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长文:开发者通过观察Steam用户的真实浏览方式而引发的思考

发布时间:2019-10-21 09:11:31 Tags:,

长文:开发者通过观察Steam用户的真实浏览方式而引发的思考

原作者:Chris Zukowski 译者:Willow Wu

来看看这个Steam用户是怎么看游戏页面的:

她在推荐页面看了某个游戏13秒的预告动图,读了简介的前12个词,进入游戏页面,跳过了预告视频直接看截图,花了5。5秒看完4张截图,查看了5个用户打的标签,跳过游戏的完整介绍,非常粗略地过了一下鉴赏家评测,简单看了某条差评。然后她认为游戏画面很可爱,把它加入了愿望单。整个过程耗费1分45秒。

你可能会认为这个人是个有速读技能、眼光锐利的购物专家,但事实并不是。我花了五个小时观察不同玩家在Steam上的购物过程,而上述这种行为是非常普遍的。

1。Steam的定性研究回顾

我是一名独立游戏开发者,目前已经在Steam发行1款游戏,还有一个很快会和大家见面。我觉得营销游戏很难。我阅读了大量分析文章,花了数小时研究我的Google analytics、我自己的Steam销售数据,以及Steam Spy上其它游戏的销售图表,但我还是不知道要怎么在Steam上推销我的游戏。当我在准备新的商店页面时,我完全不知道游戏简介要怎么写、截图应该选哪几张。

所以我决定先做几个不同类型的研究项目,埋头于黑暗、混乱的定性研究中。

The Lion’s Song(from steamcommunity)

The Lion’s Song(from steamcommunity)

1)Steam的定性观察
我在网上问了玩家们一个非常简单的问题:“如果我给你们每个人25美元,你们愿意让我观察并记录各自的Steam浏览过程吗?”

好在还有7个人愿意相信我。

为了这个研究,我对每个人都进行了30分钟以上的1对1观察,并询问他们是怎么买游戏的。我们听他们思索着什么游戏要加入愿望单,什么游戏要过滤掉。

我的调查对象不是随便挑的。那些一年只买一个像《使命召唤》《上古卷轴5:天际》这样游戏的玩家肯定对我的游戏不感兴趣。我做的是独立游戏,独立游戏玩家是一类特殊人群,他们愿意冒险尝试由个人(或小团队)制作的古怪游戏。

我强烈推荐你读一读Steamspy创始人Sergey Galyonkin的这篇文章:Your Target Audience Doesn’t Exist(https://galyonk.in/your-target-audience-doesn-t-exist-999b78aa77ae)。你可以从中获得很多启发,Sergey指出Steam平台只有很小的一部分人会买独立游戏。一般来说,Steam Library中有100个以上游戏的用户就是会买独立游戏的人。

因此,我把注意力集中在这些消费者身上。我尽量在这1%的玩家中挑选背景各异的调查对象。我跟来自亚洲、欧洲、北美、南美国家的玩家交谈,其中有5位男性玩家和2为女性玩家,其中一位因为只有一只手,所以必须要用可编程鼠标和四方向脚控踏板。我遇到了一些失业的人,还有一些能够在2019年的夏季促销中毫不犹豫地砸入445美元的人。

在这篇文章中,我会分析一般消费者看见新游戏之后的一系列行为。同时,我会在个人行为解读的基础上给出自己的建议。

下文中,我会把观察对象称为“参与者(participants)”。

2。Steam用户的阅读方式

所以,在好几个小时的观察之后,人们是怎么决定要把你的游戏加入愿望单的?他们究竟在寻找什么?

作为这项研究的一部分,我观察到参与者会根据他们自己喜欢的游戏类型作出预先假设,据此判断要不要将游戏加入愿望单。然后他们会尝试着去寻找一款符合这一类型的游戏。最后,他们通过查看负面游戏评测来评估游戏可能存在的缺陷。

来看看参与者们是怎么一步步了解游戏的。

1)宣传图
从调查中我们可以看出参与者一般会使用PC浏览Steam。所有的参与者都说他们会将Steam固定在任务栏中。

大部分参与者表示他们主要使用探索队列来寻找新游戏。然而,如果参与者浏览一些合集页面,比如“特别优惠”“好友趋势”或其它专题合集,他们会看到游戏的一张张小缩略图,Valve称之为“宣传图(capsule)”。如果宣传图吸引了他们或者看起来很奇怪,参与者就会停留。

2)停留
当鼠标停留在宣传图上方时,就会出现一个小弹窗。

可以说,这个小弹窗就是游戏的命运转折点,玩家会根据它的内容决定到底要不要点击宣传图,查看更详细的游戏介绍。

据我的观察,参与者们一般会停下来观看四张截图的循环播放,看看这个游戏是不是与他们喜欢的特征相符。他们会根据截图中的线索——例如UI、镜头视角、色调——来判断游戏题材、类型。

我注意到有些参与者也会查看前五个用户自定义标签(在弹窗中显示)来判断。所有的参与者都清楚地知道自己的喜好与雷点,通过标签来判断你的游戏是否符合他们的独特胃口。

如果参与者对弹窗内容很感兴趣,他们就会点击,来到游戏的商店页面,否则他们就会已转移到下一个宣传图。

来看一下这些参与者的具体行为流程:第一位用户浏览了一堆宣传图,其中某几个有停留查看弹窗。她很容易就能判断SCUM这个游戏肯定不是她喜欢的类型,所以过掉它继续。她没有看见什么感兴趣的东西,所以转移到了其它部分。

