It's The Steam Dev Cheat Sheet! A dense collection of best practices, magic formulas, and Steam knowledge.
This compact infographic covers
- 🖼 The Steam capsule
- 🎥 Game trailers
- 💫 Wishlists
- 🔎 Steam's discovery algorithm
- 🪄 Magic formulas (which you can use to extract data from Steam)
💾 Download it, share it with friends, & reference it whenever you need it:
📺 Watch the video
Now let's go over each of the sections, what they mean, and where the data came from.
🖼 The Steam capsule
This is the single most critical component of your Steam page. It will be viewed by far more Steam users than any other part of your game, since it appears in lists & widgets all over the place. What that means is:
Even small improvements to your capsule can have big impacts on the traffic that Steam brings to your game.
Your Steam capsule should:
- Clearly show your game's name
- Convey the game's genre (and/or mood)
- Fit all the various aspect ratios that Steam requires
- Make your capsule look good against Steam's background color (#1b2838)
- It's worth spending money on great key art
🎥 Game trailers
A great game trailer is important for your Steam page, but trailers also have the ability to gather players on other platforms, like YouTube.
The better your trailer(s), the more successful your game's gonna be! 🚀
Here are some best practices:
- Start STRONG with exciting sounds, music, and/or a joke!
- Get directly into gameplay (not text or logos)
- Gameplay trailers generally should be 60 seconds or less
- End with a single call-to-action (CTA). e.g. "Washlist" or "Buy now"
- Don't include logos in the beginning – you'll lose viewers immediately! Put your branding at the end.
If game developers seem obsessed with Steam wishlists, it's because:
About 10% of wishlists could convert to sales in the first week.
Meaning if your game has 1,000 wishlists, you can expect around 100 sales within those first 7 days. This math is not perfect of course, but just a rough guess.
I think 15% of wishlists converting is too optimistic. 10% is good in my opinion. It’s not the same stat as saying median week 1 units sold / wishlists at launch = 0.2 because that stat also includes organic sales which are normally at least 1x wishlist sales (or more).
Maybe better to rephrase it to 'Your first week total sales can be around 15% of your launch wishlist total'? (Skirting that issue [entirely].)
Wishlists are important because when a Steam user wishlists a game, they are signing up to get emails about it. Unless they've disabled notifications, they'll get an email when your game launches.
They'll get emailed again if your game is ever discounted 20% or more.
When you run a discount on your game, a notification e-mail or mobile push notification will be issued to users with your game on their wishlist, as long as you meet the following criteria:
Any type of discount at or above 20%, whether a curated feature spot, a weeklong deal, or a custom configured discount
-Steamworks Documentation / Wishlists
🔎 Steam's discovery algorithm
Since we're already talking about wishlists, let's talk about how Steam's Discovery Algorithm handles them.
Earn 7k wishlists to get into valuable Steam real estate
If your game gets included in the Popular Upcoming module on Steam, it's gonna sell more copies. How do you get into this module?
We don't know exactly!
Definitely a key metric is the number of wishlists your game has, but the number you need before launch fluctuates & depends on your situation.
The numbers I see developers targeting most often are: 7k, 10k, and 50k wishlists before launch. (Yikes!)
I was in a meeting with some devs and a Valve rep and they said 50,000 wishlists would be a good figure [to] aim for if you want featuring to kick in. Wow, previously I’d heard about devs trying to get 10K wishlists, and we struggled to achieve that with Shadowhand as we only got about 4000!
My gut tells me most indies shoot for 7,000 wishlists before launch.
Don't have that many wishlists? Welcome to the club! You can of course go ahead and release your game without hitting some "magic" threshold, just be aware that if you do, your game might not fully benefit from its potential launch reach on Steam. Should you wait or not? I have no idea! Everyone's situation is different.
Our goal is to achieve 20,000 Steam wishlists for each of our games.
"Wishlists are only a factor before a game releases. There is a section that I pointed out, the Popular Upcoming section, that is affected by the number of wishlists that you have, but by and large, wishlists don't really have an effect on your visibility on Steam and the featuring that you get.
And I've actually talked to developers all over the world that claim that they've heard that you need a certain number of wishlists to appear on the front page, or you're never gonna get featured unless you get a certain specific number of wishlists, maybe it's 50,000 or 100,000 wishlists and I'm here to tell you that's just not the case."
-Erik Peterson (Valve)
Wishlists are still super important (as is Popular Upcoming placement), but according to Valve, wishlist counts don't have an impact on other areas of the store. (This doesn't change our plans but it's interesting!)
Translate your Steam page
The advice from Valve is to translate to Chinese, Korean, and Japanese first. The reason is because the language gap between English and Asian languages is often larger than between English and European languages.
The less a language looks like English, the higher the expected return. Many customers in Asian territories for example do not speak English, while many customers in European countries do.
-Steamworks Documentation / Localization and Languages
Get 10 reviews as soon as possible
Once your game hits 10+ reviews, Steam includes it in more places. Simple!
Ideally they're all positive reviews, but that's not necessary. If Steam detects 10 reviews, it'll include your game in more places. So gather your friends & fans and get those 10 reviews!
You deserve love & support ❤️ /rant
🪄 Magic formulas
Calculating number of sales from number of reviews
Steam shows the number of reviews on all game pages, but the number of sales is hidden. We might want to know a game's sales numbers for research reasons.
So, we can guesstimate the number of sales from the number of reviews.
We do this with the New Boxleiter number (or NB number).
One review typically represents about 20-55 sales.
(I honestly forgot where that exact range came from; use whatever works for you!)
Let's use a simple number near the middle: 30. Using this number, we can guess:
If a game has 100 reviews, that's (100 x 30) about 3,000 copies sold.
Is that math right? Nope!
Is it close? Ehh.
But! Is it helpful? Yes!
It is. (Trust me.)
More on the history of the NB number:
Calculating wishlists from followers
Steam keeps the number of wishlists a game has hidden, but the number of followers are visible (sometimes?). The formula for this is very simple:
Number of followers x 10 = number of wishlists.
So if a game has 100 followers, you can guess it has around 1,000 wishlists.
Calculating first year sales
Once we have about one week worth of sales data, we can use that to guesstimate how much a game will earn in its first year.
This one's also a simple formula:
First week sales x 5 = first year sales.
So if a game sells $10k in its first week, its first year could be around $50k.
"Whatever you're gonna sell in week 1, if you multiply that by 5, this is what you're gonna sell in the first year."
If your game made $10K in the first week (not an easy feat btw), you could perhaps reasonably assume it would make about $50K in the first year.
📜 Check the Steam documentation
Steam updates often, so this info will become stale over time. In fact they published a revealing video after I'd done all this work – but it's fine, because it makes my point: stay updated & check the documentation yourself!
🛠 Good luck out there
📺 Here's the video again
Even more links
- What is the difference between a Steam Wishlist and a Follower?
- Why your Steam 'follower to wishlist' multiplier matters!
- Steam sales estimates: why game popularity matters!
🇯🇵️ Japanese translations