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Last Fest, A Next Fest Post-Mortem

First things first, if you were one of the thousands of Steam users to download our demo recently, thank you. The demo represents many months of hard work, and we were humbled by the positive response, enlightened by the critical feedback, and delighted to witness the story’s emotional impact.



With no announced release date, minimal marketing, and a community still in its infancy, we still managed to amass over 1500 wishlists for a game whose genre is often overlooked by Steam users.


That said, the event—and the many technical issues that plagued it—brought to light some hard truths and revelations about Steam as a home for Always in Mind.


One of Thousands

On a normal day, the sheer quantity of titles available on Steam can be daunting for users—and potentially debilitating for devs. The deluge of demos promoted within Next Fest meant that even highly-motivated users would only play a fraction of the content available. As ours is a somewhat niche tittle, we attempted to amplify awareness among the press and influencers via a pre-event press release, early access to demo Steam keys, a modest Lurkit campaign, aggressive social outreach, and a sponsored livestream with the team at Second Wind.



We were moderately successful in generating awareness through these efforts, but admittedly came up a bit shy of the wishlist and discord new member numbers we desired. But where we lacked quantity, we enjoyed quality, with a burgeoning Discord community that has engaged with us and shared excellent feedback.


Rich Get Richer

The layout of the Next Fest page prioritizes live streams, stacking them based on current viewer count, highest at the top. In this way, streams that attract huge viewership remain high on the list, drawing in fresh eyes simply based on their top-of-page placement. 


Official broadcast slots add additional visibility with their own dedicated “schedule” section and a “now broadcasting” list. Due to technical issues within Steam’s broadcasting system, many developers experienced interrupted streams, their capsules receiving no “live” status labeling while live streaming, and failed to appear on the “now broadcasting” list during their official slots (each dev was allowed two). 


Rubbing salt in the wounds of those affected, other devs managed to have two separate stream capsules in the list simultaneously, others were able to schedule numerous official slots, and all in all intermittent issues plagued the entire Next Fest from Tuesday until Thursday. 


This left many small devs with far less visibility than they expected, leaving most of them to employ desperate attempts to make up ground from Friday until Monday once Steam began offering additional official broadcast spots as a makegood. 


In our experience, this was too little too late since wishlists had already plummeted from Tuesday to Thursday due to limited visibility. Although we managed to slow the decline with a livestream on Friday evening and Saturday afternoon, our overall presence during Next Fest was nearly half of what we expected.


With regards to event visibility, Next Fest had limited presence on the Steam home page, sharing space with the Lunar New Year Sale, only showing up every few refreshes. Overall viewership seems to have been half of previous Next Fests, with top live streams attracting upwards of 6K viewers compared to 12K during previous events. 


Console Mentality

Perhaps the biggest takeaway from Next Fest was our understanding of our audience and where they play. Since its inception, we've built Always in Mind with console sensibilities. Our goal was to deliver intuitive action for players of all skill levels, and tell a deep & meaningful story whose appeal transcended age.

Although we know there are potentially lots of players on Steam who would take interest in Always in Mind, the majority of its audience seems to prefer genres other than action platformers.



In addition to re-thinking our approach to porting, and our timeline with regards to release, we also plan to expand our audience to cozy gamers, puzzle gamers, and anyone who appreciates wholesome games.


Properly exploring sub-genres and specific gamer groups opens many avenues for our eventual release as well as our growing community.


Conclusion

We are thankful to have been a part of Next Fest, and we certainly learned a lot in the process. Feedback on the demo has been extremely informative across all facets of the project. From performance and compatibility issues to game mechanics and narrative, we have received wonderfully-detailed feedback that has already helped us improve the game in many ways.


We consider the demo as our calling card, and our discord as home base. We hope more people will give the demo a try, join our burgeoning community, and follow our journey as we continue making a game within the mind and from the heart.

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