第三位参与者说他只会点击看起来比较像他喜欢的类型的游戏。他看到了Humankind这个游戏,觉得它很像《文明》,停留看了弹窗信息,然后点击打开了一个新页面。

最后一位参与者查看了图片和标签,由此来判断这是不是她感兴趣的游戏。

分析与建议

你需要做一张能够吸引人眼球的宣传图,让玩家的鼠标停留下来。我的游戏是像素艺术风格,但我的缩略图是像是高分辨率插图。我曾经有想过这算不算诱售,是不是应该用像素图。

但是基于我的观察,用户并不会因为宣传图和游戏画风不符而产生不好的印象。他们会综合弹窗的4张截图以及标签来判断。用户看到宣传图时并不会对游戏产生任何看法,弹窗出现的时候才会开始评估。然而,我发现极端化、容易识别的艺术风格(比如动漫或者色情游戏)会影响人们是否要停留在宣传图上。关键在于宣传图应该是赏心悦目的。把你的宣传图当作是一个磁铁,把用户吸过来!

参与者的这种停留行为让我意识到了截图的选择以及放置比你的游戏预告还重要,因为他们从弹窗中看到的是四张图片的循环而不是预告播放。参与者希望能通过这四张截图看出游戏类型。所以我建议,你应该用这四张图展示出游戏核心玩法循环的4个独特之处。就比如,你做的是一个生存/制造游戏,我会优先选择以下四张:

-展示玩家正在探索栩栩如生的开放世界
-展示玩家正在收集某些物品(包括UI显示“拾起”或者“砍”之类的交互行为)
-展示物品制造菜单
-展示角色正拿着一个新物品

3.你的商店页面

参与者如果觉得游戏很有意思,他们就会点击宣传图。他们想要喜欢上这个游戏,非常希望这个游戏就是他们喜欢的类型。这是好现象!这时候他们是站在开发者这边的。

一旦他们进入实际的商店页面,他们就想确定这个游戏是否是他们喜欢的类型/子类型。参与者非常清楚自己的喜好,不会在逛商店时尝试他们不熟悉的东西。如果你做的是RTS游戏,但他们不喜欢RTS游戏,无论你的销量有多高、预告有多华丽、评价有多好都无法说服他们走出舒适区。

正如下文所探讨的,你的商店页面必须能够说服潜在买家:这个游戏跟你们喜欢的是一样的。在这一节中,我会告诉你参与者是通过查看哪些区域来确定这个游戏是否符合他们的期望。

1)截图&预告
你或许会认为玩家最先看的是游戏预告。这么推测是有道理的,毕竟它是动画、会自动播放,但是从参与者的实际行动看来,大部分人都选择跳过预告直接点击截图。他们甚至连声音都不开。我觉得这是因为很多预告片都有很长的logo展示开头,以及一些跟游戏类型、玩法无关的片段。

因此,参与者们会更倾向于看截图,一张张扫视过去。他们从图片中寻找线索,确定游戏的类型。他们想看UI,因为UI能够帮助他们确定类型和玩法。他们也想知道玩家控制的是什么样的角色。

另外,截图的顺序也非常重要,前四张图是会出现在弹窗中的。截图应该能传递出一个故事。我注意到,当参与者们查看截图布置良好的游戏页面时,他们能够依靠直觉推理出游戏的内容,因为截图是环环相扣的,就像是在看漫画书。

那么游戏预告呢?在观察中,我发现那些看了预告的参与者会拖动进度条,寻找玩法展示片段。这个行为非常普遍,我甚至开始担心我的实验会让他们对预告产生偏见。我想,也许他们是怕我觉得无聊或者觉得自己必须得有所操作,不能静止。所以,当我注意到参与者跳过好几个预告,我就会问他们平常是不是也是这样看预告的。他们的回答与观察到的行为相符——有时会看,但一般情况下预告都要花点时间才能看完,所以他们就直接看了截图。有一位参与者是来自印度尼西亚的,他表示由于网络原因,Steam预告播放总是很卡,所以他从来都不看。

来看一下他们是怎么过这些截图的。

第一位参与者匆匆过了所有的预告,但并没有看到游戏玩法。这也是为什么大部分参与者都跳过了预告,直接看截图。他真的非常想看到玩法演示和UI。

第二位参与者说这个游戏看起来不错,很快就确认这是一款视觉小说游戏(是他喜欢的类型),但他不太明白游戏的内容主题是什么。截图也没有前后关联性。他接着看简介,想要寻找更多线索。值得注意的是,他根本就不在意预告,就那么跳过去了。

第三位参与者传达出的信息是:截图跟某个游戏相似是一件好事。他能够在不看任何介绍的情况下确定游戏类型,很容易就推测出游戏玩法。

第四位参与者就是我上文提到的跳过了好几个预告的人。我问他为什么要这样做,他解释了更想看截图的原因,甚至根据所看到的内容猜想、构建了一个剧情。游戏商店页面的截图准确呈现了游戏玩法,并最终促使他把游戏加入愿望单。

