Here are five things we learnt at the Digital Discovery track at PC Connects London 2019

Here are five things we learnt at the Digital Discovery track at PC Connects London 2019

The second track at PC Connects London 2019 was Digital Discovery, which gave insight into getting your game noticed in an increasingly saturated market. 

These sessions kicked off with Auroch Digital's Tomas Rawling sharing his thoughts on how to survive on Steam, before editor Alex Calvin sat down with Curve Digital publishing director Simon Byron to see how marketing has changed in the last few years. 

This was followed by Ralph Creative founder Chris Hassell telling us why it is important to market content beyond a simple trailer, with the track closing with a panel of industry experts discussing the rather eventful landscape for buying and selling games. 

This track was sponsored by RuneScape firm Jagex, who was a gold partner alongside Xsolla while Dolby Digital was our silver partner. 

You can also check out what you missed from the State of Play track at PC Connects London 2019 right here

Videos from the show will be going live on YouTube and right here on in the coming weeks. 

Click here to view the list »
  • 1 You need to plan for the possibility of failure

    You need to plan for the possibility of failure logo

    Developers and publishers need to have a plan for if things go wrong when their game launches. 

    That's according to Dr Tomas Rawlings from Auroch Digital, who said that too many companies bank on the idea that their projects are going to be commercially successful right out of the gate when they launch.

    "Figure out your ideal thing, what your game is going to do. Look at those sales plans. But then go and do the really pessimistic plan," he said

    "What happens if it just does badly; what are you going to do then? The reason I think that's really important is that very few studios - even very big ones with loads of money - hit time after time after time. In fact, they almost never do. For example, we know that Supercell made a load of games that they canned to get to Clash of Clans but they also have the money to make a bunch of games so they can. If you're running an indie studio, you don't have the money to fund five or six games to get there. You have to have a plan if it makes the minimum; what is that plan?"

    Rawlings also urged developers to make sure they have more than one source of revenue - but only if their project won't suffer.

    "If you can diversify your income streams now, maybe doing a bit of work for hire and other ways of generating money for your company, do it," he said.

    "That's unless you're going to lose your focus and mean you don't make your project because one of the key things above all else is you still have to make a quality game. That's not going to be something you can get around. But what people thought before is that if they make a quality game, the rest will follow, but that doesn't work anymore. There are loads of quality games on Steam that nobody plays. But if you don't have a quality game, then the jig is definitely up."

  • 2 Releasing content post-launch is vital for all games, not just the triple-A giants

    Releasing content post-launch is vital for all games, not just the triple-A giants logo

    The second session of Digital Discovery saw the publishing director of indie label Curve Digital Simon Byron (pictured) interviewed on-stage by editor Alex Calvin.

    The conversation centred upon how to get attention to your game in 2019, with Byron saying that one route to success for indie developers is to update their projects post-launch.

    The idea of a service-based title is one we are familiar with in the triple-A space with the likes of Destiny, Overwatch and Rainbow Six: Siege, but rolling out extra content following release is something that indie developers should be considering, too.

    "What consumers want is a longer term relationship," he said.

    "They want to know that they're not paying once and then that's it. It's actually making sure that you're updating your game. That can be - at its most simple - patches or quality of life updates, but if it's content, particularly free content, that's demonstrating the relationship is two-way. Now that itself can have a much broader benefit if you time those updates with price promotions across the various stores that you're on as that's when you get new players in. That circle then continues, word of mouth spreads, particularly if it's multiplayer."

    Speaking of updating a game with multiplayer, Curve added this aspect into physics-based title Human Fall Flat. 20 months after launch, the title was at the head of the Steam Top Sellers list.

    "That was down to a couple of things," he explained.

    "That was down to the introduction of online multiplayer. You need to listen to your community and see what they wanted - ours was banging on about the ability to play not just locally but online as well, so online multiplayer was introduced. We caught the imagination of some streamers, particularly in China and it went really crazy. Demonstrating the commitment is so important. The games that we sell are premium quality, so paying once to play. Making sure that our consumers understand that commitment and that we are there and they can see that activity."

  • 3 There shouldn't be a barrier between marketing and development

    There shouldn't be a barrier between marketing and development logo

    It's important to market a game beyond simply pushing out a trailer according to the founder of creative agency Ralph, Chris Hassell.

    The marketing bod claims that finding ways to engage with a potential audience outside of regular video or advertising creative is vitally important. Hassell says it's important for the people marketing a product to know intimately why both the developers and consumers like it as this will produce the best results.

    Hassell gave several examples of this, including campaigns for Netflix shows Disenchantment, Stranger Things and Black Mirror, as well as Life is Strange 2. 

