Wednesday, April 10, 2013

5 Tips for Marketing your Game and Talking to the Game Press

I'm writing a new programming book about creating SNES-style JRPG games and I'd like to self-publish; so recently I've become very interested in marketing, especially marketing related to the games industry.

Luckily there are some excellent resources out there. I've been listening to some of the talks from Launchconf a conference in Birmingham in the UK that tries to bring games journalists, PR people and game developers together to talk about this very topic! I thought I'd share some of the tips I picked up. There are definitely some actions here I've added to my to-do list.

1. Have a story

"A new match 3-puzzler coming out isn't really a story but a new match 3-puzzler from someone with an interesting background is"
- Keith Stewart, @keefstuart, Guardian Game Correspondent

"A lot of developers think it's the game that will interest journalists but often it's the developer that will interest journalists"
- Keith Andrew, @tweeting_keith, Editor at

It's not just your game that's the story - it's you! How are you different, what's the story of how you came to the point of developing this game? Did you use to work for big studio like Rockstar on GTA and get tired of their endless grueling crunch? Was the game funded in an unusual way, is it targeting an odd market, did you overcome some kind adversity? An article needs some kind of hook to draw the reader in and make it stand out compared to all the other games.

The more concrete details you can give, the easier for the journalist to build up an interesting story for an article. For example "our game was influence by loads of films we saw and loads of books we read" is bad, "our game is influenced by 'The Shining' and Disney's 'Mulan'" is good.

2. Form a relationship with journalists

If a journalist knows you they're more likely to hear about what you're doing and more likely to write about it.  So how do you meet journalists?

Journalists, from what I've seen, spend a lot of time on twitter and this is a great place to "meet" them. Follow every journalist you can and join in the conversation, pitch in and demonstrate you know what you're talking about. A good twitter avatar can also help here (I think mine is pretty terrible by these metrics!).

Be useful to journalists, if you're a game developer it's likely you have some expertise that most journalist's don't. Be willing to help them out, it's common to see requests on twitter asking for people with expert knowledge of a particular topic or experience, so if you can help then do so!

Of course real life is even better than twitter, so going to conferences is good, inviting journalists to your events is good (Even if you're just a small indie and you have a board-game night - invite some journalists to join in. This was mention by Will Freeman as a way he's met developers.)

Final tip for this section: build up a relationship with a journalist before you need them, don't cynically try and build a relationship just to get something out it. A good relationship should be the priority not just the potential benefit to you.

3. Be opinionated

"As an Indie, within reason, you can pretty much say whatever you want."
- Keith Andrew, @tweeting_keith, Editor at

Ever notice that Peter Molyneux manages to get quite a lot of press? There's a reason for that; he has strong opinions and he's happy to say outrageous things as well as give intelligent thought provoking comments.

"It's you Americans. There's something about nipples you hate. If this were Germany, we'd be romping around naked on the stage here." 
Peter Molyneux @pmolyneux

You don't have to be Peter but if you understand why journalists like him and quote him then you're going to be better positioned to deal with the press, build up a profile and promote your products. He wasn't at launchconf I just wanted to give an example of one his quotable quotes.

4. Build a community

"If you're proud of what you do, get the message out there, however you can and you'll build a community"

- Colin Macdonald, @ScottishColin, Channel 4's Games Commissioner

Put the time in to go to events, if you can afford it, PAX, E3, GameCity etc gives you access to the press and the public. The world's connected now, the general gaming public you interact with will tweet, write blogposts and post to their Facebook wall. This ripple effect helps build your community.

Get twitter followers by providing early access to your game, let them join in the conversation and see the development process. If fans are into your game they'll rally round and help you market it. If you ever browsed the comments of a popular kickstarter you'll see this in action for example:

 Direhippo 4 days ago
I've been jumping on all the forums I know to continue to promote this game using the paypal link:
Send it out to everyone you can!

If you hold a community event you can reach out to journalists and ask them to join you. For an indie this could be as simple as a get together at a pub. The press meeting your fans is wonderful as they'll provide new positive perspectives on the game.

5. Be prepared

You should always be ready to show off your game or product, you should have a tablet that someone could play the game on, you should have screenshots and videos to hand. That way you'll never miss an opportunity to show the game off or get some press. You don't want a hold-up or friction when you're trying to get coverage.

Be prepared, just like these girl scouts.

Have assets and press packs easily available from your website. Every email to a journalist should contain your best screenshots (or I guess a link would be good too), don't assume they'll remember who you are or anything about the game you're developing (not because they're terrible callous people but because they're inundated with similar emails 100s of times a day. With so many different games it's hard to keep track of it all, however well meaning!)

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