Publishing 104 — How Partners Amplify your Game’s Success

Partner Amplification

As an indie publisher, we know the process for receiving store page and console partner support can be ambiguous and at times difficult to navigate. Some processes can feel cumbersome with poor visibility, documentation, or support. Others are completely unavailable to small and mid range projects. There are ways we believe we can collectively make this process friendlier to indies — but that is a separate conversation. In the meantime, we wanted to compile some best practices to help indies navigate these partner relationships to receive more visibility and support for their titles.

Please keep in mind that these are processes that we’re aware of based on our experiences as of July 2021, but they are often updated and refined. This is a living document and we will update it as changes are made, and we encourage you to email us with any input or corrections at alyssa@akuparagames.com

Some general guidelines to keep in mind:

  • Exclusivity — partners are more interested in what is unique to them and their platform, especially when being considered for showcase opportunities.

For the purposes of this article, support is defined in the following ways:

  • Sales — Any launch discounts, individual or group sales or bundles, especially as they relate to priority store placement.

Steam

Steam is mostly a self-service platform, meaning most of these opportunities are done manually on your own and without the need to involve Valve directly. Their tools and documentation are excellent and always kept up to date, and Valve often releases new tools to make this process easier. You can find all of their documentation here. Much of the below text is pulled directly from their publicly available documentation.

SALES: Discounts cannot be run within 6 weeks of your prior discount, with the exception of Steam-wide seasonal events or other specific Valve-organized sale events. It is not possible to discount your product for 30 days following a price increase. Discounts for seasonal sale events cannot be run within 30 days of releasing your title or 30 days from when your launch discount ends. You may not change your price while a promotion is live. It is not possible to discount a product 100%. Custom discounts cannot last longer than two weeks, or run for shorter than 1 day.

  • Bundles, including multi-publisher bundles: Steam offers discounted bundles in a variety of different ways. You can bundle your own products to create deluxe packages, create “complete the set” bundles, or even bundle your products with other publishers using the new tool recently released to the public. These bundles encourage sales of multiple products by offering them at a combined discount — they can be left up temporarily to run through an event or specific initiative, or they can persist on the page permanently.

Promoted Discounts: The following discount types are created and managed by Valve. Valve tries to be as fair as possible and selects titles that they feel customers are most interested in. While there aren’t strict rules, as a base guideline they tend to focus on the top 10–20% selling games on Steam that are positively reviewed and have otherwise proven to be successful. Valve will contact you directly if they want to include you in a curated slot, otherwise it is recommended that you reach out to your rep to inquire about these initiatives. Keep in mind these are all at their own discretion and you have to meet a minimum threshold to qualify — Valve is a huge platform with a ton of titles and limited opportunities for featuring.

  • Daily Deal: These promotions run for 48 hours, starting at 10am Pacific time. Daily Deals are featured on the Steam homepage for 24 hours. See Promo Spot: Daily Deal for more information.

MARKETING:

  • Steam — Curator Connect: A Steam Curator is an individual or group of people who are interested in improving the shopping experience for others by highlighting games from within the Steam catalog. Within Curator Connect, you will find the tools to search and filter the list of Curators to find the best fit for your game. Then you can craft a personalized message and send a review copy of your game directly and immediately through Steam.

ADDITIONAL OPPORTUNITIES:

  • Steam Games Festival: The Steam Game Festival is a multi-day celebration where fans can try out demos, chat with developers, watch live streams, and learn about upcoming games on Steam. For developers, the Steam Game Festival is an opportunity to get early feedback from players and build an audience for a future launch on Steam.

Nintendo

Nintendo wants to see information about your game combined with a thorough marketing plan with explicit dates, copy and content. It should focus on what you have planned with priority to the 3 “firsts” — Is it coming to Switch first, is it the first reveal of the title, or is it the first time we are seeing something playable? It should not focus on smaller updates or content — Nintendo wants to know “what is the news”.

Most news on Indie World Twitter focuses on release dates, the title being available to purchase or something actionable by the consumer such as the release of a DLC. They also are looking for games that move more units and consider them on a case by case basis. Numbers that are good for us as indies aren’t necessarily good for major partners like Nintendo, and you have to hit a certain threshold in order to be considered for priority opportunities. When reaching out to your Nintendo rep and/or Third PartyPublisher, consider the following best practices for Nintendo of America:

  • Clearly outline dates for when your major beats are dropping — even outside of Nintendo focused beats so they can have a more holistic picture — and they will determine if there are any that align with their own marketing efforts.

SALES:

  • Pre-Orders/Launch & Temporary Discounts

MARKETING:

  • Trailer Amplification

ADDITIONAL OPPORTUNITIES:

  • Nindies Showcase Event

Playstation

Declined to be included in this article due to privilege of information.

Microsoft

Microsoft likes to focus their efforts towards something actionable for the customer, ie pre-order going live or a game launch. Generally they can support a trailer during one of these points or the other. Most marketing efforts should be flagged to the marketing team about 1 month out from launch. Contact ID@Xbox’s marketing department for consideration and they will route you to the correct people. Microsoft has a very active, supportive marketing group and while some of the documentation on their backend is outdated, it’s still a helpful reference although it requires an approved account to view.

SALES:

  • Pre-Order: Game must be through certification before you can set up a pre-order. This requires 2 weeks lead time in order to be processed in time for launch. Set up through account rep.

MARKETING: Reach out to marketing group emails and CC reps where possible. Include key dates, game info and marketing plan.

  • Trailer Amplification/Youtube Support: Reach out to the marketing group to provide trailer approval for amplification tied to pre-order or launch day. You must fill out an intake form, a sync sheet template, and an SRT. Also refer to their guidelines. These are not publicly available — reach out to the email group and your rep for access.

ADDITIONAL OPPORTUNITIES: As with other partners, these opportunities are highly curated and participation is upon invitation. As such, most of these promotions are variable and not something a title should expect.

  • Exclusive Dash Promotion: Prime real estate in the New Release section

Stadia

After a project is accepted to release on Stadia, you will be assigned an account manager who will help route questions/issues/concerns, flag press and amplification opportunities, and coordinate release and marketing materials. There are additional opportunities for Unity projects that are part of the Stadia Makers program. Stadia documentation is excellent and always kept up to date, but you need to have an approved account to view it. Additionally, Stadia has one of the most responsive support teams and active forums.

Our experience with Stadia so far has included launching two games within the Stadia Makers program. These are some of but not all of the benefits that Stadia offers to partners, based on our experience so far with the cloud gaming platform:

SALES:

  • Self-Serve Sales: Promotions are something you can do in the backend. Once pricing is published and store certification is passed, you can set up promos/discounts.

MARKETING: For anything marketing related, a few key approaches that we experienced:

  • Proactive: leading up to and including your launch, Stadia may reach out and ask for assets/approval for marketing beats.

ADDITIONAL OPPORTUNITIES: For developers who are a part of the Stadia Makers program, Stadia may provide additional marketing support. This can be in the form of blogs, providing press and interview opportunities, and trailer and title announcements as part of major Stadia marketing beats.

  • Blogs: Stadia likes to announce upcoming games in Stadia community blog posts, and also provide opportunities to highlight the launch of your games within their weekly “This Week on Stadia” posts.

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We do believe this process can continue to be improved upon, especially with regards to indies. Many opportunities are currently unavailable to us based on sometimes ambiguous partner criteria, poor documentation and visibility, or high associated costs that are stacked against the limited resources indie developers have available.

Stay tuned for a follow up article that details some thoughts on what would make partner marketing opportunities more accessible to indies.