Case Study – The Piano

“Game If You Are’s networking skills are amazing – they managed to get some awesome connections in the scene and press coverage for our project. Not only that, they also helped a lot in making the game itself better. Their director, Lewis, is honest – constantly challenging us to meet his standards, in a positive and motivating way. He is professional, knows what he’s doing, and provides trustworthy and strong support.” – Jonathan Stemmildt, Head of Development at Mistaken Visions

Jonathan Stemmildt of Mistaken Visions had been working on The Piano for several years. It had been a deeply personal project for Jonathan, and the game had been through many iterations over the years. Now, in the run-up to release, he was exploring ways to give the game the best launch possible.

When we first spoke to Jonathan in October 2016, it was immediately apparent that he had a strong idea. The Piano had a thick, oppressive atmosphere and interesting, intricate storytelling – it was clear that a certain gaming audience would be very interested in the game. However, Jonathan had not managed to get the game much attention in the press – and being a solo developer, had found it difficult to gain outside perspective on the project.

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What we did

Together, we began to identify audiences, communities and media figures to whom the game was likely to appeal. We had a number of discussions around the key features of the game, and identified the small things that made the game special: its oppressive atmosphere, its unique noir aesthetic, and its genre-fusing approach – with classic survival horror and adventure elements alongside more modern interactive storytelling techniques.

We identified a set of potential media champions, and re-evaluated how we were describing the game – honing a strong elevator pitch and game description. At the same time, we spent a lot of time with various versions of the game and provided an outsider’s perspective on the game design, advising on how the media and target communities would be likely to respond to the game and surrounding materials.

We constructed a campaign that involved the creation of a new trailer and the distribution of preview code to the press, in order to generate some attention in the months ahead of launch. Jonathan was keen to release a public demo to gain feedback on the game, so we also worked together to refine what was on offer to the public by collecting off-the-record feedback from the press during the preview campaign.

We then worked together to simultaneously orchestrate game improvements via ongoing production consultation, as well as ramping up media interest at key moments. Via a series of teaser trailers, we announced the game’s release date to the press and community – while using targeted, A/B tested Facebook adverts to identify, refine and expand our audience in the run-up to release.

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What we achieved

During key phases of the campaign, The Piano has been covered enthusiastically by some of the world’s leading video games publications, with a combined monthly readership of more than 50 million gamers – including Eurogamer, PC Gamer, Bloody Disgusting, PCGamesN, Vandal and 3DJuegos.

The game has also generated interest from top horror YouTubers with upwards of a million subscribers. The Piano has received positive feedback both from the press and in user comments within the community, and testers have remarked that the game is much improved as a result of the feedback gathering and ensuing changes.

Ultimately, by focusing on the game and the campaign in tandem, we have been able to refine The Piano’s proposition to ensure its appeal within its target audience is as strong as possible.