You may have leapt into living the indie dream because of the game you want to make, but if you want that game to be a commercial success then you need to think about PR, too.
So far, so obvious, right? There are new articles written every day about the challenges of discoverability, about making sure you have a strong hook to interest the press, and about making sure you put aside time for properly promoting your game. All of that is true, of course, but it’s also important to make sure you’re thinking about PR from the minute you set up shop, and certainly long before your game’s released.
For many indies, the thought of tackling PR is something that sits tugging at their sleeve like an irritating house elf – you know you need to deal with it but you just can’t face it, and you don’t know what to tell it to do, even if you could look it in the eye.
Like all procrastinated jobs, it gets harder and harder to know where to start the longer you delay. But with a little forward planning, and a realisation that you likely already have most of the skills you’re going to need, it can be a whole lot easier.
There are several really important reasons for a new start-up to embrace promotion as early as possible. It all comes down to time; time to learn lessons, to establish efficient systems, to build relationships, and to tell your story.
PR is all about thinking clearly and creatively, about planning ahead and about scheduling your time sensibly – sounds like making a game, right? You do have the right weapons in your armoury even if you don’t yet know how to use them. But if you start straight away then you’ll give yourself the time to experiment, learn lessons and make mistakes – all without staring down the make-or-break barrel of an impending game release.
Set up supporting PR systems now. It’s the same as when you choose which engine to use, plan your workload, or schedule freelancers to provide assets – starting early means it’ll become second nature to use your PR systems by launch.
It’ll also mean you’re prepared: sort out boring stuff like Excel docs to keep track of which journos you’ve interacted with, set up Google alerts on your company and game names, and build time in to your development schedules to account for making trailers, taking good screenshots, and writing compelling text to describe your game. All these things take longer than you expect at first but don’t panic – it’ll all get easier and quicker the more you do it.
Let fans get to know the personality behind the game, bring them along on the journey and they’ll want to help you spread the word.
Natalie Griffith, Press Space
Building them takes time, in real life or on Twitter, but without strong relationships with the media, with other developers or with fans of your game or genre, then where will your evangelists come from?
Go to events, write blogs or articles, engage on Twitter and start to build a community as early as you can. There’s no effective way to shortcut this process. Let people get to know the personality behind the game, bring them along with you on your development journey and they’ll want to help you spread the word.
Just as you’ll carefully plan your game design to gradually reveal story details or introduce new mechanics to engage players, so too should you look at the bigger story you’re telling outside of the game and plan its course carefully.
Think about your journey as a developer, where you’ve come from and where you’re going. Make sure you really understand what you’re trying to achieve. Document those goals then share that vision consistently with everyone: your team, other indies, journalists, gamers, and everyone in-between.
Think of everything you share on any channel as just another step in your broader story ‘arc’. Does your tweet fit with what you’ve shared before? Is your blog post progressing your story in a logical way? Is that video going to make sense in the context of the press release you’ve just issued?
So start your PR journey right now. Learn, plan, build relationships and plot out your story – no one can tell it better than you and no one’s going to.
All this month, Develop is publishing its Start Your Own Studio guide online. You can find all of our start-up articles at www.develop-online.net/startupspecial, plus a full schedule of the guides still to come by clicking here.