Tomas Rawlings: ‘Developers need to go prepper to survive the Steampocalypse’

In a talk on stage at Develop Brighton, Tomas Rawlings, the design director at studio Auroch Digital, delivered a dose of reality as he presented a ‘survival guide’ for surviving the alleged ‘Steampocalypse’ 

“A few years ago, Steam was a relatively controlled space for the release of new titles,” said Rawlings. “When our first game – Chainsaw Warrior – released on Steam, there were 1-2 games at most released on that day. Now, we’re into double figures when it comes to games being released per day on Steam.” 

This creates issues for developers that are trying to stand out on the store, as it’s harder to get press coverage, harder to get player trust and harder for everyone to make a living.

“People say ‘if your game is good it’ll rise to the top’, but I don’t think that’s an answer.” Rawlings said, mentioning that there’s a wall of noise hitting every press outlet and influencer, making it harder for anyone to get noticed. 

To survive, Rawlings suggests games studios diversify your income, diversify sales channels and try to create games that are less expensive in terms of development time. 

“If you’re sole income is from selling games, that’s a problem.” says Rawlings, mentioning that Auroch does work for hire and other things to ensure they remain profitable

One of these key parts to ensure profitability however is for developers to sell their games for a reasonable price: “Avoid this race to the bottom with prices,” said Rawlings. “If you think your game is worth a price, charge that” 

He closed out his talk with a ‘prepper’ list of things for developers to remember to give themselves the best chance of survival in Steam’s new, harsher, landscape. It’s below.

  • Build a min and max income profile from your game – assume the minimum and plan for that level of income 
  • Avoid cognitive bias and cognitive dissonance in your thinking: accept what the evidence is telling you. 
  • Put the same energy and innovation into building your community as you are the game itself. 
  • Use data (with your vision) to guide your plans. 
  • Look for partners to signal-boost your message (dev tools, trade bodies, funders and more can all help here!)
  • Join in with local hubs, groups, etc. 
  • Have a budget for marketing. That zero budget marketing stuff is a starting point
  • Market like your game depends on it (Spoiler: it does) 
  • Write up a strategy – check back on how it’s going…. then keep moving! It’s harder to hit a moving target. 

Commenting on the list, Rawlings added that data is blind, and studios need to ensure they stick true to their own vision. Similarly, developers around the world should be working together to make the biggest impact: “The global industry is so big, it makes no sense for developers to compete, instead we should be collaborating.”

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