Indie games and Steam: The divorce is coming

A recent video by Jim Sterling got me thinking. (Yes I know, I really don’t like that fat asshole, but the only way to ensure my opinions are solid is to explore other opinions as well). Jim spoke about the state that is Steam, and I drew some figures as well. Yes dear readers, this is the first Hammer Graph Post of MEW!!!

This graph shows the drastic increase in the number of games on Steam. Most noticeably the incredible climb in the past few months. This is due to the Steam Direct program, as Jim stated. And these are a metric shit ton of games. Think about it, in the last 3 months Steam has received more games than the first 7 years of its existence!! That’s madness!!

And for Indie games the future looks bleak. At the moment, BY FAR the most used tag for a game on Steam is Indie, with 5394 games listed as being Indie. That is 29.3% of the total Steam library of 18360 games are Indie titles. The amount of filth and garbage that is mixed in with the good Indie titles out there is simply insurmountable.

So what does this mean? Well, for starters, Steam is quickly becoming the least favourable platform for Indie titles. If something doesn’t happen to change Steam, more and more Indie developers will simply move away from Steam. It’s not like it will hurt their sales. At the end of the day, nobody will buy their games because nobody will find them in Steam. Platforms like Nintendo, Xbox and PlayStation has a much better environment for Indies. This is even further fueled by the fact that multiple developers have stated that their games sell much better on the consoles than on PC.

On PC, Indie developers will simply move away to other platforms, like GoG or Humble or something new perhaps. Something with better curation and less cluttered storefronts.

While this may potentially be a good thing, as visibility on excellent Indie titles will be much easier, the repercussions for Steam will be great. It will only take one big Indie hit on PC outside of Steam to prove to people that games can live outside of Steam. One by one bigger games will venture onto this platform, leaving behind the pile of poop that Steam’s storefront fills up with on a daily basis. Some big company is going to notice this shift in power, and capitalize on creating a competing Steam-like service, with dedicated curation and visibility. And you will see more developers move away from Steam

People will always follow where the money is. If developers don’t see any returns from Steam, it’s only a matter of time before a different service will provide them with better revenue. Up until now, Steam has remained the main and almost only PC gaming service. But things will inevitably change.

Only if Steam doesn’t drastically change its ways. Remember, no company or service is too big to fail.


My only issue is, if a game is not on steam I do not give it a second look. I do not use GoG or humble to buy games unless it is running a very good special. So it is going to have to take an amazing title to be able to go big without being on steam, especially an Indie game. It can be done, and would be great if it does happen.
I personally use steam 99% of the time for all the games I play and buy.

Those are the so called shovelware games, the asset flips that people do. Buy cheap assets on the unity store put up a quick game and sell it.

Steam went from really picky to opening the floodgates.

Those numbers are huge though. I hope you found the numbers in one place.

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All numbers I found are from SteamSpy. Its the only Patreon I actually donate too, and I love just poking around the figures and numbers and finding some interesting correlations.

Yup, Steam has become a total shit-show that is crammed full of halfbaked rubbish. I think that quality Indie titles would be best placed on the Switch.

This is probably the feeling of a lot of people. And yes it will take something on a Minecraft level to change people from one platform to the other. But for the survival of Indie games on PC without any changes to Steam, it will happen.

Do not think Minecraft is much of a benchmark. Will have to be on the level of PUBG to make any kind of waves

Minecraft sold millions upon millions more than PUBG ever have. Its probably one of the all time biggest games available on any conceivable device. Its a phenomenon. So I’d say it’s probably a impossible benchmark that will be extremely difficult to reach again.

Minecraft did indeed sell lots! 100+ Million copies, over many platforms though and over many years.
PUBG sold 20 Million+ just on PC within a few months. Breaking numerous records on steam.

No doubt Minecraft was and is a huge game. But do not think it made half the waves and impact that PUBG is currently. I am taking many things into consideration such as concurrent players,news,sales,streams, spectators and all these things

The point is this; an Indie game on the level of Minecraft OR PUBG will be enough to pull people from Steam. Regardless of which game is used as the benchmark.

Is it though? I’m sure we all have a combination of Starcraft 2/Diablo 3/Hearthstone etc and still continue using steam.

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Agree with that yes. Just think PUBG boomed immensely fast in only a few months and in Beta. It is not just a huge game, but the social media impact it has and the followers is just insane. If PUBG was not on steam it would def move LOTS of people from steam to another platform that it was being sold on

It’s a difficult one. I used to have some kind of knowledge of every Steam game that was released. These last couple of months I don’t recognise most of the games on Steam.

I mean we get Humble Monthly Bundle games and I’d know like one or two of the games.

The glory days of indie development are over. You have to strike it really lucky or go bust. Even on the XBox One there are an insane amount of indie titles now. Most of those games will probably not sell well.

There was a time when I liked to support indie devs by buying their games. These days there are some select developers that I’ll support at launch but even really good games don’t make it onto my buy list. I have over 200 games on my wishlist and most of them I’ll probably never play. The list would be longer but I stopped looking at new games mostly.

I read an article recently about a guy who quit his job to release his game. He only had to sell a certain amount to be able to succeed and be able to live as an indie developer. In the end he sold much less than he expected. When I read the article I’ve never even heard of the game.

The indie titles that will most likely succeed will be the ones that either reach AAA quality (eg Hellblade:Senua’s Sacrifice), be super niche and of excellent quality (ie high quality VR games), have a decent following already (eg Spiderweb Software) or just strike it lucky (eg No Man’s Sky).

The rest will probably end up in the developers closing shop.

Wont this reach some kind of breaking point though? If we just alook at asset flip games, at some stage there will be sooooo many games that your income from said asset flip games wont be worth while anymore. This in turn will mean that less people will try to sell asset flip games and it should normalise? Or will it be too late and Steam will become a less loved platform for ALL developers before it normalises?

Potentially (hopefully actually), there should come a point where these asset flips die out due to oversupply. But the problem is the return needed to make some form of income from these asset flips means that they don’t need all that much money, so in order to get the most income, you just pump out a whole host of asset flips, get the 200-500 sales they probably generate, and pocket the revenue. Easy money. And people will always exploit easy money schemes.

Who buys this crap???