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  • Writer's pictureErik "ekolimits" Kovac

How Many Players can you Expect to play your Game? - 3 Year Analysis of Steam API Data

I've been swimming in STEAM API data for quite some time and have found great resources that focus on helping INDIE DEVS understand the Steam marketplace. But after 100s of individual conversations with Indie Devs a month through TILT's Services, I've realized that DEVs don't quite understand how players gravitate towards certain type of games over time and often time they don't know how many players they can expect to play/download their games.

I am going to share with you my data analysis of the LAST 3 YEARS (2019,2020,2021) of the TOP performing INDIE GAMES and how they are impacted by the TAGs that gamers download. At the end, you might be able to estimate how well your game has a potential to do. (If your game is of "average" quality, it should achieve the average downloads for the given TAG and you will be able to estimate how many players will "pick up" your game.)

If you need detailed numbers from any of my analysis here (or advice on how your game "can" perform, then hit me up here: ) I got this idea from reading Chris's BLOG on where he took the Average Revenue a Genre is estimated to have made and the competition it has over the past 5 years. My take will take you through the last 3 years and it will focus on estimated downloads instead.

Preface: All data is gathered from STEAM API and I only selected the TOP 2000 games labeled as "INDIE" in the Genre field of the Steam Data. The TAGs are gathered from SteamSPY API and combined in the database that TILT has. I bet there are some "Indie" games that never label themselves as such so I'm sure we may be missing a few of them and then again there is always the conversation of "how indie" is FALL GUYS really... But none the less, it is a good thing to be able to dive into DATA and see if we can find some meaningful information. Let's start piece by piece and at the END add it all up :P

Wanna see 2021?

(seems too busy right?) This is having "ALL" TAGs turned on!

In the next step, I will take out some outliers like "sailing" (now you can see the impact Valheim had that year!) So let's clean it up:

  1. First I only selected the TOP 100 tags for that year determined by the calculated average games downloaded and tagged for that specific year.

  2. I hand picked the Tags that are (in my opinion) relevant and here is the graph that "survived" the process:

Much better right? For those who are interested in what was removed: (in order of highest to lowest average downloads that year)

Sailing, Fishing, Mythology, Vampire, Vikings, Villain Protagonist, LEGO, World War II, War, Blood, Historical, Epic, 1980s, Great Soundtrack, Based On A Novel, Military, Mature, Dragons, Memes, Gore, Rock Music, Medieval, Design & Illustration, Psychological Horror, Real-Time, Resource Management, Voxel, Violent, Silent Protagonist, Life Sim, Transportation, Martial Arts, Score Attack, Economy, Realistic, Split Screen, Moddable, Fast-Paced, First-Person, Dungeons & Dragons, Swordplay, Political Sim, Lore-Rich, Artificial Intelligence, Character Customization, Dungeon Crawler, Robots, Replay Value, Card Game, Dark, Hero Shooter

You can see that the TAGs that remain are more broad and "interesting" to developers when they pick what game they will make. (The KEY here is that you will find that some games just don't have an audience on Steam that matches expectations)

Analysis: 2021 helps us see that players are hungry for new games in established genres like Looter Shooter, Survival Craft and Base Building. But they are also finding relatively "new" genres exciting like: Social Deduction which is well established now as an untapped market. Sort of like what Rogue-Likes were a few years back.

With that being said, let's take a look at the last 3 years in a combined chart and start to do the same process to make it more "digestible" (Let's start with the Full Picture)

At the Top End we see a ton of variance. That's to be expected. Some games just become such massive hits that they blow up the chart for that year. (Email me to get High Rez images if that's your thing: )

I think combining the averages is going to help "clear things up":

As before, here are the TAGs from the TOP 100 I've removed from my Database Analysis just in case you are curious:

Sailing, Fishing, Online Co-Op, Demons, Swordplay, Snow, Mod, Mythology, Moddable, Supernatural, Lovecraftian, Snowboarding, Thriller, Mini Golf, Villain Protagonist, Detective, Investigation, Music-Based Procedural Generation, Epic, Blood, Ninja, Golf, Difficult, Character Customization, Dungeon Crawler, Gun Customization, Mining, Great Soundtrack, Noir, Resource Management, Vikings, Isometric, Vampire, Martial Arts, Controller, Skating, Soundtrack, Realistic, First-Person, Remake, War, Skateboarding, Historical, Third Person, LEGO, Military, Mature, Voxel, Skiing, Futuristic, World War II

I meet with so many indie Devs each week and many set out on this adventure to create their games without understanding that STEAM is a marketplace that has gamers who prefer certain things. While it is amazing that so many DEVs can create such unique experiences and sometimes they redefine "genres" or flat out create new ones, it is important to keep in mind that selling "shoes" at the Pizza store is not a good strategy. I get a lot of questions about how TILT can help and often times I try to pass on this information early in development to help DEVs understand that they might want to increase their "bucket" by focusing on a genre that is not being served and has a healthy amount of downloads on average per game.

The key difference that led me to make this analysis was seeing Chris's table for revenues. As an Indie Publisher myself, I realized that money making can be adjusted by the "right" price so I wanted to share what "average downloads" data can imply: "How many payers can you expect to play your game".

The business side of games revolves on being able to accurately predict sales. If you have a game, and can't find a marketing partner, then maybe most of these marketing companies have looked into projections and found that the game just does not have an audience and therefore can't risk funding/marketing your game.

I try to offer free help to INDIE DEVs every week (its how I end up talking with 100 DEVs a month :P) and you can grab a time slot for us to chat via my Calendar link here:

I hope I was able to help you start to focus on who will download your game so that you are making a game that will have "success". Its far too risky to make games that we think are good. By no means do I try to discourage being creative and taking a "chance", I just want to highlight a way to think for those who have had trouble finding success in game development :]

Erik "ekolimits" Kovac

Head of Marketing

TILT Games

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