How to Run a Successful Steam Wishlist Campaign

by Game Marketing Genie, on 04-Apr-2023 10:05:24

How excited would you be to launch a ALREADY popular game among your target players? In other words, releasing a pre-"sold out" game! 

A Steam wishlist campaign gets you closer to this goal and preps your game for player engagement before it hits the launch phase. 

Wishlists, introduced in 2010, are used by players to keep track of upcoming releases. They've quickly become an essential way for developers to quantify a game's potential on Steam. Let's look at how you can get your game wishlisted on Steam and reap the benefits.

Why wishlisting?

Wishlisting is an excellent strategy for new games as it allows developers to generate buzz for their game pre-release. While wishlisting alone won't guarantee a good turnout for your game, coupling it with robust marketing and advertising strategies can ensure better results than without it. 

For the average Steam game, 19% of all wishlists buy within 12 months (source: Valve)

By allowing players to add the game to their wishlist, developers can see how many people are interested in the game and use that information to make decisions about the game's development and marketing. Valve doesn't divulge details about game sales, but experts believe that a game with 1000 reviews on Steam can sell between 20,000 and 60,000 copies (source: Leftronic). 

To build on the features that clicked

Additionally, it helps you identify which features and elements of the game appeal to players. You can gather this information from the sources that your wishlisters arrived at your page from, or by analyzing your wishlist data. You can use that information to make the game more appealing to the target audience. 

To increase visibility

When many people have a game on their wishlist, it helps increase visibility and sales upon release as the game is more likely to be recommended by the platform. It also provides a way for interested players to be notified when the game releases and if any special deal or discount is available. According to a Steam wishlist conversion rate study by Game Discover, a Steam game due for release that has 5,000 followers on Steam could have between 25,000 to 70,000 wishlists.

Your game's visibility is also based on the Steam algorithm that determines which games are recommended to users. The algorithm takes into account a variety of factors, including: 

  • Players' purchase and play history 
  • Games that their friends have played 
  • Game metadata 
  • User review data

To get insights into your player base

Steam provides data about the player base of a game, even pre-launch! This includes the number of players who've wishlisted it, visited its page, and played previously. Developers can access this data through the Steamworks developer portal. Additionally, developers can access data on how players interact with their game, such as playtime, achievements, and in-game purchases. You can use this data to improve the game's retention, engagement, and monetization.

To build a community

Another benefit for developers is building a community around the game before it's released. By creating a fanbase, you're able to engage with potential players and get feedback on the game, which can help them improve the game and create a more loyal player base. This is a good place to start if you want to build up your wishlists!

Take advantage of the enticing offers that will draw users in

Steam wishlists offer multiple benefits to players as well, enticing them to wishlist your game:

  • Features such as automatic updates, cloud saving, and achievements for many games
  • A marketplace where players can buy and sell in-game items and virtual trading cards
  • A built-in review system allows users to rate and review games they've played. In turn, other players can decide whether to buy the game
  • A friend system, where users can add friends, see what games they are playing, join games together, and more
  • Community groups where they can share things they love about their favorite games

shopping cart

How you announce your game is crucial

Announcing your game on Steam is an essential step, and can significantly impact the game's success. A well-executed announcement can generate buzz and anticipation for the game, leading to increased visibility and sales upon release. However, if the announcement is poorly executed, it can result in less interest and fewer sales.

Some key factors to consider when announcing your game on Steam include:

Try to funnel traffic to your page in one go

Coordinating announcements across multiple platforms and timing them to coincide can create a sense of momentum and urgency. This encourages players to check out your game and purchase it.

Timing can make or break it

The right time will impact the game sales more than you think. If you announce it too early, people may forget about it by the time of release. If you announce it too late, people may have already made their purchasing decisions.

Early access might be beneficial

Consider offering an early access or demo version to generate interest and get feedback before the official release. If you'd like people to join your community, you could also do a closed demo that's only available there.

Aim for long-term visibility

Plan your announcements to keep players interested and build anticipation. Do not reveal everything about your game at once; instead, unveil more details gradually to maintain momentum until launch. Try showcasing your game at events to increase long-term visibility. Every appearance at an event is an opportunity for players to notice and wishlist your game.

