Steam Business Update / GDC 2019

Steam Business Update / GDC 2019


Thank you guys so much for coming, we know how busy GDC is, we really appreciate you taking the time to come chat with us. My name is Tom Giardino, I work on the Steam Business Team at Valve and I’m here with a few folks way up in the front row who also work on the Steam team at Valve. The four of us are gonna give you a little bit of an update on some things that we’re working on and I wanted to lay out a little bit of context first. Our goals for this talk are pretty simple, we wanna be transparent and open about our priorities and plans, we wanna provide you with a little bit of data about how the platform is doing and where we’re growing and we also wanted to get into the nuts and bolts of a few tools and features that we’ve built that we think are gonna benefit a lot of developers and a lot of customers. I’m gonna start with kind of a more zoomed out platform level chat and then I’m gonna hand things over to Alden and Kassidy and Ricky, they’re all working on kind of different parts of the Steam platform and they’ll dig into their specific details in a minute. So we came here really today to talk to you guys about how we think about Steam and all the things we’re working on to move the platform forward. We’re motivated by a pretty simple set of principles and those principles have stayed more or less the same for a decade and a half now. I thought it would be helpful to lay those out upfront so that a.) when everybody else is talking you can kind of frame back to those overarching principles and think about how they connect to our long-term vision for the platform and b.) you can probably judge a lot of our work and decisions against those principles in the future as well. So I’m going to dig right into them, the very first one, the first principle for our vision of Steam is to create value for players and developers. when a customer buys a game on Steam we want them to be experiencing the absolute best version of that game and we want them to be surrounded by the richest set of services and tools and features. And for you developers, we want you to have low friction access to the most powerful tools on the planet and we want to give you direct freedom and control to manage your game. The next principle for us is constantly reinvesting to grow the addressable market. This is deceptively simple, on one side we always want to focus on making the existing mature markets bigger and more efficient when possible, we also want to introduce brand new markets that we think a lot of developers and publishers would struggle to reach on their own. And then finally, we want to invent brand-new ways for all of you developers to make your players happy. Sometimes that means streamlining services that already exist on Steam or elsewhere. A lot of times it means inventing brand new ones from scratch and investing to make the platform more valuable. And that’s really it, we wanna create value for you developers and your players, we wanna make the addressable market bigger for your next release and we want to invent better ways for you to make your customers happy on Steam. Those are all long-term principles, they’ve always kind of targeted at long-term growth so we’re not chasing anything super short-term, we don’t have to think about the next month or the next quarter. We’re thinking over the next five years, how do we keep reinvesting to make Steam even more valuable to you than it is now? And it’s useful to frame that long-term growth looking back. This graph is the concurrent players on Steam over the last decade. We’ve shared data like this before and so some of you might have seen it. In our last decade, concurrent user numbers have grown by leaps and bounds. And even though the last six months or so has been an especially exciting time in PC gaming, it’s kind of interesting to look back at the entire last decade and think about all the changes that have come to our industry. Not just in the PC space but everywhere. We’re talking about an explosion of mobile and social gaming. We’re talking about a new generation of consoles, the Nintendo Switch shifting a bunch of paradigms. New business models, streaming, subscription, huge changes in the way that customers access games digitally or through retail and throughout all that we’ve really tried to stay focused on those big principles. Every time one of those big disruptions or challenges enters the marketplace, we think, how do we reinvest to make this platform more useful and more exciting? And so let’s talk about a few of those investments, especially in context of those overarching principles. I could probably talk for an hour just on like the last tiny little bit of the last six months of Steam. My job today is actually to zoom out a little bit more and you’re gonna hear more of those specifics from my colleagues. And this list is far from exhaustive but we figured it’d be interesting to map some of those big improvements and changes and inventions over the years. There’s a lot of big things that have changed the landscape permanently, both for PC games and console and mobile. Think about stuff like Steam Workshop and Early Access that have permanently altered the way that customers think about their games and developers create content alongside their communities. There’s the addition of Mac and Linux and VR, there’s the discoverability updates to make shopping more interesting, there’s our massive seasonal sale events and the Spring Cleaning event and the Lunar New Year sale, there’s a constant wave of new currencies and payment methods, making your games more accessible, there’s new languages coming every week, the list goes on and on. Every one of those dots to us represents one more stilt or one more support underneath that overarching user growth and we want to keep investing in more and more of those dots as time goes on. I’m going to talk about one of the newest dots on that graph right now and then my colleagues will tell you about a bunch more. So if you’ve been following us in the last week you probably heard about Steam Link Anywhere releasing, this just launched in beta. Steam Link Anywhere is an extension of our Steam Link in-home streaming. so in the old days you’ve had the Steam Link and from one room of your house to another you could stream PC content at extremely low latency, connect to a controller, keyboard, or mouse, and have a great experience inside of your house. Steam Link Anywhere takes that outside of your house to literally anywhere that you have a good network connection. It’s totally free for Steam customers to access and there’s no additional fees or royalties charge to you, of course, and it’s available through Steam Link hardware, through