Finessing a Fire Sale
Tips, Tricks, & Best Practices for Participating in a Steam Sale
With the Steam Autumn Sale starting this week (a funny thing to say here in Canada considering most of the country is already starting to get snow) we wanted to go over a few tips & tricks that are good for all of you plucky developers out there to keep in mind as you prepare to hawk your wares. Sales like these are a great opportunity to not just wring out a few more purchases, but also to bolster your game’s community and get some extra attention paid your way. That’s something that’s valuable even if your game hasn't been released yet, speaking of which…
How to approach a Steam Sale If Your Game Isn’t Out
While obviously the big point of a sale would be actually being able to sell something, Steam often has a section featuring up and coming games that are relevant to the sale going on, and getting featured there provides an extra bump in visibility. This is less of a factor with the big seasonal events, like the upcoming Autumn sale for example, but there are regular smaller sales happening that focus on specific holidays, themes, genres, & geographic locations that are worth participating in if your game is even semi-related. It immediately puts your title in front of people who are already interested in at least some facet of your game by the sheer fact they’re looking at the sale in the first place. While we’ve typically seen it be only a minor boost, it’s one that doesn’t require that much effort, and every little bit helps when it comes to building up those wishlist numbers.
That being said, while a Steam Sale can be your friend before launch, and an invaluable tool after launch, they can become your worst nightmare during launch. During any relatively major sale, Valve completely changes up the look of the storefront, pushing that sale first & foremost and highlighting the top deals that are available. They make room for suggested titles, key deals, the Steam Queue, and for whatever gimmick or fun mini-game they’re currently pushing, but something that always gets buried during these events is new releases. That’s why it’s generally best practice to avoid launching your game during a Steam sale, as discovery for new titles released during this time is extremely low. Not to mention, with a sale going on that means you’re now competing against every big name title from the last few years that’s decided to slash their price and take up front page real estate on Steam.
How to approach a Steam Sale On Your Store Page
Assuming your game is out though and you’ve decided to take part in the sale, you’ve probably got a few questions about how you should approach that, top of mind being ‘how steep should you make your discount?’
Well there’s no one-size-fits-all answer for exactly how much you should drop your price, there’s a lot of factors to consider there that are unique to every game, but something that I can universally recommend is to pay attention to your own history of prior discounts. That’s because Steam sales are the stomping ground of bargain hunters, the people who in the long long ago would have bought games used and waited for those prices to drop to a point that matched their needs. The base price for digital games doesn’t drop in the same way it does at retail, so the on-sale price of a title is often considered the ‘bar’
for how much your game would cost analogous to how used games prices would be. People expect that bar to drop over time until it hits a certain level or ‘floor’
, and will wait to scoop it up until it gets there. If that bar never drops or it instead rises, with you putting your game on sale with a lower discount than you previously had, then those savvy customers will assume you’ve hit your floor with that title. If that floor is still too pricey for them (which if they didn’t buy it last time it was on sale, you can assume it is) they’ll move on, likely removing the game from their wishlist and spending their money elsewhere. As such you should always try to make sure you’re setting your discount for at least whatever you discounted it for the last time, if not lower. If you’re not sure what your pricing history looks like, SteamDB
has lovely charts available showing that for every game, and you can be sure your more aware customers are looking at these charts as well.
Of course you won’t sell any extra copies, regardless of what your discounted price is, if your game page is a mess and buried under inaccurate tags. That’s why you always want to take the time to optimize your Steam page prior to a big sale. That means checking over all your assets to make sure they reflect the current state of your game, going over your description to make sure it’s up to date and possibly jazzing it up with some fresh gifs or formatting, and most importantly checking over the tags associated with your game and reorganizing them to better fit your title. You’ll want to make sure that when people look at the “More Like This” section of your page, they see other games that align very closely with your own, because it means they’ll see your game on the pages for those games and that all those games will be surfaced together accordingly. After all, your RPG isn’t going to sell very well if your assortment of tags keeps making it pop up alongside a bunch of sports games instead of where it belongs.
How to Promote Yourself on Steam During a Sale
You’ll also want to make sure you’re adequately promoting yourself on Steam during the sale, the discount alone isn’t always enough to get people’s attention. There are two big things you can do here to further bolster your presence during this time: publish news posts and broadcast from your store page. Publishing is simple enough, just put together a short post mentioning the discount and any new content added recently (we’ll get to that in a sec) and post it as news attached to your game. Doing that will drop the post into the Steam News Hub
for anyone who has your game wishlisted, but also for anyone who already owns the game, and that’s where you can get creative. If you have a whole catalog on Steam, you can use the news system to cross-promote your titles, letting people who own one of your older titles know that a newer one is now on sale, or vice versa.
When it comes to broadcasting from your store page, it may sound like a massive effort, but it doesn’t have to be. While a lot of bigger games will go above and beyond and secure a big streamer to play on their page, there’s nothing wrong with a member of your team walking people through the game. You don’t even have to spend the whole sale stuck in front of the camera, broadcasting pre-recorded footage rolling on loop works just fine. Having that broadcast running at the top of the page will give potential customers an immediate and realistic look at your game that can often be a tipping point towards a sale, and Steam will even boost your page up a bit just for having that broadcast running.
How to approach a Steam Sale In-Game and With Your Community
Of course, it’s not just your store page that can benefit from a little love during these sales, this is an opportunity for in-game updates to be introduced in ways that can bolster your sales and bring in extra attention. Especially in the case of seasonal or holiday events, dropping a little bit of themed content in a title update not only gives people an extra little incentive to jump into it right away, but it also shows that you’re still paying attention. Lots of games release and then either never get patched, have the servers shut down, or have devs that don’t pay any attention to their community, which tends to turn people off. By showing that you’re still dropping regular updates, you build up people’s confidence and show them that it’s worth buying into your game, even if the discount isn’t quite as low as they’d like.
That kind of engagement in general can really help to build confidence overall and generate some more sales off goodwill alone. Being active in your Steam forums, thoughtfully & politely responding to reviews, and posting regular updates about development are all things that show you are still actively engaged and paying attention to your community and your game. People don’t want to spend top, middle, or even bottom dollar on a dead game, so making sure they can see a heartbeat will make all the difference, and that applies when the sale ends too.
At the end of the day, all of this really does come down to just paying attention to how your game is presented and to how both your existing and potential customers will look at it. You want to make sure everything you’re putting out there is shown in the absolute best light possible, and that applies year-round. Big Steam Sales are important and that potential extra revenue is great, but at the end of the day they’re most valuable as an opportunity to ensure you’re presenting yourself properly, and that extra effort can pay off a fortune in the long run.
Published November, 22 2022
Last updated November, 22 2022