What's my game?

Picture of the list of genres on Steam

The first part to doing market research is of course to know what to look for. You want to find out about your competition, past (mainly) and future. But to figure out who your competition is, you need to understand your game, your audience and your target platform.

In our case, we intend to create a game that's a mashup of different genres: deck builder, city builder and roguelike. The game is a solo, turn-based, strategy card game. We don't really understand our audience just yet, but we know that it's players who like to think strategically, take their time to play optimally, and enjoy card games. We're leaning more on the "deck builder" side than the "city builder" side.

As for our market, we're specifically targeting Steam. And this whole post is going to be only about researching the Steam market. I have no experience with looking for other PC platforms (like GOG or the Epic Game Store) nor any consoles. And as far as I understand, mobile is a entirely different beast. So, let's just focus on Steam.


  • Figure out the genre of your game.
  • Figure out the Steam tags of your game.

Who's my competition?

Once you know your game, you can start looking for its competition. Start making a list of games that are similar to your game in some aspect. You probably have a few games in mind when thinking about this, and that's a great start. But you probably won't know your entire competition, so you'll need to do some actual research to make sure you have a full understanding of the market. This is where I get to share the first tools I used.

In our case, our games of reference where:

  • Slay the Spire — the most successful roguelike deck builder as of writing;
  • Dorfromantik — a chill game where you build your map one hexagonal tile at a time;
  • Humankind — a 4X, but we're looking specifically at the city construction part.

These are great as inspiration, but not so much as comparison points for the game we're building. All of them were huge successes that we do not hope to reproduce, and they are not quite the same as the game we're building. So we started looking for games closer to the one we intend to build.

There are several tools that came in handy to help us. The first one was Steam itself. There are two useful features on steam: tags, and "More like this game". Both are great for discovering games. Using tags is simple: figure out the tags that match your game, and browse them on Steam. For example, we knew our game was going to be a deck builder with roguelike elements, just like Slay the Spire, so we looked at the Roguelike Deckbuilder tag page on Steam. Lots of great data points there, with top sellers, top rated, but also upcoming games in the genre.

Picture of the More like this feature on Steam

The "More like this" feature is also a great way to find new games. We started with Slay the Spire, and looked at what Steam recommends as similar games. Again, this is super useful for finding games that sold well, but also games that are not out yet, as those have a dedicated section. We basically browsed that page, going from game to game, adding to our list the games that were relevant.

However, in our case, we were not looking for just one tag or one genre, but for games that were at the intersection of several. When looking a tag or games similar to an established game, we found plenty of games, but few that overlapped with the other genres or tags we cared about. This is a problem specific to building games that are a mashup of genres: the games of one genre might not be representative of what you're building. We looked at "More like this" games in other genres, starting from city builders I played, trying to go down the list. But ultimately, we needed a better tool to look for games that were in between those two main genres of our game.

Enter Game Data Crunch. This is one of several websites that crawl public Steam data and show it in ways that's helpful for market research. One very sweet feature is the possibility to search for several tags at a time. In our case, we started with the list of games with the Deckbuilding tag. Then we added, via the User tags list to the right, the City Builder tag. And boom! We had a list of 15 games that have both tags. We've used that tool with several other combinations of tags, and that was really helpful in figuring out exactly what our competition was.

Here's the list of 14 relevant games we ended up with, based on research using the above methods:

Slay the Spire game screenshot

Slay the Spire (Mega Crit Games, 2019)


  • Look at the tag page for relevant tags on Steam.
  • Look at the "More like this" page for your games of reference on Steam.
  • Use a tool like Game Data Crunch to do some more fine-tuned exploration of genres and tags.

How much can I make?

Now the really important question we're trying to answer with a market research is: how much are we going to earn with our game? And it's also the hardest information to find out, as there is very little publicly available data to help. The video game industry is known for being very secretive. But things are getting better thanks to folks that are willing to share, to studies that help us make estimations, and some publicly available data, notably on Steam. There are tools out there that use all of that data to derive revenues of many many games. I'll tell you about the one I used.

