Indie game publisher tinyBuild approached us to publicise NotGames’ inventive satirical newsroom sim, Not For Broadcast, in the run-up to and throughout its Early Access lifecycle. Here’s how we helped them make it one of the most successful indie launches of 2020 – even in the face of storefront technical problems and a global pandemic!
“In today’s indie market, it’s very hard to get attention. Finding the right angle and narrative to accompany the game, to make it stand out among dozens of other daily releases and news beats, is a true art. Game If You Are truly understand it and approach this challenge creatively, with great results.”Ivan Slovtsov | Producer | tinyBuild
Project type: Long-term / full-service | Services: Public relations / digital advertising / social media / strategic and creative direction
Publisher tinyBuild was preparing to release NotGames’ inventive satirical newsroom sim Not For Broadcast – a game in which players step into the shoes of a janitor who unwittingly finds themselves in the production hotseat during a time of massive political upheaval.
tinyBuild saw that they had a potential hit on their hands, and wanted to bring on an agency with experience in helping creative and unusual indie games make the splash they deserve in the market. They wanted an agency who could collaborate with both the publishing arm, helping the game to realise its commercial potential, and the developers themselves, finding ways to make the product sing in the best way possible.
We quickly established a collaborative working process, with regular meetings with both tinyBuild and developers NotGames, and began fleshing out a strategy. We initially worked together to plot out a roadmap of publicity from late 2019 through to early 2020 when the game would hit Steam Early Access. We wanted to showcase the game at its very best while crafting a rapidly escalating digital presence and community involvement.
We announced the game to the press (leaning into the game’s political content, we timed our campaign with the UK general election), achieving widespread positive coverage. We took ownership of NotGames’ social media and community channels, working directly with the developers to create and refine a clear message and tone of voice, and growing their social following by many multiples over the course of just a few months. Alongside this, we devised and delivered a digital advertising campaign via the Facebook network – driving their Steam wishlist and ‘feeding the algorithm’ to give Not For Broadcast the best possible chance of charting and appearing in featured areas of the Steam home page around the time of the game’s launch.
We also arranged high-profile influencer coverage to time with the game’s release, with former Yogscast member Hannah Rutherford running a world-exclusive Twitch stream as the launch clock counted down. We worked with NotGames to create Not For Broadcast-branded merch and attire for Hannah to show in the stream.
But with the minutes ticking down until release, Steam decided to throw a tantrum, and its servers crashed: no one on the planet could access the store to buy the game at its planned 6PM launch time. We quickly switched into crisis management mode – with each of our team members liaising with different stakeholders to quickly communicate the brief delay via social and community channels and via Hannah’s stream, phoning the press to ask them to hold off on coverage until Steam was back online, and liaising with both tinyBuild and NotGames to calm their fraying nerves!
Fortunately, Steam came back online quickly enough and the game launched to critical acclaim – with glowing coverage from PC Gamer, IGN, Polygon, and Rock Paper Shotgun, to name but a few. The game was also an instant commercial success, selling thousands of copies by the end of its first day on the market and charting highly on Steam, leading to significant store page visibility.
NotGames had a clear path they intended to take throughout Early Access, and – this being an FMV game – were all ready to start filming their next chapter. It was around this time than an incredibly inconvenient pandemic swept the planet. One of the developers ended up stuck in Australia, unable to leave the country – and back home, the rest of us were ordered into quarantine. Filming ground to an immediate halt.
NotGames and tinyBuild are very clever people, though, and a plan was hatched to write an all-new chapter that could be filmed and created entirely remotely. NotGames wrote the story of a national lockdown caused by thousands of malfunctioning and murderous children’s toys, and we worked with both the publisher and the developers to flesh out an effective messaging strategy to quickly convey the new story and the manner in which it had been created. Not For Broadcast: Lockdown itself ended up being a huge hit, with critical acclaim and glowing reviews from Steam users.
Throughout this whole process, we have not only run Not For Broadcast’s PR, social media and advertising campaigns, but also acted as creative and strategic consultants – working with key stakeholders to write and refine promotional copy, establish and foreground USPs, and define key messages for NotGames and tinyBuild to communicate. It has always been very important to all parties that the game’s political messages are clearly communicated and not misconstrued by players or the media, and we have worked to identify opportunities for the developers to speak to speak to this via interviews and community content. We have also co-written and co-directed the game’s many trailers, which were produced in-house at tinyBuild.
As we move toward the end of 2020, we’re currently planning and preparing for two more campaigns to deliver over the coming months, and are looking forward to continuing our relationship with tinyBuild and NotGames throughout 2021.