When Valve first announced The Steam Game Festival – the event which would eventually become Steam Next Fest – it was an answer to the damage wrought on exhibiting developers by the pandemic. Launched in June 2020, the Festival was billed to developers as "an opportunity to get early feedback from players and build an audience for future releases." That remains true today, even as Next Fest has grown into an industry-spanning event that Valve rolls out multiple times a year – but it's more true for some games than others.
Some of the biggest games of the latest Next Fest were games I'd never heard of. Dungeonborne topped charts throughout the week, filling the gap left by fantasy extraction game Dark and Darker, which isn't available on Steam due to legal restrictions; my personal highlight was Backpack Battles, an autobattler built around the same inventory management ideas as cult roguelike Backpack Hero; Soulmask and Dread Dawn borrowed some from the best survival games to spend much of the week hovering around the top ten. That's an expansive list of excellent up-and-comers, but their presence was halted by the impact of some genuine juggernauts.
Steam Next Fest splits its charts into three, to give different measurements of a game's popularity. The 'Trending Upcoming' chart borrows from Steam's nebulous ranking systems, while the 'Most Wishlists' and 'Active Daily Players' charts speak for themselves. That gives different kinds of games different ways to succeed, and helps show where other players' are spending their time and (theoretically) their money. Those charts all shift organically over the week thanks to word of mouth or players simply finishing up what's on offer, but they remain the best way of finding the best demos in the show. Getting an early lead at the top of any of them can extrapolate outwards into a lot of extra attention – Enshrouded, one of last month's survival hits, dominated the October 2023 Fest, and has gone on to sell more than aRead more on gamesradar.com