When I think of Steam I imagine an impenetrable bunker situated some twenty floors underground where the brightest minds of gaming curators pick and choose quality titles without interference. Spending time with indie developers, some of which has succeeded when striking a deal with the Washington-based platform, has taught me that getting your game on Steam is no easy feat, especially when you are an unknown developer. Convict Interactive, one of Australia’s most promising young studios based in Wollongong, also had a story to tell, one that started with a glimmer of promise and then was shot down when Steam announced Greenlight, the crowd voting service that lets the people decide what indie games appear on the digital service.
Rebecca Fenandez, Chief Marketing Officer at Convict, showed off their debut title Triangle Man to Valve behind closed doors at GDC earlier this year. The response was great; the unnamed Valve employee enjoyed the title, exchanged details and told Rebecca to send the game through once the artwork was completed. You can imagine how that might sound for a young developer working on their first game, when the biggest digital platform in gaming likes and wants your product, you know you have something special in the bag.
Setbacks came along, as they so often do when it comes to games development, and before Convict Interactive were able to send through the completed game, Steam Greenlight was announced.
“Valve have really been trying to push Greenlight,” Rebecca explained. “Valve are telling developers to put their game on Greenlight despite having gone through a meeting process.”
Greenlight has already approved thirty-one games since launching two months ago, but with the fate of these projects in the hands of gamers, many of which are quick to be over-critical about the most minute of details, it can often seem like an insurmountable challenge.
“Rather than Valve now, we have that additional challenge of convincing the public. We have to receive a certain number of votes before Valve will start to take attention. Now we have to convince the public that our game should be on Steam and it is something they want to purchase.”
Steam may be the biggest, but it isn’t the only service that offers up first-class indie products. GOG.com has started to release new products alongside their existing classic games, and Australian-based Desura has been a champion for many titles, including Triangle Man which is currently available as part of the Alpha Funding project.
“We actually spoke to the guys at GOG and because this is a new game and isn’t particularly retro in any way, they didn’t think it would really fit. An older version of the game was 16-bit and they said if we had something more like that they would be interested, but as the game stands right now it just wasn’t for them.”
Despite being featured by the Alpha Funding program at Desura, a program that helps fund the development of the project much in the same vein as Minecraft, consumer support hasn’t been overly strong. Rebecca explained that the team was starting to see that those who actually played the game at trade shows tended to go home and purchase the game, so having a downloadable demo is paramount to introducing your game into the hands of gamers. With a lack of major support however, is Greenlight the next big thing for Convict Interactive?
“Greenlight is definitely our next big move. We’re currently preparing a new trailer and new promotional material. Once that is ready we will have the Greenlight project setup and we will move forward from there.”
When it comes to a successful project on Steam, Rebecca thinks that promotional material and marketing is quite possibly the most important aspect for success.
“The only thing people are going to see about your game, unless they have actually downloaded the demo, is images and videos that we put up there for them. When I buy a game I just watch the video and if it looks good I’ll go and buy it, so we need to have something that really reflects what the game is about.”