Hey Steam Next Fest is in progress! It started on Wednesday and continues until June 22nd. Festivals such as this one are one of the best ways to earn wishlists when marketing your game. So it is super important to get it right. And one of the most critical components during a festival is your demo. 

In this week’s column I played a bunch of Demos and noted some neat things I saw marketing wise. I don’t know if they actually work (I don’t have data on it) but it might be worth trying them out. I don’t have time to play every demo so I just grabbed some of the games from the “most downloaded” list because they probably know enough about making a demo that it got them to the top of a list. 

Festival Size

There were a lot of games in this festival. I don’t know how many, but I just created this quick screenshot of each genre page. The more games in the genre, the longer the page is. I sorted the screenshots by length. Interestingly, puzzle and platformer are no longer the most common genre. The simulation genre had the most games in the festival (Action and Adventure are kind of catch-alls so I kind of ignore them here).

This seems to indicate that people are making more of the games that actually do well on Steam.

Death Trash

Link to Death Trash

This game did a number of great things to get people engaged beyond the game. 

When you first boot the game it gives this disclaimer saying this is a work in progress. I am a bit of two minds about this. On one hand it is cool that it shows you that it was made by a real human. But on the other hand it feels like it is an excuse made by the developer (I don’t know why, the game is great).

On the main menu there is the great big bold “Wishlist” button. But also a “Discord” button. Finally they had the F1 button (I will get to that in a bit) 

The F1 button is great. Push it at any time in the game and you get this easy to use, but very sophisticated way to submit feedback. Getting player feedback is one of the benefits of a demo so you need to make it as easy as possible. This is good. I see some games with feedback surveys – the problem with those is that it requires the players to describe in words what is wrong. Instead, Death Trash just wants you to take a snapshot. 

Knowing where to cut off your demo is a very important thing. I like what Death Trash does here where they section off the overworld with “DEMO” all over the off limits sections. It gives a glimpse of the breadth of the game, while not giving away too much of the game for free.

They Always Run

Link to They Always Run

When I started playing this game I was pleasantly surprised by the unique mechanic of this action platformer: YOU HAVE THREE ARMS! The game’s title seems like it is burying the lede! I would have named it “YOU HAVE THREE ARMS!” Somehow I also missed this hook from the capsule art, the short description, and the title screen. They are all there, I just skimmed passed them because there are a lot of demos to play and not enough time (my fault, not the dev teams.)

TAR also has a disclaimer popup but this one has a very clear direction about what they want you to be doing. I do like that they tell you they want your feedback. I am not sure how many people will actually read this. (worth a test to collect how long people stay on this page).

Anyway, here is the title screen. 

I picked out this game as an example because they have a very simple “Take A Survey” button. It opens a very short survey. I like the idea but would have made the button more specific. Like am I taking a political survey or whether I prefer Coke or Pepsi?

Terra Nil

Link to Terra Nil

This is a very clever “reverse city builder” where install buildings to restore a barren wasteland to pastoral beauty.

The title screen for this game had the very standard “Wishlist” button on the main menu.

They went a step further and added it to the “pause” menu

I like it. Put the CTA everywhere you can. 

Glitched

The next game I looked at for the festival was Glitched. Full disclosure I worked on a few projects for this publisher (Digerati) but did not work directly on the marketing for this game.

One thing I really like about this demo was not in the actual executable but on the Steam Discussion boards. They added a pinned message to encourage players to provide bug reports and demo feedback.

General Strategy

In general your demo sits at the end of the “interest” level of the funnel and hopefully pulls people down into the “desire” level. It needs to entice, it shouldn’t over stay its welcome, and it should pull players to join your community and become more committed to you: following your game, joining your mailing list, signing up for your discord, etc.

In all of the examples here, the demos do a good job of luring people deeper into their funnel.