Game marketing consultant Chris Zukowski explained why developers need to get the first 10 reviews on Steam as soon as possible. This is the key bar, after which the store’s algorithms notice any game and can significantly increase its visibility in the store.Zhukovsky told about this in a small thread on his Twitter page.

He gave an example of a graph with statistics of one unnamed game.

It clearly shows how the indicators have changed after receiving the first 10 reviews. Before that, the visibility of the game in the store was virtually zero. However, then there was a sharp jump, which increased the number of users by 1926.5%, and the number of sessions by 1731.6%.

Judging by the experience of various developers, Valve can limit the visibility of the game only if it has mostly negative ratings.

The main thing is that the reviews should be written by real buyers — free copies and keys are not taken into account by the algorithm.

Why are the first 10 reviews important?In his blog, Zhukovsky noted that Valve changed the algorithms by listening to the complaints of developers about the dominance of “garbage” games on Steam.

No one usually wrote reviews for such hastily made projects, but they simply used free traffic on the site.

Therefore, Valve has established new rules. At first, any game will have zero visibility in the store. The minimum threshold for receiving impressions was the bar of 10 organic reviews. And it worked, because it gave traffic to a lot of projects and left the same “garbage” in the backyard.

It would seem that everyone should be happy. However, such algorithm changes have created a lot of problems for novice developers. On average, one review is left by every thirtieth customer. Thus, a small game needs to sell about 300 copies to reach the coveted value of 10 reviews.

According to the Steam rules, developers are not allowed to use various tricks. For example, you cannot promise money to users in exchange for reviews. It is also forbidden to embed various widgets in the game that encourage players to write a review.

What should small indie developers do?Zhukovsky notes that even small teams have many ways to increase the visibility of their projects.

The most effective (and difficult) is to provide a large number of vishlist before the release, which is almost guaranteed to reach the bar of 10 reviews. Of course, not all projects achieve such success. This is a difficult and long job, which does not do without a share of luck.

Therefore, you can act differently:

  • if even the smallest fan base has already formed around the game, you can explain to them the significance of these first reviews;ask which potential players are ready to buy the game and leave a review on the first day after the release, and count their number;
  • use sites like Discord, Reddit and Twitter, as well as make an update about the importance of reviews on your game’s Steam page;
  • another option is to contact your relatives, friends, neighbors and other familiar people who are fond of games.
  • Perhaps one of these people will buy the game and leave a review.

Having compiled a list of potential buyers, it is worth reminding each of them personally about the reviews a few days before the release.

The main thing to remember is no free keys. They will not help in any way to increase the visibility of the game at the start.

What happens to the game after reaching the bar of 10 reviews?The main tool for increasing visibility on Steam is the list of recommendations (Discovery Queue).

This is a personal selection for each user, to which games are added based on preferences and titles played.

According to Zhukovsky, the list of recommendations provides a significant increase in quality traffic. For example, he showed a case of a game from an unnamed developer. The graph below shows that even a relatively popular tweet (over 10 thousand impressions) provided less traffic than getting into the list of recommendations after the first 10 reviews.

Thus, Steam starts testing any game and adding it to the recommendation lists as soon as it gets 10 reviews. Next, the algorithms pay attention to how many sales the title generates after getting into the collections. If the project continues to make money, Steam shows it to even more users. If not, he throws it out of the lists.

He compares this algorithm with the coach of a sports team, who throws the game on the field after the qualifiers (10 reviews) and checks how many points (money) it can bring to the team (store).

If a particular project suddenly stops generating sales, it will disappear from the recommendations. However, Steam often returns games from the “bench” as soon as they begin to gain popularity again. It is enough to recall the example with Among Us. Therefore, even in case of failure at the start, it is worth continuing to work on the game: release patches, communicate with the community, etc.