Make your call-to-action impactful

When communicating with your audience, always include a call to action. This is especially important when you're trying to increase wishlist numbers on Steam during the pre-release period. You start by providing value, and then you get people excited. Afterward, you can ask them to follow you on social media, link to your Steam page, or wishlist the game. 

push start

Paid acquisition

Choosing the right platforms

A Steam wishlist campaign can be harder than general pre-launch advertising. Why? Because you're trying to create awareness and get players to complete an action (wishlist) when you've not yet got a product to offer. 

This is why we recommend using omnichannel marketing and multiple ad platforms in sync to get you the best results. Some of the most common include Facebook, Google, Reddit, and Twitter Ads. We also recommend programmatic platforms such as Taboola and Outbrain to get your advertising to different audiences.

However, what you choose depends on your budget, objective, and audience. Remember that stretching your budget thin across platforms your audience may not encounter, or that may not reach your goal is pointless. Conduct deep research into what you want to achieve and what you need to do so before you begin.

Setting up your tracking (more on analytics later)

Game Marketing Genie uses Google Tag Manager for web apps (such as Steam) and Google Analytics. 

For Steam specifically, we use Steam analytics for tracking campaign performance and integrate this with Google Analytics. This provides us anonymized data about a game's traffic sources and visitor behavior, which can be used to optimize the campaign and identify areas for improvement. 

To do this, you must have a Google Analytics account and tracking ID to enter into Steamworks' configuration site.

steam tracking id

Figure 1: Setting up your GA Tracking ID. Source: Steam

Once you’ve followed the steps and received your Tracking ID, you’ll need to take that ID and enter it into your store configuration page on the Steamworks website for the game you wish to track.

Do this by following these steps:

  1. Visit your Steamworks home page
  2. Pick the game you want to track
  3. On the application landing page, click "Edit Store Page"
  4. In the Store Page Admin, chose the "Special Settings" tab and enter your ID
  5. Save and publish your store page

Once your page is published, you’ll see your data appear in Google Analytics.

Influencer marketing

Influencer marketing can quickly increase the number of people who add a game to the wishlist. Influencers have a large following, and the ability to reach new audiences can be a powerful tool for driving wishlisting. They can try out game demos on platforms like Twitch which can lead to people wishlisting the game. Influencers can also use social media platforms to promote the game, share screenshots, and post updates and news. They can also run giveaways to give their followers Steam keys.

The success of your Steam influencer wishlist campaign will depend on getting the three significant processes right:

1. Finding the right influencers for the job

Finding the right influencer becomes easier when you know the target audience you want to reach. Look for influencers who have a history of promoting games or have a large following in the genre of your game.

2. Creating influencer guidelines

Create guidelines for the influencers that include information about the game, the campaign objectives, and any specific requirements for the content they create. Provide them with demos and other promotional materials that they can use for branding and content creation.

3. Monitoring the campaign

Use tools to track and measure the performance of your influencer campaign. This will help you understand which influencers drive the most engagement and which strategies work best.

Pro tip: Our influencer marketing platform Atisfyreach simplifies influencer marketing for busy marketers who still want to benefit from partnering with influencers but cut down on time-consuming tasks. Sign up today

Steam page optimization 

As a game developer, it's important to be aware that for many Steam users, their first interaction with your game may occur on the Steam home page or through a recommendation from the platform. One crucial aspect is the "capsule" or image representing your game on Steam. When players see this capsule, Steam tracks it as an "impression." The quality and relevance of this capsule can significantly impact players and may decide whether they visit your game's page.

To ensure that your game is easily discoverable on Steam, it is important to tag it correctly with appropriate tags. These tags have to be rated by players for Steam to approve them but still choose the right ones. This will help to increase the chances of your game showing up in cross-recommendations. Additionally, adding relevant keywords to your page is vital so your game appears in search results. Steam will see keywords to understand the nature of your game and recommend it to players. 

grand theft auto

Figure 2: Grand Theft Auto V was one of the top games on Steam in 2022. Source: Steam

A perfectly optimized Steam page must have the following:

A game description

The short description is the most important text on your Steam page because it appears at the top where players who visit your page can read it. Use the Steam advanced search tool to find popular, similar games to yours for inspiration to write your own (but don't copy them of course). 

A trailer

A well-produced trailer is a must-have for any game announcement. It should be visually engaging, showcase the game's best features, and give a sense of the gameplay. Don't make it too long or potential players might be turned away.