home TV sets that have the Steam Link built in, through the Android app, through the Raspberry Pi, and we’re working on adding even more devices. One of the neat things about Steam Link Anywhere is that it works automatically with any Bluetooth controller, keyboard, or mouse so whether you’re playing on a phone or a laptop that could never run that high quality game or a TV in your living room or on the train somewhere, you’re able to have a great experience so long as you have that good network connection. Customers can now play your game in a lot more places, on a lot more devices and that, to us, kind of sums up what our goal of Steam really is. Overnight, we want to make it so your game on Steam instantly becomes more valuable and more accessible to your customers. We don’t want to put a bunch of integration work or cost on you, we think it’s our job to do that work for you to make your game even more valuable. Like I said, there’s a bunch more dots on that graph coming. My colleague Alden is gonna chat with you guys about some of the new tools he’s designing to help you build closer relationships with your customers. Kassidy is building out network and infrastructure and is gonna do a quick update on some of our newest changes there. And Ricky’s going to run through some stats and background on our strategies for making emerging market opportunities even bigger. So that’s it for me for now, I’m gonna pass things over to my colleague Alden. Thanks again for coming. (audience applauds) Great, thank you Tom. So my name is Alden, I’ve been working at Valve for 13 years on the design side. So I’ve worked on a lot of the design of the Steam features. What I’m going to talk to you about today is really a couple of exciting new things that were unveiling for the first time today, as well as looking back at some things that we’ve rolled out over the last few months and that we’re going to continue iterating on. All of these things have one connective thing in mind which is helping you as a developer connect with your customers. Either communication channels or various tools for helping you run your business, communicate with players, make players happier. It’s really interesting to look at Tom’s slide over the last 10 years and how much Steam has changed and how many things we’ve added and how much things have grown. In the same period of time the way that games are being made and the way the games are being played has also changed quite a bit. So what I’m going to talk about today are some features that we’ve designed with that in mind. The way that games are being built and way that games are being played today. So the first thing that I’m going to talk about, first new feature that we’re gonna unveil and talk about today in more detail is a new Steam event system and it’s really more than events, it’s about you as a developer being able to communicate to customers when there’s interesting things happening in your game. So a lot of games now have ongoing updates, livestreams, tournaments, community events, bonus weekends, what have you. We want to give you a channel for you to be able to communicate these interesting moments to players through the channels that they are interested in hearing about them. And it’s not just a big multiplayer, live service games, but also smaller, single player games, making excuses and reasons to put your game in front of customers again, help them understand why they should care and get excited about playing your game now. So what I’m gonna start by showing off is a new event detail page. So of course there’s the nuts and bolts of what is your event: your description, your images, your screenshots, your videos, whatnot, but the other important parts of this is a clear consistent call-to-action. Where do players take the action to enjoy and participate in your event? So whether it’s buying the game if they don’t already own it or play the game if they do own it or if it’s a free game or jump into the livestream if it’s a live streaming event. The other thing with this is an updated and a whole new reminder and notification system which I’ll get into a little bit more details in a couple slides. The real goal here is for you as a developer to be able to author your event and then use Steam as a way to push that out through a bunch of different channels. Through the store, through the community, through emails, through notifications, to customers and then give customers the option of how they want to hear about these things. So really it’s about how do you communicate the value that your game is providing to customers and how do customers receive those and understand what’s cool and what’s happening in the games that they already own and the games that they’re excited. And then also for potential players to understand, well, this game is updating all the time, it’s got a vibrant, living community, I’m super excited, I want to jump in, now is a great moment because there’s something cool happening. So an example of how we’re gonna expose this is a personalized roll-up page for customers. This would show what is happening in the games that you own right now, what are the cool events, the livestreams, the big updates that have just happened but also what’s coming up. What are you gonna block out room on your calendar to come back and play or to participate in those particular events. The other great thing about events is they help provide context for players and potential players. So for example, when we’re recommending a game to a customer on the front page of the store, we can make a recommendation but that’s an even more compelling offer if there’s an additional information about what’s happening in the game right now that is going to make that customer care and get excited about jumping into the game at this moment. rather than saying, well I’ll wait, maybe I’ll play later. But if there’s something cool and compelling and interesting happening right now that they know a bunch of other people are also excited about and jumping in, it’s really exciting and fun to be part of that moment and we know that a lot of friend activities and things like that are some of the biggest drivers of purchases and playing behavior on Steam. The other thing is we know not all players sign into Steam every day so we need to have systems in place to be able to get word out to players wherever they are, make sure they understand what’s coming up and know all the exciting things that they can come back and participate in. So we’ll be putting together email roll-ups for players to be able to participate and opt into, either weekly, monthly, some kind of cadence depending on what the customers is comfortable with and be able to tell them, hey, here’s the cool events that are coming