3 weeks ago we launched a content campaign to try and push Organ Trail from rank 30 to rank 10 on Steam’s new system for vetting indie games: Greenlight.

It didn’t work. You can see the old page here but we are calling it defunct at this point.

So where does that leave us? Well, unexpectedly, Valve greenlit 20 games this time around. We are now in 13th place after the last wave of approvals. So unless 8 games surpass us in the next month, I presume that we will be greenlit by November 15th. (Assuming Valve keeps up the way it is now. (Which they may not.)) That’s all a lot of assumptions so we still need votes and I’m still trying over venues for getting more eyes on the greenlight page.

In the meantime… I bet some of you are wondering what we are going to do with all those rewards we were potentially going to do. Well… I don’t know yet. We started work on a few of them. My current thinking is that we may still do the Combat and Alternate Route DLC but make it free on PC since that version will probably cost more. We are also currently working on a free Halloween content update for everyone. Check for that next week.

Let’s talk about Greenlight

Previously, the way to get on Steam was sort of like getting mono. You had to know someone who had it and kiss them. Once someone had recommended you, you were “in.” They would consider you. A few surefire ways to get accepted were to either have some good sales data or win some awards. I hear a few years back they would invite all the IGF finalists. We were all set up with several recommendations and some pretty good mobile sales numbers. You would get a definite “yes” or “no” at which point we could have moved on to our next option for distribution and try again later. The day we asked to be considered for steam was the day they stopped taking submissions and redirected people to Greenlight. Now, we are trapped in “maybe” limbo.

We were unofficially the first game to be submit to Greenlight. We snuck into the beta and I had all our materials ready to go right when I got the acceptance email. When Greenlight first launched, there was no sorting of any kind and we were listed first on a lot of people’s Greenlight pages. Because of this, I’m sure we got a lot of traffic. They remedied this in a day or two but it was a good boost. Back then, Greenlight had this bar of up-votes vs. down-votes you had to hit and they set it impossibly high on purpose (to try and see where a good median would be.) It was a confusing system and the down-votes were really strange and hurtful for the creators. We had almost 20% down-votes at one point and some really angry people coming to our page just to say mean things.  I get it… you don’t like retro games and you don’t like zombies. Guess what… a lot of people do. We were around 6%  of needed votes when they got rid of that system.

They changed to ranks. They greenlit the top ten games and told us they would pick another 10 on October 15th. So we spent a few days thinking of some way to try and get the community to rally behind the game and push it to the top. We though… people like free content right?! So we mobilized what was essentially a Kickstarter page with no money changing hands. There were a few reasons this did not work. First off… Our rank on Steam did not update for almost 2 weeks. I’m convinced that the system they put in was not a quickly updating thing like Kickstarter. Fans kept checking back to see the progress. There was none. It made it hard to get people excited about the forward momentum (the (not secret) secret to Kickstarter’s success.) And when it did finally update two weeks later, we had fallen to rank 33. All that, despite the fact that we got double if not triple votes for a week or two. Part of the problem, I believe, is that after that initial boost on our first few days… all the votes after that were just drops in the bucket. We could only see our daily votes for the past week so we had no idea how many we had gotten at launch. But if it’s any indication, we had about 30k hits in the first few days and we get maybe 1-2k a day now. So even with triple the hits/votes… it’s not changing anything significantly.

Another problem was that we were really in the big leagues now. The Greenlight page currently has about 75k hits to it. All of our marketing as of now has cost us $0. Reaching out to our Twitter, Facebook and Kickstarter communities is a pretty small number of people in comparison to the number of hits we get from just having a presence on Steam. The good news is, when we do launch, the sales outlook is good. The bad news is… our normal social marketing technique was too small to make any sort of dent in our Greenlight page.

On top of that, Organ Trail is a game with a mostly mobile following as of now. There is no easy way for us to reach out to them and I’m sure many of our players don’t have Steam accounts. Our community was in a weird spot to try and tap for votes. We were lucky to get our campaign on Kotaku but it still wasn’t enough.

Funny story. In what I can only assume was following suit with our campaign; Reverb Publishing pulled this stunt. Essentially they positioned themselves to look like they were holding kittens random for up-votes. Although it was supposed to be funny… you don’t mess with cats on the internet. The internet reacted violently. Oops! I gotta say… them doing that made our campaign feel a little dirty… is that how people saw what we were doing? I hope not.

Our good friends at Young Horses took another approach. They got a huge boost in votes from the popular YoutTuber, TotalBiscuit‘s WTF IS… series. You can see their blog post about how that affected their votes here.

So we reached out to a few of our favorite YouTubers and while some of them actually responded to us, they are all very busy and handsome people so none of them were able to help us out before the 15th. We still have a few possible things in the works with those guys so keep and eye out for… something.

On October 15th, Steam greenlit the top 20 games. We are now rank 13.

Ultimately I think this was all a good thing for us, even the failed content campaign, because we’ve gotten over 100k eyeballs on our game from various press exposures and of course the greenlight page itself. It sucks that the people who pre-ordered it on PC/Mac have to wait forever to their version but we’re hoping to soften the blow by continuing to support the game and add new content until it finally releases.

So, I suppose I regret nothing. It would have been cool to be the most popular kid at school but I guess we have to settle with wherever we end up. It also sucks that so far only one game that was greenlit was actually ready for release. We’ve been sitting on a finished product for months now. We tried our best and pushed ourselves and that doesn’t always work out. The one thing this taught us is that our current fans really want to see more content. So despite the fact that I keep trying to get away from this game and make something else; I think we can find time to give Organ Trail a little more love.

By the way… go vote for us on Greenlight http://steamcommunity.com/sharedfiles/filedetails/?id=91564412