This post is part of my series on marketing benchmarks that will help you understand how your game is doing and what is normal. To learn more, check out the full benchmark series by clicking the button

“You don’t have to run faster than the bear to get away. You just have to run faster than the guy next to you.”

Jim Butcher

So, you put your Steam page up nice and early, you have been marketing it and collecting wishlists, and you are almost done making your game, should you launch? Or wait a little bit longer?

How many wishlists should you have minimum before you launch?

Answer: Minimum is 7000, or thereabouts.

What is popular upcoming?

There is no algorithm in Steam that says if you have {X} wishlists give them visibility and money but, the Steam algorithm is “tuned” and has a set expectation of what success looks like. And if you reach those thresholds of success, Steam shows more of your game, and if sells less than your game is shown less.

One of the first widgets where the algorithm starts to give your game free visibility is this one called Popular Upcoming.

Popular Upcoming is one tab in a bigger widget that appears on the front page of Steam. This tab shows the top games that are releasing soon. Your game is eligible to appear on this list if the release date is within the next 7 days. The ranking of the games on this list are some combination of current wishlists, velocity of earning wishlists, and release date (More on that in a second.) The top 10 games are featured, and once a game is available for sale, it is pulled from this widget and each game moves up the list like little train cars moving down the track.

This widget applies to games releasing to Early Access and Full Release.

This is what a game’s wishlist chart looks like when it gets featured on popular upcoming:

You really want to get onto popular upcoming because when your game is featured, you earn about 1000 wishlsits per day. If your wishlsits convert at 20% and your game it $10 that could be worth the equivalent of $2000 for each day you are on the list.

Why 7000 wishlists, I heard it was 10,000?

Let’s go back to that quote I had at the top:

“You don’t have to run faster than the bear to get away. You just have to run faster than the guy next to you.”

Jim Butcher

There is no single magic number. Popular upcoming is a ranking of soon-to-be-released games and your game is just competing with all the other games releasing during the same week. So if your game is launching on the same week as 10 other games that each have 100,000 wishlists, and you only have 7000 you are probably not going to be on the list or maybe you will but only for 1 day.

If there are no big launches on your week, you might be the top game and sit there for the entire week.

Basically you just have to be one of the top 10 games releasing that week. It is like the bear quote… you just have to be the top 10 fastest runners when the Steam algorithm is chasing you. That is why I say 7000. It is a pretty good number, it is a pretty good speed. With 7000, you are probably going to end up on popular upcoming at some point. Note that I have seen some games show up on popular upcoming with 5,500 wishlists because there weren’t that many big games that week. But to be sure, I recommend at least 7000.

There is one trick that gives you a good idea if you are going to make it.

  1. Go to SteamDB.
  2. And search for your game.
  3. Click the “Charts” tab and scroll down.
  4. Locate the “Store data” widget.

If you are within the top 1000 wishlisted games that have not released, you will see a little number here like this screenshot:

In my experience, if you have a rank number for wishlists, you will at some point get on popular upcoming before launch. But, the lower your rank, the sooner you will show up and the longer you will be on there. So don’t rest on your laurels.

If you don’t have enough wishlists to be ranked, your Store data widget will look like this:

The lack of a ranking means this game will probably not be on popular upcoming page until it gets more wishlists.

I don’t have 7000 wishlists, what should I do?

So your launch is a couple months away and you are not yet at 7000 wishlists. Should you delay your launch? Should you cancel the game? What should you do?

There are two cases: you are ALMOST to 7000 or you are way way far away.

Almost to 7000

If you are within about 1000 wishlists of that mysterious threshold and you don’t have a rank yet on SteamDB, and you have some time, wait. Potentially push back your launch a few months. Then do a marketing blitz for wishlsits. The following actions can actually increase wishlists in a short period of time:

  • Send a preview build out to as many streamers as you can and hope they play it on stream.
  • Post a 30 second trailer to Reddit’s r/games, r/pcmasterrace, or r/gaming and use the “I quit my job, followed my dreams” style post and hope for the best. You can read about how Laysara: Summit Kingdom did this here.
  • Pay for ads on Facebook, Reddit, or Tiktok (don’t do Twitter ads, they don’t work.) In my experience you can earn 1 wishlist per $1. You do the math if this is worth it.
  • Look to see if there are any festivals in the short term and enter. Each festival can earn you about 1000-3000 wishlists.

Hopefully this marketing blitz gets you over the line.

No where close to 7000

However, if you are sitting at 3000 wishlists despite at least 6 months of trying EVERYTHING to get your game seen and nothing seems to be working, it might be time to just release it.

You could spend tens of thousands of dollars on ads or paid influencers to get you up there, but I don’t think it will do it. If people aren’t wishlisting your game that much despite all your marketing effort, it probably indicates soft interest for your game.

In my experience, it is probably best just to release the game, save your money, and spend it on your next one. It is better to spend money on a new project than spend money on ads for a game that just doesn’t excite people.

You will make more games!

Other tips and tricks

Here are some other tips and tricks for managing popular upcoming:

Don’t miss your release date

Valve is serious about the date you set for your release date. A couple weeks before your date you will get an email from Valve with subject line “Preparing <game> for release on <date>.” That is their final warning to make sure you really are going to release. You can change it if you need more time but once you are in the last week, there is no changing it without opening a support ticket. And if you do appear on popular upcoming, or overrun your date, there is no more chances to appear on popular upcoming.

You can appear on popular upcoming once and only once. Valve is very strict about this. No matter how sad your story is, no matter how good your excuse is, Valve will not give you a second chance. Even if you get a new publisher. So don’t let your release date pass.

Years ago some “scammy” developers figured out that if you appear on Popular upcoming, then immediately change your release date back 1 more week you can stay on the list. And then again, and then again, and repeat this process for MONTHS. Valve has since put an end to this. Don’t try to fool Valve.

Front of the pack

You can check to see which other games you will be competing with months before your release by going to be on popular upcoming. Head over to to the page called upcoming Steam (link). Look for games that will be releasing around the same time as yours.

Check again in the weeks before release. If there are some releasing the same day, look them up on SteamDB. Click the “Information” tab and look for this section.

It will tell you the precise day and time they release. If possible, change your official release date and time to be 1 hour ahead of theirs. Sometimes getting to the top 10 Popular Upcoming comes down to hours.

Early Access

WARNING: The rule of 1 and only 1 appearance on Popular Upcoming applies to Early Access games too. I know many indie developers who treat early access like some sort of “soft launch” and release their game to Early Access with out many wishlists.

This is a big mistake! You just surrendered your only chance at getting on popular upcoming. You still should try to get a minimum of 7000 wishlists before you release to Early Access. That is your launch.