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As an unintentional side effect of Valve's latest sales event, the Steam Grand Prix, it seems a lot of users have begun cleaning out their Steam Wishlists.

Why? Well, it gives you the chance to win an item from your Steam Wishlist but only from the top three slots, it's not random. Valve's rules are pretty clear on how it all works but it still seems to have caused a lot of wishlist deletions. Removing games doesn't actually improve your chances, but likely will affect your future purchases of games you're no longer following as a result of it.

I don't think it's just that though, it's likely also a result of more people also now remembering that they've wishlisted a ton of games, some they're not likely to buy but either way it's not good news for smaller developers.

As an example of this, Raymond Doerr developer of Rise to Ruins (an awesome indie city-builder) shared this image on Twitter to show just how many are being removed:

You can obviously see how clear it is and that it started around the Summer Sale. They're not alone in this, tons of indie developers are seeing the exact same thing, my Twitter feed is absolutely full of developers talking about it over the last few days, some seem quite concerned by it. From what I've seen, it's quite normal to see a drop around these events but nothing like it is currently. Steam Wishlists can be one of the deciding factors on whether an upcoming game will see many sales and whether an already released game will continue to live on. When a lot of indie developers are already struggling, this is obviously not great.

Sounds like for many indie developers, the Steam sale hasn't been too kind to them with many seeing quite a drop compared to previous sales too. I spoke personally with David Stark, developer of Airships: Conquer the Skies, who said:

Looking at the stats for the first day of the sale of my game, Airships: Conquer the Skies, I noticed that for every copy sold, around three other people simply deleted the game from their wishlist. Clearly, some players are just taking the opportunity to tidy up their wishlists, but talking to other devs and players on Twitter, it seems that at least people are misunderstanding how the Grand Prix sale promotion works, and are deleting all but the most expensive games from their lists, in the hope of reaping the maximum reward. I really don't think this was Valve's intent, but it's unfortunate, especially as long-tail sales for games really rely on wishlists.

I also spoke with Tom Vian of SFB Games, developer of titles like Detective Grimoire and Haunt the House: Terrortown who allowed me to share their image too showing the same thing for their titles:

Certainly seems like something awry here.

Going further into it, J. Kyle Pittman, co-founder of Minor Key Games (Slayer Shock, Eldritch, Super Win The Game + more) also shared this image:

When I asked Pittman how that compared to previous years, keeping in mind they're another developer that's been through many years of sales, they said:

Previous summer sales have looked similar to the one from May. Some deletions but mostly purchases and additions. Last year’s holiday sale was about 50/50. This is the first time in history that deletions have exceeded purchases and additions by a wide margin.

Another who didn't want to be named, who I've followed for multiple years also said "I've never seen anything like it, we rely on Wishlists for so many reasons, it's a disaster". Plenty more like this, this one, also this one and so on. That's not many examples, sure, but keep in mind I follow thousands of developers (and getting permission to quote takes a long time in some cases) and not a single one has said anything good about what's happening. Every image I've seen, is showing the same issue—oh dear.

Another factor in all this, is that more people might possibly be heading over to the Epic Games Store. I know, I know, I've mentioned Epic Games and it's likely to cause a riot somewhere but stick with me a moment. Epic Games also only recently kicked off their own Mega Sale, so the timing of that likely hasn't helped things. Same with GOG and Humble Store, but Epic Games likely have a bigger pull than those two put together.

Tough times to be an indie game developer indeed. Being discovered on Steam seems like it's getting a lot tougher as time goes on, as thousands more are released on Steam each year, which may end up pushing out a lot of smaller developers. There's also been a ton of talk about Steam changing their algorithms, which has also reduced a lot of traffic to some developers.

Not only that, I've also seen numerous developers post about how Steam has been emailing wishlist sale notifications to a vastly smaller percentage of users than usual, in some cases around only 10% of emails have gone out compared to previous years.

Something to remember though, is that it's not Valve's job to market every game possible. Realistically, that's the job of the developer and publisher, Valve just provide the store and the tools to help a little along the way. However, when some of these tools start to work against them (even when unintentional) it's obviously not good.

Seems like developers are going to have to get a lot more creative somehow in pushing people towards their Steam pages. If any of it makes you think and you want to help, then perhaps next time you enjoy a game putting up a little review on Steam will help. Oh, and stop removing games from your wishlist when you don't need to.

Note: After publishing, Valve put out a post to clarify some elements of the game. They also clarified in that post, that you don't need to remove items. Along with this PSA on Twitter, it's clear Valve now knows it caused an issue.

Article was updated after publishing with more info.

Article taken from GamingOnLinux.com.
Tags: Misc, Steam
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56 comments
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Liam Dawe 27 Jun, 2019
ElectricPrismLiam, maybe to mitigate the global effect of sales being effected it would be a good strategy to highlight some deals and talk about what's a good deal.

% wise the Linux base may be a small amount of the pie, but dollar-wise I spent $125 on 12 games.

