Steamworks Documentation
Features And Tools, Marketing
Steam works a bit differently than other stores in that we don't organize our store around paid ads. In fact, we don't sell marketing space at all. Instead, the store is personalized for each player based on what they are playing. Any curated promotional visibility is the result of proven customer interest.

So, how does your game get shown to players in the Steam store? This document talks about the tools and features you can use in Steam to build awareness and audience in the weeks and months leading up to release, get the most out of your buzz and excitement on release day, and how to keep players engaged long after release. For information on how automatic visibility works on Steam, please read Store Visibility documentation.

This document is broken down into features and tools that you can use at each stage of your game development:
  • Pre-release Marketing - Actions you can take leading up to release
  • Release Day Marketing - Actions you can take on release day
  • Ongoing Marketing - Actions you can take throughout the lifespan of your game
  • Tools and resources outside of Steam - Some things to consider as part of a broader marketing campaign

New to Marketing? Need a refresher?

There are many entire books written on marketing and we're not going to try to go into that level of detail here. In a nutshell, marketing is often thought of as a combination of Product (what is your game?), Position (how is your game different from other offerings?), Price (What value does your game offer for the price you are asking?), People (Who is your audience? Who would be interested in your game?), and Promotion (What compelling offer or awareness can you make to reach different portions of your audience?).

Check out our Marketing 101 guide for some useful definitions and tools to help you think about what your game is, who its for, and how it fits in among other games and entertainment being offered today. Much of this advice comes from talks we've given at Steam Dev Days. Check out all the Steam Dev Days talks.

Pre-release Marketing

Lets assume you have the basics figured out. You know what game you are building, how it fits among other games, and who it is for. (if not, check out our Marketing 101 guide for a refresher and some suggestions). Here are some tools and resources that you might want to consider for helping you along your way.

  • Your Store Page

    One of the most powerful things you can do is create a home for your product where interested players have an action they can take. By setting up your Steam store page early, you'll have a place where fans can learn about your game, add it to their wishlist, and will automatically get notified when you get to release day. Use your store page to tell the story of your game and get to the point as quickly as possible.

    Learn more: Editing A Store Page

  • Wishlists & Notifications

    When players add your game to their wishlist, they will automatically get an e-mail when you hit the 'release' button and in the future when you run a discount on your game. For this reason alone, it's really useful to put up your 'coming soon' store page as soon as you are far along enough with your game to be able show off screenshots and describe the core of your game.

    Learn more: Wishlist

  • Tag your game

    Once you've got your store page set up, be sure to visit the page and add any additional relevant tags. Just click the "+" symbol next to the set of tags already applied (from the set of genres you picked during setup) and you'll see an interface that allows you to choose and enter other tags. Look around at other games like yours and see what tags are in use that are also relevant to your game–they might be thematic, gameplay, art style, or sub-genres. These tags help our recommendation engine and also provide information to players about what your game is like.

    Note that you as the developer can also remove tags if players have tagged your game with something incorrect. Just click the little flag next to the tag in the tagging interface.

    Learn more: Steam Tagging

  • Steam Next Fest

    Steam Next Fest is a multi-day celebration where fans can try out demos, chat with developers, watch livestreams, and learn about upcoming games on Steam. For developers, Steam Next Fest is an opportunity to get early feedback from players and build an audience for a future launch on Steam. Steam typically hosts three editions of Steam Next Fest each year, which take place in February, June, and October.

    Learn more: Steam Next Fest

  • Announcements

    During development, leading up to release, and throughout the life of your game, you'll find the Steam Events and Announcements system to be a useful channel for keeping your players informed and gathering feedback. Use it to post development progress, share new artwork creations, or describe interesting features you are working on.

    Learn more: Events and Announcements Tools

  • Store Widget

    If you have your own website for your game and want to provide a handy link and synopsis of your game, you can use the store widget. This creates a little preview that you can embed on other websites and includes the price, artwork, and call to action.

    Learn more: Store Widget

  • Localization

    While you are working on your game, it's useful to think about how the game will translate for players around the world. Localization impacts your game in a number of ways:

    Most Steam players don't speak English. Translating your game content (even if just UI and subtitles) into other languages will greatly expand the potential size of market for your game.

    Steam will prioritize recommending your game to players that speak the languages supported by your game. So, if you don't support Chinese, your game will show up less to players that only speak Chinese.

