We’ve all received them. We’ve all subscribed to them. They find their ways into our inboxes and we open a few and have a look. But are indie game newsletters a bit behind the times? With TikTok, Twitter, Twitch, YouTube, and more, is an old-fashioned email really the best use of your time? Well, as you can probably guess from the title of this blog, we think they definitely are.
In today’s all-go, social media-fuelled world, we’re constantly bombarded with information and newsletters are a great way to cut through the noise and speak to the people you need to. They are, after all, your audience. They’re not scrolling past your ad. You’re not vying for consideration amongst hundreds of thousands of other posts. For someone to sign up for your newsletter, you’ve already done the hard work. They’re already interested and want to know more about your game.
All you have to do is get it right, no pressure.
Why you should care about newsletters
Newsletters take time to get right. Generic emails containing just your latest news aren’t going to cut it anymore. There are too many newsletters out there and creating the right story, making it personable, engaging and interesting to your reader is hard – especially with the thousand and one other things you’ve got going on right now.
But they’re worth the time. They are great for indie gaming because, unlike massive TV ad campaigns, you don’t need a huge budget to set up a mailing list. They’ll help you find your audience and create a community for your game long before its release.
So, when you progress to looking for support on Kickstarter or wishlist additions, you have an engaged group of readers who’ll want to support you. In fact, newsletters can generate a much higher conversion rate than social media platforms because you’re talking to people who already care, rather than being another thing to swipe past.
With newsletters, you can also get a better understanding of who wants to play your game. Depending on how much information you ask when they submit their email, you can discern age or gender for example. This gives you a much better idea of who your future players might be. Like other metrics, such as wishlists or early-access sales, your new subscriber base gives you an indication of the number of players interested in your game. Have a lot of people signing up for your newsletter? Great, that’s a pretty decent sign that you’ve struck a chord with a lot of people.
Smash that Like button!
Getting subscriptions to your newsletter, building a following and creating a community will only help your game be a success. It may seem like a daunting task, but there are plenty of extra ways outside of crafting engaging newsletters that you can get extra subscribers.
The first thing you could do is offer incentives like early access to a demo or a unique desktop background. This exclusive content will encourage fans of what you’ve already created to give your newsletter a chance and potentially pique the interest of those who haven’t taken the plunge and added your game to their wishlist just yet.
You can also use giveaways or competitions as ways to get sign-ups. For example, one of your new subscribers in April could be given a Steam key of the game free of charge when you launch. This is a great way to generate followers that are interested in your game, as they wouldn’t want a Steam key if they weren’t, meaning you still get direct communication with an audience that cares.
We recommend promoting your newsletter on your various social media channels or on Steam community posts. This will generate a buzz outside the people on your discord server and can be easily shared across social media to friends and family of the people who see these posts. Tie this in with any giveaways, demos, competitions or other hooks you use to draw people in. After all, everyone loves a good giveaway!
But you don’t just have to give away demos or Steam keys, you can use your newsletter as a vehicle for your community by promoting fan art competitions. Not only will you get more subscriptions with the creatives among your fans, it will also generate better engagement from your followers and create a sense of community around your game as they begin to see themselves and their work in your space.
Once you’ve got subscribers, you’ve now got to write it, but we have a few tips for that too.
Newsletter content, as we’ve alluded to, should be unique. It should be something your readers can’t get anywhere else, think of it like the Patreon of emails.
Our first tip is to make it personal. This can come in the form of auto-generated names based on their subscriber information. So instead of just ‘Hi’, you can say ‘Hi John’. This helps to create a personal connection with that specific reader, making them feel spoken to rather than just part of a bigger subscriber base.
We recommend talking about how you’ve made your game, what progress you’re making, what’s inspired you and where you’re going next. Or perhaps you could write small stories from the perspective of your characters, if they have a unique voice that will help tell your game’s story.
It doesn’t have to be written. You could embed video, maybe footage from your game or fun GIFs you’ve made of your lead characters. Or maybe if you fancy talking to your readers, literally, then why not add a small sound clip? There are loads of options and what’s important is matching these with your game’s style and tone of voice.
Just make sure, like with anything going out to the public, that you do it regularly. Monthly or weekly, depending on how much information you have that you want to share, are the two best ways of doing it. You don’t want to write a newsletter and then forget about it for a few months because the likelihood is that those people who subscribed will have forgotten about you too.
Newsletters aren’t dead and are actually one of the best ways you can talk directly to your audience. All you have to do is find the right voice, the right content and the right schedule to send out your news.
If you approach newsletters with the same passion and love you have for your game, chances are people will pick it up with the same feeling.