I think in terms of games purchased and dollars spent we account for a much higher % than we get credit for -- one developer noted us as 11% of his sales during this sale IIRC.
We do a dedicated article for the Steam Summer Sale each year usually, already did for this one.
Kiba 27 Jun, 2019
I've deleted a lot of games from my wishlist, but not because i misunderstood the rules, i went there to move 3 games to the top and saw a lot of games that i didn't want anymore for a lot of different reasons so i deleted them.
Liam Dawe 27 Jun, 2019
devnullBit confused by this, there are many reasons why people would remove an item from their wishlist that have nothing to do with the sale let alone something Valve caused. Simply logging in and seeing things in their list may be enough to clean house a bit. Or valve banned a few botnets, never know.

I'm more surprised that kind of metric is available to developers. How long is the data kept because I know people who added things at Christmas only to remove them later. I'm not personally interested in direct marketing outside friends which is what I thought those lists were restricted to.

People are inferring wayyy too much.
I'm honestly amazed faced with all the evidence, plus Valve themselves having to release statements, that some still refuse to believe it.

As mentioned, there's always a drop but every developer spoken to has shown the same thing, it has never happened before like it is now. I don't know what it will take for some people to see...
Liam Dawe 27 Jun, 2019
devnull
liamdaweI'm honestly amazed faced with all the evidence, plus Valve themselves having to release statements, that some still refuse to believe it.

As mentioned, there's always a drop but every developer spoken to has shown the same thing, it has never happened before like it is now. I don't know what it will take for some people to see...


What? Think you missed my point a little. There are other reasons why people would remove an item. Yes, sales are one as is any event. And those people will probably add them back after the event. You're right, Valve did respond lest they have a PR nightmare as developers fail to understand people. The sale itself did not cause people to not want what is in their wishlist any more or any less.

I stand by not wanting that data to be public period. Using it as a metric is just weird statistical masturbation.
I didn't miss your point, I am arguing against it. What has happened is not normal, at all.

Yes it is normal for wishlists to get removed, i've mentioned this numerous times now. If you can't see the difference between this and normal activity with all the evidence then I have nothing else to say on that really.

Developers only see numbers, they don't know exactly who has wishlisted it. Wishlists also affect store visibility and are directly tied to how a game does when it launches. As for not wanting developers to see it, I guess you entirely missed this then.
devnull 27 Jun, 2019
liamdaweI didn't miss your point, I am arguing against it.

Healthy discussion on the Intnernet? *GASP* :) Glad we're on the same page.

liamdaweWhat has happened is not normal, at all.
Yes it is normal for wishlists to get removed, i've mentioned this numerous times now.

It's a statisticallly significant event yes but you're I think only seeing the short term negative side of it.

liamdaweIf you can't see the difference between this and normal activity with all the evidence then I have nothing else to say on that really.

I do see the difference I just take a more pragmatic inference.


liamdaweDevelopers only see numbers, they don't know exactly who has wishlisted it. Wishlists also affect store visibility and are directly tied to how a game does when it launches.

Think that has more to do with user sorting preferences no? Two filters I use are what others are playing and what's new. Sales are nice but there are other factors too.

liamdaweAs for not wanting developers to see it, I guess you entirely missed this then.

I have, don't really see the relationship though. I've had Windows and Linux both checked for a whille because well, Proton is awsome. If I understand that post it would only be singled out if -one- category was selected.

You understand there is a difference between a wishlist and something like prepurchase right? :) To me a wishlish is more like an upvote, yes it shows interest but it doesn't really _mean_ much. One can be botted, the other not so much. The flipside of people clearing out their lists are people looking at the items. It would be an interesting metric to see if titles also got more hits, but it's all pretty fluid in terms of SALES.
Liam Dawe 27 Jun, 2019
devnullYou understand there is a difference between a wishlist and something like prepurchase right? :) To me a wishlish is more like an upvote, yes it shows interest but it doesn't really _mean_ much. One can be botted, the other not so much. The flipside of people clearing out their lists are people looking at the items. It would be an interesting metric to see if titles also got more hits, but it's all pretty fluid in terms of SALES.
You might find this interesting: https://www.gamasutra.com/blogs/JakeBirkett/20180425/316924/How_many_wishlists_should_you_have_when_launching_on_Steam.php
BrazilianGamer 28 Jun, 2019
Not only that but I had to add the games I was about to buy more than 4 times to the cart just because i closed the client. Overtime I closed it, my cart was cleared. So annoying. But I did it. My picks were: Terraria, Streets of rogue, Rogue legacy, Hotline Miami 1 and 2: Wrong number and Risk of rain


Last edited by BrazilianGamer on 28 June 2019 at 12:52 am UTC
Patola 28 Jun, 2019
eldakingRegarding "people wouldn't buy those anyway": having a game on your wishlist is free marketing for developers. You see that game every time you go into the wishlist (while you might not see it otherwise), get informed about sales and releases, and they get some data out of it. This is the equivalent of many people hitting the "ignore" button on the store: maybe they wouldn't all buy, but there is a lot less people seeing your game, so people that could be convinced won't see it anymore. For big games that people are sure to see anyway, or remember later, no big deal; for small games, this means a lot. People that added a game to the wishlist are already a bit more likely to buy the game, so the idea that none of the people that removed the games was ever going to buy any of them is a bit unlikely. And this is anomalous.
That is a good argument, but you're assuming the only effect of having the game in a wishlist is increasing sales due to this free advertising. It might also have just the opposite effect - bring attention to the user, and he/she might just think, "why the hell am I considering this game? It has nothing to do with my taste", and just remove it. This should happen specially for titles that stay in early access for too long. So, in the end, I believe the negatives and positives cancel out, to the effect that I could say in practice, statistically, "people wouldn't buy those anyway".
Patola 28 Jun, 2019
liamdawe
Patola
liamdaweI'll just repeat myself since it's not sinking in..

