Saturday, July 4, 2015

Steam Greenlight campaign post mortem

By Mex

Ahoy there!

The past two weeks have been quite frenetic for us, following our Greenlight campaign and organizing our trip in Barcelona to attend the Gamelab. If you have followed us in those days, you know that Nantucket got Greenlit in just seven days and our experience at Gamelab has been amazing!

I’ve spent a couple of days assimilating the information collected and I would like to share with you some thoughts and data about our Greenlight campaign, hoping they can help someone else.

I’ll put a link to our page here, so you can take a look before reading about our experience.

Preparing the materials

The first step to take is preparing all the materials needed to launch your campaign. Valve tells you that your Greenlight campaign requires at least a gameplay video, four screenshots, a description and a cover image, but there is no check from them before going from private to public. I have seen quite a lot of projects with just a couple of screenshots, a teaser trailer with little or none gameplay shown and a couple of lines describing the game. This is a suicide, this is how you get buried by no votes. Take your time, care about every detail and read the Greenlight FAQ, there are a lot of useful tips.

  • Cover image: well, it’s the first thing people will see and it’s useless to underline its importance. It has to invite people to click on it and give your game a chance. It’s true that Steam generates a queue of games to evaluate every time you enter the Greenlight page, but a lot of people (like myself) just jump on the recent submissions page to see what’s new. It’s easy to say “just do it cool”, but we did try to approach the visibility problem in a empiric way. So, we took a couple of screenshots of the recent submissions page in different days and we tried to find the right color palette to stand out, testing and tuning it different times.
  • Description: if you have read the Greenlight FAQ you  know everything you need. Just keep all the info organized and clear. We added some custom banners instead of the base headings. I think it’s nice, but definitely not something fundamental.
  • Screenshots: I’ve seen quite a lot of good Greenlight pages of good games. 8-12 screenshots looks like a good range.
  • Video: also this part is covered by the FAQ, but I just want to stress one point: keep it short and show gameplay. I usually give maximum 20 seconds to a video before deciding if the game is interesting or not. I guess other people too. So, just avoid long introductions, at least on the first video (starting when the Greenlight page is opened). I suggest to create a specific trailer for your game, it will be useful to promote your campaign to media.

Launching your Greenlight campaign

Preparing the materials is the easy part. I mean, Steam FAQ and hundreds of  Greenlit games are a good reference to understand what’s good and what’s not. Now it’s time to start a guessing game.

  • What’s the best time to launch a Greenlight campaign?

The answer is difficult and Valve doesn’t help you, so I’ll share how we thought about it. Your game is gonna be featured on the first page of the recent submissions for around 2 days before being pushed away by newest games. It’s a lot of views “for free” and you want to maximize it. So, our idea was: we launch the Greenlight campaign during the Summer Sale, when the amount of people on Steam is greater.

It’s easy to say “it works” after a successful campaign, but without having the chance to compare our stats with a similar game in another time frame it is difficult to be sure. There are more people online, this is a fact, but you don’t know if they are simply taking a look to the newest sales or not.

The second point to take into account in our case is that our Greenlight campaign was launched at the beginning of E3. A lot of people told us it was a bad choice, because people were too submerged by AAA titles announcements to care about about our project, but I think it was the right choice, simply because other developers waited the end of E3 to launch their campaign and this allowed us to be in the front page more than expected.

The easy part of the Greenlight campaign

As I wrote above, the first days are easy. You just keep pressing F5, looking at those numbers increasing. You replies to the first comments and “relax”.

The only marketing activity we did was spamming our Greenlight page on our social networks and our press release to our press list. Two important things about it:

  • Press list: you need it. Really. I will share ours with you. It’s not the best one, but it’s a starting point if you don’t have one. PressList
  • Press release: a press release about a game launching its Greenlight campaign it’s not interesting. This is why I suggested you to have a new gameplay trailer for the launch of the campaign. In our case, it was the first gameplay trailer available and this was the title of the press release: “First gameplay trailer for Nantucket”. So, we were promoting our gameplay trailer, linking everybody to our Greenlight page to see it.

We had some coverage, but the majority of our traffic was still Steam.

This was the situation at the end of our “front page time”:

End of front page

As you can see, the situation was good, especially the “Yes votes” percentage (in comparison with the average top 50 games).

