When beginning the PR campaign for your latest project, learning about and beginning to establish your game’s audience is a vital component. After all, you need to understand who you are marketing to! However, why should it progress forward from there? Cultivating a smaller, close-knit community that is eager for your game takes time, money and a lot of creative and strategic planning. Surely, if your game and its marketing are good enough, your audience will find and buy your game? This blog post will look at the benefits of a consistently engaged community, covering both pre and post-launch.
1,000 Mini Marketers
This is the largest benefit of an engaged community. It is no surprise that an active community, ready and waiting at the gates of your game’s release, is going to have a greater marketing reach than your team alone. However, not only do 1,000 mouths shout louder than 1, but an engaged 1,000 mouths, excited and passionate about what you do, shout in ways more attention-grabbing and convincing than a studio’s own marketing can be.
Lottie Bevan, co-founder of Weather Factory explains in her Develop 2018 ‘Development as Marketing’ talk, that their method of ‘open-production’ for their debut title Cultist Simulator resulted in ‘zealots’ – fans of such commitment and belief in the project, that they would actively reach out and advertise the game to personal friends and associates they believe would be interested. A post from an excited fan is much more accessible and convincing than one from a ‘corporate’ style developer account – as Bevan puts it, they market the game better than you ever could.
You would be hard-pressed to find anyone within the indie game community to not know of Glumberland’s Ooblets – largely thanks to the eager and passionate community that has cultivated alongside its development. Despite the game having no concrete release date (at the time of writing), Ooblets has a keen fan base that show their passion by reaching out to others, including creating fan work for the unreleased title. This has meant that Ooblets now has its own successful Pateron and merchandise store, two mutually beneficial systems that both reward community members, and give the studio incredible support during the game’s development.
Give a community a free demo, and they’ll be interested in your game for a day, give a community regular insights into your development and allow them an easy route to discuss feedback and improvements and they’ll be with you until launch. Your community wants your game to succeed just as much as you do if you’ve cultivated them correctly. Listening to them, and implementing their feedback and ideas won’t only make them feel valued and important, but will vastly improve the quality of your game, and may even inspire new features or creative directions.
Having a diverse engaged community allows you to grow not just your game, but your development team too. Being open to learn from the people supporting you will make you, and your work, more inclusive, accessible and as diverse as they are.
A Shoulder to Debug On
Developing a game can be a lonely process. Opening up to a community of eager, brand new fans can allow you to become excited about your own game again, and make you a better marketer as their excitement inspires yours. As Philomena Schwab explained in her ‘Power of the Pack – Community Based Development’ talk at GDC 2018, it is easy to allow mistakes to go unfixed when there is no-one to hold you to it. However, if it is a piece of feedback, or a bug report from an eager player, you have new motivation to get the problem fixed as well as the payoff of seeing a happy, thankful member of your community.
Transparency of your development process to your community will not only help in keeping you motivated about your project, but also facilitate creating, as Lottie Bevan puts it – ‘vital lifetime customers’ that like you, not just your singular title.
Cultivating a base of excited players can not only give your marketing the edge it needs to stand out in the indie market, but also benefit your game’s quality, and motivate your team when the going gets tough.
However, bringing together a community isn’t easy. You need a team in touch with the current market, able to locate where your possible community is congregating, and approach them efficiently. It is a complex, and most of the time long, process, but the benefits of an engaged community rallying around your game on launch day are invaluable.