up in the next week in games that you already own that if you want to block out time on your calendar for Thursday night to come join this tournament we want to give customers the tools to do that. So as I mentioned earlier, this will also come with a robust set of notifications and reminders that customers can opt into. Whether that means blocking out room on their Google Calendar or their iCal or whether that means signing up to get a mobile push notification or a text message, whatever channel the customer is most comfortable receiving those notifications through, this will help make sure that they’re ready and able to come back when that event is happening and starting. So when does all this happen? Well right now, we are starting — we’re currently running a small closed beta with a few developers to work out some of the early kinks and we’re gonna open this up to all developers within the next couple of months. The other big thing that I want to talk about, and this really ties in again to events and a bunch of other things that we’re working on, is a total redesign of the Steam Library. Woo!
(laughs) Right, it’s about time, right. So we know that games are being made and played in different ways now than they used to be, there’s a lot of interesting content that both customers and you as developers are creating around the game. So we need a place to be able to pull all that together and show that to customers. But I’m gonna start by talking about the newest addition which is an entire new Library homepage. So what this means is for customers, they can come back, and of course easily resume the last game they were playing. we don’t want to get in the way of that, we don’t want to add more complexity to that. but this also gives us an opportunity to show those players, well, what are the cool things happening in the games that you already own that are in your library? We know that over the years players have built up Steam libraries of dozens, even hundreds of games, and there’s cool stuff happening in those games all the time. We wanna make sure that we’re getting that information to the players so when they’re looking and trying to decide, well what do I play? What it was in my library that I’m interested in playing today? That they can find those games that are having cool things happening right now or moments that they can jump in and feel like they’re part of a movement and part of a social, a group that’s excited about the game right now. And of course, the same things like bringing in friends and making that more accessible so you can jump into and matchmake into lobbies with your friends right from that library as well. Of course a redesign wouldn’t be complete without redesigning the actual product page in the library. So these are a couple of examples. The biggest changes here, first of all, as you notice at the top, some nice big branding space for you as a developer to show off your your game, your brand, but also pulling in automatically the events and the activities that you are putting into our event system so that when customers are going to play their game, play your game, they can tell, well, there’s recently been this great big update, let me look into the details of that before I jump into the game so I know what’s going on or there’s a big tournament happening right now, well look I want to check out what that tournament is, what are the details, watch that livestream right on the page. And of course the other details that customers know and love about Steam, the friends list made easy, who among my friends play this game, is anybody playing it right now, can I jump in and join them? Achievements, DLC, those kinds of things. Also making it easier for customers to find their way to leave a review and probably nudging them to leave a review if they haven’t for a while or if they left a negative review a while ago and they keep playing the game, maybe prompting them to say, hey, are you sure you still don’t like this game? Maybe you want to leave a change, update your review? And of course bringing a whole new set of tools for those of you and for players that have a lot of titles in their library and want to be able to sort and filter and find that particular title that they’re in the mood for. So the kind of tools that we’ve been rolling out into the store for searching and sorting, organizing by tag, bringing those same tools into the library so that customers can find that open world RPG game with cats that’s in their library or whatever they’re in the mood for in that particular time. And while they’re doing that sorting and filtering, you can save that as a collection so you can come back to it later. So you can automatically create a group, a collection of all your RPG games and the next time you buy an RPG game, that will show up immediately in your collection, making it easy to keep those organized and find them when you are looking for them. So, Library, when? We’re gonna be rolling out a beta this summer. Alright, so I’ve talked about two cool exciting things that we are still working on and we’ll be rolling out in the next couple of months. I’m now going to take a couple of moments to talk about things that we’ve recently rolled out, that I think are worth going back over as part of this whole picture of how we’re connecting developers and customers together in more ways. When we sit down to figure out what to work on next we look at all of the data, all the feedback, the requests, the questions that we’ve gathered from both developers and customers over time and we look at where those requests and those suggestions intersect and where we as a platform are particularly well suited to be able to fill a void or a niche or help provide some service that benefits both developers and customers. So I’m going to go through this in terms of requests that we’ve heard from developers but I’m also going to talk about the other side of requests that we’ve heard from customers because all of these features have both of those sides in mind. So one request that we get from developers is, I’d like more control about where and when my game shows up and how and to whom. So a big part of solving that is part of why we’re rolling out that new event system, as a communication channel for you as a developer to get word out about your game and cause it to show up in new and different places throughout the store, the community, the library. Along with that we’ve been rolling out more and more traffic reporting throughout our site. There is, if you haven’t seen it already, there has long been a traffic reporting site that shows you where within the Steam store customers are finding their way to your store page. We recently updated that to add additional traffic tracking