Screenshots and artwork

High-quality screenshots and artwork can help to make your game stand out in the Steam store. They should be well-lit, well-composed, and clearly show off the game's visuals. Don't show anything that doesn't appear in the game, or players will claim your store page is misleading.

A reasonable price 

Players will only be interested in a game that they can afford. Keep this in mind when pricing your game. Analyze market prices and your competitors' rates and apply competitive rates for your game. 


Social proof and positive reviews are the lifeblood of your game on Steam. Players will check for these when they visit your page, so highlight them where they are easily visible. For pre-launch wishlist campaigns, you won't be able to get reviews like this, which is where influencer marketing becomes so important. 

Five yellow stars


Understanding UTM parameters

Urchin tracking module (UTM) parameters help give each landing page URL a unique identity to make it easy to track its performance. You can identify the source, medium, campaign, and more by adding UTM parameters to your links. This allows you to determine exactly where you got your conversions from (or, in this case, wishlists).

Why using UTM analytics with Steam is important

UTM analytics are crucial on Steam as you are unable to add a pixel to your store page to track what happens.

Users are limited to running traffic ad campaigns on Steam, so it is key to add a UTM parameter to external links to get an indication of where the traffic is coming from.

Understanding your traffic

Research and decide relevant audience demographics and interests based on your objective and game. You can do this by looking at your competitors’ work, previous campaigns that you’ve run, the traffic to your website, and more. 

After identifying this information, collect them into relevant categories and create different ad groups. You’ll want to test these out and see which best performs. When doing so, look at the click-through rate, unique link clicks, cost per click, bounce rate, and average session duration. You should also test geotargeting to reach users with different messages and approaches in various locations.

The general gist of this section tells you to do your research and don’t forget to track and optimize to reach your audience well. What has worked for one game/audience might not work for another, so follow your metrics carefully.

Steam's Sales & Activation Reports Portal

This is an in-built tool for developers to access detailed information about their game's sales and activation data. 

The Sales Report provides information on the total units sold, revenue, the average selling price of the game, and the number of refunds and chargebacks. You can use this information to understand the game's overall performance, identify trends or sales patterns, and make data-driven decisions about pricing and promotions.

The Activation Report provides the following:

  • Information on the number of game activations
  • The number of unique players
  • The game's playtime

You can use this to understand the game's player base, identify trends or patterns in player behavior, and make data-driven decisions about the game's development and marketing.

Of course, this platform is best used after launch, but will still help you track the number of players who wishlisted and went on to purchase your game when you launched. 

Analytics on mobile

Other strategies to use for Steam game marketing campaigns

There are several strategies to promote a game's Steam store page; here are a few examples:

  1. Steam ads: Developers can run ads for their games on the Steam store, reaching users who are most likely to be interested in the game.
  2. SEO optimization: Optimizing the Steam store page for SEO can help to increase visibility and drive more traffic to the page.
  3. Community building: Building a community around the game through social media, forums, or Discord servers, and engaging with them, can generate buzz and interest in the game.
  4. Cross-promotion: Partnering with other developers to promote each other's games can increase visibility and generate interest in the game.
  5. Organic social media marketing: Use social media platforms like Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram to promote your game. Create engaging posts that showcase the game, share updates and news, and engage with the community.
  6. Beta signups: Create a landing page on the game's website where players can sign up for the beta version. This can generate interest and get feedback on the game before it's released.

Man creating a strategy

Get your game set up for success with our game launch guide!

Want to know more about how to launch a game the right way? We've got SO many more tips to share with you in The Game Dev’s Guide to the Best Game Launch!

Fire up your game's Steam page

Realistic expectations are key when promoting your game on Steam, whether your game is new to the platform or has been available for wishlisting for some time.

A well-executed PR campaign can help increase wishlists, but it is essential to remember that it requires more work than that alone. By investing in marketing and doing the leg work to push your store page, you are laying the foundation for success.

The Game Marketing Genie team offers specialized Steam marketing support and other game marketing strategies to help your game stand out.

Let's chat today and get your Steam game more visibility!

Topics:Video Game Marketing StrategyVideo Game MarketingTargeted AudiencesAudience RetargetingDigital MarketingPaid Advertising

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