11 min read

📈 The Steam Dev Cheat Sheet

It's The Steam Dev Cheat Sheet! A dense collection of best practices, magic formulas, and Steam knowledge.
Steam Dev Cheat Sheet

It's The Steam Dev Cheat Sheet! A dense collection of best practices, magic formulas, and Steam knowledge.

This compact infographic covers

  1. 🖼 The Steam capsule
  2. 🎥 Game trailers
  3. 💫 Wishlists
  4. 🔎 Steam's discovery algorithm
  5. 🪄 Magic formulas (which you can use to extract data from Steam)

💾 Download it, share it with friends, & reference it whenever you need it:

STEAM DEV CHEAT SHEET Quick access to a collection of best practices & magic formulas:  THE DISCOVERY ALGORITHM Maximize your game's placement in Steam widgets Earn 7,000+ wishlists before launch (some folks say you need 10-50k!!) Translate your Steam page (game later) (start with Japanese, Chinese, Koreon) Get 10+ reviews as soon as possible! (positive or negative, just need 10)  WISHLISTS About 10% of wishlists could convert to sales in the first week (this number varies wildly!). ALL wishlisters are emailed at launch! -Discount 20%+ to email wishlisters after launch.  STEAM CAPSULE The single most IMPORTANT element since it's seen the most. Clear, Readable, Game name, Genre/mood Steam's background color is #162838  TRAILER Steam users SKIM through trailers!! Start STRONG! Direct to gameplay 60 seconds or less End with ONE CTA: Wishlist it or buy it Logos: omit or move to the end  STEAM'S MAGIC FORMULAS Beware these numbers are ROUGH! They just give us guesses about the data. One review represents about 20-55 sales. It's the New Boxleiter Number! ~30 is good So 100 reviews = about 3,000 copies sold. Guesstimate wishlist counts: Followers x10 = wishlists (e.g. 100 followers = 1,000 wishlists) First year sales can sometimes be roughly: First week sales x 5 = first year sales (e.g. $10k first week = $50k first year)  Matt Hackett valadria.com
This is just one of my many game dev comics that are waiting for your hard drive.

📺 Watch the video

The video is only 5:40, get in there!

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:

  1. Clearly show your game's name
  2. Convey the game's genre (and/or mood)
  3. Fit all the various aspect ratios that Steam requires
Steam Asset Names & Dimensions  Store Capsule Header 460 x 215 Store Capsule Main 616 x 353 Library Capsule 600 x 900 Store Page Background 1438 x 810 Community Group Header 444 x 208 Store Capsule Vertical 374 x 448 Store Capsule Small 231 x 87 Library Hero 3840 x 1240 Library Logo 1280 x 720  valadria.com @richtaur
This is (almost) all of them! I'm so helpful. The Steam docs are also helpful.

Additional tips

  1. Make your capsule look good against Steam's background color (#1b2838)
  2. It's worth spending money on great key art

Notice that I say "good" not "great" ha ha ha. (I'm workin' on it!)

🎥 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:

  1. Start STRONG with exciting sounds, music, and/or a joke!
  2. Get directly into gameplay (not text or logos)
  3. Gameplay trailers generally should be 60 seconds or less
  4. End with a single call-to-action (CTA). e.g. "Washlist" or "Buy now"
  5. Don't include logos in the beginning – you'll lose viewers immediately! Put your branding at the end.

There are more than just gameplay trailers! Listen to expert Derek Lieu talk them out.

Steam users tend to skip through trailers! Watch at this timestamped link to learn more.

💫 Wishlists

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).

-Jake Birkett

Maybe better to rephrase it to 'Your first week total sales can be around 15% of your launch wishlist total'? (Skirting that issue [entirely].)

-Simon Carless
Steam: the new ‘wishlists to first week sales’ expectations
We’ve got real numbers from real people.

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!

Grey Alien Games » Blog Archive » How many wishlists should you have when launching on Steam?

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!

-Jake Birkett
How many wishlists should you have when launching on Steam?
I recently asked developers to share their Steam wishlist-related data because I wanted to know the relationship between wishlists at launch and sales at launch. Here’s what I found out.

My gut tells me most indies shoot for 7,000 wishlists before launch.

"You need at least 7,000 wishlists" with me hiding.
From the video which is just 5 minutes long and ready for your eyeballs.

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.

How many wishlists should I have when I launch my game? – How To Market A Game
Our goal is to achieve 20,000 Steam wishlists for each of our games.

-Dejobaan Games
Dejobaan Games is hiring a Influencer and Social Media Manager
Dejobaan Games, an award-winning indie studio, is seeking a Influencer Outreach and Social Media Manager.
Recent clarification from Valve:

"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

This timestamped link takes you to where Chris Z talks about translating your game page.

Get 10 reviews as soon as possible

Once your game hits 10+ reviews, Steam includes it in more places. Simple!

Is Having 10 Reviews On Steam Really THAT Important? - Pirate PR
If you’re a game developer releasing a new game on Steam, chances are you’ve heard someone say that you should […]

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!

Why your first 10 reviews are the most important – How To Market A Game
I never want to see another lovingly hand-crafted indie game with fewer than 10 reviews ever again. Tell your friends, family members, whoever is in your life – tell them to get off their butts and review your game!

You deserve love & support ❤️ /rant
You worked hard & deserve your 10 reviews. I believe in you!

🪄 Magic formulas

⚠️ BEWARE: these numbers are rough! They are not meant to be perfect calculations, but instead "hand-wavy" approximations to help guide us.

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).

How that game sold on Steam, using the ‘NB number’.
Graphs are included, please keep up at home.

Basically some folks including Jake Birkett, Simon Carless, and Mike Boxleiter science'd up some data to produce a formula to help estimate sales. 🧪 It is:

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.)

Get the Steam Revenue Calculator to see data on the Steam store:
Steam Revenue Calculator
This plugin shows the game’s revenue inside the Steam store page.

Gotta love that hand-drawn icon.

More on the history of the NB number:

Grey Alien Games » Blog Archive » How to estimate how many sales a Steam game has made
Steam survey: do wishlists and sales line up meaningfully?
We’ve got some graphs AND some charts.
Using Steam reviews to estimate sales
Back in 2014, before SteamSpy, I wrote about using Steam’s review count to estimate sales. Now that SteamSpy is unable to show the number of owners due to Valve’s privacy policy changes, the review count method has become valid again!

Me taking a rough, messy stab at some estimates. Fun! (for nerds)

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.

Deep dive: how Steam followers and wishlists relate
Let’s find out what the survey says…

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."

-Thomas Reisenegger

Watch at this timestamped link to see the exact quote.

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.

-Jake Birkett
Can week-one Steam sales predict first year sales?
Recently I asked a bunch of devs how their week one revenue on Steam compared to their year one revenue. I was interested to see if the first week could in any way be a decent predictor of longer term sales.
Grey Alien Games » Blog Archive » Steam Week 1 vs Year 1 Revenue

📜 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!

Watch at this timestamped link to hear Erik Peterson (Valve) talk about Steam's algorithms.

🛠 Good luck out there

Alright friend I think we covered everything. If you enjoy this kind of data you should follow Simon Carless, Chris Zukowski, and Jake Birkett. Seriously:

📺 Here's the video again

It's gold I tells ya, GOLD!!

🇯🇵️ Japanese translations

This was a lot of work! To support me & this stuff, share this page and buy my book or tutorial package. Thank you kindly & I'll see you on the mountain 🛠🏔


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