Pre-launch your game with content creators: How to build wishlists 

Stefan Backlund
May 10, 2024

Getting early traction among players and generating that important pre-launch hype can be crucial for a game's commercial success. Content creators play a pivotal role in this process, serving as the bridge between developers and the gaming community. This playbook outlines strategies for leveraging content creators to build excitement and drive wishlist additions, particularly on platforms like Steam, where wishlist levels can significantly influence a game's visibility and sales.

Understanding wishlist levels on Steam

Before diving into strategies, it's important to understand why wishlists matter on Steam. A wishlist is essentially a pre-commitment from potential buyers; it signals interest and intent to purchase the game upon release. Steam monitors these wishlist additions and uses them to rank games in their upcoming lists, which can boost visibility. Higher wishlist counts not only improve a game's launch prospects but also provide valuable market data to refine marketing strategies.

Erik Peterson at Valve explains how they are mixing algorithmic and curated ways of presenting games to players. In essence, Valve wants to "match games with the players who will love them," and Valve does not sell advertising or optimal placement on the platform. "We don’t think Steam should be pay to win," says Erik.

The higher you climb the more likely you are to get featured on the start page of Steam. For players it is a mix of what you have wishlisted or played, what your friends have wishlisted or played and a mix of other things like recommendations.

In short, this is why a high rank on Steam’s wishlist is good for game developers.

  • Build a creator and player community early on, get them excited about your IP
  • Automatic notification immediately when the game is live
  • Advertisement in front of the largest gaming community in the world
  • Positioning to be discovered by potential investors
  • Data on your potential user base through Steamworks developer portal

Wishlisting and sales?

Yes, there is a correlation between wishlist and sales as explained in this article by that looked at 700 titles with at least 5000 wishlists on Steam on month 1 after launch. The Top 10% had a 134% wishlist to sales ratio (100,000 wishlists = 134,000 sales), the bottom 10% had merely a 6% wishlist to sales ratio (100,000 wishlists = 6,000 sales. The median is 27%.

It is not just the number of wishlists that matter for sales, there are other factors in play such as price, discount on launch, review score etcetera, but it is a good indication how your wishlist buildup strategy is compared to the median.

Working with content creators to build early hype

Lurkit is all about facilitating relationships between publishers and content creators with a data driven approach through our platform. Our customers have creator community building and marketing as a cornerstone in their launch plans. Here are some tips that we have learned over the years by working with a variety of publishers from AAA, AA to Indies.

      1. Teaser content and exclusive previews

Start by engaging content creators early in the development process by providing them with exclusive teaser content or sneak peeks of the game. This could be in the form of short gameplay clips, trailers, or developer diaries that discuss unique features of the game. Creators can share these insights with their audiences, sparking curiosity and discussion around the game.

      2. Interactive live streams

Live streaming on Twitch is a powerful tool in the gaming industry. Work with creators to host live streams where they can interact with their audience while exploring early versions of the game. These sessions can include Q&A segments, where developers join the stream to talk about the game and respond to reactions from viewers. This direct interaction helps build a community around the game, driving engagement and wishlist additions.

      3. Behind-the-scenes content

Audiences love to get a behind-the-scenes look at how games are made. Collaborate with creators to showcase different aspects of game development, from art and design to coding and sound engineering. This transparency not only piques interest but also helps the community feel more connected to the development process, increasing their investment in the game’s success. Why not invite a local creator to your office for an exclusive sneak peek?

Driving Wishlist Additions

      4. Contests and Giveaways

Utilise contests and giveaways to encourage users to add the game to their Steam wishlist. For example, offer a chance to win exclusive in-game items, merchandise, or early access for users who wishlist the game. Content creators can promote these incentives on their channels, effectively driving their viewers to take action.

      5. Wishlist call-to-actions

Every piece of content shared by creators should include a call-to-action encouraging viewers to add the game to their wishlist. Make it easy by providing a direct link to the game’s Steam page. Explain to the audience how adding the game to their wishlist can benefit them, such as receiving notifications about the game’s release and accessing special promotions.

Mixing game key promos and paid campaigns

      6. Game keys for organic trials

Distribute free game keys to a select group of trusted creators for an organic look at the game. This strategy allows creators to share their genuine experiences and first impressions with their followers, which can be more impactful than scripted endorsements. Distributing game keys to creators is a proven strategy to get a lot out of your marketing budget. 

      7. Paid collaborations for extended reach and tighter narrative

While organic campaigns are crucial, supplementing them with paid collaborations can significantly extend your reach and make it 100% aligned with your narrative. Paid partnerships ensure that content about the game reaches the right audience, in the right place and with the right message. 

By strategically blending organic interactions with paid outreach, you ensure that the game captures the attention of both niche communities and broader audiences and with a balance of scripted storytelling and natural reactions. This balanced approach not only helps in building pre-launch hype but you can also ensure sustained interest up to and beyond the game’s release.

Take-aways from our pre launch Playbook

Leveraging content creators to build pre-launch hype is an art that involves careful planning and strategic execution. By understanding the importance of wishlist levels on platforms like Steam and employing a mix of organic and paid collaborations, developers can create a strong foundation of anticipation and engagement. This, in turn, sets the stage for a successful game launch, backed by an enthusiastic community eager to explore the world you’ve created.

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