from various community parts of the Steam client experience. So you can now tell, well how many potential customers are seeing my existing customers launching the game and playing the game? So you can kind of see how big that network sphere of influence is for your game. And over time as we’re adding new features like the new library and the new event system we’ll be plumbing all of that data through to here so you can see which events are your customers most responding to, which ones are they engaging with, which ones are they signing up for notifications for, things like that so that you can help make the best business decisions as to which events to keep running, which activities are the most interesting to your customer base. Another request that we’ve heard a bunch from developers is, when I release my next game how do I make sure that my existing fans know about it? And on the flip side, customers have been requesting, well, how do I know when the next game from Klei is coming out? How do I know in the next game from my other favorite indie developer or publisher is coming out? So late last year we rolled out developer and publisher home pages. So for you as a developer, this gives you a place to set up your brand, your store within Steam, list all of the products that you make and make it easy for customers to be able to follow you and then when you release your next product they automatically get an email letting them know. So as an example the next time Klei releases a game, 49,419 people will automatically get an email that says, you follow Klei and they just released a great new game, check it out. Another request that we get from developers is, how do I make sure that players know what it’s like to play my game? And the flip side of that is customers saying, I’m really interested in this game, screenshots are great, cinematic trailer’s awesome, but how do I know what it’s really like to play the game? So this is why we’ve been rolling out more and more features around livestream and broadcasting on your store page. So you as a developer can either livestream yourself or host somebody else’s livestream directly on your store page. So when a customer is coming to, a prospective customer is coming to check out your game and see what it’s like, that they can see right away, exactly what it is actually like to play that game. We’ve heard a number of developers running with this kind of feature and using this on their store page and responding really positively, especially from moments where customers are in the chat asking questions and the developers can flip to different parts of the game to show them exactly what it’s like to try those different features out. So you can either livestream this yourself or you can pick somebody in the community and elevate their livestream to show up on your homepage. And so we’re gonna be building out more features and continuing to iterate on that process to make that easier and more robust over time. And lastly, an update that we shipped late last week, we’ve heard requests from developers that are concerned about the impact of off-topic review bombs in their game. It happens very rarely, but it is a concern and we hear that and we wanted to make sure that we are addressing that completely. So we rolled out an update late last week where we will automatically exclude off-topic review bombs from the review score on games. And what this means is not only an update to the UI that we present to customers, but also building out a more robust internal review process so we can evaluate what are the reviews on this game when we detect that there’s a surge of review traffic happening on the game. We really want to make sure that the reviews reflect what customers are actually enjoying about the game itself rather than other activities that are maybe not related. The other thing that we did along with this is, like we have a system in place to be able to tell when there’s a surge in traffic on the store page and that will get our team to automatically look closer at it and reach out to the developer to offer assistance in moderating or whatever else we can help with at that moment. But it’s still early days and we’re still working out the details of that so we’ve also added a Call For Help button for developers that feel like they’re being review bombed. So at anytime you feel like you’re being a review bombed on your game on Steam you can hit the button and it’ll get our attention, it’ll get our moderators attention and we’ll jump in and help out. Of course developers can ask us for help anytime, for any reason. We have a contact form that Tom will bring up at the end of the talk, we’re also welcome, feel free to email us or contact us in any way. So I’ve talked about a number of cool new things that we’ve rolled out, some things that we’ve recently rolled out and continue to update and a couple of exciting new things that are coming. I’m gonna bring my colleague Kassidy Gerber up here to talk about a couple of new things that we are also working on. (audience applauds) Hey guys, I’m Kassidy, I’m on the Steam Business Team at Valve and so I’m here to tell you about a new set of Steamworks APIs that launched last week that will give you access to Valve’s extensive infrastructure for your games network traffic. Valve in the past has relied on the open internet for quite a bit. Distributing game updates, connecting players to our dedicated servers for our games like CS:GO and Dota, and it turns out this is a pretty terrible thing to do if you’re trying to avoid outages when big things happen in the world like, I don’t know, say like the release of a new episode of Game of Thrones. So, Valve has been investing a lot over the last decade in providing a consistent player experience. Our network is now connected to over 2,500 distinct networks around the globe. So what that means is that whether your players are in Sao Paulo or Singapore, we’re likely directly connected to their ISP. This is key in sort of ensuring a consistent delivery regardless of what’s happening on the rest of the internet. And because we know this matters a ton to gamers, we have, a while back, published pages so that you can go check up on the average download speeds for your ISP. Just click on the region and you can see a list of the biggest ISPs and what their download rates are. One last thing around content delivery, in the last year we delivered 13 exabytes of content. I don’t often deal in exabyte so in bytes that’s a 13 with 18 zeros after it. And the 13 exabytes is really made up of game installs and updates. In terms of updates alone, Steam developers pushed 11 billion game updates to their players. This is a number we thought was kind of cool because it indicates how seamless