Social media has brought the eyes and ears of the world to our doorsteps. At the click of a button, you can potentially reach millions of people sharing your thoughts, feelings and messages. The potential opportunities this has presented for creatives, such as indie game developers, is vast. In addition to the usual press coverage and marketing approach, game developers can now bolster their efforts by engaging with their fans and building communities around their games. This offers invaluable insight into how your audience thinks and feels as well as further exposing your game to potential fans. The difficulty, of course, is finding a strategy that works for smaller endeavours that allows you to transition an engaged audience into paying customers.
Once upon a time, releasing an indie game was enough to get people’s attention — especially if your game was on Steam, the holy grail for the indie developer looking to gain visibility with a large audience. There was a time when a Steam release would guarantee you millions of eyes on your game, and drive sales without you having to do anything. That fabled time now has a name: 2013.
It is not 2013 any more.
And as such, we hear from many developers who are about to release a game, and who know that they need to do some marketing to be in with a chance of success. The problem is, it takes time to construct a scenario where success is likely, or even possible. Developers who begin thinking about marketing just weeks before their release are shooting themselves in the foot, and instead engendering a situation in which their hard work is destined to fail.
The launch of Kickstarter changed the crowdfunding landscape, offering a more reliable way for creatives to bring their projects to market. It was a natural fit for the indie development community which has found huge success on the platform over the years. Granted, crowdfunding isn’t the powerhouse it once was, but for an entity that’s funded over 10,000 games since its inception there’s still opportunities to succeed, or so you would think. The reality of crowdfunding your game is often at odds with indie developers’ expectations that Kickstarter is an easy and free path to making the game of your dreams. Unfortunately, that often isn’t the case.
Jon and I will both be at the Develop Conference in Brighton next week, where we hope to meet a bunch of lovely indie developers and natter away about marketing and PR until the seagulls come home.
The talk is about how to earn your place in the video games media, with a focus on the word ‘earn’. This isn’t about how to write a press release or how to email a journalist, but rather, about how to prove that you’re worth paying attention to, and provide value to the journalists and influencers you’re out to impress.
If you’ve decided to work with a PR or marketing company or individual, you might be unsure as to the best way to work together. Some people talk about their desire to “outsource” their marketing to an external partner. But I’m not sure “outsourcing” is the most helpful way of looking at the relationship that exists behind a successful promotional campaign.
Where others might talk about “outsourcing” or call themselves a marketing “supplier”, we like to talk about “collaborations” — because at the heart of any great promotional relationship is a desire to work together to make great things happen. So if you decide to work with someone on your PR or marketing, here are five tips for making that magic happen.
In life, sometimes even the best-laid plans can go awry. In PR, things are no different. Even the most experienced PR practitioner can find their self-confronted with a marketing disaster or a campaign that just fails to meet its goals. As we’ve touched on before in a previous post, PR isn’t an exact science, results often vary. What is guaranteed though is your reaction and how you choose to recover from a difficult situation. This is especially important for indie developers who, more often than not, don’t have trained PR people to the handle a crisis. So, if you find yourself in that situation here are a few tips on what you can do when it all goes wrong.
One of the questions people sometimes ask us is: how exactly does PR work? How do we go from this conversation, to our games appearing in the press? What do you do to make that happen?
Some people imagine that we send out press releases and journalists pick their favourites to write about. Others assume we have a certain ‘sway’ with the media, or that we can ‘call in favours’ to get coverage. Others still wonder if an exchange of money is involved. In fact, the truth is a little more complex. So I figured: why not give you folks a walkthrough?
The term influencer is something that has become ubiquitous within online marketing over the past few years, particularly with regard to video games, with streaming platforms such as YouTube and Twitch dominating the online space. Any conversations you’ll hear around marketing and PR for games these days will no doubt involve some mention of the benefit of influencers. So, what does that mean if you’re trying to promote an indie game?
Why influencers matter for indie game PR and marketing
With live streaming increasingly becoming a part of people’s everyday life, and the popularity of video content causing a notable shift in media consumption, it seems influencers will become a permanent fixture in marketing strategies moving forward. It’s easy to see the benefits in someone like Markiplier playing your game on his channel in front of millions of viewers. He has an established fan base and has built up a level of trust with his audience, but, in reality, the chance of most indie games making the cut is unlikely.
Jon and I are on a call with a developer. It’s an initial call about the possibility of working together. They’re informal discussions, these initial calls: they help us to get a sense of whether we might be a good fit for the game, whether our ambitions align, and what sort of promotional work might be the best for their project.
One of the questions I like to ask in these calls is: “What does success mean to you?” Often people seem a bit nonplussed by this question, like, isn’t it obvious what success means? But almost every developer has a different answer.
The first warning signs of trouble on the horizon for indie games and their developers came around 2014 when people in the industry started to speak of an indiepocalypse. With an oversaturation of titles flooding onto Steam and App Stores already pushed to capacity by the huge influx of smaller games concerns were beginning to grow. So, is the indiepocalypse still something indie game developers and fans alike should be worried about? Let’s look at some of the key predictions that perpetuate this belief.