The Steam Review

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Earth 2160 now available

New RTS appears unannounced :: April 11th, 2006 :: New products :: 5 Responses

Unless you count last Wednesday’s SiN: Steam, Earth 2160 is the first game on Steam to be released entirely unannounced, popping up yesterday with no fanfare at all past the obligatory news post. It’s just there on the Store page. Even the game’s fansites seem unaware of the news.

Earth 2160
Will Earth 2160 sell on Steam? With no readily available demo and no noticeable advertising, probably not.

A demo is available, if you find 2160’s website (of your own accord: there is no link from the Store), navigate to the Downloads area and then ferret out a tiny link in a different part of the page from the main menu. All a potential customer has to go on, if he quite understandably can’t be bothered to or doesn’t know to do that, is a handful of (admittedly very good-looking) screens and some far-from-stellar reviews.

It could simply be that as the game isn’t what you might call approachable, Reality Pump don’t particularly want people to know too much about it and hope for some ‘blind’ sales. After all, their core audience is the RTS hardcore who already know everything they need to about the title. Yet, the situation is the same for Dangerous Waters (which at least has a trailer) and Space Empires IV: two obscure, specialist games with demos available that are neither provided nor linked to through the Store. This might be explained should demos be required to be exclusive, but as we’ve seen with the Darwinia demo and the Half-Life 2 demo’s standalone Steam installer, that is hardly an issue.

Valve’s forthcoming demo experiments are certainly interesting and worth waiting for, but in the meantime their policy of either no demos or demos only after a month of release is simply unproductive. When the demos have already been around for many months, why should they ever be held back?

5 Responses to this post:

  1. Ironclad Says:

    Business first. A free sample of a video game is a negative influence on sales, at least according to Valve. I wonder if the amount of demos avaliable for awesome games will stress the servers as well, perhaps as steam will be known as a prime demo source.

  2. Andy Simpson Says:

    Thing is… Valve’s games will always sell fantastically well, demo or no demo, so they’ve kinda gotten complacent, thinking maybe their strategy of witholding demos is going to produce high sales like it does for their games. And it just isn’t. I know I wouldn’t have bought Darwinia if I hadn’t played the demo.

    They haven’t quite got the thinking straight, really. I have this hunch they’re thinking about demos in a retail way. If I play a good demo, then have to go haul my ass to retail, I’m gonna think twice about it. Even if it’s Amazon or something, there’s still some delayed gratification there. So yes, in that case demos might hurt sales. Bad demos are going to convince me for sure not to get the game, but good demos aren’t going to necessarily part me with my cash.

    With digital distribution, the rules of the game shift somewhat. A bad demo is still going to put me off, but a good demo that is ready to be turned into a full game with one impulse internet purchase is going to shift numbers. It’s compelling.

    Fact is, this kinda game I’ve never even heard of before is not something I’m going to buy unless they can get mindshare, and a mixed bag of metacritic reviews isn’t going to do that like a demo can.

  3. Tom Edwards Says:

    Another potential reason is the low conversion rates on demos: typically around 2%. The exception to this rule is Geometry Wars, which had a 40% conversion rate! The reason very likely being that it was so easy to upgrade through Live Arcade, not to mention the fact that the game is allegedly pretty damn good to boot! It’d be interesting to get some conversion rate figures for RDKF and Darwinia, not to mention HL2.

  4. Andy Simpson Says:

    Exactly, I had the Live Arcade model in mind as what Valve should be doing with their demos. Live Arcade makes it daftly easy to purchase the full game, as Steam does, so really they should be comparable.

    Thing to bear in mind with the HL2 demo and the RDKF demo (can’t remember about Darwinia) is that those games were out long before the demo saw daylight, which skews the results somewhat.

  5. Andrew Timson Says:

    Darwinia, having been released prior to its Steam release, can’t really be counted.