    Not all languages are equal. In general, we find that players in Asian countries are more impacted by lack of translation, whereas many Western European customers already speak English as a second language.

    Learn more: Localization & Languages

  • Alpha and Beta testing

    It can feel hard to share your game with others before you really feel that it's 'done' or polished enough. But gathering feedback is important to making sure you understand your audience and is great practice for communicating about your game. Through Steam you can run various kinds of testing with external groups of players. Here are a couple of options:
    • Use Steam to deploy test builds across your internal team. Before your game is released, Steam can be used to give access to the game for your entire team, wherever they may be located.
    • Use beta test keys to grant your game to players you want to allow to play your game. You can revoke access to your game in the future if you wish. (note that when a player activates one of these keys, it will remove the game from recipients' wishlists, so be cautious when using)
    • Make use of Steam Playtest to allow open access to a test build right from your store page. This is done through a secondary appID, which has the benefit of allowing you to run that beta alongside your release candidate app.

    Learn more: Testing On Steam

  • Curator Connect

    When you are nearing release and want to get a copy of your game in the hands of reviewers, press, influencers, streamers, or other individuals that can help bring awareness of your game and amplify your efforts, you can do so directly in Steam. Many of the popular streamers, journalists, and community gaming sites are set up as Curators in Steam, and you can use Curator Connect to send them a copy of your game without having to email out keys.

    These influencers can post their reviews on Steam or wherever else they already post reviews or stream your game.

    Learn more: Steam Curators & Curator Connect

  • Review copies via Steam Keys

    If you don't find the influencer or journalist that you want on Curator Connect, you can always send them a review copy of your game with a Steam key.

    Learn more: Steam Keys

  • Live-stream (on Steam and elsewhere)

    During development and even on release day, you may want to live-stream your game (either yourself, someone on your team, or someone from the community that can show off your game in it's best light). You can host a live stream directly on your store page, which can be great for demonstrating exactly what it's like to play your game.

    Learn more: Live-Streaming

  • Upcoming releases page / queue (automatic)

    When your game has been posted as 'coming soon', it appears on the 'all upcoming releases' list, ordered by release date. Additionally, it can appear on other upcoming lists and pages as Steam, based on customer interest in your game, and can be recommended to players based on the tags applied to your game.

    Learn more: Visibility on Steam

  • Your developer and publisher homepages (automatic)

    If you have created a homepage for the developer and/or publisher of the game, and linked this game with that page, Steam will automatically list your upcoming title on your homepage so players can see all the titles made by you or your publisher.

    Learn more: Developer And Publisher Homepages

Release Day Marketing

When you get to release day, Steam has a number of tools that you can make use of to get the most out of your launch. There are also a number of automatic ways that your game will show up within the store, and also a number of ways it can appear across the platform.

  • Live-stream (on Steam and elsewhere)

    During the time surrounding the launch of your release, you may want to live-stream your game (either yourself, someone on your team, or someone from the community that can show off your game in it's best light). You can host a live stream directly on your store page, which can be great for demonstrating exactly what it's like to play your game, and give you an opportunity to chat directly with interested players that may have questions about your game.

    Learn more: Live-Streaming

  • Launch discount

    Discounting your game for the first week of sales is optional, and is a decision that should be made as part of your overall marketing and communication plan.

    Learn more: Discounting.

  • Wishlist emails (automatic)

    When you hit the release button, Steam will automatically send emails to the players that have your game on their wishlist to let them know your game is available.

    Learn more: Wishlist

  • Emails to followers of the developer and publisher (automatic)

    If you have created a homepage for the developer and/or publisher of the game, and linked this game with that page, Steam will automatically send an email to any user that has opted to follow the dev or publisher.

    Learn more: Developer And Publisher Homepages

  • Emails to followers of the franchise page (automatic)

    If you have set this game up as part of a franchise within Steam, then Steam will automatically send an email to any user that has opted to follow the franchise.

    Learn more: Franchise Pages

  • New releases page / queue (automatic)

    When your game has newly released, it appears on the 'all new releases' list. Additionally, it can appear on other lists and pages as Steam notices the games' relative popularity. Mostly this is impacted by the number of players buying and playing your game, which should be a natural outcome of your various pre-release marketing efforts (see above for pre-release marketing tools and suggestions).

