At the Montreal International Game Summit, Jason Holtman, the director of business development from Valve, spoke in a conference about how the online distribution service of Steam has worked over the last couple of years, and sent a warning to the rest of the industry of how change is required to suit an ever demanding public.
One of the main points that Holtman argued is that an open marketing strategy with a lot of experimentation is crucial to maintain sales. Holtman showed a number examples from Team Fortress 2 and how Valve has continued to maintain sales for more than two years.
As a point of how well their strategy worked, Holtman displayed a sales graph showing where sales spikes happened when discounts were announced and when new updates came out. The interesting thing that was pointed out is that with the online platform, TF2 could go on sale at half price, and then go right back to standard prices without negatively affecting the sales. In fact, when deals ended, the sales usually dropped down to a point higher than they previously were. This strategy also helps to expand the community at the same time as players tell their friends, and the game becomes more attractive as more people are playing. On top of online sales climbing, retail sales of the same game have been essentially unaffected by the Steam service counterpart.
Another aspect Holtman spoke to the audience about is that offering free content is a great way to keep people playing a game for a much longer period of time, and keep up sales. Holtman also gave advice to play with the players a bit in good spirit. For example posting two hour sales to drive people crazy, or playing visual games by posting various versions of content updates online to keep people guessing what's right and what's wrong.
Holtman concluded that "If you don't have service for your game, you're going to fail." An ominous warning to developers to make games open to the connected user base or games will sell poorly and not last beyond 3 to 6 months after release.
In the end, Holtman essentially proved that Steam has one of the best marketing strategies to help both developers and players in the industry grow into a new age of games, and that these strategies are not limited to Valve alone, but open to everyone.