还是有几个玩家看了完整的预告。我在这里总结一下。Button Button Up!这个游戏的预告就很好地展示了玩法以及像素艺术。从一些场景中你还能看到其它像素游戏的影子。参与者对此产生了积极的反应——“这让我想到了马里奥兄弟!”玩家们总是会尝试确定游戏类型,把它跟某个同类联系起来。

分析与建议

在这次研究之前,如果有人让我给他们的商店页面提建议,我会说“不要把UI放到截图里!大家想看的是赏心悦目的东西!不是无聊的菜单。”现在看来真是大错特错。玩家能够从UI中获得很多信息,帮助他们确定游戏类型。想想看,如果你看到屏幕顶端有两个血条,那么你马上就知道它是格斗游戏。如果你看在屏幕右下角看见一些数字,左下看到一些武器图标,右上有一个迷你地图,这很有可能就是个第一人称射击游戏。

Steam商店页面的截图,你要选择能够体现玩法的图片。

你的截图应该能让人联想到其它同类游戏。就比如说你要确保展示的镜头角度和UI元素跟同类型的游戏有共性。有一位参与者看到Shortest Trip To Earth马上就能感觉到这是一款类似《超越光速》的游戏。他觉得这是一个吸引点,并不会引发什么负面想法。最后他把这个游戏加入了愿望单,因为他了解游戏的大概内容。类似地,看到Button Button Up!游戏预告的参与者自然也能联想到《超级马里奥兄弟》。

2)标签(Tags)

在看完截图后,我观察到参与者们还会查看标签来确定游戏类型。参与者们会重点关注那些帮助他们准确定位游戏特色的标签,(比如“城市建设”或者“模拟”),跳过那些无帮助的(比如“独立”或者“女性主角”)。因为后者通常从截图就能看出,不需要特意看标签。

有些参与者会点开查看更多标签,目的是要寻找“毒药”,防止自己买游戏后才发现踩了雷。举个例子,如果参与者只喜欢单机游戏,那么“MMO”对他们来说就是雷点,他们会马上转向下个游戏。

第一位参与者不玩类银河战士恶魔城以及包含永久死亡设定的游戏。

第二位参与者不玩塔防游戏。他看到雷点后就直接关掉了页面,不管其它内容或者评测是怎么样的。他只说了:“不是我的菜。”

分析与建议

仔细研究下其它同类型的游戏。你的前五个标签要能明确定位游戏类型。

我会把那些从截图就可以看出的标签以及对类型判断没有帮助的标签放到后面去,就比如“色彩丰富”或者“女性主角”。

3)简介

在看完标签后,有些参与者会扫一下简介中的关键词。他们非常想知道在游戏中能干什么,有没有哪个词能帮助他们确定这是不是自己想要的游戏。

参与者们都跳过了烘托情感的文字,我想这是因为他们可以从截图/预告中获得更加直观的感受。

一位参与者想确定游戏的类型,但是简介里只有感性十足的文字。直到他翻阅了截图、看到了UI(他很兴奋地用鼠标画圈圈),他才确定这款游戏跟《幽浮》类似,一下就提起了兴趣。另外,这游戏的预告有6个,他得翻到下一页才能跳过所有的视频,这对用户来说无疑是个麻烦。

“1983年,冷战局面日益严峻,世界已经到了毁灭的边缘。无论东方还是西方,没人可以信任,一切都值得怀疑。人类的命运就把握在你的手中,你必须通过《Phantom Doctrine》中的间谍之战拯救世界。” 这就是参与者跳过的游戏简介,单从这段文字你无法确定这是什么类型的游戏,RTS?FPS?还是视觉小说?

分析与建议

不需要费太多心思写这些文字,不要都是剧情或者感性句子。你应该在简介中提到用户玩游戏时中能做什么。要确保关键词能够在一定程度上反映游戏类型。

4)评测

参与者们在看完截图、标签、简介(有时)之后,就把注意力转向评测。我观察到有些参与者跳过了游戏的长篇评测,

在整块区域中,他们感兴趣的只有差评。因为他们想知道不该买这款游戏的原因。他们不关心正面的评价,除非评论者也列出了缺点。

如果不推荐的原因是“游戏太短”,这通常不会打消用户购买游戏的念头。有些人甚至表示他们喜欢流程较短的游戏。参与者想知道他们关注的某些方面(比如画面、玩法)是否有负面评价。

另外,参与者不太相信那些只有一个词的评论,或者带着明显怨气想找开发者干架的评测。这真是让我们松了口气。

分析与建议

作为游戏开发者,直面差评是最艰难的工作之一。某些差评曾经也让我很不好过,它们对游戏改进没有任何帮助,只是想对我造成人身攻击。

看到参与者能够理性看待负面评测,这让我非常惊喜。他们真的能换位思考。如果评论是一篇超长的抱怨,大部分参与者都不会费时间去看。他们的浏览速度真的非常快。他们也能快速找到较为中肯的评论,重点关注的是游戏中是否存在严重影响用户体验的缺陷。

所以我的建议是,如果你看到一条无脑差评,不要为它浪费任何精力和情感。避免和那些人打交道。不要因为他们停下游戏开发的脚步。把时间花在修复真正的bugs上,帮助玩家们解决真实存在的问题。

