GameStop’s Kongregate subsidiary has been seeing increasing revenues from its web and mobile publishing efforts in the last few years. The company is looking to continue its growth by publishing games on Valve’s Steam digital distribution service. Its first PC title, Slashy Hero, the award-winning Halloween-themed action game from Gentlebros, is available now on Steam and Spellstone, the popular collectible card game from Synapse Games, is slated to launch in November.
“Gamers have so many options—from mobile to console to PC. In fact, according to a recent poll, nearly 70 percent of our audience plays across multiple platforms,” said Emily Greer, president and co-founder of Kongregate. “Despite the growth of newer platforms, PC gaming remains a viable and exciting option that our players want to explore. By adding Steam to our publishing business, we can support even more indie developers and deliver unique and innovative content to gamers worldwide.”
Kongregate also announced it has released a new unified SDK that will allow developers to view consistent metrics across platforms from web to mobile and now Steam. That’s going to be a fundamentally useful tool for game marketers and developers alike, particularly since those sorts of metrics (common in mobile games) are sorely lacking in many PC games. Kongregate’s new SDK also allows game progress to be saved across platforms. Current Slashy Hero mobile players can download and play the Steam version with their upgrades, characters and saved games intact.
In order to get some more detail on how Kongregate’s move will affect the platform and its marketing efforts, [a]listdaily spoke with Kongregate CEO Emily Greer.
Why did Kongregate decide to publish games on Steam?
Expanding to Steam is a natural extension of our publishing business. Our mission is to help independent developers succeed, and we want to work with developers on any platform where we think we can add value—whether that be browser, mobile, PC or console. By pushing games to more platforms, we’re bringing hit games to audiences on their preferred platform, and adding incremental revenue. There are also games and genres that are right for PC but not mobile, and we want to be able to help developers of those games, too.
With the new cross-platform metrics, will you be encouraging developers to make their games available and cross-playable across web, mobile, and Steam?
Our cross-platform SDK is currently for publishing partners only, but yes, we’re encouraging developers to make their games available and ideally cross-playable. We’ve seen for a while that cross-platform players are incredibly valuable, and it’s great to be able to offer players the convenience of playing on whatever platform they choose.
That being said, every game is different, and you need to think about the gameplay and the audience on each platform. Because of controls and pace, some games are really only right for mobile, and similarly some games are only right for PC. We’ve got some of each in our portfolio, and we don’t want to force anything.
How does the Steam audience differ from Kongregate’s current audience?
There’s a lot of overlap, and a lot of games have started on Kongregate and gone on to tremendous popularity on Steam: AdVenture Capitalist and Clicker Heroes are both great examples of that. I think there are bigger differences between the broad mobile audience and Steam, a lot of which are related to device and time available. When you’re at a PC, you have the opportunity to play with a big screen and a longer session, and some games are more fun and more playable, some less so.
Do you think the Steam audience will be drawn to different types of games than the web or mobile audience?
Yes, we’ve been looking to bring some of our titles to Steam for a while, but we didn’t want to just port games willy-nilly without thinking about what’s right for the Steam audience. On our CCG (Collectible Card Game) Spellstone, for example, we really wanted to add synchronous PvP because we think that’s a crucial feature for a PC audience, where you have longer sessions and reliable connections.
How does game monetization differ between web, mobile, and Steam?
There are substantial differences between the platforms in terms of what’s expected and viable: premium games have a tough time on mobile, but mobile ad revenue can be very strong. But you need to look at the game and genre just as much when you think about pricing and monetization. A multiplayer card game like Spellstone is well-suited to free-to-play on any platform, but we felt an arcade title like Slashy Hero should be revamped for Steam. It was ad-supported and free-to-play on mobile, but we reworked the balance, added content, and are releasing it on Steam as a $6.99 premium title to give it the best chance of success.
How will Kongregate change its game marketing efforts with games on Steam, web and mobile?
We’re currently exploring a lot of different options, from email to paid advertising, to press and show presence, to figure out what works. What works in terms of marketing is probably the single thing that is most platform-specific.
How will Kongregate help its games stand out amid the huge number of titles on Steam?
That’s part of the reason for our expansion to Steam. As Steam has become more open, it’s also become more competitive, and our mission as a publisher is to help developers succeed in challenging environments. Off-Steam marketing and promotion is becoming key to rising above the noise, and a publisher with resources, experience, and a substantial existing audience is in a much better position to drive that than the average indie developer.