On July 27th 2016 we at Bomb Shelter Games launched our Steam Greenlight campaign for our upcoming game, Ballistick. While we have been doing game development for about 7 years, we had only shipped one previous commercial title (for mobile) that didn’t perform all that well. It had about 2,000 downloads and did not develop a fan base. We had 175 likes on Facebook, 200 Followers on Twitter, and most of them were friends and family. On top of that we had no marketing budget besides the $60 we scraped together between members, and none of us have any marketing experience. Despite this, 10 days later, Ballistick was Greenlit…
So what the hell happened? Is Greenlight really that easy to get on? Was our game just so amazing that everyone wanted to buy it? Or were we just lucky?
Well, it’s probably the last one, but I figured I would walk you through our process, giving as many specifics as I can, and you can judge for yourself why Ballistick found success.
Disclaimer: This is merely anecdotal evidence and should be taken as such. We have no idea as to what goes on behind Valve’s doors or what the real requirements for getting Greenlight are. We can only comment on what happened to us.
While writing I found the blog post to be running a bit long so I decided to split it into two sections. The first will cover our anecdotal findings during our 10 day stretch. I’ll walk you through how our 10 days were spent and share some insight. I will not touch on the marketing approach we took. The second blog post will be about our marketing strategy and how effective/ineffective it was.
DAY BREAK DOWNS
What we did: We launched our Greenlight campaign on a Sunday night around 9PM. This was a result of us completing our Humble Store page and the completion of our new and sexy trailer. We threw it on Steam on a whim, never seriously thinking we could be greenlit. But we thought $100 for some really targeted advertising would be worth it. Since we just uploaded our Humble Store (which we didn’t think we would get on either) we were feeling pretty saucy and had all of our assets ready to go.
We did no research on the process or how to be successful. All that happened in a whirl of panic on day 2 after the votes starting pouring in.
When you post your game to Greenlight it is measured against the other games on Greenlight. You are provided a chart with how the other groups are doing and it tells you how close you are to reaching the coveted top 100 games. The running theory is that Steam Greenlights the top 100 games every month. This is not true (as we never reached the top 100). But for your reference, at the time of launch, the 100th game on the list had about 800 votes. So we figured we needed 900 votes to be safe. This is far down from the early days of Steam Greenlight where a game would require 15,000 votes back in 2013 to reach the top 100.
A look at the info dashboard for your Greenlight page. Not pictured: Percent towards top 100.
Looking back: Launching the game on a Sunday night was definitely not the way to go. I threw it up on a whim, but if I actually thought about it, people use Steam during their spare time. And when do people have spare time? The weekends. After the initial burst of votes (due to being on the “recently added” list) most of our votes came when people had time to spare. These included nights, mornings, and weekends. Since your time on the front page’s “recently added” list is short (about 1.5 days), make sure to launch your game on a Friday night or perhaps Saturday morning.
What we did: On your first day you will receive the most votes you will ever get in a given day. Your game is placed in the recently submitted section, and for an even briefer time, placed on the front page of the Greenlight section.
The most recent section of Greenlight, where you game will either live or die
Most Greenlight browsers will go through this section and vote on the newest games. After day 1, you will never see as many hits again, unless you are picked up by a major streamer, reviewer, news site, etc. We were not picked up by anyone, and after day one we had reached about 318 yes votes 288 no votes. No votes do not hurt your climb to the top 100 but they do effect your yes/no percentage score.
The Greenlight graph showing your yes to no vote ratio
This day 1 rush of votes was enough to get us to 38% of the way to the top 100. It was about halfway through day 1 when the panic set in that this game may actually get Greenlit, so we started our marketing campaign then (bad idea, should have done much earlier).
Looking Back: The Day 1 rush is an invigorating experience, especially if your game is getting some good feedback. Just know that the day 1 high is followed by the day 2-10 low. Votes will decline and you will feel hope fade very quickly.
What we did: This is where we did all of our marketing push that got us the rest of the way. I will go into the specifics in the next post but just for your reference, here were our vote totals for each of the days.
Day 2: Yes – 86 No – 76
Day 3: Yes – 28 No – 15
Day 4: Yes – 29 No – 9
Day 5: Yes – 12 No – 4
Day 6: Yes – 9 No – 2
Day 7: Yes – 8 No – 2
Day 8: Yes – 8 No – 3
Day 9: Yes – 6 No – 2
Day 10: Yes – 7 No – 3
Total: Yes – 521 No – 408
We reached the 50% of the way towards 100 during our second day on Greenlight, after that, We bounced up and down, reaching 54% at our highest point. By Day 10, our yes/no vote gap had spread to 56% yes, 44% no.
So what are takeaways?