5)关于这款游戏(也就是详细介绍)

我看到很多参与者会跳过游戏的详细介绍,直奔评测区。有阅读详细介绍的人,他们会搜寻能够确定游戏类型和游戏玩法的标题和关键词,其它都略过。有人认真看,那是因为游戏截图、标签和评测都给不了什么线索或者他们不确定这是什么类型的游戏。

跟简介类似,参与者们跳过了感性的描述,直接看那些关于游戏玩法的内容。

第一位参与者表示她一般都会跳过详细介绍,其它参与者也有不少是相同情况。

第二位参与者通过详细介绍确定了游戏类型。他说他很喜欢模拟经营游戏,但是他想知道游戏有没有包含解谜机制,这是他的雷点。详细介绍中有说到这个游戏包含解谜机制,而且有些复杂,所以他最后就没有把游戏加入愿望单。

第三位参与者看到了《女巫布莱尔》的这些介绍:“1996年,一个男孩在马里兰州柏莱克镇的布莱克山森林神秘失踪。你将扮演背负着心灵创伤的前警官Ellis,参与搜寻。谁知一次看似普通的搜索,转瞬间成了一场无尽的梦魇。你将被迫正视内心深处的恐惧,并遭遇徘徊在丛林中的那位神秘而恐怖的布莱尔女巫……”

参与者跳过了“警察”“搜寻”等词语,然后她找到了“第一人称”“剧情驱动的心理恐怖”,她说:“是的,这是一个小众游戏,但我真的很喜欢它。”她尝试寻找某些关键词,能够将游戏与所熟悉的类型联系到一起。另外值得注意的是,虽然她喜欢剧情游戏,但是在看介绍时她略过了所有与剧情相关的信息。然后她找出更多的关键词来了解游戏机制,而不是故事本身。

分析与建议

确保你的详细介绍能帮助玩家确定游戏类型。事实上,我会试着将游戏玩法的关键词放在标题,让用户更容易寻找。所以,如果你做的是生存游戏,那么小标题或许应该是觅食、制造、建造。然后为GIF图写几个句子来描述具体的玩法操作。

用截图和GIF图来加强情感渲染,不要用文字。你看,就算是喜欢剧情游戏的人也不会看这些散文似的内容。

4.最后一些想法
1)人们最关心的还是类型

当你向发行商或者媒体推介游戏时,一般的建议就是“让他们明白你是独一无二的。告诉他们游戏有哪些独特的闪光点。”如果你面对的是gate keepers和鉴赏家,那这确实是个好建议。但是我在做测试研究的这段时间里,没有一个参与者说到“我想知道这款游戏的独特之处是什么?”或者“游戏的卖点是什么?”或者“嗯……这游戏跟其它同类产品有什么区别?”反而是“噢!这个游戏跟某某很像!”或者“我很熟悉这类游戏,因为我喜欢!”或者“啊,这个类型是我的菜。”

我所看到的就是,大家都知道自己喜欢什么类型的游戏,不会被陌生玩法所吸引,更别说加入愿望单了。他们想收藏自己熟悉的东西。

但是,你还是得努力让自己的游戏有独特的闪光点。游戏还是要有独特的视觉风格。一般的Steam玩家不会刻意去关注游戏的与众不同之处,所以,你的商店页面也不需要耍花样。用户想知道的是你的游戏是否就是他们所钟爱的类型。你需要给出一些巧妙的线索,比如UI、关键词、镜头角度,让用户去推测出游戏类型。

2)不要白费口舌
不管商店页面做得多好,不喜欢该游戏类型的人怎么都不会掏钱。所以不要在这件事上白费力气。你需要做的是集中精力思考,把目标用户想听到的话传达给他们。比如暗示“我的游戏就跟你们之前沉浸了几天几夜的游戏一样,但是它的内容更多,画面更加精美!”

我的最后一组观察是两个不同的玩家浏览同一个商店页面。他们都认为这个游戏很好看,看起来也很有趣,但是其中一个人并不喜欢恐怖游戏,而另一个人喜欢。第一个参与者只呆了20秒钟就离开了这个页面,并表示他会在YouTube上看解说。另一位参与者说“钱到位了就买。”她觉得这是她熟悉的类型,所以她有兴趣尝试这个游戏。

3)有人买东西了吗?

我看到一堆游戏被加入了愿望单,但是没有一个人真正买了。我的想法是,在Steam这个平台,把游戏加入愿望单就相当于从销售漏斗的“认识(Awareness)”阶段发展到了“感兴趣(Interest)”阶段。在购买之前,他们还需经历渴望(Desire)和行动(Action)阶段。

但不幸的是,要把感兴趣的用户推向购买的唯一手段就是促销。当游戏促销时,有把游戏加入愿望单的人会收到一封提醒邮件,这就是吸引他们回到商店页面的第二个机会。就相当于我们有个隐藏的“参与税”,只是为了让人们再次关注游戏。但我认为更大的问题还是在“曝光度”上。

我觉得Valve的人应该也明白这个问题。他们宣布将会在近期的改版中加入Steam Events等新工具,这或许能帮助开发者们在不用打折的情况下说服收藏游戏的用户最终打开钱包。这无疑是令人高兴的一件事。

