@larsiusprime tweeted this and I found it fascinating. A poor launch can easily doom your game forever as a chain reaction of negativity builds.
I wondered, then, why some of the indie games I play received such high marks across the board in the review space while other games don’t enjoy such a luxury? Then I realized what they all had in common:
Defender’s Quest - Had been out for a while before being on Steam. Customers had enjoyed the game on Kongregate, from the developer directly and Humble Store. The latter two purchases awarded a key instantly when it was greenlit. People had plenty of time to try the game out and truly experience what it had, allowing them to showcase in-depth reviews immediately when DQ launched on Steam.
Epic Battle Fantasy 4 - Similar to DQ, you had a pre-Steam fanbase and the developer was happy to award keys to anyone who had bought his game on Kongregate. A large fanbase could articulately describe why they enjoyed EBF4 and what it’s main draws were.
Secrets of Grindea - An incomplete Early Access game. Early Access usually means your kneecaps take a pounding as people vent their various frustrations. But SoG is sitting pretty with 342 reviews, 98% positive with only 6 negative. SoG enjoyed a rare luxury - you could buy the game from the devs and get a Steam key for the game, but the game wasn’t listed on the store publicly. You couldn’t write a review for the longest time, because there were no reviews. This meant that everyone who bought the game directly sought it out and any complaints or bug reports were tended to by contacting the devs, rather than venting with a negative review. When SoG went up on the store, you had a splash of reviews from people who had 50-100+ hours in the game singing it’s praises. The dedicated fanbase was also happy to help new players on the Steam forums when it launched publicly.
What I take away from all of this?
Sell your game outside of Steam first, at least for a little while, or leave it unlisted on Steam for about a week before you go public. Foster a community of players who can get a real taste for the game and resolve have the worst of the issues discovered and resolved - before a dozen people buy your game, see some horrible bug you missed and slam the downvote button with a scathing review.
Or, dip your toe into the water before diving into the deep end and throwing yourself before the masses.