After the first 3 days, no one cares about your game. Period. End of discussion. The natural Greenlight traffic will stop almost completely when you are buried too deep into the recently added list. This is when you have to do the work and get people to come to your site.
Days 1-3 will determine how the steam community feels about your game. This is when people that inspect Greenlight often will view your game, so the Yes/No percentage based on the first 3 days is the best gauge for what Steam thinks of your game. After that, your yes no split will increase as you drive people to your Greenlight page specifically to vote. As a general rule, most people won’t go out of their way to down vote your game, but they will to Yes vote it if they are interested.
The traffic you receive after Day 3 will measure your outside Steam presence/marketing skills. As you can see from our traffic, we suck.
Day 10 – Acceptance:
On day 10, we received the notice that we had been greenlit. Our Yes No percentage was 56% yes 44% no, we had 521 total yes votes, 1735 total visitors, and we were 51% of the way to reaching the top 100. By all conventional logic, we should not have been Greenlit. Yet here we are.
The day before we were Greenlit the games ahead of us were being Greenlit. We were rapidly climbing the ladder towards the top 100 because those above us were being accepted and hence removed from the Greenlight pool. While this does theoretically help you, it is more the illusion of progress, as new, more popular games will quickly fill the places left behind. About 12 hours after the batch of Greenlights we were sitting at 72% towards top 100, reaching as high as 81% earlier in the day, but quickly dropping back down. It was at this time that I had given up hope of being Greenlit within a short period of time and I began settling in to what we thought would be at least a month long campaign. But, to our everlasting surprise, we were Greenlit 12 hours later.
That concluded our campaign, and everything after that is covered by a Non-Disclosure Agreement (NDA).
Why we were Greenlit: Pure Speculation
Why we shouldn’t have been Greenlit:
We were only at 52% of the way towards the top 100
When we were Greenlit there were games with 1000s of more yes votes than ours. The top 5 game had more than 5000 more than us and had been on for nearly 20 days.
We have never published a game on Steam before
Why we should have been Greenlit:
We have very positive feedback in our comments. Many people encouraging us, and liking what they saw.
We had a good yes/no%. Many games fair much worse that 56/44
Our game concept did not exist on Steam already. Original game, new art style, fresh feel
Because we put our heart into the game…ha, just kidding. Steam doesn’t care.
We had a very good trailer that spurred interest
We did not pay for votes. Many people trade keys or money for votes. While this is something that we considered when we thought all hope was lost, we chose not to. Steam has specifically stated that they will not greenlight games that do that. While I am certain that games that have been Greenlit have done paid for votes, it’s in your best interest to avoid that all together.
Someone at Valve took pity on us?
The trailer is key. You have to have an amazing trailer. It needs to make your game look like the best thing to hit Steam since Portal. It needs proper pacing and needs to actually get people interested in the product. It is the first thing people see, and the one thing they remember. You never get a second chance at a first impression.
Do not obsess over your vote count. I, unfortunately, have an obsessive personality so I refreshed the vote page probably once every 5 minutes for 10 days (this is not an exaggeration). This is not healthy and will cause you far more stress than it is worth. A string of 5 no votes can cause a serious depression, even though you will get a string of 10 yes votes right after.
Haters will hate. People will post horrible things about your game. And that is ok. Let it go. Do not take it personally, even though they will personally attack you. Don’t feed the trolls and do not delete negative comments. I can’t stress this enough. If trolls see that you delete their comments they will start a crusade against you. My policy was to leave all negative comments as they were unless they personally attacked myself or fellow developers.
Greenlight people hate RPG Maker games and mobile ports. Nothing against those games personally, but Greenlight members can’t stand them
They also hate asset flips, where a developer buys premade assets then slaps them into a generic game. I also hate these.
Whatever system you think Steam has for greenlighting, ignore it. Plenty of games that look like shit get up there, and plenty of games that deserve to be up there are forgotten. The top 100 rule is not a thing. Some games get Greenlit within 10 days out of nowhere (like ours), some games get Greenlit after 30 days, 60 days, 90 days, etc.
Steam does not always Greenlight in batches. Many games trickled through the process, but they definitely do large batches. In our case, the large batch came near the end of the month.
I’ve been rambling for a bit now so I’ll end here. Tomorrow I will post about how we marketed the game and how successful/unsuccessful that was. Also if you want to learn about Ballistick and see it’s Greenlight page it is view-able here: http://steamcommunity.com/sharedfiles/filedetails/?id=726659377
Also, this is one man’s opinion and one developer’s process. Here is a list of other developer’s accounts to help give you a better understanding of the Greenlight process:
If you know of any other please comment with the link. I’d like to compile an archive so we can understand this thing as best we can.