One bit of news that has popped up over the last week or so is that Guild Wars 2 is now available on Steam.
The immediate benefits are obvious. This is a press release moment for the game, getting them a few headlines here and there. The game is now available on what is arguably the most popular internet store front for video games, so the potential audience has grown a bit as it is now findable on Steam.
More exposure, greater access, both wins.
And this is a fairly well trod path for an older MMO… and Guild Wars 2 is turning 10 this weekend, so isn’t it time to start asking for a “classic” server… with titles like EverQuest, Star Wars: The Old Republic, and EVE Online having already blazed that trail.
So something of an obvious move really.
But is it worth the effort?
Superficially, yes. Getting some more customers, even if you have to cut in Steam for 30% of the revenue, is no doubt a worthwhile venture. As the argument for Steam sales goes, once you have sold all the copies you can at list price, you can only benefit from a sale if it will bring more people in. You likely were not going to get those purchases without the sale, and 70% of something is better than 100% of nothing.
However, there is more to it than cutting Steam in on a percentage of sales. The company has to integrate with Steam for things like account management, something that can present a technical challenge and lead to some odd compromises.
For example, if you already have a Guild Wars 2 account, you cannot use that to play the Steam version of the game. You need to make a new account via Steam that will be forever linked to the platform.
And “start over” as I call it, is not an uncommon approach. CCP allows you to connect your current EVE Online account to Steam, but once you do that there is no going back. You are locked into making your purchases through Steam, while the benefits of being there are somewhat dubious, at least in my opinion.
I don’t dislike Steam, but I’d rather more of my money go to CCP.
Being on Steam with a live free to play game also has some overhead. You can still use your own launcher, so you don’t have to patch the game through Steam, but you still have to keep the launcher patched through that route, which requires some work and approvals.
You also have to keep all your special offers and such in sync. Steam isn’t happy if you give your direct players a discount and forget to off the same to your Steam players. Pretty sure there is a line or three in the contract about just that sort of thing.
There is a reason that studios that are deeply tied to Steam, like Paradox, have their summer sale in their direct sales store at exactly the same time as the Steam summer sale.
Finally, there is the question of numbers. How many new players will this bring in?
There is often a surge of players initially, following the press release and the company buying ads on the Steam front page. Steam Charts shows that SWTOR, for example, got to nearly the 35K mark for concurrent players via Steam at one point. Give the nature of MMOs, that probably means that 2-5x as many were playing overall.
And even now, when the 24 hour peak is closer to 7K players, that is probably still very worthwhile. EA biting the bullet and putting SWTOR on Steam rather than their own Origin was probably worth the effort.
EVE Online peaked a bit past 10K concurrent and still pops up to 5K now and then, which is a significant portion of the player base logged into the single server, where 25K players total has been the weekly high water mark of late. No doubt worth it… as long as most of those were new players and not people who converted their accounts.
EverQuest though… it has never passed 1K concurrent players on Steam. If the title wasn’t so low overhead I might question whether or not they should have bothered. But there it is.
Which brings us back to Guild Wars 2. I read that 25K Steam users had put the title on their wish list when it was first posted. It will be interesting to see how the game kicks off this weekend and what it eventually settles down into as a pattern.
The base game being free will no doubt help it find new players, even after the initial promotional push subsides. However, the free base game will also mean that a lot of the new players won’t be paying customers, so whether or not the effort pays off remains to be seen. I somehow doubt there will be a big spike in the NCsoft financials for Q3 2022 over this, but I could be wrong.