现在有了这个研究项目,我就能知道怎么才能卖出更多游戏。没有人买东西,这就意味着我需要做更多研究,之后我还打算继续其它两个研究项目。形式还是这样的观察活动,但时间定在下一次的Steam大促销。很多参与者都表示他们一般会等到大促销才买游戏,这也跟我自己的收入情况一致。

我会进行一项“日志研究”,也就是挑选一些用户,并定期询问他们最近是否购买了游戏。如果有的话,记录他们的购买动机。是因为促销吗?游戏播主?某篇文章?还是Steam Events的功劳?谁知道呢。

如果你想参与后续阶段的研究,请加入我的邮件列表,等活动开始时我会通知你。

本文由游戏邦编译,转载请注明来源,或咨询微信zhengjintiao

Watch how this person evaluates this game’s Steam page.

In case you didn’t watch the video or got distracted for 1 minute and 45 seconds that person wishlisted the game after they thought the game’s capsule image was cute, watched 13 seconds of an animated gif version of the trailer, read 12 words of the short description, SKIPPED the trailer, looked at exactly 4 screenshots (which took all of 5.5 seconds), checked 5 user-defined tags, jumped over the full-text description, glanced at the curators, and skimmed through 1 negative review.

If you thought she was some speed-reading super-shopper, she is not。 What you just saw was the typical behavior I witnessed when I spent 5 hours watching gamers shop on Steam。

A qualitative review of Steam

I am an indie game developer with 1 game on Steam and another coming out soon。 I struggle to market my games。 I have read tons of postmortems and spent hours digging through my Google analytics, my own Steam sales data, and sales charts for other games on Steam Spy。 But I am still clueless as to how to sell my game on Steam。 And when I am setting up a new store page I am completely clueless as to what to put in the Short Description field and which screenshots to pick。

So I decided to undertake a different type of research project. I dove into the murky, messy world of qualitative research.

A qualitative look at Steam

For my research I reached out to gamers across the internet and asked them a very simple question, “would you be willing to let me watch (and record) you browsing the Steam store in exchange for $25?”

Thankfully 7 people agreed to trust me on this offer。

For this study, I spent at least 30-minutes with each person in a 1 on 1 screen sharing sessions watching them and asking them how they bought games. I listened as the puzzled through which games to wishlist, and which ones to pass.

I didn’t watch just any gamer though. Players who only buy one game a year like Call of Duty or Skyrim don’t buy the types of games I make. I make indie games. It is a special type of person that is willing to take a chance on quirky games made by one (or a couple) people.

If you haven’t, you must read his post “Your Target Audience Doesn’t Exist” by Sergey Galyonkin (the Steamspy guy)

It is very illuminating because Sergey points out there is a very thin slice of the Steam population that buys indie games. Typically people who have at least 100 games in their Steam Library are the ones who buy indie games.

Therefore, I focused my study on those elite buyers. I worked hard to get a diverse background of participants within that 1%. I talked to people from Asia, Europe, North America, and South America, 5 men and 2 women, a person who has 1 hand and must therefore game using a programmable mouse and a 4 directional foot pedal. I met people who were unemployed and others who had no problem dropping $445 on the 2019 Summer Sale.

For more information about how I found and selected the participants and the methodology I used, see the Appendix over on my blog。

In this post I am going to review the sequence that a typical buyer goes through when they look at a game that is new to them。 I will pepper the observations with actual videos that show evidence of what I saw and heard。 I will also add my own recommendations based on how I interpreted their actions。

From here on out I am going to refer to the people I observed as “participants.” In the video clips I distinguish them by an assigned letter because I want to maintain their anonymity. I also stripped out any personalized information from their videos.

How Steam users read your Steam page

So after all these hours and hours watching, how do people decide to wishlist your game? And what are they looking for?

As part of this study I observed that participants decide if they will wishlist their game based on their pre-existing assumptions about their favorite genres。 Then they try to see if a game they are looking at fits that genre。 finally they look for any evidence that the game might be defective by checking the negative game reviews。

Here is a step-by-step breakdown of how I saw them build their understanding of your game.
(before they get to your store page)

The main capsule

Participants indicated that they typically browse Steam on their gaming PC. All participants also said that they have Steam pinned to the taskbar to start when they power on their PC.

Most of the participants indicated that they primarily use the Discovery Queue to find new games。 However, if participants browse collection pages such as “Special Offers” or “Trending Among Friends” or any specialized featured collection they first encounter a game as a small thumbnail image that Valve calls a “capsule。” If the capsule catches their eye or looks strange, participants hover over it。

The hover

When users hover over the capsule it shows a tooltip.

This tooltip is the start of their evaluation of a game and it is very very important in determining if they are going to actually click on the capsule and read more or just hover over the game that is right next to it.

I observed participants typically stop to watch the 4 screenshots that loop to see if the game “looks” like the type of game they play. They used clues in the screenshot such as the UI, camera angle, and color pallet to help them determine the genre of the game.

