Dropleaf is a new subscription platform that wants to help people discover more indie PC games. The service will offer a hand-picked collection of games with an added focus on reaching out to more diverse game creators. It’s launching out of the summer batch of Y Combinator startups, and it’ll start at $5 per month for access to a little over 40 games with plans to add 10 to 20 new games per month.
Discoverability is still a key issue for indie studios, who struggle to get their games in front of players. Small teams often can’t afford to finance extensive marketing campaigns, which might help audiences find their work. Most devs post their titles to the Steam digital gaming platform, which dominates the online space and makes up 50 percent to 70 percent of all PC game downloads. For $100, anyone meeting certain requirements can post a game through Steam Direct, the open submissions portal that replaced Steam Greenlight, a now-defunct feature that let the community vote on game releases. Steam can be a crowded space; last month, 457 games debuted on its store, according to Steam Spy. In 2016, 4,731 games came to Steam.
Unlike indie platforms like itch.io or Game Jolt, which permit developers to post directly to them, Dropleaf cofounder and CEO Vikram Rangraj says it’s unlikely that their platform will open up completely. Instead, it wants to select games and focus on quality.
“We want to bring players great games, so right now, we’re focused on providing a more curated experience,” said Rangraj in an email. “That doesn’t mean we’re looking to be exclusionary though, or will dismiss something just because it’s a ‘casual’ game, whatever that means. We want to make sure that we have plenty of content for gamers of all stripes to love, whether that’s racing games, action-adventure, first-person shooters, platformers, weird artsy stuff — usually my favorite — puzzles or hidden object games.”
In an attempt to feature a wide range of games, Rangraj says that the company is prioritizing diversity.
“The diverse voices that gaming needs — women, [people of color], LGBTQ folks and other marginalized groups — are out there, and making games,” said Rangraj. “We just have to be willing to look for them, which we are. It’s also important to make sure we have experiences that players from those categories can connect with, and while I’d love to see more diverse games in our library, I think we’re off to a pretty decent start, thanks to titles like A Normal Lost Phone, and A Blind Legend.”
Dropleaf features a recommendation feature to help users find more games. Like on Steam, users will be able to tag games, however, Rangraj says that they are still working on how that will affect the the recommendation system.
“I can’t speak for Steam’s discovery queue but our system actively learns user behavior patterns and looks at a number of data points about the game, it’s meta data and the social construction around a game,” said Zi Guo, a Dropleaf cofounder, in an email. “I believe these are the key pivots which enable better recommendations.”
Dropleaf launched today, and early adopters will pay $5 per month to access the whole game library. Once it exits beta, the monthly price will rise to $10. Users will have to download the Dropleaf app to play.
Revenue share for developers is based on time, so whenever users play a game, that developer will receive revenue. This “game time” model is similar to the web-streaming indie game service Jump, which is launching later this year. According to news site IGN, Jump’s mission is to be a “Netflix for games” and will also have a focus on indie games at the same $10 price point. It’ll be interesting to see how the two services compare when they’ve both exited beta.