On Steam, you have the option to ship your game as Free to Play (otherwise known as F2P). Free to Play games are free for customers to download. Sometimes they also contain in-game purchases to monetize content. Free to Play games don’t require you to enter pricing because the game is a free license.
You can choose to make your game Free to Play during the app creation process. Simply select “This is a free product” under Options.
Configuring as Free
When you initially create your game in Steamworks, you can do so with the setting to make it free to play.
Once you have done this, you'll find your game listed with a price of 'free' in the "Store Package" area. Note that this package will never become visible, but is important for our system to recognize the game as free.
You can also change a game from paid to free. For more details, please see Switching from paid to free
Selling Content for your Game
Whether your game is Free to Play or paid, you have two ways to sell content for your game: DLC or in-game purchases (microtransactions). Both offer ways for customers to easily purchase content, and both purchase paths must use Steam Wallet.
Selling DLC For Your Game
Selling your content via DLC in the Steam store means you will create distinct Steam store pages for each piece of content, allowing you to have a landing page on Steam to direct customers who may be interested in your DLC and it also gives you an opportunity to describe the content in-depth. DLC can have actual files that you distribute to customers, or it can also just be a license entitlement. Either way, your game should check ownership via the BisSubscribedApp API to make sure the customer actually has a license to the content. More info can be found in our documentation
If you’re not interested in managing your own backend, you can offer in-game transactions via the Steam inventory service where we handle the management of your inventory and purchasing. Please see the documentation for more information.
The potential downside to offering all of your content as DLC is you will need to go through the release process (including creating a store page and going through the review and launch process) for each piece of content. Any change in price or other change will also go through the standard Steam review processes. DLC visibility options
For some types of DLC content, it might make sense to have the DLC for sale on the Steam store, with its own store page, trailer, screenshots, and description. Other content may be better suited for sale only in-game. You’re welcome to make that choice yourself and do what’s best for your game. Please see below for more information.
In-Game Purchases (Microtransactions)
Microtransactions offer customers the option to purchase additional content while playing a game. With the Steam Microtransaction APIs, your Steam game can support all kinds of in-game purchases, including items, virtual currency, or any other content you’d like to offer.
The upside of this approach is you retain control and flexibility over the process. You can change offerings at any time, change prices, change descriptions, etc, however you like.
The downside of this approach if you need to have a reliable and secure backend to manage your microtransactions, inventory and entitlements as well as to reconcile purchasing to prevent fraud.
If you’re looking to launch your game with in-game purchases on Steam, there are some helpful guides, suggestions, and best-practices in the Microtransactions documentation
To learn about implementing Steam Microtransaction APIs, check out this guide
Entering pricing for in-game purchases and running discounts
For in-game purchases, you won’t enter pricing into Steamworks—all pricing is handled on your backend when it initializes the transaction. You can set whatever pricing you think is appropriate.
Every transaction is completely distinct so you can set the pricing per transaction.
Discounting is also handled on your backend. With in-game transactions, there’s no concept of running a discount. Instead, you’ll simply adjust the pricing as needed. You should consider how you will present the new price to customers as a discount in-game.
Most developers handle pricing by setting up a database pricing sheet that has a list of all pieces of content and corresponding prices in each currency. When you initiate a microtransaction using the InitTxn API, you will use the GetUserInfo API to get the user’s preferred currency and then use that information to look up the price you have specified for that item and currency. You will pass that information using the InitTxn API.
We recommend entering pricing in your database in every supported currency so that users will see a price displayed in a currency they are familiar with. Otherwise, customers may see a price displayed in a currency they aren’t familiar with and will cancel the purchase out of caution.
The price you specify is tied to the currency you specify. Depending on the currency, there are specific increments you will need to observe.
If you’d like to dive into the details on InitTxn, please see the documentation
Visibility for F2P Games
For the most part, visibility works the same for Free to Play games as it does for paid games. The vast majority of featuring on Steam is algorithmic based on customer interest. The store looks for bursts of customer interest, typically measured in revenue, and reacts accordingly with additional featuring on the store. For Free to Play games, in-game revenue are factored into measuring customer interest in the same way that sales are for paid games.
