Eagle eyed readers may already be aware of Phil Fish and Kyle Gabbler’s recent GDC presentation on “The Art Of Indie Game Promotion”, within it are a number of fine pearls of wisdom (the headware being, naturally, the most important staple of game promotion one could imagine) and the advice is, to all intents and purposes rather sound.
However, marketing in such a manner is clearly for amateurs and for those seeking to maximise their revenue in the independent marketplace, you need to do some serious blue sky thinking. You need to think outside the box. You need to discover your USP, lean forward, lean back, push that envelope and empower your customers with new paradigms. We know how difficult this can be for Indies and that’s why we’re here to offer you some tips that guarantee 100% marketing success.
Read on to find out how to market your indie game.
The Press Release Is King
We’re going to assume that you’re not stupid. You’ve already gathered together a list of contact addresses of journalists. The first thing you need to do to successfully market your indie game is to write out a press release and mail it to every single one of them. Do not, under any circumstances, attempt to engage the journalists beyond this.
Think about it for a second. Every single day, a journalist may receive up to 100 press releases and one or two people trying to actually engage them and interest them. Surely, if engaging or interesting journalists was a productive use of your time, more people would be doing it? How can a journalist, blogger or any press outlet possibly have time to respond to you? The answer is clear. They don’t.
You must forget that there’s a human being at the end of that email and provide them with the news you want them to hear. Bullet point the important features, italicise parts of the press release and under no circumstances should you forget the important information about who you are at the end of the press release.
Make the press release appear to be as official as possible. You may be sitting in your underwear in front of the PC contemplating your next pizza, but project the image of a corporate CEO and the world will truly believe you’re a corporate CEO. Image, as they say, is everything and there’s no better way to create an image than bullet points.
Motivate the gaming masses.
The logic is simple. You are perhaps one person or a small team, your circle of friends is perhaps 20 people. You cannot rely on those 20 people to help you recoup your development costs and turn a profit. Even if you sell your game at the de facto standard of $19.99, if the development costs are $1,000 upwards the figures don’t add up. With the journalists, bloggers and press outlets notified with a press release, the next step in our 100% guaranteed marketing for indies plan is to engage with the gaming masses.
Providing you’ve correctly followed our press release steps and gotten all your ducks in a row, there should already be the beginnings of a buzz forming around your game. Now you need to synergise that buzz for maximum value. And for this, you need to take ownership of the market at a base level.
You need to clear a space in your busy day of roughly two to three hours a day. The first day is the most strenuous as this is when you’ll be preparing your presentations for the gaming masses.
First, you need to take the best elements of your press release and copy them to a separate file. Create a template file with your game name, your company name, elementary game details and generate six screenshots of your game. Ideally, these screenshots should either be 67x67px or 1280×1024. Do not mix and match sizes. This is very important. Once you have these, save the template to your desktop, you’ll be needing to keep it on hand for the six following days.
With the remaining time you’ve scheduled, you need to make a list of popular gaming forums. For the purposes of this article we define popular as having an active member base of more than 5 people. Remember, even if the forum is a forum dedicated to a particular gaming niche, if there’s the chance that just one member of the forum purchases the game, this brings you closer to profit. Leave no gaming forum stone unturned. Write down the URL of every gaming forum you can find as for the next six days, you’re going to be spending a couple of hours every single day engaging with your potential purchasers.
With the preparation complete, it’s time to take some well earned rest for the evening and set yourself up for the big push.
For days two through to seven, you need to join each and every one of the forums you’ve listed. If you’ve done your preparation work correctly, you should have a list of at least 300 gaming forums. I’m sure I don’t need to explain the maths to you here but assuming a base membership rate of 10 active members per forum, 300×10 is 3,000. 3,000 potential sales. Given that the most popular gaming forum on the internet, NeoGaf has 41,000+ members and a huge number of them active at any one time, after a 7 day successful marketing campaign motivating the gaming masses you should already be setting yourself up to not only recoup any money that you’ve spent on development but already be planning to purchase a sailboat with your profits.
When joining the forums it’s important to remember to join using your company name. You must, at all times, behave like a complete professional. Most forums have “profile fields” and “homepage fields”. You can usually fill these in when joining the forum, or in some cases after joining the forum and visiting your control panel. Sometimes known as MY CP or words to that effect. In the profile field, fill in your job position – remember, the more important you sound the more professional you look. For example, I would be CEO of Mersey Remakes. I suggest you do the same. Ensure that you complete the homepage field (or WWW link as it may be known) with the direct link to your games page.
