One additional marketing feature of Steam is the 'free weekend,' where customers have temporary access to your game for a specified period of time. Users can try out the game free, but lose access when the period expires unless they buy the game. A Free Weekend is always accompanied by a discount and are only available to titles that qualify for curated promotions like a Daily Deal or a Spotlight.
Here are some basics to understand how and why to utilize a Free Weekend.
Frequently Asked Questions
What kind of game makes a good fit for a free weekend?
Typically, we'd run a Free Weekend on a product that is primarily a multiplayer experience, or at minimum has very high re-playability. For example, a five-hour-long narrative adventure game is probably a bad fit, but a team-based multiplayer shooter might be a better. Free Weekends are intended to introduce players to the game and motivate them to become a permanent customers, so games that can be completed or 'beaten' in a few days probably won't benefit.
How do I know if a Free Weekend was successful?
We built out some automated reporting for Free Weekends, so that you can see a data breakdown afterwards on the Sales and Activations Reporting portal. The automated stats will track new users, conversion rate, and gross revenue from conversions.
What benefits should I expect from a Free Weekend?
The primary benefit you should expect is some temporary increase in players, however you should think hard about why customers should care about trying your game now. It is important to remember that simply being 'free' does not automatically guarantee interest from customers, because there are already hundreds of great games available free all the time. Therefore, it is necessary to tie your free weekend to a discount on the game, and possibly some meaningful new content for your existing players to re-engage with the game.
There are other benefits of a Free Weekend that aren't immediately measurable-- like the community benefit of a potential increase of playerbase, and all the people who just buy the game because it's on sale or being played by friends at the moment, regardless of the Free Weekend offer.
What exactly do players receive during a Free Weekend?
By default, a Free Weekend package will be a copy of your standard store package, providing the same appID(s) and depot(s). Users will be able to add the game to their account, install it, and play as much as they want during the Free Weekend period. At the end of the Free Weekend period, users have the license removed from their account and can no longer play.
What if I want to gate access or limit content for Free Weekend players?
There is a specific WebAPI call in the ISteamApps interface to help you identify whether or not a player is accessing your game via the Free Weekend, documented here
. You can use this call to limit or adjust access. For instance, you may wish to make certain modes unavailable, or exclude Free Weekend players from Ranked matchmaking, if you have concerns around cheating or negatively impacting your existing playerbase. It is not required to use this API, but the option is there if you think it is appropriate for your game.
I think my game is a good fit for a Free Weekend. How do I set it up?
First, think carefully about your own timing and what discount you would want to run on the game. Once you have a clear plan, contact us
at least 3 or 4 weeks in advance. Let us know your requested timing, and we can help confirm whether your title is eligible for a Free Weekend.
How long do Free Weekends Last?
Free Weekends typically run from Thursday at 10AMPST to Sunday at 1PM PST, with a discount that runs from Thursday at 10AM PST to Monday at 10AM PST. We can be flexible on the duration if necessary.
How will my Free Weekend Be Promoted?
During a Free Weekend, an additional button will be placed on your game’s store page that will let users install the game. You should point any external promotion you are doing to your game’s store page. By default, Free Weekends do not currently surface automatically to Steam customers.
As your Free Weekend is accompanied by a discount, customers will also receive wishlist notifications about the discount (if your discount is 20% or more), and the game may appear in various places on Steam depending on sales performance.
Can Free Weekend players leave a review on my game?
Yes, they can leave a review but it will be categorized as a non-Steam purchase. So the review is readable by other players, but not factored into your game's review score.
Do Free Weekend players get trading card drops?
No. Trading cards will not drop for a player unless they have purchased the game on Steam or activated a key for the game.