it is to get this content to customers and it’s something we’re really proud of because we think it provides players and developers the best experience. Okay, so I think we can agree that content delivery is a solved problem, it’s not super sexy, that’s not what I’m here to talk to you about. So that the thing that I’m really here to talk about is challenges around operating an online game and how Valve can help you and make your job easier if that’s what you’re trying to do. So here are some truisms about operating online games. You’ve built a fun game that people want to invest time and money in, now you better make sure that you can deliver a sufficient quality of experience. Your connection needs to be maintained for the duration of your match. Nothing’s worse than getting 30 minutes into a Dota match and then not being able to finish it because your network connection craps out. You also need to ensure that your players have sufficient ping time to your dedicated servers or to each other if it’s a peer-to-peer game. That can vary depending on the type of game you have. For Dota we start seeing the quality of the player experience degrade after a connection worse than 60 milliseconds. For CS:GO, it’s a more demanding game so you need to have it less than 30 milliseconds or less. So the next sort of truism about a competitive online game or just online games in general is, you’ve got to make sure you’re offering your players quality of matchmaking. And this can actually be a competing goal with the quality-of-experience goal. So if you solve for that by deploying a bunch of servers really close to all your customers, it can end up fragmenting your player base and I think the best way to illustrate this is to think about a pool of 1000 players. Would you rather have 10 disparate pools of 100 players or one big pool of a 1,000 players? The players in the pool of a 1,000 players are gonna have more options for connecting with other players, matchmaking with other players, I think we can agree that’s better. So the TL;DR here is, you want to cover the globe with the smallest number of game server clusters without degradation of quality. Okay, we’re almost done talking about the challenges here, the last one if you succeeded at the first two and you’ve got a fun game that people are, you know, have a sufficient quality connection to and they’ve got enough people to matchmake with, now you’re probably gonna be a target for denial of service. We found this out the hard way and you need to protect your players and game servers against these attacks. So, now we get to the solution, Valve Network. It’s built for online gaming. We made our own private gaming network with 30 points of presence around the world on almost every continent, 125 relays, and a global backbone connection connecting everything up. That means that we can take players from their ISP directly to the closest relay and route their in their game traffic over our network. This is actually the same network that delivers Steam content and what we’re able to do is prioritize the latency-sensitive game traffic over the content delivery and we’re able to do this in a way that doesn’t really impact content delivery because game traffic is actually very small relative to the, you know, giant hundred gig games that your customers are downloading these days. And then we’re also able to protect the player and server IP so that they’re not vulnerable to the denial of service attacks. This network that we’ve built is truly built for gamers and game developers and it’s vastly better than the open internet. So why should you care? I’m not just here bragging about what we built for our own games. This network that I’ve described is actually available to all of you today. It’s available as of last week and it’s free to use. It works for Steam and non-Steam versions of your game and all you have to do is integrate it in your game code. So you don’t need to operate a network, Valve’s got you covered. So what does the Steamworks Network API actually do? Well, it helps you thread that needle between quality of experience and quality of matchmaking and it does this by improving latency between either game clients in a peer-to-peer situation or between game client and game server. Traffic is routed over Valve’s network instead of over the open internet and it effectively shrinks the size of the world for your player base. So instead of having player pools in Canada and Japan and Italy and that can’t matchmake together depending on the latency demands of your game you may be able to connect the entire globe into one giant player base or maybe just two or three player bases instead of, you know, 10 disparate ones. So we also provide, via the Steam Steamworks Network API, we provide protection against denial of service attacks and we do this in two ways. The IP addresses are hidden if you’re relying on the network API and we have the ability in the event of some attack to reroute your traffic over the global backbone. So how can you get it? For your Steam version of your game you get it from the Steamworks SDK, the non-Steam version, there’s an open-source version up on GitHub and there’s a link there. So for those of you in the audience who are just like rolling your eyes thinking, my game is small, why should I care about this, hurry up and get to Ricky. Well, it’s hard to predict what happens with your game after launch. As Valve has learned this the hard way. And deploying a private network for efficient denial of service-protected traffic is very expensive and it takes a team of people. So if you rely on the Steam Network APIs no matter what happens with your game after launch you won’t have to worry about it, we have you covered. But I’m not a multiplayer game, so why do I care? Well, you might not now for your game traffic but keep it in mind for the future because you know even with a game like Don’t Starve, when they launched in Early Access they had no intention of, you know, having any kind of multiplayer experience. Fast forward to today, they’ve got Don’t Starve Together. This game is actually relying on the Steam Network API so that players can come together and lobby up and play and experience Don’t Starve as a collaborative team. And so, even if you’re like 100% positive that you’ll never have a multiplayer version of your game, you can still count on Valve’s network to keep you connected to your players for your game updates and your game launches or whether it’s streaming or in whatever way you’re reaching your customers, our network can sort of withstand any, no matter what else is happening in the world. Even April 14th, 2019 when season nine Game of Thrones launches, we’ll be fine. So before I hand over to Ricky, I just