After more than 2 years on the steam store I have made the hard choice to stop supporting Steam as a platform. I will go into the why further down, but wanted to first address how this will affect you as a steam user.
First, MAV will no longer be available to purchase on Steam starting September 1st.
If you have purchased MAV from steam, you will always have access to it, and will still be able to re-download it.
If you have a steam key for the game, it will still be redeemable, even after MAV is removed for sale. The exception to this is if you got the key for free. All giveaway keys, press keys, or keys not given as part of buying MAV from bombdogstudios.com will be invalidated.
Transitioning your account:
There will be an easy way to transition your steam copy to a fully paid Bombdog studios account.
For people who have linked their Steam account to a free Bombdog Account:
Just launch the game through steam, let it log in, and your Bombdog account will be given the same status as your Steam account automatically. After this, you can download the game and launch it separate from Steam and use your Bombdog account credentials to access the game.
For people who have linked their Steam account to a paid Bombdog Account:
Follow the same instructions as above. Your Bombdog account will only be updated if your Steam account has a higher level membership [a Beta Bombdog account would be upgraded to an Alpha-2 account, if your Steam account is Alpha-2. This is incredibly rare].
For people with just a Steam account:
The next update will have fixes that allow you to link your account to a free Bombdog account and have it automatically upgraded. The current Steam account link is not working correctly. There will be an announcement when the update is available.
Why did I do this?
The why of this choice is quite complicated and I have wrestled with it for longer than MAV has even been available on Steam. If you rewind time 2.5 years ago, I was actually very opposed to launching MAV on Steam. It was in a post Kickstarter haze that I pulled the trigger and actually put MAV up for sale on steam.
Fundamentally, the biggest issue I have had is that of expectations. I expected selling MAV on Steam to be a partnership between Bombdog Studios and Steam. A partnership that would help both companies grow. I had the false expectation that being on Steam would be similar to working with a publisher, allowing me to focus on making the game, while they focused on selling it. I couldn’t be more wrong.
Steam does not bring more sales.
This was the biggest thing for me. I just thought the sales would com pouring in due to how large Steam”s user base was. What actually happened, is people stopped linking to the Bombdog Studios site, Steam started ranking higher in search results, and eventually Steam had cannibalized over 60% of the traffic I was normally getting. Worse, the steam store page is not designed in a way to actually sell the game or inform people about the game, so it converted less people to actually buying the game. So at the same traffic levels, I was already seeing a reduction in sales! This is not so bad, right? Steam is supposed to flood you with traffic! Not so. Even during the peak of the summer sale season, including the Memorial day sale and Steam summer sale, over 66% of all traffic to the steam store page came from non-steam sources.
Steam costs MAV money.
Steam takes a cut of every sale. It’s not an insignificant cut. Every sale that happens through Steam and not the Bombdog site is costing MAV money. I would rather sell the game at a discounted rate than use fan money to support a 3rd party company.
Steam fractures the community, significantly.
Steam users are ~70% less likely to participate in the community of MAV, in any way. This is already controlling for Steam users that got the game for free. For a game and company that strives to be centered around community engagement and fostering a welcoming community, this is the number that worries me the most. I would rather have less players that are more dedicated to each other, then a large player base that doesn’t care about the game or the community. You only get one chance to get this right, as changing a toxic community once it grows large is nearly impossible.
Steam is not a partnership.
The support you get as a developer is about on par with the support you get as a user. Basically zero. I have received much more support from other steam developers than I have ever received from Steam. For a service that I am paying for [fees to list game on greenlight and the cut that Steam takes] this is unacceptable.
The most disheartening thing of all of this, is that these rules don’t apply to everyone equally.
Steam support is slowing down development.
I have spent at least 6 months of dedicated development time supporting Steam, steam builds, steam accounts, and getting it all to work with what I had already created. There are some features that have been delayed due to incompatibilities with how steam has done the implementation and how I had done it on my end. Supporting Steam in these cases truly doubles the initial work load and leaves a MASSIVE amount of maintenance work that needs to be done. Add to this, the state of the tools that steam provides to manage all this and it really has been a massive time sink. Nothing like spending 6 hours right before launching beta just trying to get an old promo video to not show as the first video on the steam store page. [I kid you not, you cannot actually delete videos. That requires you to contact Steam, and I already touched on how responsive they are].
Steam is holding MAV back.
I have wanted to do quite a few interesting things with MAV, but I always stopped when it came to trying to make it equal between the Steam accounts and the Bombdog accounts. From simple things like squad packs [steam no longer offers 4 packs] to special unlock-able parts and build sharing. So many things that required conforming it to the way Steam wants it done. This even extends to pricing! MAV was $10 and $20 for the longest time, but Steam refused to allow me to continue that pricing. $19.99 became the new normal. It’s incredibly disheartening to embark on your own passion project, start your own company, do all the work, just to have someone to force you to change minor things about how you choose to run your business. I started this to do things my way.
The most disheartening thing of all of this, is that these rules don’t apply to everyone equally. If your game is large enough, Steam will let you do anything you want. When I said I wanted to stay priced at $20 and raise prices over time, I was told no. To price at $19.99 and do sales from there. Yet, not much longer after that, a game comes out priced right at $20. They were just bigger than MAV. When I wanted to do 4-packs, I was told no, they are not available anymore, yet I have seen several larger games start offering 4-packs since I was told no.
I didn’t start MAV and Bomdog Studios to bend over and let another company tell me what to do. Do I expect fallout from this choice, yes. Do I really care? Not really. MAV was doing MUCH better on it’s own long before it went on Steam and I expect it to go back to that soon enough. MAV has weathered quite a lot in it’s journey so far, so I expect this to be another minor speed bump in the road of it’s development.
What can you do to help?
If you have linked to the steam page or the steam community page, please change those links to the Bombdog studios website or the Bombdog studios forums. The Bombdog Studios forums are the official site for the community and will be the place I field support questions, post announcements, and engage with the community. I will still be active on Twitter, Facebook, Twitch and Reddit, but many of those interactions will direct people to the forums for official support or to point to already existing threads. I will always be available by email at MAV@Bombdogstudios.com.
You can also spread this post to other indie developers or other projects you see either thinking about going on Steam or even going through the same process.
And lastly, feel free to ask questions! There is an announcement thread in the forums, please post questions about this if you have them. I will not shy away from any questions or discussions, but I can say the choice is already made. Feel free to ask questions about WHY the choice was made, but trying to convince me not to make the choice will do you no good.
You can also join me on Twitch, tomorrow at 9am-11am central time to ask questions or just play some MAV with me 🙂