I also noticed some participants look at the top 5-user tags (displayed in the tooltip) to determine the game genre。 All the participants I observed knew exactly what type of games they like and don’t like and then use those tags to figure out if your game matches their unique tastes。

If the participants liked what they saw in the hover tooltip, they would click and review the game’s store page。 If not, they moved on to the next capsule

In the following clip, look at how these participants navigate through a collections list。 The first user looked at a bunch of capsules, hovered over a few。 Then she made a snap judgment that the game SCUM looked like a game she doesn’t like so kept moving。 In the end she didn’t see anything so moved on to the rest of the store。

Notice that the third participant said that he only opens games that look like the genre he likes. He saw Humankind and noticed it was a game like civilization and hovered over it and then opened it in a new browser tab.

Notice the last participants checks both the image and the tags to determine the genre and whether she is interested in it (we will get to tags in a bit)

My analysis and recommendations

You need a “hooky” capsule image to get their mouse to hover over your capsule. I make pixel art games but my capsule images are high-resolution fully-illustrated interpretations of the pixel art. I used to wonder if that is a “bait and switch” and should instead make capsule images that are pixel art.

But based on my findings, users do not penalize your game if the capsule does not match the game。 Instead they use the 4 screenshots and tags that appear in the hover tooltip to determine whether they want to click。 When users are looking at your capsule they are not evaluating genre at this point (that judgment will come when they hover)。 However, I found that highly polarizing and easy to identify art styles like Anime or pornographic games will influence whether people hover the capsule。 The most important thing is that the capsule should be something pretty or eye-catching。 Treat your capsule as a “mouse magnet” to get them to hover!

This “hover behavior” participants exhibited made me realize that your screenshot selection and placement are more important than your trailer because the hover tooltip cycles between your first 4 screenshots and not the trailer。 Participants wanted those 4 screen shots to show them what type of game they are hovering over。 So I would recommend showing the 4 distinct points of your game’s core gameplay loop。 For instance if you have a survival/crafting game I would prioritize the following 4 screenshots:

1 that is someone exploring a beautiful open world
1 that is them collecting something (including the UI that says “pick” or “cut” or whatever)
1 of the crafting menu
1 of the character holding up the newly-crafted item

Your store page

I observed that if participants clicked on the capsule image they think the game is interesting. They wanted to like the game. They were almost hoping that this game is their type of game. That is good news! They are on the developer’s side at this point.

But once they were on the actual store page, they were trying to determine if this game belongs to the genres and subgenres that they like to play. Participants knew their favorite genres very well and they were not browsing the store to try something outside of their comfort zone. If they don’t like RTSs and your game is an RTS, there is no bit of sales copy, no flashy trailer, and no positive review in the world that will convince them to step outside of their genre.

As you will see in the following sections, your store page must convince potential buyers that your game plays like the other games that they like。 In this section I am going to show you the areas that the participants checked to determine whether this game fits their genre expectations。

Screenshots and Trailers

Now you might think trailers are the first thing they watch (it makes sense – they auto-play they are fully animated etc) but time and time again I saw most participants click right past the trailer to the screenshots. Most participants didn’t even turn on the sound. I think this is because too many trailers have long logo intros and cinematics which participants didn’t care about because it doesn’t tell them the gameplay or the genre.

Instead, participants were more likely to click over to the screenshots and do a machine gun viewing of them。 They were looking for clues as to what genre this game is。 They want to see UI because UIs really clues them in to the type of game and how it is played。 They also tried to see what the player is controlling on screen。

Also the order of the screenshots was super important because the first 4 images are the ones that appear in the hover tooltip. The screenshots also must tell a story. I noticed that when participants looked at pages with good screenshots they were able to intuit what they would be doing in the game because each screenshot fed into the next one. It was almost like frames in a comic book.

But what about the trailers? In my study, if the participant did interact with the trailer, I almost always observed them scrubbing through it to get to the gameplay. I saw it so often I was afraid that my experiment structure was biasing them against watching trailers. I thought maybe they are afraid of boring me or thought that they had to keep things moving. So if I noticed a participant skipping multiple trailers I would ask them if they watch the trailers normally. Their responses matched the observed behavior – they sometimes watch them but typically trailers take too long so they just go to screenshots. One of the test participants was from Indonesia and said that because of his internet connection, Steam trailers are very slow to load and so he never watches them.

In these clips look at how fast the participants click through the screenshots. Then, listen to how fast they are trying to identify the game it most closely resembles. They are looking for any clue to determine the gameplay.

The first participant in the clip is a hilarious look at a set of game trailers that are not delivering (which is why most participants I tested skipped the trailers and went right to screenshots)。 Also look at how he really wants to see gameplay and a UI。

The next participant says that the game looks nice and he quickly identifies it as a visual novel (a genre that he likes) but he had trouble figuring out what the game is about. There doesn’t seem to be any cohesion to the screenshots. He then went on to read the short description to get some more clues. Notice that he didn’t even bother watching the trailer. He just moved on.

The third clip demonstrates how screenshots that look like another game is a good thing in the participant’s mind. He liked that he could identify the genre and you can hear him describing the verbs that you would do in the game despite not reading any description that said that.

The fourth clip is an example of me asking a participant who skipped through several trailers. He explained why he prefers screenshots and you can then hear him almost construct a narrative based on what he saw. The images In the game page accurately convey the verbs of the game and ultimately caused him to wishlist it.