On the front page, Free to Play games are featured in the same way in the Featured and Recommended section (main capsule) as paid games.
By default, the Top Sellers list includes Free to Play games (with an optional checkbox to exclude Free to Play games). The Top Sellers list includes in-game revenue, so Free to Play games can (and often are) be displayed among the top selling games on Steam.
Popular New Releases uses player count, in addition to sales, in determining what games appear there. Popular upcoming uses wishlist number to determine which games make the list, whether that game is paid or Free to Play.
Curated Promotion on Steam for Free to Play games
In general, Free to Play games aren’t eligible for curated spotlights (Daily Deals, Midweek deals, Weekend deals) because over time, we’ve learned that customers expect to see paid games on discount in these spotlights rather than Free to Play games with discounts on in-game purchases. However, that doesn’t mean that Free to Play games are excluded from curated marketing!
Free to Play games are eligible for all other forms of curated marketing depending on the scale and success of the game, including IMs, featuring on the Free to Play hub, and even a full Steam takeover (for the biggest, most popular Free to Play releases).
The Free to Play hub is among the most popular pages on all of Steam, and is by far the most popular content hub on Steam. A lot of players visit the Free to Play hub searching for games to check out and play, and featuring in this hub (whether it’s algorithmic or curated) can help boost visibility on Steam in a big way.
If you are wondering if your game might qualify for curated marketing, feel free to reach out to us via support ticket
Marketing Your Free Game
Building buzz and community around your Free to Play game is no different than a paid game—you’ll still need to put in the work to market your game and foster a community of players. There are many ways to market your game, and how you go about it will depend on the time and resources you have available. We also have tools on Steam to help you communicate with customers.
Reach Players Where They Are
Try to reach the players that you think will be most interested in your game where they are—whether that’s on social media, through livestreaming or influencers, Reddit or community groups, conventions or other live events or tradeshows, or any other way you can think of. Some developers choose to also participate in paid marketing to increase awareness and drive traffic to their Steam store page, but it’s not required, and really depends on the budget and resources you have set aside for marketing your game.
Generally, the most important thing for Free to Play games is driving as many new players to try out the game as possible, and hopefully holding onto those players over time by making the game as fun and rewarding as possible. As your community grows, and with it revenue, the amount of buzz and visibility on Steam will also grow.
Keep Players Up to Date on Your Updates
In addition to marketing your game in locations across the internet where players learn about games, you can take advantage of Steam’s built-in tools to raise awareness about what’s happening in your game.
- Steam Events and Announcements
You should also be using Steam Events to tell your community about whatever is happening in your game, whether that’s in-game events, major updates or expansions, new DLC, new items, or anything else you think players would be interested in. This is a great way to also re-engage players, as Steam Events may appear in a user’s library.
You can learn so much more about Steam Events on our documentation page.
- Update Visibility Rounds
We've dedicated space on the front page of the Steam store to highlighting products where the developer has a major update they would like to tell customers about. These appear to customers that have your game in their library or on their wishlist.
If you have a major update for your game, consider using a Update Visibility Round to drive awareness around the update. When you have a major update that you'd like to tell customers about, simply click the 'Start Update Round' button on your applications' Marketing admin page. You can learn all about Update Visibility Rounds in our documentation.
When you re-engage players using events and announcements, it doesn’t just help with the boost of players who may jump back into your game after seeing an event pop up in their library—when those users launch your game, their friends will also a notification that they are playing, and they’ll see them playing on their friends list. This can lead to a virtuous cycle where more and more players are encouraged to try your game.
Switching a game from Paid to Free
If you would like to change your game from paid to free, please use the support form here
to let us know. Again, we'd ask that you give your customers at least a month's notice before changing so that they can make an informed decision whether or not to buy a game that's intending to change its business model in the near future.