I had a shocking realization this week: one of the reasons streamers decide whether or not to cover your game is based on how good or bad your Steam capsule is. Let me explain …

In the book The Youtube Formula, streaming guru Derral Eves teaches aspiring youtubers the following:

“Everything starts with a click. If the people don’t click, they won’t watch, no matter how amazing your video is, end of story. How do you get viewers to click? You earn their attention. Getting viewers to click is the biggest struggle I see for creators and brands alike. You have to get people to focus on your content outside of all distractions.”

Derral Eves of The Youtube Formula

The majority of a youtuber’s traffic is determined by how good their title and thumbnail is. That is the secret to Youtube. Professional streamers know this and they spend hours obsessing over thumbnails and titles. 

“Ninety percent of all top performing videos on YouTube are using custom thumbnails. This is why creating a good thumbnail should be your first consideration. Put in the energy and time to make it great. This take more time than you realize… then probably more”

Derral Eves The Youtube Formula 

Here is what blew my mind… we spend tens of thousands of dollars on artists to make amazing, stunning art for our game, and then youtubers get to just steal it, repackage it to make amazing looking thumbnails for their channel and in turn get free traffic from that. They basically get amazing art “rent-free.”

In any other context, in any other industry, that would be really problematic and we would totally freak out about this theft and yell at these freeloaders. But streamers are not freeloaders, they turn our art into millions of eyeballs. It is a weird, complicated, symbiotic relationship between game developers and streamers.

It is kind of like the relationship between figs and wasps. I don’t know if game developers are figs or wasps but it is still an interesting science fact that you should look up.

Real World Proof

Last week the medieval colony sim Clanfolk launched and already has 194 reviews and 2,452 peak concurrent players. The game is published by Hooded Horse and a lot of PR and Streamer outreach was done by Lewis Burnell Matt Brown at Vicarious PR.

Early in development, this is what the Clanfolk steam capsule looked like:

It’s kinda… well … boring. It looks like a moldy piece of bread. There is nothing to work with here. 

But the game was really fun and in the perfect genre. Steam shoppers and Streamers love colony sims. So the streamer SplatterCat played it and got them 74,000 views. 

This is what Splattercat’s Youtube channel looks like with all his videos and Clanfolk’s thumbnail is right in the middle. Clanfolk got about half as many views as all the other games splattercat played that month. The capsule definitely looks out of its league. 

Splattercat was quite frustrated about it and complained about this on his Discord. Here is his rant:

If you can’t read the image here is the full text:

That clanfolk thumb[nail] is the worst but they released with 0 to work with lol

Game was a nightmare to thumb. I just flat out gave up. I hate it when devs dont put any effort into a presskit or logo transparencies. help me help you lol. I hate uploading knowing a video is gonna tank lol. Just off what they have to work with but the game is good so I sorta have to XD

Splattercat (His Nerd Castle Harbor Discord)

The turnaround

Matt and Lewis from Vicarious helped the developer at Clanfolk redesign the capsule and came up with this.

Much better. Much more interesting. It just looks like someone gives a damn! 6 months later. The artist is Daniel Lieske, and they found him on Artstation (https://www.artstation.com/daniellieske) Splattercat covered it again but this time he used the new capsule:

The result was a 230% increase in views and it was one of the most viewed videos that Splattercat released that month.

It is confusing but we need to make good capsules so that streamers get good views so that we get more wishlists. 


You need a good, professionally illustrated capsule. 

Don’t make it yourself unless you are or have-been a full time illustrator. Also don’t hire your brother-in-law just because he took that one art class … plus he watches a ton of anime so totally know what is going on. Your capsule is too important to be made by an amateur. 

A good capsule increases your click through rate on Steam. A good capsule gets Streamers to cover your game. 

Yes they can be expensive to commission but a good capsule is worth every dollar. If you have a limited budget, I would spend money on a capsule before a trailer, ads, in-person conventions, or a PR company (sorry Matt.) It is that important. 

Additional tips

  • Streamers need to add extra embellishments to your capsule to match their channel’s unique style. they also need to adjust some things to fit the thumbnail aspect ratio. So, in your presskit provide a .psd version of your capsule where streamers can pull apart each element and arrange them how they need them. 
  • Provide transparent images (you know with the background removed so they don’t have to painstakingly cut out the background in photoshop) in your presskit too. 
  • Also provide transparent title text for the same reason. 
  • Design your capsule with a mind toward typical Streamer capsules. This is a quote from The Youtube Formula: “Data has shown that the best thumbnails include an object and a person… viewers engage with thumbnails that have people in them.”
  • When you send a pitch email to Streamers include a description of your game, the hook, a gif of your gameplay, and an image of your high quality thumbnail. If it is a good enough thumbnail they might cover you just hoping to get more clicks.
  • For more information on steam capsules check out my previous blogs on Spring Capsule Trends, October Capsule Trends, and More Trends on Capsule Art
  • You can find capsule artists by browsing artstation and  deviantart and then contacting any artists you think would be a good fit. You can also reach out to indie teams that have good looking capsules and ask them if they would be willing to share the name of their capsule artist.

Here is a final quote from The Youtube Formula

Thumbnail and title is where I spend the most time in my content strategy because I need to know what will get the viewer to click.

Splattercat (His Nerd Castle Harbor Discord)