The indie game space is becoming more crowded by the day, with developers and publishers not just competing with each other, but triple-A releases, too.
Curve Digital publishing director and PR guru Simon Byron offers his tips on getting the word out there about your indie title.
What advice would you offer indie developers and publishers for marketing their games?
- Their most important relationship is with the platform holders. Starting a dialogue with them way ahead of launch is absolutely crucial – they can help advise on positioning, assets, timings, promo opportunities and, specifically, release dates.
- Be flexible. Unless there's a strong financial incentive to release on a specific day, be prepared to move if needed – even if it's only by a few days. Remaining front of store for as long as possible can have a huge impact on sales.
- Don't just plan for the first six weeks – plan for two years at least. These days the market is increasingly price sensitive. For those that are potential buyers, consumers will either want a game immediately or they will wait until the price is right. Make sure there is an incentive to buy at launch – a small discount is essential. Then, when the time is right, be prepared to promote and promote again – don't feel the need to increase discounts each time. In our experience, slight savings here and there don't have a huge effect – it's headline figures which can really get sales going. And just because you've already discounted 50 per cent once, doesn't mean you need to go further next time. Continually check the impact of discounts and only get more aggressive when you need to.
- Of course, no-one has an actual advertising budget – but if you do manage to find some down the back of your publisher's sofa, Facebook offers a highly targeted solution even at very modest amounts. You can drill deep down into fans of certain genres or even certain games, offering a relevant audience with very little wasted. The slight concern is that everyone on Facebook hates being advertised to, so make sure your messaging and creative is relevant.
- Go to expos. Meet your fans. Being part of the indie buzz can make a real difference, so attend whatever events you can afford. Some are pretty reasonable, whilst others can take a significant portion of your total marketing budget so do think carefully – and if the cost proves difficult to do on your own, see how else you can buddy up with friends, initiatives like the Indie Megabooth, or any of the various trade associations. You can sometimes get funding to attend events, too – so do keep an ear to the ground.
And what about for PR?
- Prepare. The number of times I've seen people do or announce something without any supporting assets really saddens me. If you've got words, make sure you have pictures and/or video to accompany it. Websites are developed to templates which demand a certain type of visual – if you provide those you're limiting your opportunities. Have a think about where you think you should be featured and make a note of how they display content. Are pictures portrait? Landscape? What sort of resolutions do they run? And yes yours is brilliant but think: seriously, how many pieces of editorial are accompanied by a static logo? Get all this ready before it's needed – the time you take to get back to someone could see you lose that slot.
- Make life easy. The market is changing all the time – and the commercial pressures of the editorial business these days means the number of people covering a particular beat is dwindling. This means they don't have time to faff about – so don't supply text as a PDF, don't hide behind waffle whenever pitching, provide keys and assets within the copy or in easy-to-access links. Don't make people register to access anything. Don't watermark your images.
- Don't panic. A successful launch used to be all about having the press aligned – but these days there are loads of opportunities to gain coverage weeks after release. If, for whatever reason, you've not gained a huge amount of coverage around launch, cast the net further – get in front of streamers, bloggers and people with a large social media presence. One well-timed mention can often snowball into virality – the launch window lasts much longer these days.
- Have fun. The market loves people that show some sort of personality – games are all about entertainment, after all. Often the most effective ways of reaching a large audience are by sharing stupid stuff over Twitter. A couple of minutes in Photoshop can reap huge rewards – images and videos can travel globally and have the potential to reinforce your voice.
- Become part of the scene. Don't tell the Guberganders: but the press and development scene tend to have a pretty good relationship. If there's such a thing as a ‘scene', it is reasonably easy to get involved – go to the indie game nights like Videobrains, Kotaku's Indie Game Night, get drinking down at the Loading Bar in Stoke Newington and hang out at One Life Left's Marioke. It's definitely easier to get people to notice what you're doing if you already know you.