5 July 2020
Having a great Steam page is one of the first steps that you should take to increase sales for your game (outside of making a great game, of course). When a potential customer visits your Steam page, you only have a few seconds to grab their attention and convince them to 1) buy your game immediately or 2) continue to read up more information to make up their mind. If your Steam page does not invoke any interest and lacks a professional, distinct look, you are loosing a lot of money. To build a great Steam page, you need to be aware of how the average user navigates the store and how the buyers intent evolves at each stage. In this guide, I’ll be showing you step-by-step how to make a Steam page that will get customers to pull out their credit cards.
Have Intriguing Media
In most cases, the first thing that a user will see when entering your store page, is the trailer. Make sure that the first few seconds of your game show it off at its best or surprise them with some stunning visuals or an exciting cinematic.
Sound is another very important factor, make sure that your trailer is underlined by your best music or a custom piece to make it more memorable. A lot of users have trailers playing on auto-play - this means that the player’s attention will be directed towards it as soon as they open the store page, even if its NOT the first thing they look at.
Screenshots help the player affirm that this is a good product to purchase. A good screenshot reel has a big (at least 8 screenshots), varied selection of images that show off various elements of the game. Most players look at the screenshots to estimate how much content is available and try to make assumptions on how interesting the gameplay is. Make sure that each screenshot shows off a different part of the game (mechanics, interactions, etc.) in a different setting, highlighting both a large amount of content and gameplay variation. You are also going to want to start with the best screenshots at the start of the media reel, again because you want to hook the player.
Your description is usually what the player looks at once your initial media has got them interested in finding out more about your product – good! Unfortunately, many indie studios have a bullet point list of features in their description, which is rarely going to convert into a sale. Instead, create that bullet point list, then turn each bullet point into its own heading, followed by a short paragraph going into further detail to explain it. A detailed game description conveys to the player that there is a lot to the game, while helping them to make a more informed buying decision.
That said, a lot of people visiting your Steam page might only skim over the headers or first few sentences, most will not read the whole thing. That is why its super important to have a short, one sentence summary at the very beginning of your description that sums up the genre, mood and gameplay. This way, the player does not get annoyed by being forced to read through a bunch of text just to get confirmation on the initial impression they had from your media. Start with a summary, then add details for the more curious customers.
Another important aspect is to include a lot of media in your description as well. Screenshots are great, GIFs are even better! Highlight what you are talking about with great imagery, so the player can get a better idea of the gameplay and imagine themselves experiencing it.
The description section from Oxygen Not Included features fun GIFs that show off the humerous nature of the gameplay
Finally, a great way to convert an interested customer who is taking the time to read through your description already, is to add some flair to your writing. Instead of going for a dry sales pitch that explains how great the game is, write in a style that truly expresses either you as the developer, makes some clever reference to the type of game you have made, or is simply differentiated from what you find on other store fronts. Distinguishing yourself will not only help convince the potential customer that this is an interesting product, but also increase the likelihood of them sharing it with others.
Your game’s brand is primarily defined by its box art and name, these are also the two main things that users who are just browsing the store will be judging your game by, as they have no other points of reference (unless they already know about it). Its important to make sure you nail these two!
I’m assuming that you are already set on a name and a bit further into the game development process, given you are reading an article about publishing on Steam, but it should be mentioned that changing it later on is going to have a really negative impact on sales. This is because people might no longer be able to find it in the store or are going to get confused when they see content using the old name. Make sure you like the name and that it makes sense. A good rule of thumb is to imagine you were in a loud bar and were trying to tell the person next to you about your game – would it be easy or hard to convey it to them?
Most people judge a book by its cover (or a game by its box art). Put in a lot of time to make sure that your box art conveys exactly the type of experience that players can expect when buying your game, but also looks interesting enough for them to want to find out more and click on the store page link. Another good idea is to include the name of the game somewhere on the box art and adjust it when you make specific content updates or events.
Even when displayed in this minimal form on the Steam store, Pavlov's box art lets you know immediately what game it is and what its about
The announcement section is particularly important for early access games, but any game can benefit from a healthy list of written developer updates. Convey to the customer that this game is not just a throwaway title, but that you are actively listening to the community and consistently adding small improvements over time. This gives buyers confidence that the developer will address any bugs that they might encounter and report, or that they can enjoy more content further down the road.
Huw Milward's Warsim is updated regularly, giving early access buyers confidence that potential bugs will be fixed
Good announcement posts follow a similar structure as the description section (use of high quality screenshots or GIFs, unique writing style, etc.) but bullet point lists for change logs and similar pieces are not frowned upon.
Any awards your game wins or is nominated for, no matter how insignificant, should be mentioned in the awards section of your Steam page. This gives your game an additional flair of prestige and makes it seem like there is wider interest in the title, further enticing a potential customer to make a purchase. Participated in a smaller competition that does not get listed by Steam? Hit up customer support and ask them if it can get accredited!
Reviews are an important factor when someone considers buying a game. A game that has been out for a while and lacks reviews, or simply has a low score, is going to loose a lot of sales - there is little to impact this other than making a good game! You can respond careful how to reviews but be careful when you do this. It makes sense to dispute an unfair review with a well reasoned counter argument, but it can be equally as effective to give in to the requests of a frustrated customer, thus showing you are listening to community feedback. How you react to reviews will impact your brand and thus the sales of your game. Another thing you can (and I recommend) do is to create a section of handpicked reviews from press or the user review section that are particularly favourable.
The developers of Sunless Skies included this custom review section, featuring positive press reviews of their game
Keeping an Eye out for new Store Features
Steam is adding more and more features that allow developers to improve or expand the functionality of their store page. For example, quite recently Steam has enabled developers to show live footage of streamers playing the game on the store page (which you should definitely do, if there are enough streamers for there to be live footage consistently). Make sure you are always on top of these and seeing how you can leverage them – being that first store page that uses feature X might be enough by itself to get a user excited and share it with their friends!
I hope that this gave you a good idea of how to improve or build your store page. I wanted to end this article with a few examples of store pages that I think are very good:
One of the marketing folks from Failbetter Games (Sunless Skies, Fallen London) shared a lot of great information on Steam store page building, as well as other marketing advice, on the GDC Podcast.