Home Post-mortem Extortion - Publishing my first game on Steam

Post-mortem Extortion - Publishing my first game on Steam

10 months ago, on October 30th, 2020, I published my first game on Steam “Extortion”, it’s a game where you’re playing a computer engineer who is being blackmailed and forced to hack some servers.

After a few demands, I decided to write a small article about every step from preparation to publishing of my game, and the following months.

Project genesis

Extortion was born in late February 2020 during “Not a Gamejam”, a GameJam created by the French development server called “Not A Name”. This GameJam lasted 2 weeks and made me create the beginning of the game’s story, which is now the story of the game Demo. I liked this project and decided to continue development during the following months, and then publish it on Steam.

To the original 15-minute gameplay chapter, I added 7 other chapters which compile into a full story.

Preparing Steam publishing

Until June 2017, Steam was validating games through Steam Greenlight, a platform where the community was (in)validating games based on their interest. Since Greenlight’s stop, we now use Steam Direct.

Steam Direct is now simpler, and follows these steps:

  • Creation of a Steamworks account
  • Paying a $100 Valve publication fee
  • Validation of store page by Valve
  • Validation of game build, trailer, and planned release date by Valve
  • Publication of the game by the developer or the editor

Marketing and wishlist

A very important thing about game publishing is to advertise the game. We often want to begin advertising when the game is about to be released when we have full game potential to show, but it’s a mistake. You have to build a community around the game from development start to gain more and more wishlists on Steam. Wishlists are a very important metric when launching a game.

Indeed, a game with many wishlists, and a strong (in terms of copies sold) start, will be highlighted by Steam and will be even more sold.

You have to keep in mind that the wishlist conversion rate of a game is really low. It’s often only between a few percent and a few dozen for really attractive games. Indeed, a 10,000-person wishlist will only be converted into a few hundred copies sold.

Warning: A game that is not selling in the first week is dead. There are some exceptions like Among Us, but it had a big and sudden communication from Twitch, but it’s pretty uncommon.

On the Extortion side, I got a conversion rate of around 8% in the first week, which represents around 40 of the 103 copies sold in this period.

How to communicate about your game?

As said before, it’s really important to communicate during the whole development duration. But, the way to communicate and the frequency are as important. You should use animated images (GIF, webp, short videos) instead of pictures because they attract attention. You also have to communicate often - even if that’s just a picture - at least once a week.

Where should you communicate about your game?

On Twitter: Using #screenshotsaturday or #wip, for example. You can also use some common hashtags - that are retweeted by specialized bots and game studios. Those hashtags are #gamedev, #indiedev, #indiegame, #indie, #IndieGameDev, … You give a short description, a link, and of course, a GIF.

On Reddit: In subreddits like: r/IndieDev, r/IndieGaming, and r/playmygame (this one only if you have a free demo or a free game), … It’s important to follow each subreddit rules. For example, some are limiting paying games, posting frequency, or even when to post. Like Twitter, use a GIF or a short video, and post links in the comments.

On Imgur: By giving a few tags about your game type (or generic ones like “gamedev” by default), talking about and describing your picture, don’t hesitate to talk about your content!

In your favorite communities: Share around you, talking or writing, but always follow these communities’ rules. The objective is to have people know about your game!

Take care of self-promotion abuse! On Reddit, but also Imgur and other platforms, avoid only publishing self-promotional content. There’s a nice article about that on Reddit Wiki, especially about the 1/10 rule.

Conditions around Steam publishing

Unlike some other platforms - like Epic Games for example - there are no exclusive rights when using Steam. But there are some rules: having the same price everywhere, and updating/releasing at the same time as other platforms.

On the financial side, Steam takes a part of your revenues (after removing VAT) of 30% for revenues between 0 and 1 million dollars, 25% between 1 and 50 million, and 20% over 50 million. Steam manages VAT payments and currency exchange; you don’t have to think about that.