want to remind everyone this is a free Steamworks feature, it’s available for use for both Steam and non-Steam versions of your games. I wanted to shout out a special thanks to Stunlock, Klei, and Ronimo, these dev teams worked with us with really early versions of the API and helped us get it to where it is today which is available in this Steamworks SDK. And there is a great blog post that my colleague Fletcher put together. There’s a link to it there, that has details around like what are the latency improvements, and just more technical details about the actual API’s and you can check it out there. I’m gonna hand this over to Ricky, he’s gonna tell you about, you know, I just finished telling about some the investments we’ve made to reach your customers via our infrastructure, Ricky’s gonna talk, share with you now some of the investments were making in emerging markets to help you reach new sets of customers. (audience applauds) Hi everyone, I’m Ricky Uy. One of the most valuable features of Steam that we offer that no one ever really talks about is our sophisticated worldwide business infrastructure. If you remember that graph that Tom showed you a little bit earlier about the growth and concurrent users, I’m gonna talk about another thing that we’re constantly working on to help continue that growth, and that’s by expanding the addressable market in expanding the audience for your games through emerging markets. We’re constantly traveling around the world, learning what challenges developers are facing and learning about what customers and developers want in these regions. When we think about emerging markets, we really think about two different things. One is an emerging market in the traditional sense, you might think of regions of the world such as India or South America where there’s growing economies. Another way we think about it is, it might be an established market such as Japan, where you know it’s totally established but for Steam, despite its growth, we still think there’s a whole lot more room to grow out in the future. So we spend a lot of time thinking about these markets. Again, we think there’s a lot of people here that want access to your games. It might be having difficulties doing so, for one reason or another and since you’re focused on truly making awesome games we view it as our job to really go out and make sure that it’s easy for all gamers, no matter where they live, to get access to your games. Now there’s a lot of challenges as we enter emerging markets. I’ve listed a few of those here but, you know take, for example, in lots of these regions cash is one of the most popular payment methods and that can be very difficult to support for a digital marketplace. Also there’s things like supporting customers in their local timezone and in their native language. These kinds of challenges are really difficult to overcome alone. So we work together with you to help accomplish progress in these regions. So why should you care? Well an investment now in emerging markets can often lead to success later on in the future. Take for example PC gaming in Russia just 10 years ago. Steam was available there, customers had access to the games on the store, we had servers in and around Russia but progress was still very slow, it just wasn’t growing. So we tried a bunch of things out and we kind of found out that, you know, these eight things in addition to having great games really helped grow the market. They solve a number of problems, specifically competitive pricing, convenience, you know, like things with convenient payment methods that are already in well-known use in these regions. Native language support, day and date launches, you know, back then 10 years ago lots of developers were choosing to delay their PC launch in Russia by six months to a year or even more. That made it a lot less compelling when it finally was released to them. Also having support for local developers and customers want to have the same exact experience as anyone else in the world regardless of where they are, fast network, feature parity, and they want to have a community. Fostering that community is really important so that players can find one another and share their experiences. So we spent a lot of time trying to solve these problems and we saw a growth. Each time that we invested in these things, there was a material reaction from the community. You know, it was late 2007 when we first localized Steam to Russian language and it was in 2011 that we added support for Russian ruble as a currency as well as some of the payment methods that are popular there. And you can see with each different investment we made over the years and we continue to do this for all emerging markets. We see this kind of growth. Now the experiences that we’ve had and the lessons that we’ve learned in each market, because each market has its own unique challenges to overcome, it shatters our own perceptions. You know, at the outset we thought, hey if we’ve got these five payment methods covered then we got pretty good global coverage, generally speaking. Because you know, these are very popular in, for example North America and Western Europe and they’re very common and they’re convenient. But as we did some further observation, observation actually revealed a different story. Take, for example, Japan. Customers at home would check out from a digital store and choose to pay at a retail location of their choice. They then have to print out a digital code and take it with them to that retail location just to pay and then they’d return home. What surprised us is that given the other options that would not require them to have to leave home this is actually the preferred payment method for many customers there. And so rather than ask them to change their behavior or hey, you guys should shift over to this other payment method, we decided to meet them where they are. And although it took a few years, we are now supporting this payment method across the retail locations all throughout Japan. But it’s not just an opportunity to meet them where they are, what we do is, we think how can we make their lives easier? And one way to do that, as we learned here, was it wasn’t so much the desire to leave their house to make payment that was what they were trying to get after, it was that they wanted to use cash and to use cash they had to go to a retail location. So one thing to make that easier is we rolled out Steam retail cards. So now customers in Japan can go to any of hundreds of different locations in the nation to purchase these cards and they can get them, you know, get a couple of them at a time and then they can leave them at home and then redeemed them as they find something on Steam and not have to leave their home