• Jonathan Ribarro

What I Learned From Launching a Steam Bundle



The Story:

On Nov. 23rd 2021, I reached out to a horror developer with an idea to launch a collaborative bundle on Steam together. I'm always happy and frequently dying to work with other people, but man is it difficult to do. It's like trying to get a bunch of people you love to go on vacation all together at the same time. If you've ever attempted something like this you know why it's hard. You have unique personalities meshing together, conflicting schedules, daily planning, food schedules, allergies, job responsibilities, and who's gonna watch the dogs?


I am the creator and coordinator of the Bite-Sized Horror Steam bundle. When I came up with this, my vision was to have a themed bundle that would comprise horror games that were under $5 USD and took an hour or less to beat. I had a theme, and best of all I had a recently released horror game to kickstart it! 'Playback Trauma: The Beach' is my first attempt at horror, and I was looking for ways to stretch it long before I put it on Steam and itch.io. I knew PTTB wouldn't break the industry, but I did understand that it was in a better position for success than 'Altidudes' was. This is why I started looking for collaborators fast.

I would like to mention, it took a long time for me to be comfortable using social media, and an even longer time being okay with DM'ing people. I've never been super familiar with online social protocols, but as long as you are polite and direct you shouldn't have problems getting genuine responses from other like-minded developers. Even if you have a good opening message or request, keep your expectations low. Many of my requests went unanswered, but I didn't let this deter me.



The Devs:

The first developer to accept my proposal was Nick Pfisterer, developer of the game Midnight Laundry which as of today has not yet been released. I found the project first on Twitter, and from there I tracked down some contact info through which I could talk to Nick privately. The first thing I tried though was a good ol' fashioned tweet at him, mentioning that I had a business proposal involving Midnight Laundry. If you are ever looking for a way to contact a developer, just tweet at them. Yeah it seems weird and scary, but experiment. You never know what will work, and these days the worst that someone can do is tweet back at you and tell you to piss off. Or just not respond at all.


The next developer I reached out to was Michael Rfidshir, developer of Isolomus and a lot of other *really* cool games. Isolomus was short, sweet, and a creepy so it was perfect for the bundle. I tweeted at him as well (because his DM's were closed) and he was kind enough to follow me so we could talk about it further. He was totally into it and quickly added his game to the bundle! With an awesome second game added I was nearly there, and I was so excited!



The last developer who gave me a resounding yes was CMD:Studio, creators of 'Please Comply' and a host of other awesome-looking horror projects. I had the pleasure of first speaking with Anna, the Producer of the company and then Mark, Creative Director. Anna took point with communications back and forth, and I was able to meet Mark in-person at GDC! It was a wonderful time, and the first time I was actually at the conference for *business reasons*. While talking shop, I mentioned how much was left to do for the bundle, and Mark offered some studio resources (their amazing artist Uri) to help with Steam capsules and graphics needed. Look at how good it turned out!!


It was just what our bundle needed, and I'm so grateful for the chance I had to work with CMD:Studio. They are an incredible lot of folks there and I can't wait to see where our partnership leads next.



With 'Please Comply' added to the bundle, we were all ready for launch! But wait, there's more. While we were all set to go, Steam had me lock up the bundle and make sure *everyone else* was on board with all the changes and additions. CMD:Studio was easy to communicate with, since I was added directly to a Slack channel where we could all talk. Michael was a bit more difficult to reach since we were talking on Twitter. As soon as I knew we were all set to release I hit up Michael, and then we waited. Michael was absent for a number of weeks so we were in an unfortunate spot. Do we remove Michael from the bundle and seek another game? Or do we wait it out and see if he contacts us? What I did next may surprise you! I did what I thought was best, and looked for another addition to the bundle. In the event I found a suitable replacement I would've removed 'Isolomus' (with the intention of adding it later) and then releasing the bundle ASAP to get it out into the world. In the end, this wasn't needed! Michael responded and we moved quickly from there. With all the art, confirmations, and submissions completed I launched the thing with a nice little description to boot. It's been out for about a month and a half now, and here are the stats as of 7/11/22:



Additionally, while we were waiting for Michael I started keeping better track of who I reached out to for the bundle. I'll be updating this document in the future with additional people I'd like to work with, and that document is here

When I started this I fully intended to keep reaching out to developers after it came out. I'm always on the lookout for new people who want to join forces in the gamedev industry because we all know how tough this work is, and there's strength in numbers.

How You Can Do This Too:

First you should probably have a fully commercial, released, *paid* game out on an online platform. Steam is good, but itch.io works just as well for bundles. In fact, itch.io has a Discord server and a channel specifically for finding developers to launch a bundle with! Once you have a game, any game really, just start reaching out to developers who have made something similar. I found a few games like mine through Twitter yes, but Steam is also a great place to look for games. I have a step-by-step process for finding comparable games to mine, and here it is:


1) Navigate to the Steam Store page, whether in browser or the Steam application and hit the Tags button on the left-hand side



2) Navigate to the 'Global Tags' tab and hit the 'Browse All' button at the bottom, it doesn't matter which tag you do this for



3) Scroll to the bottom of the screen and hit the button that says 'Browse All New Releases'



4 ) On the right-hand side under 'Narrow By Tag' search for a tag that matches the genre of your own game, then you can narrow down selections for your own market research


5) Start building a contact list! If you find a game that looks like yours and you wanna connect with the developer look for some contact information on the game page. Most game pages have a Twitter or website of some sort, so follow it and look for an email, contact form, or find a way to DM. In the event the game page has no such info, turn to Google and search for the name of the developer. If a game has been released there's a pretty good chance of there being a paper trail of the developer somewhere.


Overall:

I'm very happy with how this all turned out, and I'm looking forward to building the bundle as well as new friendships and partners. For me, the greatest honor is meeting new people in this industry and helping them however I can. You can do this too! If you've released a paid commercial game look into other devs who have released something similar and be friends with them! Ask them about their experience, if they'd be willing to share stats, and be genuinely curious about them. Also ask if you can help them out with anything. This is the one thing I try to keep consistent across all my interactions with people now, I ask them specifically if they need help with anything. You'd be surprised! That's all I have for now, so I hope you glean something useful from this!

Lets change the world,

Jonathan

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