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.
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.
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.