PAX South allowed us all to see the gaming industry from a number of levels – from the AAA production companies all the way to the moonlighting programmers who are trying to make a dream come true. It was truly great to see Microsoft open an area for a select few of Texas’ finest programmers to show off their indie games, but there are still so many small startup gaming companies who don’t have that kind of opportunity who are trying to get their games seen by the gaming community.
As I had mentioned in my last blog post, many of these companies obviously want their projects to be hyped up for purchase, but not many people know how…or know of the tools (like Facebook, Twitter, etc…) but don’t know how to use them…or have the time to use them properly. Below is a few starter tips for the brand new designer or new game company who have big dreams, fun games but little idea on how to get visibility on their projects.
1. Twitter and Twitter Chats
All this costs is a little bit of your time – Twitter’s 140 character or less character limit is great for getting to the point, which is exactly what people on Twitter want to see. It also gives you people with similar interests to follow who can have the same interests as you – namely video games in this instance. So don’t be afraid to follow people – follow, follow, follow, because when you follow someone, they can get a glimpse of what you’re about and this is what can net you a bunch of people who are legitimately interested in your game. After all, the person wouldn’t follow if they weren’t interested. Now what happens if that person doesn’t follow back? Don’t worry about it, keep working on them slowly but surely – watch their tweets, comment if you can, once in a while include them in a post when talking about game – it will show them that you do care about their opinion and it could sway them to hit the follow button.
Another great thing about Twitter are Twitter Chats, in which at a certain point during the day, a bunch of people will gather at Twitter and #hashtag their topic of conversation and follow along for an hour or so. There are many great #hashtags on Twitter that are specifically for independent gamies, gaming and development. Using these while posting a picture, linking to your website or just tweeting a status update will reach many other gamers and game designers who are looking for friends, inspiration and for new projects to sink their teeth into.
For those starting out – trying using #gamedev and explore countless others in the same situation as yourself, which will open new doors and followers towards your project.
2. Facebook Dark Posts:
Just a heads up – this is a CPC solution for those with a marketing budget (however small) and that means you’ll be spending a few $$$. For those of you with Facebook fan pages looking for new fans to like and follow your company’s activities, using the Power Editor from Facebook’s fan page interface (which can only be accessed in Google Chrome btw), you can target posts outside of your fan page to attract new fans. You can target the audience of your post, schedule the time of release, and tailor the post to help with website clicks, conversion rates…it will even tell you your potential reach upon campaign start-up!
The great thing about these posts are not only the knowledge of potential reach, but of getting Facebook’s recommendation of how much to bid in order for your post to be consistently seen on newsfeeds. It takes the guess work out of how much to bid, you just put in the amount that you feel comfortable with and away you go!
3. Steam Greenlight
You’ve probably heard of Steam Greenlight, and whether you know what it is or not, you know that practically every indie game company’s goal is to get on Greenlight. For those of you wondering what all the hubbub is surrounding Steam Greenlight – Game company Valve, creators of games like Portal and Portal 2, is also one of the biggest distributors of games online with their Steam entertainment platform. Any indie game can be submitted to Steam Greenlight to be considered for distribution, however be prepared with a $100 processing fee and hustle your butt off to get the word out to as many people as you can to vote, vote and vote again! If your game gets enough enough votes*, your game gets placed on Steam and given access to over 65 million users worldwide!
*take note, there’s no real actual number listed by Valve so this number is purely subjective on their part. In the end, if they think your game warrants distribution and seems popular enough, they’ll distribute it.
4. Can’t I just get someone else to do it?
For those not suffering from a lack of ideas or content but a lack of time, there are many people who are ready, willing and able to help you get the word out about your company and your game. Many new game companies are using crowdfunding to get their projects funded and straight into the hands of those that want it. PR and media specialist companies like PR_Hound (@pr_hound) help in creating and monitoring crowdfunding projects, and generate media buzz around these projects in order to maximize the investment of their clients. There are many of these types of companies, just look around and see which one fits your goals best.
For people with finished projects, there are two resources that can really get visibility to your project in a hurry – indie game databases and video game reviewers. Without going into names like Amazon, Google Play and the App Store, there are places like Indie Game Hunt (@indiegamehunter) who will list your game and your website among other games on their own databases for other gamers to find. You can also inquire about having your game reviewed, either via an article or vblog, by any number of video game reviewers. The Examiner (@examinercom) has writers and reviewers on all kinds of topics, and specific reviewers like Indie Juice (@IndieJuice) cover everything from games to the game designers themselves, so that the fans can be even more informed about where they are getting their games.
Then there are companies that handle even more of the marketing side of things, because let’s face it, you want to be spending your time making games. Companies like Spartan Creative Engagement (yes, that’s us) create content and marketing campaigns from scratch – whether it’s for consultation or direct service, imagine everything from planning to execution on a variety of different needs – original online content, social media management, even video projects from pre-to-post production – with experience creating content for big licenses and all with an independent game company’s budget in mind.
If you can think of a useful tip that I haven’t listed, please drop me a comment below. I hope these tips have been helpful to the first time game designer, and good luck to you all in getting your first game published!