history. That’s why we originally founded Chrono.gg to try and give developers an advantage, to connect great games directly with influencers — and, by extension, gamers around the world.
The trick is finding a way to do so that feels authentic. Our solution? Last year we soft-launched Creator Stores, where we built custom, curated storefronts using Chrono.gg’s existing technology and partnerships for a select group of influencers across genres and media platforms. We let influencers champion the games they want to champion, and reward them for doing so. All developers need to do is partner with us.
It’s like sponsored content without any of the headaches of sponsored content. We reach out to partners on both sides of the fence (Developers/Publishers and Influencers), we handle the contracts, we track what’s sold and when. We do the heavy lifting, and let developers and influencers focus on what they do best.
Creator Stores proved time and time again to deliver value not only for the creators who had a store, but also for the developers and publishers whose games were in them. The repeated success led to our most recent iteration on Creator Stores — Nexus.gg. Nexus, which is now in beta, goes beyond Creator Stores and fulfills our original vision for a platform where an influencer can create, launch, and operate their own game store within minutes.
A rising tide
The benefits to influencers are obvious. First, they get a cut of their Nexus sales — between 7.5% and 15%, with 70% — 80% to developers and the remaining going towards our costs — when in most cases they wouldn’t receive any portion of the sale. Secondly, and this one is important, they aren’t required to change anything about their content.
This hands-off approach benefits developers too. First and foremost it gets influencers invested in a game’s success, because it’s their success as well. Whereas before a YouTube channel might be content to play Civilization VI or Squad for an audience and rely on passive advertising income from the platform, Nexus incentivizes sales. There’s a clear call to action, a push to get viewers to also buy in.
When Karmakut (379,000 YouTube subscribers) launched his Creator Store in 2019, he didn’t change anything about his channel. He stuck to the same content schedule, played the same mix of tactical shooters that he’d been playing — and yet he drove more than $17,000 in game sales in the first 30 days.
Karmakut’s audience had watched him play these games for months or even years. They’d had purchasing opportunities before. Still, the sales figures prove a large chunk of viewers held off buying until Karmakut’s Creator Store debuted.
Why? People like supporting their favorite influencers. That’s the key. It’s powerful, the idea that buying a game puts money in a creator’s pocket as well.
That’s where these stores differ from affiliate codes. Though both reward influencers, affiliate codes shuffle potential buyers off to a third-party storefront. There’s a disconnect between promotion and purchase. But when you buy from Karmakut’s Nexus, the message is “I’m buying this from Karmakut,” not “I’m buying this from the 3rd party brand.” We handle the back end but our presence is mostly invisible, ensuring Nexus provides a highly personal experience from start to finish.
We’ve even seen impromptu (and unexpected) acts of generosity arise from Creator Stores and Nexus, fans buying multiple copies of a game to give back to both an influencer and the larger community. When popular action RPG content creator ZiggyD promoted his Creator Store for the first time on-stream, a fan bought $500 worth of game keys to hand out to people in chat.
Seal of approval
Nexus also benefits discoverability, one of the foremost problems with traditional games retail nowadays. It sounds paradoxical, but we believe the solution is more stores. Hundreds, even thousands, all reflecting their owner’s hyper-specific and niche interests. Stores with ten games — not per day, but total, and all vouched for by the seller.
You’d expect every store to sell the same handful of popular big-ticket games, but that hasn’t happened. Nexus storefronts by-and-large reflect their owners. EnterElysium focuses mostly on strategy games and his store follows suit, featuring Crusader Kings 3, Hearts of Iron IV, Cities: Skylines and more. Karmakut plays tactical shooters, highlighting games like Squad and Insurgency: Sandstorm. Retromation loves roguelikes, and on his Nexus you’ll find Children of Morta, Enter the Gungeon, Slay the Spire, and so on.
Nexuses are meticulously curated, and that helps smaller games stand out. Say you watch ZiggyD because he plays a lot of Grim Dawn, an action-RPG you’ve been meaning to buy. You go to his Nexus and see one of the eight games he has on offer is Last Epoch, a $35 indie action-RPG that he describes as a game with “fresh takes on character customization and deterministic gear-crafting make for a very solid foundation.” Maybe you leave his store with both.
If every Nexus features one or two unique or off-beat choices, it pushes hundreds of games into the limelight.
This also benefits shorter and more story-driven games. YouTube and Twitch lend themselves to longer experiences, especially those that never end, like multiplayer games and roguelikes. Even if a content creator loves a shorter one-off experience, they might find it hard to promote to followers. Being featured in a Nexus alongside an influencer’s regular lineup can give authored experiences a longer tail, instead of seeing them swept away under a tide of new releases.
Build your network
Best of all, Nexus gives developers easy access to influencers. The past few years, we’ve seen a move towards more and more sponsored content — and for good reason. Sponsored content drives sales, and is useful in specific contexts.
But there are limitations. Smaller developers find it hard to compete at all, with neither the network nor the resources to make the necessary connections. Even for larger developers, the amount of work and coordination that goes into sponsored content can be daunting. It’s something you want to do once, maybe twice.
For many games, that means a burst of attention on launch day followed by…nothing. We’ve already discussed how Nexus can give games a longer promotional tail, and that’s certainly applicable here. Flexibility is our greatest advantage though. Because influencers are directly incentivized to sell games, that opens the door to new promotional opportunities.
A discount, for instance. Philip DeFranco used a one-day discount on a popular AAA title as a jumping-off point for a single 17-second mid-roll promotion and drove tens of thousands in sales within 24 hours, with a 12.9% conversion rate. SkyeStorme likewise encountered success with an indie simulation title. A 20% discount through his store led to more than $3,200 in sales and a 56.3% conversion rate in one week — enough so that the publisher extended the sale for a second week, netting another 100 copies sold.
Updates, even minor, can also convince influencers to do new videos. ZiggyD did a one-hour stream promoting a patch for an indie action roguelike in his store, resulting in 148 copies sold and a 15% conversion rate. Small indie developers usually struggle to fund sponsored content around updates, but Nexus helps ensure these videos still reward influencers for their time and effort, thus encouraging said videos get made in the first place.
It’s a win-win. Developers get more consistent attention, often from sources they never could’ve targeted with sponsored streams, and there’s no up-front fee. Influencers are only paid for delivering sales, not simply the promise of potential sales.
Straight from the source
One final point of interest: Nexus is for anyone, not just influencers. To that end, in 2019 we partnered with IndieCade to celebrate indie games from the festival’s 14-year history. The official IndieCade Creator Store features an eclectic list of games like Walden, Nauticrawl, Glittermitten Grove, and more, a testament to the conference’s legacy in the scene.
We hope the open nature of Nexus encourages others to follow suit. If you’re running a conference, a charity event, an awards show, or even just a game jam and would like to build a Nexus to celebrate the creativity of the participants, we fully support you.
The same goes for any publishers and developers who want to use the Nexus to sell directly to their audience.
Whether you’d like to sell your games through Nexus, set up your own storefront, or want more information, we invite you to get in touch. Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org, and help us make the process of discovering, selling and buying games better for everyone.