There comes a point in most indie game developers lives where they have to hit that big red button and get their game up on Steam. We hit this point a few months ago with Hope and wanted to share a few pointers on what we learned getting that initial store presence up.
It will probably take longer than you think
Well, it did for us, anyway! Before you get to the fun bits, you’re going to need your Steam account and banking information set up. We opted to sign up as a company, which probably takes a bit longer than doing it as an individual. Getting incorporated in the UK is quick (we used informdirect.co.uk) as is getting your US tax ID to avoid US withholding tax (just call them!), but getting our business banking setup took around 4 weeks. Sadly, you can’t start work on your store page until this is all complete. Another factor to consider is that Steam has a review processes of 2-5 days before a store page becomes live. There’s also a minimum of 2 weeks between Coming Soon and launching and a minimum of 30 days for the whole process. Do consider all of this if you’ve some deadlines you want to hit!
Steam Early Access and Coming Soon
Rather than jump straight to selling on your store page, you begin with an Early Access or Coming Soon page. We opted for coming soon, as we have a near finished product (is anything ever really finished?). If you’re much earlier in development and are looking for community engagement to shape your product then Early Access may be more for you. Bear in mind if you do take that route, while you may get input, you’ll also be expected to keep delivering too.
It’s easier than you think (mostly)
Once you’re past the account and banking nasties, things get a whole lot easier. Steam’s documentation is pretty good and the on screen tips guide you through the process. I’m not an expert on the visual assets side of things (that’s Paul’s bag) but it was even easy for me to understand what was needed. And there are a lot of handy bits like auto-resizing of images for screenshots. Getting your build up though, is a bit fiddly. If you make an error when putting your build together, you’ll need to go right back to the beginning of the process rather than tweak your build.
A trailer is a must
These days, you’re not getting anywhere without a trailer. First, you’ll need to consider what you’re going to put in your trailer. You can get some great tips on this here, but in summary: tell a story, show off your gameplay and keep it under 90 seconds. The next thing is how you’re going to put it together. We used OBS for our video capture then photoshop to do the editing. There are many free editing programs out there if you don’t have access to photoshop. Most importantly though, your trailer is going to be the main reason people want to know more or hopefully even buy your game, so make it as good as it can be.
Do it early
With Hope, we’ve set up our Steam page pretty close to our expected release date. On our next project, we’d do it much sooner. The longer you have your Steam presence up, the longer you have to build interest, community, followers and get people adding your game to the fabled wishlist. People will wait a long time for a game they really want (HL3, anyone?) so there isn’t really a downside to getting your page up early.
There is a wealth of stuff that you can add to your store page over and above the basics, but I think I’ve covered enough for now.
Our Coming Soon page has been submitted and is undergoing review; so hopefully we’re only days away from getting our store presence up. Watch this space!