again each time. These are actually really effective at attracting new customers. It’s oftentimes of the first touch point with Steam, especially in emerging markets. So much so that we now support these in over 50 countries worldwide. Now the average cost for these is 10 to 15% of the face value of the card so that might seem like a really high amount but for us, we think it’s really important to support these and we think it’s worth it because customers demand this, they’ve shown that they want it and it’s growing the audience for your games. We’re making it easier for them to connect to you. Best part of it all is we cover this 100%, we never pass on these costs to you or to customers. If we look at a key emerging market, like Asia, we can actually see this is total transaction volume on Steam for just last year and you can see just barely over 10% of the total transactions were actually done through the five payment methods that I mentioned earlier. the credit cards, PayPal, and Paysafe. The rest of it is all the other payment methods we offer. Alright, we offer over 100 payment methods now and yeah they’re doing that, those are largely cash based by the way, those other 95. But the challenges in these markets are not just limited to things like currency support and payment methods support and that stuff, there’s also cultural and technical challenges that have to be overcome as well. Take for example PC cafes, there’s places in the world such as Korea where it’s very common and it’s very much a cultural thing to get together at a PC bang and play together with your friends. Also in regions of the world where the bandwidth support might be not as well built out in terms of infrastructure in the region, commercial locations might get better speeds than what you would get at home. So rather than ask customers so to hey, you know, you should still just play at home, the infrastructure will get better. We rolled out a PC cafe program because we saw that’s how they want to play. So there’s no additional integration needed, in fact you can easily opt into, any of your games, into the PC cafe program in just two clicks. You just click “Create a Commercial Package” off your App Landing page and then you choose how you want cafes to have to pay for this on a per-seat basis. And just like that your game is now available in thousands of cafes around the world. We also acknowledge that a few years ago we had a lot of room for improvement with customer support, so we’ve been working really hard on this and we think we’ve come a long way. Today, we’re now operating five different customer support centers around the world in over 21 languages and with over a thousand support agents. Today, most issues that are reported to us by customers are now resolved in a matter of hours. In fact, to help keep us honest and so that both you and customers can see how good of a job we’re doing we make this data available publicly on the Steam stat site, where you can see how many tickets are coming in, what kind of tickets they are, and how many we’re resolving on a daily basis. All this to say we just want to have happy customers wherever they are. We want to make Steam easy and convenient for them, ideally they’d have to change as little about their preferences and daily life in order to be able to play your games and whether they’re in the most remote part of the world or they’re in the heart of New York City, we want them to have the equivalent experience wherever they are. Some of the results of this effort, this is Steam total revenue over the past 10 or 11 years and this is, these graphs are each to scale so you can see within each graph that there’s a bunch of different colors. Those colors represent the regional distribution and contribution to total Steam revenue for that year. You can take for example Asia, which is the orange band there, that’s grown now to the point where it’s over a quarter of total Steam revenue. But perhaps even more interesting than this is if you recall that early investment I mentioned that we made in Russia years ago, well today there’s now more purchasers in Russia alone on Steam then there were total worldwide globally on Steam in 2010. I hope this talk has helped explain why Valve really values and continues to invest in emerging markets and we hope you do too, thank you. I’m gonna hand this back to Tom for some closing thoughts. (audience applauds) Thank you guys again so much for coming. One stat that I think I heard Alden say that kind of blew my mind is if we make this pie graph go one more year into the past to 2007 it’s so small relative to all the other graphs that you wouldn’t be able to see it, or it’s only one pixel. So we’re really proud of what Steam has been able to accomplish over the last decade plus, and we want to see where we’re gonna go in the next decade with with all of you and your games. Thank you so much for coming, I’m really hoping that that update was helpful as you kind of think about your current game on Steam or anything you’re gonna launch in the future. We care really deeply about this platform, we love it and we want everything that we work on day in and day out to be a force multiplier on the work that you’re doing, so that the more you invest in your game on Steam, the more it rewards you. If you have questions or feedback, all of us speakers and a handful of other Valve employees who are here are gonna be hanging out in the hallway back there after the talk, we would love to chat with you, put a face to a name, hear your questions and feedback and concerns and get to know you a little bit better. There’s a couple last notes as we leave, on one hand if you’re sitting in the audience and you’re kind of also interested in these problems or you think you’d be able to help us solve them, come work for us. Valvesoftware.com/jobs is our job listing website, there’s a huge variety of positions and we’re always hiring, so please take a look if you think you can help us solve some of these interesting problems. and finally if you have follow-up questions and you’re watching this video two months later or you don’t have a chance to chat after the talk, you can always reach out to us directly. If you want to ask Kassidy about those cool networking implementations or you want more data about maybe what languages we recommend you localize your game in. Whatever the case may be, you can contact us at any time, the link is partner.steamgames.com/contact and you can get there from your Steamworks home page. Just click Documentation and Help and choose Contact Developer Support. All those requests are answered by Valve employees like us and we can’t wait to hear from you. Thanks again for coming, have a great GDC and take care. (audience applauds)