This has not happened with any other sale to this level. It's a result of the gamification of the wishlist system with people not quite understanding it.

What is "this"? People removing items from their wishlist? But if they were not going to buy the game anyway, it's a moot point, statistically it would also cause an increase in the effect of wishlist, e.g. instead of a 50% chance of people buying stuff on their wishlist, now it would be 60%.

liamdaweDo a search for "steam wishlist" and things like that on Twitter and spot all the fires ;)
I don't doubt it, that's why I said it might be a collective perception issue. I can't do the search from where I stand now but I'll do it in the evening, to see if the related comments dismiss my impression.

And, again, I think we're too early in the sales to tell the trends...

Although I will admit something, the "racing" idea does not seem nearly as effective as the last sale "Saliens" game in terms of engagement. It's too complex and the "team" mechanics and randomness of the winners makes you feel you're not in control, so why would you invest on it?
We're talking about developers who have been through 5+ years of various season Steam sales, quite a few of those I've spoken to having their games on Steam for even longer and they've all said close to exactly the same, that there's usually a small spike but this is many times greater. If you think that's a "collective perception issue", I just think you're not listening.

Want to see more?
https://twitter.com/dhindes/status/1144227282061369344
https://twitter.com/tobiasgrf/status/1144290726550921216
https://twitter.com/danthat/status/1144211434454355968
https://twitter.com/puppygames/status/1144239386059558912
https://twitter.com/mrhelmut/status/1144210454186795010
https://twitter.com/Mi_Clos/status/1144214192288935937
https://twitter.com/Olima/status/1144197551996002306
https://twitter.com/PirateHearts/status/1144295014173990912
https://twitter.com/LeSaucierKim/status/1144358962281816065?s=19
https://twitter.com/colorfiction/status/1144357088841359365?s=19

I can keep going for quite a while on this ;)

There's also the issue of wishlist emails also seeing a huge drop in being sent out:
https://twitter.com/GreyAlien/status/1144251143356329987/photo/1
https://twitter.com/RaymondDoerr/status/1144243533513203712

Salvatos
fabertaweEdit: Also, in regards to the peeps deleting whole wishlists in the wrong belief they need to have just three games in the list for a chance to win them - surely they'll just add back the ones they want after the sale.
I think there can be a valid concern that some indie games will be forgotten when that time comes, especially for people with large lists or for games that were wishlisted a while ago and somewhat forgotten. Even if those were games that were less likely to be bought to begin with, cprn raises a valid point when it comes to wishlist discount notifications acting as publicity.
Which is why it's also concerning for developers to be seeing lower than usual email notifications being sent out too.
Thanks, that is an impressive amount of reference, but I did not at any time said the collective perception is small, I think you misunderstood my point. We have a tool from Steam that allows developers to see wishlist purchases/inserts/deletions and which, besides the purchases, have been indirectly associated with sales, that is, if an user adds a game to the wishlist, it is counted as almost a purchase, a reliable indication of purchase trends, and if he/she removes it, it is a reliable indication of lowered sales, right? So, my point is that, with the wishlist in the spotlight with the steam minigame, the causal relationship, the reliability of these numbers to real sales might have been broken, causing little to no impact in the end sales, but having a huge negative impression because these numbers have always been so reliable.

This is a suspicion, though. Not an exact deduction or scientific conclusion. But that's why I think people should wait longer in the sales period to draw more robust conclusions, although I also understand that if it's real problem it's better to raise the hand ASAP.

I am curious though about the issue of unreleased games. In your references, something which I found curious (and might point to a more robust conclusion) are what is happening to unreleased games. In your first example, the developer said people removed in mass the unreleased game (Wildfire from the wishlist. However, on your third example, there was no such effect for an also unreleased game, Lair of the Clockwork God, and these games seem very close in scope. What can we infer from it? What's going on in the prospective buyer's minds? Do they know an unreleased game is not eligible to be awarded, if that is indeed why they are emptying their wishlists? I have no idea.

Seeing from the worst side, though, even if the impact of the wishlist issue is small or non-existent as I am pondering, this is a huge bad PR for Valve, no doubt about it. I hope it does not give much leverage to Epic Games. I really think that they are the greater threat to Linux Gaming as of today.


Last edited by Patola on 28 June 2019 at 3:29 am UTC
Damn there's no $1000 bundle of train simulator DLC you can wishlist!
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