Indigo Pearl PR Robbie Paterson has worked with a number of indie developers and publishers including infamous Hotline Miami firm Devolver Digital.
Here he shares some of the lessons he has learnt about doing PR for these smaller titles.
Welcome to my bid to educate the nation on the finer points of my role as self-facilitatingmedia node and ‘that infuriating PR man who looks a bit like Jesus’.
At Indigo Pearl we’ve worked with dozens of indie developers and small publishers looking to make waves in the industry. Perhaps the most notable (and notorious) of these clients is Devolver Digital, a team I’ve had the great misfortune of having to share bathrooms and pizza with throughout a string of high-profile releases such as the Serious Sam and Hotline Miami games. No doubt you’re aware of the marketing campaigns executed by triple-A publishers, splashing video game characters up the walls of train stations and down the throat of consumers, so it’s natural to assume that the gung-ho adventure of publishing indie games – with no certainty of success – would make for a kind of Wild West approach to PR. That assumption is entirely accurate, we even have the hats.
We never have any budget, which means we have to get creative. Luckily, I am almost 30 per cent creative, so this is the kind of situation that I revel in. Most of the time, this is as simple as playing the game I’m working on, writing down what I think about it, then ignoring all of it and writing jokes instead.
"It’s natural to assume that the gung-ho adventure
of publishing indie games – with no certainty of
success – would make for a kind of Wild West
approach to PR. That assumption is entirely accurate."
Robbie Paterson, Indigo Pearl
Other times, it might be making videos in-house or thinking of creative social campaigns – one scrapped idea for Hotline Miami 2 would have involved clues to phone box locations in London containing messages from [in-game organisation] 50 Blessings, which would give fans lucky enough to track them down a ticket to the launch party.
If you want people to engage with a game you’re promoting, then I’m afraid you’ll have to become engaging, yourself. I spend a lot of time talking to press and real people (which they LOVE) and as a result I have a pretty good idea of who likes to play what, who always wants to speak to developers, who loves Let’s Plays of new games, or who would rather skip all of that stuff and wait for a review code.
Ultimately, it’s the people reading articles or watching videos that you’re trying to reach, so identifying the folks who want to talk about your game is super important, because – spoiler alert – not everyone will give a shit about it. Firing codes out and hoping for the best is about as effective as fighting off bears with a jam flavoured tennis racket.
At the end of the day, however, the beauty of helping to promote indie games is that there are no real ‘rules’. There’s no PR 101, although following this I am of course writing the first two volumes so all of this has been meaningless.
I can only speak from personal experience, but the diversity of games like [Devolver Digital titles] Gods Will Be Watching, Broforce and Hatoful Boyfriend means that I get to change my approach to PR each time – who knew there were so many bird enthusiast websites? Some games will benefit from a focus on analytical coverage, whereas others just need a fun video of someone being terrible at it.
As long as I feel I’m getting the word out there in as positive a manner possible, then I can sometimes sleep at night. Just play games and be nice.