Four things we learnt from PC Connects London's State of Play track

Four things we learnt from PC Connects London's State of Play track

The State of Play track opened up the inaugural PC Connects London on January 22nd and bringing together a number of speakers who brought us up to speed with the biggest trends affecting the PC games market right now. 

We have collected four of the biggest points made during these sessions - how to get people to care about your game as an indie, what you need to know to run a Kickstarter campaign in 2018, how to transition from premium to free-to-play and why things on Steam aren't as bad as we have been lead to believe. 

These weren't the only talks at the show, and we will be posting videos of all of the talks from the show at a later point. 

 We'll be doing similar round-ups for Digital Discovery, PC Games University and the Making Of in the coming weeks. 

Click here to view the list »
  • 1 How to make people aware of your game as a small studio

    How to make people aware of your game as a small studio  logo

    Our first talk of the State of Play track came from Unreal Engine evangelist Sjoerd De Jong, who spoke about surviving as a small studio in the current games market.

    De Jong took us behind the scenes of how he marketed The Solus Project, which launched in 2016, with no budget.

    "The image we wanted to portray was: 'We are professional, but money poor – we really need your help' - that was the overall thing we wanted to get in there," he explained.

    "We needed people's help because we didn't need help. I can't pay someone to talk about me and my game so I need someone to feel like they want to help me to talk about my game. That's the thing - if you think about who you want to help in general and why, you tend to want to help people who are new to something or those who are weaker and more vulnerable. But on the other hand, if you are professionals and really know what you're doing, you don't think that people need help - they probably know what they're doing and you should just leave them by. They'll be fine.

    "In everything we did, we tried to combine the two - we are professional and know what we're doing, but we really need help."

    In addition to the above, the studio had a different approach to press outreach.

    "Obviously we reached out to major press outlets - the standard stuff," he said.

    "We went for niche audiences - but what does that mean? For us it meant we went for marketing and channels that were less saturated. Everyone will email Rock Paper Shotgun, and you should email them. But perhaps you should email the Italian game publications and the Greek ones. Find all those regions in the world and start emailing them."

    And when The Solus Project was actually out, De Jong and co looked at who was playing and enjoying the game, and changed it to acknowledge the fanbase.

    "We saw that girls like the game - so we decided to acknowledge that and change the game and add a very clear male-female selection window at the beginning," De Jong said.

    "We changed the voice actor and had to re-record all the voice acting with a female voice. We wanted to make it very clear at the beginning of the game that you could choose how you wanted to play the game. It made a difference because acknowledged that group and said: 'We know you are there, we appreciate you and we are changing the game just for you.' It was already planned, it just wasn't in the first release because we wanted to the game out in a functional state first - that was our highest priority.

    "The same was true with Russians - they liked the game. I have some theories about why it has done well there, but we changed the game to make the first character the player encounters Russian. All that required was painting a Russian flag on his spacesuit and calling him Yuri. This is stupid. But it's not about what you did, it's about the communication with the fans and acknowledging them."

  • 2 You need to show more for a crowdfunding campaign in 2018

    You need to show more for a crowdfunding campaign in 2018  logo

    Thomas Bidaux of Ico Partners was kind enough to take us behind the scenes on how video games crowdfunding was doing in recent years. Some topline figures from the man himself are here, but he also went into the changing demands when it comes to launching a crowdfunding push - specifically when in a production timeline developers should be announcing their campaigns.

    "In 2012, you can launch a Kickstarter during the concept phase. That's when you could do your crowdfunding campaign," he said.

    "By 2014, you can no longer do a Kickstarter during the concept phase; you need to have a few visuals and be in the pre-production phase.

    "In 2016, things are really different; the quality of the campaign, the production value and what people show is much higher and you need to be showing the visuals - it's essential to have that.

    "Now it's even more than that - you need something that people can play and something that's visually pleasing. I do not think it's going to move any further for video games but it's something that people don't consider because they remember older campaigns from five years ago and assume that things are still the same. It's not. You need something more."

  • 3 What Edge Case Games learnt from moving to free-to-play

    What Edge Case Games learnt from moving to free-to-play  logo

    In May 2016, Edge Case Games brought its title Fractured Space from a premium business model to being free-to-play. At the show, James Brooksby shared what he and his team would do differently the next time around.

