(Title art by Qui-Gon Jinnah who makes custom Steam Art. You can see his Patron here)
I been interested in what most Steam users have been saying about the new Steam Library Release which turns an otherwise dull list of games into a beautiful showcase of box art. The update is still in beta – you have to do some extra steps to see it. Read more about the new Steam Library Update here
Now that I am a Steam anthropologist, I decided to look at how some of the Steam sub-cultures (such as the achievement hunters, Streamers and people who are mega buyers) are liking the new library. Short answer, they really love it. Like really love it and in a way that could be helpful for us marketing a game.
How Steam Power-users are making the most of the Library
Users are really curating their personal libraries to have really beautiful cover art and to make it have a unified look and feel. Just look at this beautiful screenshots someone posted in one subreddit
One new library super-fan started creating cover art for games with bad designs. His particular style is to make it so they all have white title text located at the exact same vertical location. Someone even suggested he start a Patreon. So he did!
In fact someone created a whole site where fans can trade custom-made covers: SteamGridDB . Usually when a 3rd-party Steam Utility site pops up it is a strong indicator of a missing feature on Steam (in SteamDBs case) or a new fetish (in the case of achievement completionist site SteamHunters
Fans have even started turning it into a meme which is the most sincere form of flattery
A new subreddit sprung up where you can see graphic-designers trying to out photoshop each other with new box art
Finally (and this is my favorite) they figured out that you can use animated PNG files to make animated covers. This is the coolest thing I have seen. Look at this badass cover. It is soooooo badass.
I am definitely going to hire some of these folks to make animated versions of my covers.
This Steam update also included a way to better sort and categorize your library. Users love that too.
However there are a lot of ways that Steam could improve here. The biggest is to appeal to the “completionist” sub-culture. Look at this screenshot.
This guy said he spent 14 hours moving all 1500+ of his games that he has 100% completed into a special category called 100%. This should be something that Steam provides. (Side note imagine the amount of raw human effort went into this single screenshot. It truly boggles my mind)
There are other tools that steam users have created to automatically categorize their collection such as “Depressurizer.” Again see my note about when someone spins up a side project it usually means an important feature is missing.
How you can use this when marketing your own games
The secret to marketing that isn’t “Sales-y” is to figure out what brings people joy and then just …. bring them joy. They will be a life-long fan for that. And guess what, these covers are bringing people a ton of joy.
So here are some ideas.
- Create tons of variations of box art for your games and give them away. For example, make a different version for each one of the main characters in your game kind of like those classic 90s Starwars VHS box sets
- Figure out which one of your cover designs is most “clickable” and appeals to the widest audience and make it the official one on Steam. (Now in my experience the most clickable isn’t always the prettiest one. Which is good because you should see my next point.)
- Provide a pack of covers as your Email-Newsletter lead magnet. Remember a lead magnet is a small freebie that you give away when someone gives you their email address. On your website advertise deluxe, designer covers for your entire collection of games. Think of it like the Criterion Collection version of your game’s covers.
- Make all your games have a similar theme. Look at what this guy did for the Wolfenstein games. You want people to show them off. This is similar to the Iron Maiden Box Set collection. Look at the spines of each CD they line up to form the head of “Eddie” their sweet demon lord mascot
- Hold a contest for people to design alternative covers – instead of just generic fan art. Then you can share the results with the rest of the community too.
- The Achievement Hunter sub culture loves to classify the games they have 100% completed. Maybe provide box art for your game that has a little badge that says “Completed” or “100%” so they can swap it out when they beat it.
They will love you for it
I know these seem weird and it is a pain making more assets for the Steam store… But your fans love showing off their collection. And guess what, they will be advertising your game if you do it right. This was what one Redditor said in the main thread about the new Steam Library
The worst offenders seem to be those with clients of their own: EA, Ubisoft, Activision and Rockstar.
The big standout positive example is THQ Nordic, who, as far as I’ve seen in my own library (owning most of their titles) have added covers for all but the old Titan Quest + Immortal Throne and Darksiders II – all of which being games that have gotten re-releases, with covers.Reddit User DarkChaplain
Providing good art for your game is a way to earn “good developer” points with your audience. It would be foolish not to.