Steam lets you get freely as many game keys as you want. You can sell them, and give them to the press, influencers, testers, and so on. I personally used them to make some people test Extortion before release and to give game copies when participating in a game award (but I wasn’t qualified).

There are also Steam Curatiors, you can give them copies of your games and they will test and review your game. They might even test your game on Twitch! The curators’ system is safer than giving keys because they can’t sell those copies.

Getting your revenues in your bank account

Steam only pays with dollar currency, using SWIFT payments. You’ll need a bank account that accepts dollars and doesn’t take too much percentage when converting currencies (if you need to convert) or because of foreign payments.

I don’t advise using standard banks (at least in France, where I experimented with that), because my own bank took 14% on my first payment (that’s a lot !). It’s often better to use a specialized service like Wise (Not sponsored btw, I just had a good experience with them).

Payment are done when you reach $100, 30 days after the end of the month that reached that money. You can also raise the minimum amount to optimize bank costs.

Choosing the price

The price is on your own, you can choose it on a grid between $0 and $199.99. Currency-specific prices will be given to you based on each currency and country economy by Steam, you can customize those prices as well. You can also customize discounts (see next chapter). Price can change during the game’s lifetime (early access, release, reevaluating price, and so on).

When I chose Extortion’s price, I based my price on a similar game I knew, Hacknet, and lowered it a bit (because my game wouldn’t be as good, and I knew it). So, I chose $5.99 and Steam proposed a converted price in euros of 4€99, a price that I accepted.


When doing launch week, you can choose a discount of up to 40%, this discount isn’t mandatory but recommended to be able to profit from your more important week in terms of visibility. Then you can’t set a discount for 6 weeks.

You’re invited (except for the first 6 weeks) to every major Steam sale, and you can choose to participate or not, and the discount you want to apply (without any limit).

You can also create your own discount period (from 1 to 14 days long).

When you modify your game price, you’re not able to have a discount for 30 days.

My own advice is to set a discount at every Steam discount event, raising slowly the discount with time. Discounts are the main way to convert wishlists to sales.

Available services

I tested achievements, demo, Steam Cloud, and Steam overlay but there are plenty of available tools (and they are all free !): Workshop, DLC, friends list, community, market, leaderboards, game license authentication (serverside AND clientside), Valve Anti-Cheat, and so on.

See Steam Documentation

Updating and publishing a game

Steam has a private/public branch system to help us publish different game versions. You can then, for example, next to the default branch, have a public beta branch - like I did for Extortion. You could also have a private beta branch, or a branch by major version - like Factorio does for example.

Publishing files can be done via Web UI (if the game is lighter than 2 GB), or using SteamCMD which works pretty well with a Continuous Integration system.


About results, I wanted Extortion to reach 30 or 40 copies sold to be able to pay the $100 Steam fee. But I did far more than that! Here’s a summary table of my game life:

 LaunchAfter 1 weekAfter 1 monthAfter 6 monthAfter 1 yearAfter 2 years
Demo Download2,8022,8342,8643,6494,6216,533
Copies Sold0103136216258306
Return0 (0%)11 (10.7%)14 (10.3%)19 (8.8%)23 (8.8%)29 (9.4%)
Raw revenues 1$0$455$635$1,045$1,227$1,420

1: From raw revenues, you have to remove returns, VAT, Steam part (30%), tax, bank costs (e.g. $ => € change costs), and so on.

As you can see, the first week is really important in terms of visibility and revenues.

Edit 12/2022: I updated the table to add the “After 2 years column”, you can see that there was a bump in attractivity, caused by adding new tags on the store page in September.


That was a small return on experience about the Extortion publishing process. If you are interested, check out Extortion on Steam, and my next game Alchemistry. I’ll write and publish more articles, about some subjects I briefly talked about here, or about some other subjects I have in mind.

You can follow me on Twitter, or join Dysnomia’s Discord if you are curious about my projects.

Have a good day, evening, or night, depending on when you read this, and see ya!

This post is licensed under CC BY 4.0 by the author.