    "Dropping the barrier between development and marketing is really important," he said.

    "The closer we are to production, the more we can understand the property, the more we understand the brand and the product and therefore what audience we are going after and how we can connect the product to the audience."

    "If we have a passion for it, we can understand the developers' passion for it and therefore what the audience's passion will be. Once we've done that, we can then figure out how to make a meaningful connection with them and engage them in a way that hopefully they will pass on the love and the audience will grow bigger."

  • 4 Yes, Valve should be curating the Steam marketplace

    Yes, Valve should be curating the Steam marketplace logo

    To close the Digital Discovery track, we gathered six industry experts to look at the landscape of buying and selling games in 2019.

    Where before Valve's Steam platform was seen as a force for good that helped smaller developers release their games into the wild, in 2018 that positive veneer started to fade with more and more issues arising in the marketplace.

    One of these is discoverability. Since 2011, Valve has progressively opened its platform up more and more, culminating in the firm announcing last year that any games - so long as they're not illegal or "trolling" - could launch on the platform. There was already a huge amount of releases coming to Steam thanks to its Direct scheme, but now many new projects were buried under a sea of other titles of hugely varying quality.

    Asked whether Valve should be curating Steam, the overarching feeling from our panel was: Yes.

    "It's Valve's responsibility to have a vision for what it wants the platform to be," Auroch Digital's Tomas Rawlings said.

    "If you are The PC games platform, then you are everything. You're the hobbyist game platform, you're the person doing asset flips, you're the triple-A projects. It's difficult to be all those things to everybody. Like anybody, they have a responsibility to their customers. My view is by having no sense of curation, what they're doing is creating a situation where plenty of their customers are having poor experiences of buying crap. That is going to put people off. It won't immediately happen, but it will eventually.

    "Valve does loads of amazing stuff and when we are criticising them, we must not forget that as a developer Steam provides a whole bunch of astounding tools. I just think as part of their overall offering, the desire to not miss out on the next Minecraft or whatever is a net cast too wide really."

    Jake Birkett from Grey Alien Games added: "I recently did a poll about whether Epic should curate its store; 80 per cent of developers said yes, as did 80 per cent of customers. The general vibe is that Epic should curate and that Steam should be curated, too. Of course, Valve has its own agenda which is the meritocracy of Steam so developers should be using their external marketing dollars to drive customers to Steam.

    "But then one wonders if the 30 per cent revenue share that Valve charges worth it now. It used to be - when you could get great store placement and traffic. Is it worth it now when you're doing all the work to drive people there? Valve doesn't have a responsibility to do anything; it's a corporation, it can do what it wants. But it would be nice if they did certain things."

  • 5 Epic is the company to watch in the new store wars

    Epic is the company to watch in the new store wars logo

    As part of the Digital Discovery store panel, we picked the brains of our panellists to get their thoughts about the plethora of new marketplaces that have set up shop in the last few months.

    While platforms such as Epic and Discord offer wildly competitive revenue shares for developers - 88 and 90 per cent compared to Valve's 70 per cent - Tomas Rawlings of Auroch Digital says that what is being offered to the player will ultimately decide which marketplace grows.

    "These stores need to develop their own identities, what it is they are about," he explained.

    "They need to develop their offering to the player above and beyond the percentage of revenue. While it's great to see the competition for percentage revenue, the long-term success of these stores is going to be built off more than the revenue they're offering. Disruption has to manifest in something they're offering the player to make them jump to your new store."

    Jake Birkett from Grey Alien reiterated what Epic's own Sergey Galonykin said recently - that this platform is targetting the younger generation of gamers that don't have a Steam account but are playing Fortnite.

    "A lot of older gamers need something big to move away from Steam because they have a giant Steam library," he said.

    "But there's something else worth considering and that's Epic's play. It has this younger generation of gamers. I have two teenage boys, one is definitely playing Fortnite and has purchased stuff from the Epic store. If you have a younger generation of gamers that do not have a Steam library, actually you want to tempt them across to you now because in five years they'll be in their 20s. You can capture an audience for 10, 20 years.

    "Even with teenagers, you have their parents. My son bought Ashen on Epic and was asking me to play it with him, so I have it now. There's something beyond just tempting people away from Steam; it's getting new people into your store right now when they haven't even got a store affiliation. That's very powerful and I think that's Epic's long game."

    The CEO and founder of media firm Network-N, which operates PCGamesN, James Binns added: "If you're going to bet on anyone, bet on Epic. It has a tonne of Fortnite cash and it is spending it quite vigorously to promote the store. Fortnite players largely love the platform and many will have billing details registered. Anyone else launching a digital store right now or trying to get behind one is going to really struggle."

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.