The hard part of the Greenlight campaign

We were happy about the numbers and also the day after being kicked out the recent submissions’ front page was good enough:


That’s the moment the shit hit the fan. Our “yes vote” curve got flat.


We had two really hard days and the few votes we managed to gain were thanks to some posts in development forums such as TIGSource and Indievault (italian). Before those posts, we had like 10 visits (visits, not votes) in 3 hours.

At this point, I will add my official theory: 50 shades of green. I’ve noticed the traffic to our page died the moment we went under 50% of yes votes. Maybe it was a coincidence or maybe it’s one of the element considered by Valve to push a game more into the voters queues.

We were ready for the situation and we tried our move. We knew we needed some fresh air from outside, so we decided to promote our Greenlight campaign on Reddit, in the  Paradox games’ fans subreddit

The post was a huge success. We did follow up, delivering screenshots (yes…about sex on the ship) and more info and we had a lot of yes votes. Again, the 50 shades of green theory looks like something, because after passing the 50% mark thanks to Reddit, we kept the momentum also the day after, reaching the top 100 at the end of day 6 with with this numbers:

day06 - top100

Day 7 started huge, with a coverage by Rock, Paper, Shotgun.

We kept climbing the ranking really fast, till we got Greenlit!


As you can see, our curve in the last 2 days was impressive, and I guess that was a huge part of being Greenlit so fast. I have to say at that moment I would have preferred to have few more days of traffic, since in the end, Greenlight is a powerful way to reach your future players and we were reaching a lot of people.

I wrote at that moment, because now I can tell you that people keep coming on our page and we doubled the amount of followers in the 2 weeks after being Greenlit.

That’s it.

What’s good about Greenlight

  • Free marketing. It gives visibility to your game, helping you to reach future players. We have a lot of new followers on Twitter and Facebook.
  • Feedback. You receive some feedback, helping you to understand if you are going in the right direction or not.

What’s bad about Greenlight campaign

  • Clumsy. When you reach the point to hypothesize the 50 shades of green theory, you know there is something wrong. It’s not clear the process to be Greenlit. It’s the percentage? The amount of yes? Your curve? You don’t know. I understand it helps Valve to have some control space, but it’s definitely frustrating for developers.
  • Not friendly. I don’t understand why there is no chance to order the games by votes or percentage of yes. I mean, there is no way to look at good projects. Every game is the same. Do you think is fair? Try browsing Reddit just using the “new” tab, without having the chance to see other people votes or how many people commented. It’s not fair. It’s just not friendly.
  • Dying. Greenlight is dying. I mean, we looked at older post mortem before starting our campaign and the numbers were far higher. Steam users are increasing but the amount of people voting on Greenlight is decreasing fast. I like Greenlight and I don’t want Steam to become a mess like the App Store, where everybody can upload shit everywhere, but it has to change. There is no need to put it in the front page of Steam, just to make easy to browse interesting projects. maybe something else…I don’t know…what do you think? Ideas anyone?

Too long, didn’t read?

  • Start your communication on the web months before Greenlight otherwise it will be really hard to get visibility on media/press.
  • Prepare materials with care. It’s like pissing with a morning wood, you have one shot and you get you did it wrong too late, when you have piss everywhere.
  • Have a press list and get coverage. Your Greenlight page is not a news, but you can use your Greenlight page to deliver news.
  • Push everyone to the Greenlight page during the 1st week/10 days.
  • Reach your target audience and let them know you exist.
    • Find the right subreddits and forums to post about your project. If there isn’t one for you, you have done something wrong. If you don’t  know Reddit, maybe you have a life, but your project probably not.
  • Fifty shades of green is a thing.


2 comments on “Steam Greenlight campaign post mortem”

  1. Ryan Sumo says:

    Thanks for the very enlightening post. I’m curious to know if your focus on Greenlight was primarily for marketing, and would you have considered it a success even if it wasn’t Greenlit?

  2. DanieleBubb says:

    We 100% didn’t expect to be greenlit so fast, we played it safe starting the campaign sooner and trying to get some Yes votes putting out content periodically. Our goal was mainly be approved on Steam, but under the hood we knew that a greenlight campaign could get us some free marketing!

    Was the campaign a success? I can say Yes! We raised awareness towards the game, and got a lot of positive comments and feedback.

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