Finally there were a couple instances where I saw participants watch an entire trailer。 I included it here for completeness。 Notice how the game trailer for Button Button Up! does a good job of showing the game play and the art。 It also includes some scenes that have visual references to other pixel art games in the genre。 The participants comments on this in a positive way “This reminds me of Mario Brothers!” Again, the participant was always trying to bring it back to the genre。

My analysis and recommendations

Before this study, if someone asked me to critique their store page I would always say “don’t put UI in your store screenshots! People want to see something pretty! Not boring menus.” I couldn’t have been more wrong. A game’s UI can tell viewers so much about the type of game. Think about it. If you see UI of two long health meters centered at the top of the screen, that is a fighting game. If you see UI of some numbers in the bottom right-hand-corner, icons of weapons in the bottom-left, and a mini map in the top right, that is probably a first person shooter.

For your Steam page, select screenshots that communicate how you play the game. Your screenshots should be based around the gameplay verbs in your game. See my previous comments about how the hover menu should show your core game loop.

You should also have screenshots that “resemble” other games in your genre。 For instance make sure you show camera angles and UI elements that are common in your genre。 In the clips, notice the participant looking at Shortest Trip To Earth immediately identified it as an FTL-like。 He saw that as a good thing – not a negative。 He ended up wishlisting the game because he could anticipate what you would do in the game。 Similarly, the participant who watched the Button Button Up! Trailer commented that it reminds him of Super Mario Bros。

Tags

After clicking through the screenshots, I observed participants would look at the tags to determine the genre。 Participants keyed in on tags that were good at defining the genre like “City Builder” or “Simulation”。 I observed participants skipping over tags that didn’t clarify the genre such as “Indie” or “Female Protagonist。” I think that was because those details can usually be gleaned by looking at the screenshots。

Some of the participants I studied expanded the tag list to look for “poison pills” which were tags that were instant deal killers for them. For instance if the participant only liked single player games, seeing “MMO” was a deal killer for them and they moved on to the next game.

In the following clip the first participant cannot play certain types of games so “Metroidvania” and “permadeath” are her poison pills。

In the second clip the genre of “Tower Defense” is this participants “poison pill。” Watch how he doesn’t even consider looking at the rest of the page。 He just says “Not my cup of tea。”

My analysis and recommendations

Do a detailed study of the other games in your genre. You want your top 5 tags to very clearly indicate what type of game you have.

I would de-prioritize tags that are obvious from the screenshots or don’t define a genre this includes tags like “colorful” or “female protagonist.”

Short Description

After viewing the tags, some participants, scanned for keywords in the short description. Really they are looking for the verbs as to what they would be doing in the game. They indicated that they wanted to see words that helped them decide if this is what they wanted to play.

Participants skipped over “mood setting” words. I think because they got a better feel for the story and mood from the screenshots / trailer.

For the most part though, I observed participants skipping this section which is why I don’t have many good clips to show.

In this clip there is no sound here because of a technical error on my part. However his mouse movements give everything away. The participant was trying to figure out the game’s genre but the short description had only mood text. It is not until he clicks through the screenshots and he sees the UI (which he excitedly circles with his mouse) that he determined that this game is similar to XCOM. Then he was interested in the game. Other side note: did you see how many videos there were. He had to click past all of them which was a hassle for the participant.

Here is the short description text that he was skipping through. Notice that there is not a single word of what you actually do in the game. This description could be for an RTS a FPS or a visual novel.

“The year is 1983. The world teeters on the verge of destruction as the Cold War tightens its icy grip. East or West: trust no one, question everything. The fate of humanity rests in your hands as you pit spy versus spy in tactical Phantom Doctrine.”

My analysis and recommendations

Don’t spend too much time writing this. Don’t fill it with story or mood text. Instead, load it up with keywords of the actions you perform when playing the game. Be sure to include subtle hints that signal which genre your game is in.

Reviews

Participants looked at reviews after reviewing screenshots, tags, and sometimes the short description. Note that I observed participants jumping past the game’s long description to look at the reviews.

Across the board, the only reviews participants were interested in were the negative ones. This is because they wanted to know why they shouldn’t buy it. They don’t care about the good reviews unless the reviewer added a “Cons” section.

If the negative review said “game too short” that wasn’t always a deal killer for the participant. Some indicated that they actually like short games.Participants are looking to see if the reviews are negative for the things that they actually cares about.

In this clip, first watch how they scroll right past the long description. Second, note that participants don’t put much stock in reviews that are one-word or seem like they have an axe to grind with the developer. This should be a relief to us all.

My analysis and recommendations

As game developers, facing negative reviews is one of the hardest parts of this job。 I have been frustrated by negative reviewers that leave comments that are useless and just trying to attack me personally。

I was pleasantly surprised to see how level-headed the participants were when reading negative reviews. They really give developers the benefit of the doubt. If the review is a super long rant session, most participants aren’t going to spend the time reading it anyway (you have seen how fast the scan through stuff.) They also see right through those pointed reviews and are more interested in just seeing if there are any big quality of life flaws to your game.

So my advice is if you see a dumb negative review, don’t spend any mental energy on it. Don’t engage with those reviewers. Let it roll right past you and don’t let it stop you from making games. Instead spend that energy on fixing legitimate bugs and complaints that real reviewers have left.

