Sega shares Steam strategies

Sega knows a thing or two about succeeding with the biggest digital distributor in the world. And it shared some of that insight last night.

In a talk at the London Games Conference, the firm’s digital distribution VP John Clark ran through the ways Sega is using Steam to sell games.

Sega’s two PC games studios, Creative Assembly and Sports Interactive, plus its London-based digital download team, have gained lots of experience using a platform that boats 5m concurrent users a day at its peak.

"Steam is an incredible growth platform," said Clark, adding that "two-way participation grows brands."

Sega utilises a lot of cross-promotion work to grow its sales – with strategies not unfamiliar to those who have worked with retailers.

But working digitally has forced Sega to embrace change, said Clark.

"The big change amongst traditional publishers is how you get a team, your individuals and an organisation to support what you do."

Steam is such an evolving and emerging platform that many of the things Sega has succeeded in were once unknowns, he explained.

Often people will "look around [their] organisation [and] don’t know anyone who knows what works".

"This is so new. That makes selling an idea internally more difficult."

He advocated taking advantage of those unknowns to try new things. Clark isn’t just an expert in Steam, he knows about trusting your gut and not dwelling on the potential for failure.

He said: "We have moved to a data driven industry – but never lose sight of your experience. Listen to your instincts. You can use data to support that."

Steam has forced publishers like Sega to "do something new and interesting" with how they handle content.

"[Big publishers] are all used to buying inventory. We are used to buying banner ads. But Steam doesn’t do that, they don’t sell ads. So we invest in content – we want our games to have a story, or extra content, or a theme-driven promotion."

Clark shared some data from three big success stories on Steam for Sega.

The first example was from the Total War Weekend which ran from Sept 27th to Sept 31st.

Sega added Steam Workshop to the title to increase the Total War userbase, extend the awareness of Total War and increase community activity.

Sega made content for Team Fortress 2 – including costumes for characters inspired by Total War – to crosspromote and excite the audience.

This coincided with a price cut – but after the price cut, when game returned to RRP, sales were trending up 7% over the rate pre-price cut. That’s a simply testament to marketing and raising awareness, said Clark.

And it was working in a wider context: the sales of Total War retail games went up 25%, suggesting word of mouth from downloads were transferring to physical purchases.

"That gives us an idea of who Steam’s rival platforms are," said Clark. (And likewise, should give readers an idea of how customers shop across retail and digital.)

The second example was from Football Manager 2013.

Sega and developer Sports Interactive offered early access to the game for pre-orderers in a bid to drive awareness.

FM13 saw a 117% increase in sales year on year – thanks to preordering, sales were happening before launch, digital and Physical sales were up 16% year on year.

The last example came from Sonic All Stars Racing Transformed, which is still to be released on PC.

The game is actually releasing later than its console counterpart, and in fact thematically and content wise seems contrary to the Steam audience – Sonic games aren’t necessarily popular amongst the switched on adult audience on Steam.

The flip-side here was more crosspromotion, but adding Team Fortress 2 characters to the racing game, not the vice versa. Pyro, Spy and Heavy all feature as playable characters in the Sonic game.

This is content as marketing. And might help refresh the Sonic title’s reputation on PC.

Says Clark: "It will give a first person shooter audience a reason to play a Sonic The Hedgehog game on a core, PC indie gaming platform. That will give us the stand out of a brand new game."

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