    Learn more: Visibility on Steam

  • Recommendations (automatic)

    Once your game is available for sale, it can appear in many more places throughout Steam. It now qualifies to be recommended to players of similar games. These recommendations can show up at the top of the homepage of Steam, in a user's discovery queue, on individual tag or genre pages. The only thing you need to do is make sure you have appropriate tags applied to your game.

    Learn more: Visibility on Steam and Steam Tagging

Marketing After Release

Throughout the life of your game, there are opportunities to bring greater visibility to your game and to re-engage your fan base.

  • Discounting

    Running regular discounts over the life of your game, and participating in seasonal events, is a great way to bring attention back to your game when you have a compelling offer for customers.

    When your game is on discount, it can show up in different places throughout the store and will trigger email notifications to players that have your game on their wishlist.

    Learn more: Discounting

  • Update your game

    Update as frequently as you like and Steam will keep your players up to date. You can use updates to address bugs reported by your fans, add new languages to expand your market, integrate new content, and keep expanding the value your game provides. Plus, each update is a reason to remind players about why your game is great and why now is the perfect time to buy the game and start playing.

    Learn more: Updating Your Game

  • Update Visibility Rounds

    While every update to your game is a form of communication to players, we also have a specific feature for getting word out about the biggest updates you have planned. When you post one of your biggest updates, you can trigger a special visibility option that shows your update and game on the homepage to your players and wishlisters.

    Learn more: Update Visibility Rounds

  • Announcements

    You can use Steam Announcements to share news and events with your player base and prospective players visiting your store page. Each announcement shows up in the activity feed of players that follow your game. It also appears in your game's community hub and on your game's store page.

    Learn more: Events and Announcements Tools

  • Live-Stream On Your Store Page

    Showing players what your game is like to play and some of the fun that can be had in the game is a great way to help players make the decision to buy and play your game. Running a live-stream right on your game's store page can be useful during a period of discounting or during another special event.

    Learn more: Live-Streaming

  • Time-limited artwork swaps

    If you've got a special event coming up such as an update or live-stream, you can use artwork swaps to temporarily change the artwork that represents your game. You can customize your set of capsule images to include information about the event and it will automatically switch back to your default artwork at the prescribed date.

    Learn more: Artwork Overrides

  • Rich presence

    You can use rich presence to communicate player state (such as "Waiting in lobby" or "Battling mega boss") to friends of the player via the Steam friends list and anywhere that player shows up in the Steam community. Use this to add intrigue for your game or to facilitate multiplayer matchmaking.

    Learn more: Rich Presence

  • UTM Analytics

    You can use UTM analytics to measure the effectiveness of any external marketing, advertising, or links from your website.

    Learn more: UTM Analytics

Tools & Resources outside of Steam

While Steam has many tools and systems to help with discovery and awareness of your game, there are still a great many places outside of Steam that players rely on to learn about new games. You can use these other channels to your advantage to make sure that potential customers are aware that your game exists and is coming. As with any form of marketing, there is no specific recipe to follow. The best results come from speaking to your audience in a way that is genuine for you and your product.

These are a few general suggestions, and are far from a comprehensive list of activities you can utilize. We encourage you to look around at the wealth of information freely available online that discusses various approaches to marketing.
  • Social media

    Try out some different approaches with social media and through different channels. You may find that some social sites are better suited for certain forms of interaction while others have different strengths.

  • Communities of players

    Identify where your audience hangs out and discusses relevant topics on the internet. Is there a community forum for players of games like yours? Are there community groups or chats that you can interact with? Are there streamers of games like yours that you can send a copy of your game to?

  • Learn from other devs

    There are a lot of articles out there by developers describing marketing activities they have done for their own games to reach players and build awareness and familiarity with their game. Seek these writings out and glean the useful information that applies to your situation and product. You might even try reaching out to developers that have done interesting things to pick their brains for more details or advice.

    Some suggested resources:
    - Gamediscover .co
    - Gamesindustry .biz
    - r/gamedev
    - etc.

  • Consumer game festivals (eg. PAX)

    Some developers find it valuable to build awareness by presenting their game at a booth at consumer shows. There are shows all over the world, so you can probably find one near you to start with and see what works for you. Some suggestions if you do take this approach:

    Talk with other devs that have done this. Learn what you can from what they've tried and found valuable to do at shows.
    Bring cards or something that interested players can take with them to remember your game and add it to their wishlist when they get back to their PC.

  • Advertising

    Some game developers find it valuable to buy advertisements to build an audience and drive traffic. You may want to consider this once your game is available to purchase.