    At the start, I said there was a big focus on the core design; there was potentially too much of a focus on that and we could have ramped that down and spent a bit more thinking about the metagame. Even if you have a great core experience, there are other really important pillars to what you need to basically get your players in and spending and playing all the time. If people get into the game they love it but they have to get into the game and they have to stay. We could have taken a bit of a hit on our core game experience and spent that effort elsewhere.

    Less complex game mode

    With a simpler game in itself, we would have had to do less of what we've had to do a lot of over this period of time which is explaining the game so that when they come in they understand it. That's all about the tutorial, that first user experience. This is probably one of the biggest ones for anyone who is thinking about going from that world, taking a team to a real live game over a long period of time.

    You work a lot slower as a development team when you have a live game you need to support and you have new features you want to put in and you have to support previous features. Expect to work slower.

    Recruit experts

    We'd definitely bring in more experts earlier, even though we were doing some of that, there's more we could have learnt moving from our previous model of development. Bring in people who have done this.

    Be prepared for a bigger UI team than what you might be used to

    All this chopping and changing that you do will have an impact on your UI - most of this is in the UI as well.

    Not to be so generous

    We could have been a little bit less generous at times; more generous at others. It was quite some time before we had any decent metrics. We did a free weekend early on on Steam and we really had no data coming out of that - an enormous amount of people that we could have learnt through but didn't learn much about them apart from the fact they're gone and we don't know why. We knew at that point we weren't explaining the game. We assumed that most people would understand the game - the lack of a decent first-time user experience or tutorial meant that in those early days we weren't learning nearly as much as we should have been moving into this new space.

    Take your time with your monetisation

    One thing all of us are is potentially cash constrained - a lot of the things we did early on in terms of introducing our gacha mechanic, our loot drops, is that we rushed these and put them in very quickly. We thought this was great and might make us some money - yes, it might, but maybe just wait a little bit until you have refined it. That's where we took our biggest review score hit was when we put in the gacha system and it wasn't quite right and we hadn't really thought about some of the ramifications. Really think about these things when you're going to put them in.

  • 4 Things on Steam aren't as bad as you think (but they're still pretty bad)

    Things on Steam aren't as bad as you think (but they're still pretty bad) logo

    Closing off the State of Play sessions was Mike Rose of No More Robots who was explaining to us why things aren't *quite* as bleak on Steam as we have been lead to believe.

    Rose opened up by showing us how Steam looks at this point in time. In 2017, the average indie game sold 500 copies media and 3,700 mean, generating $2,000 in median revenue, $18,000 mean.

    In its first month on sale, the average price for these games was $7 (median) and $8.30 (mean).

    For January 2018, this had all degraded, with 100 copies sold (median) and 600 (mean), making $280 in revenue (median, $2,500 mean). Meanwhile in its first month on sale, the median price was $5 ($6 mean).

    But, there's a catch.

    "When you're looking at the numbers, you have to remember they are skewed by absolute shite," Rose said.

    He's referring to asset flipping games or low-effort games that are there to make a quick buck. In order to see what the market is actually like.

    In order to do this, Rose removed what he referred to as 'trash games' from the mix, so this is a subjective measure, but gives a more realistic impression of the landscape than we had before.

    A brand new indie game in 2018 sells 1,000 copies (median, 4,500 mean) generating $10,000 in revenue (median, $27,000 mean). Meanwhile, its average price is $10 (median, $12 mean).

    All of this is to say that PC games are sell badly, and even if you have a high quality product, you are looking likely to sell around 1,000 in the first month on sale.

    Price is a point that Rose circled back on.

    "You'll notice the average price is a lot higher now," he said.

    "Again, most of the shit games will sell for low amounts of money. But also, price for me is quite a big thing. Because of the skewed numbers, people have started to misappropriate that people aren't paying money for games anymore. I think that's absolute rubbish. Actually a lot of people - and this is a lot harder to prove - are looking down the list of new games on Steam and are seeing the higher price ones and are thinking: 'Maybe this isn't shit' and are looking at them."

PCGamesInsider Contributing Editor

Alex Calvin is a freelance journalist who writes about the business of games. He started out at UK trade paper MCV in 2013 and left as deputy editor over three years later. In June 2017, he joined Steel Media as the editor for new site In October 2019 he left this full-time position at the company but still contributes to the site on a daily basis. He has also written for, VGC, Games London, The Observer/Guardian and Esquire UK.