How to get influencers to play your indie game

As we’ve discussed in previous posts, influencer marketing is becoming a powerful force in the games industry and more and more developers are considering the way their audience consumes content. Indie game sensations have been created overnight with the power big-name influencers can bring to a project, but we’re not going to be discussing those fascinatingly rare instances here. Although it’s inspiring to read about how a combination of miraculous luck and fortunate timing has made games blow up on YouTube it’s probably not going to help you market your indie game.

Let’s get the most obvious point out the way first. Of course, the easiest way to get a YouTuber, or Streamer for that matter, to play your game is to pay them. I’m sure if you’ve got enough money you could get just about anybody to play your game. That’s not going to be the focus of this article though. Truth is, there are plenty of agencies out there who can organise big budget influencer campaigns, but not many that can coordinate small ones, especially on a very limited budget. If you’re considering influencer marketing as a way to promote your game on a tiny budget then an organic campaign is going to be your best bet to stand a chance of generating any kind of a buzz. Here follows a few tips to get you started on your quest to get your game into the hands of influencers.

What’s the Goal?

First things first, decide what it is you want to promote. Although that might seem obvious, your game, you need to think a little bit deeper about what point in your marketing plan is the right time to involve influencers. Do you want to promote the Early Access launch to help get more people on board as you continue development? Are you looking to boost launch day sales and want an influencer campaign to support that? These types of questions will encourage you to consider your end goals and what you’d like to achieve by having influencers play your game, which hopefully should make your success or failure in that endeavour more easily measurable. Start with an end goal in mind and work backwards towards it.

Know Your Stuff

If you plan to run any kind of influencer campaign it’s important that you understand how influencers work and the kind of content they produce. Irrespective of whether you go through a management agency or not it’s still wholly in your best interest to have a knowledge of the influencers you plan to work with. You wouldn’t want to end up in a similar situation faced by developers Rockfish Games with their game Everspace after they paid influencers thousands only for certain elements of the campaign to publicly backfire when it became apparent the influencers involved not only didn’t like space games but were also not very good at them.

With this in mind, research the platforms and personalities you hope to promote your games through and understand the different styles of content they create. This will also help to inform how you approach content creators, as grasping what they do and don’t like will help you pitch your game to them in an appealing way. For instance, if you see an influencer typically favours humorous content, irrespective of how many subscribers they have, you wouldn’t pitch a serious strategy game to them. Despite the fact that they most likely wouldn’t be interested in it, even if they are you’re not going to be reaching the sort of audience who will want to buy your game – and that’s a problem.

Plan Don’t Spam

It’s easy to consider just pulling a big list of YouTuber emails from the internet (although questionable under new GDPR rules) and sending out a mass generic email hoping that some of them will show interest in creating content around the game but this would be ill-advised. When it comes to planning an organic campaign you want to target only the most relevant influencers to your game and make each of those interactions personal. Smaller campaigns don’t require the scope of bigger projects so use that to your advantage and approach YouTubers and Streamers personally showing that you’ve researched their channel and content. This personal approach should make your efforts more likely to succeed, as most content creators are used to receiving spam email about some new indie game every day. Make your email stand out as best you can.

So, to summarise, define your target audience and pick the right personalities to send your game to with a personalised approach that shows you’ve done your research. And, don’t just send them your game and hope for the best – really sell why this content creator would want to cover your game and how that content would appeal to their audience.   

Think Micro not Marco

Let’s be frank about this, the bigger influencers are not going to play your game unless you pay them, a lot. Of course, it does happen, but it’s very unlikely. When it comes to generating buzz around an organic campaign it’s best to start from the ground up and consider approaching micro influencers instead of the bigger personalities you’ll no doubt be tempted to reach out to.

Taking this approach has a number of benefits. For a start, you most likely won’t have to navigate through an agency in the case of most smaller influencers and there’s a good chance you’ll be able to speak to them directly. Secondly, there’s just a lot better chance that they’ll be willing to play your game as they don’t get offered as many opportunities and, due to their small size, have greater freedom in the content they cover. Finally, one of the best ways to get the bigger influencers to notice you is not to email them, but get the smaller content creators uploading coverage of the game, building its presence online and, hopefully, encouraging the bigger personalities to create some content of their own.

Think Big but Plan Small

Don’t get me wrong, everyone would love nothing more than their game to get great coverage on a platform like YouTube. I’m sure if someone like Markiplier was to play your game you’d see a huge boost in sales and success but it’s best to go into your planning at a more realistic level. That’s not to say don’t be ambitious, but instead lay out a plan that has the best chance of getting you coverage at a lower level with the opportunity for that to expand into a bigger campaign should things really start to take off.

Ultimately, it’s a tough battle to get influencers to play your game, they’re offered hundreds of games a week so the competition is stiff. You need to strategically think about the influencers you want to approach, the kind of outcomes you’re hoping for and the reasons why a YouTuber or Streamer would want to play your game. If you can answer those questions then you’re off to a good to start in seeing your game find success in the era where influencer marketing can be so important.