About the game (aka Long Description)

I often saw participants skip right past the long description on their way to the review section. If a participant did read it they were looking for headings and keywords that explain the genre and how the game is played. If participants were reading the long description it was because all the other clues such as the screenshots, tags, and reviews were too vague or they are unsure what type of game it was.

Much like the short description, the participants skimmed over “mood” text and went right to the verbs that told them what genre or other games it was like.

In this clip, the first participant expresses her general sentiment on long descriptions… she skips them. This is what I heard many other times from the other participants.

The next participant uses the long description to clarify the genre. He says he likes management games but he is trying to look for clues to determine if it includes the puzzle sub genre which he doesn’t like. The long description shows him that it is puzzly and complicated, so he doesn’t wishlist.

The next participant looks at this sentence from Blair Witch “It’s 1996。 A young boy disappears in the Black Hills Forest near Burkittsville, Maryland。 As Ellis, a former police officer with a troubled past, you join the search。 What starts as an ordinary investigation soon turns into an endless nightmare as you confront your fears and the Blair Witch, a mysterious force that haunts the woods”

The participant pulls out the words “Police, search, investigation, blah blah” then she finds what she was looking for “first-person, story-driven psychological-horror’ and then says “yup that is a small genre of games but it is one that I really enjoy.” Notice how she is trying to find the words to tie it to a genre that she knows. Also note, she likes story-based games yet still skips the words that tell her what the story is. Then she goes to pull out more words that tell her the game mechanics – not the story.

My analysis and recommendations

Make sure your long description has keywords for the genre your game is in。 In fact, I would try to make the section headers the key verbs in your game to make it easy for someone looking for them。 So if you are making a survival game your headers might be Scavenge, Craft, Build。 Then maybe use a couple sentences as GIFs to explain how it works in your game。

Use screenshots and animated GIFs to set the mood。 Don’t use text to do that (as we saw, even users who are into story driven games skim through your prose)。

Final thoughts

Genre, genre, genre

When trying to pitch your game to publishers or press, the general advice has always been “tell them why you are unique。 What distinguishes your game from all the rest?” That is still true for gate keepers and curators。 But in the hours of user testing I did, none of the participants said “I wonder what makes this game unique?” or “What is the unique selling proposition for this game?” or “hmm why is this game different from all the others” Instead I heard a lot of people saying “Oh so this game is just like game XYZ” or “this is right up my alley because I like these games” or “Ah this is my type of game。”

From what I saw, people know their genre and they don’t want to wishlist something with unfamiliar gameplay. They want to wishlist something they know.

Note: you should still try to make your game have a unique hook。 It should still have unique visuals that impress。 But, the average Steam player is not looking for what differentiates your game so your Steam store page shouldn’t either。 Buyers are looking to see what makes your game fit within their preferred genre。 You need to include the subtle clues such as UI, key words, and camera angles that tell people what genre your game belongs to。

Preach to the choir

Your Steam page will not convert someone who doesn’t like your genre. So don’t waste words trying to do that. Instead, you need to be focusing on whispering all the right shibboleths that your target audience wants to hear. You want the message for them to be “My game plays just like that other game that you spent 100 hours playing and loved but this is MORE OF IT and it is PRETTIER!”

My last clip here is of two different participants looking at the same Steam page。 They both think it is a good looking game and that it is interesting but one participant does not like horror while the other participant loves the genre。 The first participant clicks away after spending 20 seconds on the page and says they will just watch it on Youtube。 The other participant is going to buy it as soon as “the paychecks goes live in the bank account。” Listen to how she lists all the genre tropes she likes。 “It is familiar。” For her “it is right up my alley。”

Does anyone buy anything?

I watched dozens of games get wishlisted but I didn’t see anyone actually buy one. My theory is that, in the Steam ecosystem, wishlisting a game just means the user has gone from the “awareness” phase to the “interest” phase in the sales funnel. Before they are going to buy they still need to go through the Desire and Action phases. (If you don’t know what is a sales funnel, check out my GDC talk about this here)

Unfortunately, within Steam, the only tool we have to move that person from “interested” to “buyer” is by putting our game on sale。 When the game goes on sale, people who wishlisted it get an email with a link to the game page and that is a second chance for them to take a look。 That means we have a back-door “engagement tax” just to get someone to look at our game again。 I think this is a bigger problem than “Discoverability。”

I think the folks at Valve see that too and I was glad to see that they just announced some new tools like “Steam Events” that might be able to help us push wishlisters down the funnel without having to discount our games.

Now I started this project so I could figure out how to sell more of my games on Steam. I didn’t see anyone buy anything. So that means I still have a lot more research to do. There are two more research projects I am going to take on.

I am going to schedule more observations just like this one but during the next major Steam Sale. Many participants indicated that they usually wait for the big sales before buying and that is consistent with my own income reports.

I am going to undertake a “diary study” where I pick a couple of these users and periodically check in with them to see if they bought any games recently. If they did, I will ask them what made them actually do it. Was it a sale? A streamer? A news article? Was it that new “Steam Events” tool? Who knows?

If you would like to be notified when I publish phase 2 and 3 of this study, please join my mailing list and I will let you know when it goes live。

(source: )


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