Lars Doucet gave us a rather nuanced breakdown last week of how his studio’s game, Defender’s Quest, has fared on Steam since the platform rolled out its discovery renovations earlier this year. When we wrote about these changes in September, we noted that what appeared to be the most powerful new feature was the potential control given to users to shape their own purchasing experience. What we couldn’t predict was how effectively those new systems would work in practice, particularly during Steam’s biggest sales events. Now we have at least some insight:
“Unlike [2013’s] Halloween, which was basically just big sales driven by being lucky enough to be at the top of a big list, our  Autumn sale results seem to have been driven by a much healthier mix of organic traffic – recommendations, search, the specials list, games under $5 and $10, etc. Sure, we didn’t top Halloween, but we made about 30% as much, and all without having to rely on a hand-picked promotion to drive the traffic.”
If Doucet’s anecdotal experience is at all representative, this is perhaps the most important detail. Because no matter how well the top performers do, the metric by which we judge discovery on gaming platforms has to focus on how products do without the favor of gatekeepers. And to that extent, the changes appear at the outset to be an improvement. It’s interesting to take Valve’s claim that “the new store roughly doubled the number of items being added to wishlists” alongside Doucet’s findings that nearly half of all units of his game sold were “fulfilled wishlists.” It suggests that a sizeable chunk of people are finding games and deciding to purchase them at a later time.
That in itself is intriguing, too. As Doucet explains, “…it means that a wishlist-targeted sale can be the second stage of a ‘one-two punch’ discovery process. The discovery queue fills up people’s wishlists, and the next sale harvests them.” By offering useful, visible tools for players who may desire a specific title but are not yet ready, for whatever reason, to commit to a purchase, Steam has arguably extended the value of exposure by making it easier to catch some of the dormant interest it creates further down the road. That could go a long way to keeping games sustainably profitable well after release. Given the positive results it garnered without a major spotlight, it’s interesting to note that Defender’s Quest is two years old.