Based on chats with fellow devs, Twitter posts, and recent personal experience, it seems that those Steam Wishlists don’t convert as well on release day as they used to. Sure, there are exceptions and there are games that still sell massive amounts of copies on Day 1 (BG3 1.0 comes to mind), but it seems that the Wishlist to Sales percentages are not as high recently as they were say a year and a half ago.
So, are people buying fewer games these days? Is it just me, or is this a general trend? And if they are buying fewer games on release, why could that be? After chatting with an industry friend, here are some thoughts that we came up with.
Why the drop in Day 1 sales - some thoughts
Life’s getting expensive. Not sure how your financial situation is now (I hope you’re living without fear), but overall, it feels like sustaining a state of being alive is more expensive now due to the economic climate. Money is tight. Essentials take precedence over non-essentials. Just look at the prices of food. And when people do spend on games, they might go after a big AAA title or ones with high replay value so that they can get their money's worth. It feels that days of “I like those devs so I’ll buy the game to support them for all the funny stuff on socials” might be fading into the sunset. What people value/are ok to fork cash on could be changing.
There is a lot of free video game content out there. Free-to-play games (there are a lot of good ones out there), Game Pass, free games to keep - there are heaps of games available for nothing. A few devs mentioned that Day 1 Game Pass has had an impact on their Steam sales. With over 25 million Game Pass users, there are a lot of players that have a wide catalogue of “free” games to play. And one can imagine that a few million of those have Game Pass on PC. Your game is competing with these freebies too, and the catalogue of freebies is growing every day.
Why would you pay full price for a game you know will go on sale in five weeks' time anyway? Apart from Nintendo's first-party titles, everyone is used to having games go on sale pretty much straight away. Even now, a 20% launch discount is not that much of an uncommon occurrence. Players are used to titles going on sale. Wait 5 months, and you’ll grab that game for nearly 50% at the Steam Winter/Autumn/Spring/Summer Sale. With so much choice and competition, why should players pay full price for your title? You have to give them something really special to get that full price on Day 1 - or an incentive that’s too hard to ignore.
And finally, a last point that has no scientific backing whatsoever. This idea that not all Wishlists are equal has been floated around for a while by the great Simon Carless and Chris Zukowski. And speaking from experience, that is true. Some Wishlists are more equal than others. But why the Wishlist value drop? Well, I feel that we, marketers, are partially at fault. We diluted the value of the Wishlist by constantly asking people to Wishlist through any means possible. “Add it to your Wishlist” is probably the number one slogan in games marketing right now. It’s the new “Pre-order now” from a while ago.
Make sure you add everything that you see to your Wishlist
Every asset we now make has a CTA of Wishlisting. Our Twitter bios are full of Add to Wishlist reminders. Our trailers end with that request. We begged Steam for more front-page events that are all about Wishlist collections (Steam Next Fest, Steam front-page events, theme events). And now we have Sony on the Wishlist game too. With so many Wishlist CTAs, the consumers will eventually listen, and add us to their Wishlist.
But how many games can you buy on Day 1 from that Wishlist of yours, especially when the economy is going down poop creek?! People are losing their jobs (even in our industry), rent is getting jacked up, and Philadelphia cheese is now a luxury. And how many Wishlists can you have until they stop having any meaning? If a player Wishlists 30 upcoming games from Steam Next Fest that are due to release within the next 6 months, is it realistic to expect that they will buy all 30 of them on Day 1?
It would be cool to know if the number of Wishlists per Steam user increased over the years. I don’t know if such a stat is available to be seen somewhere - if it is, please let me know. But if I were a betting man, and I do like to bet once in a while, I would imagine that the number of Wishlists per user went upwards/”To the moon” in recent years.
And do I have a solution for a new CTA? To be honest, I do not. It is still the best CTA one can get I feel. Perhaps an email sign-up might be a good alternative though… So to all of those games using Wishlists as a CTA, keep on CTAing to Wishlist. But perhaps set your expectations on the ratio a little bit lower than what it was a few years back…
Either way, I hope that your Wishlist to Sales ratios is, and will be, out of this world. And for those of you that Gamescomed, I hope you had a wonderful and productive time in Cologne.
And as always, I want to hear your thoughts. Have you been seeing less of a conversion too? Maybe you haven't. Either way, tell me about it. Hit reply and let me know.
Until next time,
Them August video games marketing feels.
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