But first, a bit of theory. The main data point that is publicly available on Steam is the number of reviews. There's historical data about that, and thanks to folks who have run studies, we can use it to estimate revenue. There is one number that is known as the Boxleiter number (apparently coined from Mike Boxleiter who had the original idea, and later updated as the "New Boxleiter" number by Simon Carless). This number tells us that for each review, there were approximately 40 units that were sold. (Note that this number varies year to year, in 2020 the estimate was between 38 and 41 units per review. Read Simon Carless's article linked above if you want to know more.)

Before We Leave game screenshot

Before We Leave (Balancing Monkey Games, 2021)

So, using that "magic" number, the price of game, and various other available data points (like sales or regional pricing), some tools provide estimates of a game's revenue. One such tool is Games-Stats.com, and I used it to my market research for our current game. Games-Stats offers an estimation of the total revenue that each game available on Steam generated over their lifetime. And if you pay for the Pro version, you can also get access to more detailed data, like revenue over time. They have historical data going back to early 2020, when they launched the tool, if I'm not mistaken.

So, how did I use that tool? I was interested in revenue during the first year. For each game that I listed in the previous section, I looked at the data on Games-Stats.com. If it had historical data for the first year, I just took that number and put it in a spreadsheet. Otherwise, if the game was too recent or too old, I estimated the first year revenue. For old games, I just guesstimated. For recent games, I looked at the first week revenue and multiplied that by 3 (once again relying on work by Simon Carless).

Two important bits of info before I go on. First, these are estimates. They are not real numbers, and can be completely wrong. But chances are, over a big enough number of games, your average should be kind of correct? Some numbers is better than no numbers anyway. Second, this is raw revenue, meaning the amount that folks payed in total for buying the game. It's definitely not what the developers made: you have to remove Steam's platform cut, taxes, and probably other things. Either take those into account in your business plan, or, if you just want an idea of how much money you'll get, divide the number by 2.

So, here's the data that I gathered:

Game 1st Year Revenue
Slay the Spire $25 000 000
Dorfromantik $1 600 000
Ratropolis $1 300 000
Kingdoms Reborn $1 200 000
Spellcaster University $930 000
ISLANDERS $730 000
As Far As The Eye $630 000
Before We Leave $260 000
Dream Engines: Nomad Cities $150 000
Kainga: Seeds of Civilization $100 000
Concrete Jungle $30 000
Fantasy Town Regional Manager $15 000
Feudalia $1 000
Sky Tale $1 000

The average revenue is ~$2,3M and the median is $445 000. There's an obvious outlyier in my list with Slay the Spire, and two games that really didn't bring any revenue, so I wanted to look at the results without those extremes. With just the middle 11 games, the average is $631 363 and the median is $730 000.

Dorfromantik game screenshot

Dorfromantik (Toukana Interactive, 2021)

From there, I wanted to build scenarios to measure against my business plan. I decided on a "target" that I find credible based on this data: 500k€ of first year revenue. I have a "low" scenario, where we only make about 100k€ in the first year. And there's a "high" scenario where we go through the roof and make more than a million euros. But that one is here just to have a dream, I don't plan on it happening.

Anyway, I can now use that data for two things. First, to make sure that my budget is lower than the expected revenue, and that at the end of the project we'll at least break even. Second, to show potential financial partners how much we expect to make and how that makes our business plan credible.


  • For each game you listed, look it up on Games-Stats.com and note its first year revenue.
  • Compute the average and median revenue of those games.
  • Make several scenarios of expected revenue for your game based on that data.

That's it folks!

This is how we made our market research for our next game! I have no idea if this the best way to do it, or even if it's just a good way, but heh, it's helped us! We actually had two prototypes we wanted to choose from, and using this method we were able to very quickly eliminate the other prototype, as a simple market research showed that it would not generate nearly enough revenue.

I hope this will be useful! And if you have ideas, tools or methods you want to share to improve the process, I'll be very glad if you could share them in the comments below.

Enjoyed this content? Follow me on Twitter for more!