Why work with content creators?

To most developers and PR professionals, getting a game “out there” means putting it in front of the kind of evangelist who will hopefully talk about the title they’re promoting to a dedicated audience. In most cases, this means contacting traditional games media to offer playable code, but another option, which is becoming increasingly more popular in the industry, are content creators. 

The term “content creator” broadly describes anyone making visual content about video games, usually in the form of streaming – via platforms like Twitch and Mixer – or via on-demand video platforms such as YouTube. Content creators are often also referred to as “influencers” because the type of relatable content they produce is also useful as a recommendation for a product. Although, the term influencer is often applied to them when associated with their activity on social media. Many developers and publishers are waking up to the fact that having a content creator play their game is a very powerful PR tool, but it is one which must be approached with care.

Is my game right?

In the large majority of cases, creators will stream or produce content which resonates with their audience’s tastes. Finding the right creator is something we’ll cover in a bit, but the first question you should be asking yourself is “is my game fun to watch?”

Now, fun is, of course, a highly subjective benchmark – everyone thinks their own game is fun, and sure enough, every game is fun to someone – but it is the “to watch” part we’re paying attention to here. Does your game contain the kind of minute-to-minute action that will hold a viewer’s interest for hours? Or does it contain puzzles or strategic concepts that will be interesting to watch a creator overcome? If it passes that test, it’s time to reach out. 

How to find the right creator

Typically, you can squeeze streamers and video creators into one of two broad boxes: variety and non-variety. As the name implies, variety creators will play a bit of everything (so long as the game falls in line with their interests), whereas the non-variety, erm, variety tend to stick to just one or two games which they play well (think Ninja and Fortnite).

When approaching creators, it’s important to know which of these categories of creator you want to go after. In the majority of cases, you’ll be looking to get in touch with variety streamers and asking whether they’d consider adding your game to their schedule.

However if, for example, you’re working on a game which you strongly believe could be the new Fortnite, you might be more inclined to contact a number of non-variety creators, because if even one large Fortnite creator plays your game, the knock-on effect could be that the community takes notice and adopt your game.

Once you’ve established the type of content creator you’re looking to approach, the big job is finding relevant creators. There are a number of ways to achieve this, from semi-manual paid services like Keymailer, to influencer-only agencies, to full-service marketing agencies who work with influencers as part of their repertoire.

If you can spare the time and effort though (and it is a lot of time and effort), finding the right content creator to show your game to can be a task you can take on yourself.

The key is to identify one or a number of titles which have a similar appeal to yours and hunt out creators who have enjoyed covering these games in the past. One extremely useful tool for this purpose is Sullygnome. Sullygnome allows you to search for a game and view a list of creators who have streamed that particular title in the past, as well as useful statistics such as viewer numbers and hours streamed. Looking at these stats, as well as looking at other games streamed by the same creator, should help identify creators who would be most suited to your game.

Once you’ve identified a creator who might be interested in your game, gather their email address. Most streamers and video creators will list a contact email address prominently in their Twitch, Twitter or YouTube bio. If you can’t find a contact email address, consider sending a short tweet asking if they’re interested in talking. However, if you’ve explored all of the above avenues unsuccessfully, consider that they may not wish to be contacted, and look for someone else.

How to approach a creator

It’s important to remember that, for the most part, creators are making content for fun, in their own time. While you might spend your spare time by reading a book in the bath or watching Love Island in your pants on the sofa, content creators are unwinding by playing games for an audience. Yes, some might make money from their hobby in the form of tips or donations, but the majority of content creators aren’t lucky enough to be able to make it their full-time job.

The reason this is important to take note of is that creators, like you and I, deserve the right to choose how they spend their free time. And this means that ultimately, the decision whether or not to cover a game is theirs, and must be treated with respect.

With this in mind, take a personal approach when contacting a creator. Explain why you feel they might enjoy your game, but keep the conversation light and avoid putting any pressure on the person. Remember, you’re representing yourself; unless you’re a trained PR with contacts and established relationships, it’s always recommended to keep the conversation light and breezy.

Because the majority of creators aren’t running a business, don’t expect to hear back immediately and during business hours. Most will have full-time jobs and will get back to you when they can. It’s absolutely fine to send a follow-up email after a few days in case they missed your original email, but don’t hound anyone for a reply.

And then what?

Congratulations! You’ve reached out to some relevant creators. Hopefully, you’ll have made an impression with one or two and you’ll start seeing some coverage. Now the ball’s rolling, it’s time to capitalise. 

Make sure that there’s a way in which other creators can contact you to request their own copy of your game for coverage. We mentioned earlier that Keymailer charges money to let you reach out to creators, but their free plan allows you to receive and approve incoming requests for code. Once your game is generating coverage, it’s a great idea to have a Keymailer account set up so you can build on the number of creators playing your game, for no charge.

In summary

As mentioned at the top of the blog, content creators are sometimes referred to as influencers for a reason. A large creator playing your game in front of their legions of fans is just as valuable from a PR perspective as a killer review from a well-read outlet. 

However, although the outcomes are similar, the approaches have to be very different. It’s important to remember that, like game development, content creation is largely a passion project. Approach content creators with the same enthusiasm and passion as you would your own work and you’re off to a great start.