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About the Author: Oren Garnes

54 Comments

  1. I am really interested in how Valve is going to resolve cheating issue and hidden pool of cheaters in CS GO. I am legit player stuck with nothing but cheaters for past 2 years since VACnet went live. System works very good, expect cases when you are false flagged and your account is DONE!
    I sent like 20+ emails with match links with comments, with players using X cheat, etc and did not get single reply. Great customer support.

  2. Review bomb changes suck. People should be able to look at a game negatively because it's developers do something stupid.

  3. The review bomb changes aren't winning me over. I go to reviews to see what is wrong with a game. You have already piqued my interest with the game with ads, trailers and screenshots. Now I have to filter for only negative reviews to find out why people are unhappy with their products.

  4. Great talk, I'm feeling more positive about the future of pc gaming, very excited about the UI update and how the events analytics might improve game development in the years to come.
    Good job Valve!

  5. That library UI looks so unnecessarily busy. The current UI shows events already and why have the friends list on the game page when you can already have your friend list open.

  6. When you don't understand the majority of your player-base and its needs, you're ought to learn the hard way. I wonder why Valve didn't understood stuff in the first place, is it because they became too ignorant out of touch and didn't seemed to care about what the majority of the audience liked and wanted ? probably.

  7. New library better have a simplified mode. I don't need a damn Windows 10 Start menu on Steam. I mean really, who asked for that?

  8. I hoped for some vacnet news :8

    Really good stuff tho. You guys are amazing. Also, i cant wait for the index 😀 I waited out till now on the whole VR thing because it wasnt up there and yours with the knuckles look like to be all i wanted. Fuck Palmer Fuck Facebook and Fuck HTC. They all threated you badly.

  9. In regards to the review bomb topic, who gets to decide if it's off topic? What if a dev does something that is anti-consumer? What do we, the players, have as a way for our voices to be heard in regards to the devs/pubs? A perfect example of this is Metro Exodus using Steam to scoop up buyers and customers and then giving Steam the finger. Review bombing the other games is not off topic, it's the only place we players have for our voice to be heard. But from what I've heard, Steam considers this off topic.

    Additionally, what is Steam doing about Epic's blatant shitting on Steam? The new features coming are cool and all, but won't mean shit if Steam doesn't do something to stop devs/pubs from using Steam to get players and then bail on Steam because Epic sucks the CEO off.

  10. I think it would be good to turn the new UI off, because the current UI shows almost all the same info in a smaller, more efficient, less in-your-face space

  11. Valve's overarching principle seems to be: "add new features but then never support them over time." Steam in-home streaming has been a bug ridden mess for years and there seems to be zero effort in fixing it.

  12. Only few things to iron out and Steam will be perfect.
    For example, why is it for europeans 1EUR = 1USD? Thats pretty unfair, is USA really that poor they need a discount? I am from EU, but we do not pay with EUR here, why cant i choose to pay in USD instead?
    Also the steam overlay web browser is broken for years, mind to take a look at it already?

  13. Get fucked Steam, when are you gonna stop banning games for no good reason? You should only do it when said game is non-functional, not games your woke ass doesn't like. You're hurting every single devs for doing this shit and you're still allowing your users to buy games that doesn't even launch because you're too busy being the moral police.
    Fix this shit, and fuck you.

  14. All I care is my game visibility on store, before a year ago I was
    getting x10 more visibility than now, Steam changed its algorithm and
    small indie games doesn't show as it used to be, right now only popular
    games get recommended and shown on my library, Steam used to show
    various indie games before but now wherever I go I see PUBG
    recommendation. I mean why you need to force people to play PUBG all the
    time? Even other AAA games isn't getting much visibility anymore that's
    why they went with epic, Because they have nothing to lose. I've never
    seen steam recommend for me any AAA games like The Division or Assassins
    creed. It become the next google player store, only showing the top 10
    games for the past 2 years, why? because its popular. so people are
    stuck with playing same genera over and over again as its the only
    genera they are seeing all the time. Even though steam is number 1 till
    no and epic have no chance to compete with it but Steam is dying whether
    you believe it or not, thats why they started accepting adult content
    as a desperate move.

  15. This is great, Valve shows once again it's pro-consumer as well as pro-developer… unlike that one one-sided store that should not be named 😛

  16. А что насчет модерации игр никого качества? Сколько они вам принёсся? И нравиться вам это репутация?

  17. The Steam Direct fee is too low, and the very poor quality of daily launches is reducing customer trust in the store and interest in new games not backed by large publicity campaigns. Increase the Steam Direct fee to $2,000 and give trading cards and achievements back as standard game features. Your algorithm will function better with fewer launches and higher default quality.

  18. I love Steam. I will make a game just to use Steamworks.
    Kep the good job and fuck Epic!

  19. Valve has no engine worth using (their own employees would rather use unreal or unity), and their store is deprecated. All the engineers at Valve are nothing compared to 1 Tim Sweeney. You guys are so fucked.

  20. Now I know where all the russians came from, they were a non-factor a couple of years ago now you can't get in a single game without one.

  21. Timestamps
    Intro 0:00
    – What makes a good platform? 1:01
    – Steam growth timeline 3:04
    – Steam Link 5:19

    Tools – What's Next 7:12
    – Steam Events 8:13
    – Steam Library 12:54

    Recent Updates 16:50
    – Control over game visibility 17:48
    – Show potential players the game experience 20:16
    – Review bombs 21:28

    – Valve Infrastructure 23:28
    – Online Games 25:21
    – Steamworks Network API 27:50

    Emerging Markets 32:52
    – Payment Methods 36:59
    – PC Cafes/Commercial Packages 40:38
    – Customer Support 41:56
    – Regional Revenue 43:11

    Closing Thoughts 44:23

  22. and still some devs and publishers complain about the split and choose epic … i stick with steam and gog

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