Once you are a member and your profile is complete, create a new topic on the forum. Whilst some forums appear to have a rigid organisational structure, when it comes to marketing it’s best to completely disregard this. Remember, our goal here is to get noticed and posting in “the wrong forum” is the fastest way to get noticed. Once you’ve created your topic, open your template and cut and paste the information. You may now leave that forum and proceed to the next.
You do not need ever return to that forum again. Your work there is done.
You need to go viral
Going viral is the holy grail of all marketing. A succesful viral campaign can raise interest in your title to unprecedented levels, it is the cash cow of all marketing. In order to “go viral” you need to embrace the web 2.0 and hard-wire your success utilising multimedia presentations. It all sounds terribly complex doesn’t it? Naturally, beneath the obfuscation, there’s a simple principle at work and one that you can harness with little time or effort, it’s the big secret of game marketing and we’re here to share it with you.
There are two steps to going viral. First, you need to create the virus. Then you need to spread the virus. That’s all there is to it.
Our virus is going to be a video. You’ve doubtlessly heard of YouTube and I’m sure some of you have looked on at awe at how even the most ridiculous video of a small child falling over a cat receives 40,000 views a day. It doesn’t take a genius to work out that in order to go viral, you need to capture the low hanging fruit of internet traffic and there’s nothing the low hanging fruit of internet traffic like more than people falling over.
If you don’t already own a video capturing device of some sort, then take out a cheap mobile phone contract. Most mobile phones these days have some form of elementary video recording device built into them which will be perfect for your virus. Remember, the more professional your video looks the more likely that people are going to cry foul. This is the rare case in marketing whereby the absolute last thing you want to do is look professional.
Record a video of you, sitting at your desk playing your game. Wear the look on your face of purest concentration and enjoyment then at a crucial moment during the game lean backwards and fall off your chair, out of camera view swearing as you go. Repeat this until it looks absolutely natural. Congratulations, you now have your virus. Upload it to YouTube straight away, you mustn’t waste any time. Remember to include your games URL somewhere visible on the page. You want to convert those visitors into paying customers after all.
With your virus in hand, you now need to spread the virus. In order to spread the virus, you need to become a commentator. It’s a little known fact in marketing that a virus does not, despite its name, spread all by itself. It needs a nudge, a helping hand, you need to have a game plan. Our game plan is to spread the virus manually across hundreds of blogs and social networking sites. This has the benefit of costing nothing but a few hours a day to do. Capture the imagination of just one person and before you know it, people are mailing your virus across the globe and everyone is interested in your game.
Join Facebook and mail the URL of your YouTube video to everyone on your friends list. The nature of web 2.0 is that you don’t even really have to be friends with people in order to be their friend. Post in blog comments sections. “Hey, have you seen this cool video? I couldn’t stop laughing, it’s amazing!” – naturally, not forgetting to include the URL to your video. Do this under many different names as it gives the illusion that the virus is spreading naturally. If you’ve followed these steps correctly, you can sit back and watch the traffic and the money flow in.
Congratulations, you’re now well on your way to being an Indie game success.
Now that you’ve grasped the basics of marketing your indie titles you should be well equipped to progress to an advanced stage of marketing. With the flow of sales to your title, you can afford to step up a notch, at this moment in time you can start going forward and just add water to become the leading edge in your chosen game genre.
We don’t have time to discuss more advanced topics in great detail in this article, but here’s a quick overview of some potential winner strategies that you can employ to diversify your install base.
Harnessing the power of pop celebrities and using their influence to further your own sphere of influence. Everyone loves a celebrity, countries across the world are in thrall to their likes and dislikes on a global scale thanks to the rise of celebrity culture magazines and rolling news. You may not be able to afford Brad Pitt for your marketing campaign, but remember that a Big Brother contestant is just as newsworthy if not more. Perhaps even a morning or daytime TV presenter. Why not write them a polite email asking them to endorse your product for a small fee? You could even have them head a campaign to conduct research into the health benefits of your product. The possibilities are endless when you begin to think outside the box.
Shock marketing sells. Has your friends mother recently died leaving them in financial difficulties? For a small fee, you could advertise your game on the casket containing the ashes whilst pushing the envelope and reinventing the market at the same time. With financial benefits for both you and your friend, it’s win-win all round. Contact the local newspapers as Appalled of Homely Close, write to the BBC feigning disgust. There’s no such thing as bad publicity after all.
One final tip. Never underestimate the power of a major, and I mean major, leafleting campaign.
We hope you enjoyed this article and please, do write to us and let us know if you’ve been a success following our marketing techniques. Visit again for more essential game promotion ideas.