50 tips for games marketing success

Develop asks the experts how to get your game in front of the press, critics and players
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Getting your game noticed in 2015 is more difficult than it’s been in years.

Gone are the days where you could rock up on Steam or the App Store, bag some quick sales and become an overnight hit. Developers increasingly have to become more market savvy to get their game discovered. And unfortunately quality doesn’t always speak for itself.

To help you become a success in this landscape crammed full with thousands of competitors, we’ve asked 18 industry professionals – from publishing to marketing and development roles – how best to get your game in the public eye, and get the coverage you need to be a success.

Five tips on how to help your game get discovered on PSN

SCEE’s director of Strategic Content Shahid Ahmad offers key advice on what to expect when launching your game for PS4 and Vita, and how to maximise your game’s visibility.

  • The most obvious advice is to make a great game. That’s your starting point. Everything is dependent on this.

  • If the game uses features that are unique to PlayStation, that will also help.

  • Building and maintaining good relations with your contacts at PlayStation can help, and that especially includes keeping us abreast of development and other news related to your game. If your game is considered Strategic Content, we will be supporting it in a number of ways, including – for the best titles – event exposure.

  • Work with us to talk about your game during development through our channels, like our blog and newsletter.

  • The most important thing to do is to ensure there is awareness around your game long before it’s out on the PlayStation Store.

Six ways to get your game noticed on Xbox

ID@Xbox third-party account manager Agostino Simonetta presents a selection of key tips to help your Xbox One game get in the public eye.

  • Engage with the Xbox community on social media to discuss your game.

  • Add a creative achievements list that players will want to share with their friends and on their activity feeds.

  • Host “Let’s Play” Twitch streams and upload studio videos to show off the game to fans.

  • Create challenges to allow developers and the community to come together for special events.

  • Take your game to trade shows and events to meet the community and let them go hands-on.

  • And of course, come and talk to the ID@Xbox team if you have any specific ideas that we can help you with, such as partnering with Microsoft to show your game in our booth (or on stage) at events like GDC, Rezzed, Gamescom and E3.

Six ways to get your game discovered

Working with the platform holders during development is vital – keep them informed of your plans and ask for input in terms of release window and promotional opportunities. Whilst the platform holders are becoming increasingly overwhelmed, they are happy to help – providing you’re not too pushy.
Simon Byron, publishing director, Curve Digital

If you’re trying to get discovered on console, the best way is to make yourself incredibly easy to support. If you make sure you have a finished press kit and press release, it will be a lot less hassle for the big players like Microsoft to support you with placement and publicity.
Joe Brammer, Producer, Deco Digital

It’s a basic thing but many devs still ignore the golden rule of user testing before going live. Good things start with a good product, so make sure you get feedback and iron out any bugs and issues before you publish. A good user experience is more likely to result in recommendations and high ratings.
Charlie Peachey, Head of marketing, Marmalade Technologies

Think about why your game would be a good fit for a certain platform. Every platform holder loves to feature games, that make them look good. When designing your game, think about your launch platform early and why it would be desirable for the platform holder to showcase it. It is like flirting with a stranger on the street: will they ask you on a date?
Jennifer Schneidereit, Co-founder, Nyamyam

Make sure the platform or store team are aware of your game way before launch day. Get in as early as possible and make sure they know what makes your game fantastic and different to try and ensure store visibility.
Bethany Aston, Senior PR executive, Team17

Get involved with ‘Free App of The Day’ programmes and volunteer your premium app. You get a spike of downloads and if you have a good monetisation strategy you will start to build a following for your game.
Don Whiteford, Commercial director, Nomad Games

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Ten tips for dealing with the press

Be wary of how you contact the press. Try more discrete modes of contact, be that email, phonecall or networking rather than calling them out for not covering something.
Simon Byron, Publishing director, Curve Digital

Every game should have an easy to access press kit with current game info, art asset and links to trailers. Don’t forget to keep updating it as your game evolves though. Don’t hesitate to update the press kit every week, if you have to. If you are unfamiliar with them, have a look at presskit(). It is a free and easy-to-use template for video game press kits.
Jennifer Schneidereit, Co-founder, Nyamyam

Be nice – it’s a relatively small industry, so always be friendly and helpful. People will appreciate this and remember it. Even if they can’t help you at the moment or cover your game right now, they’ll remember you when you next approach them. But don’t get taken advantage of – there’s lots of scammers out there trying to get free game codes.
Michelle Turner, Global PR and marketing manager, Ripstone

Be selective about your press. It’s fatal to get your app in front of a reviewer who hates your genre or, if you have one, your licence. It’s happened to us on more than one occasion. Do your research, and get professional help.
Don Whiteford, Commercial director, Nomad Games

Taking the time to reach out to Twitch, YouTube, and gaming personalities can impact your reach. But equally important with any kind of press is to make sure they would have an interest in your title. Basically don’t ask an obvious first-person shooter fan to write about your platformer.
Steve Escalante, General manager, Versus Evil

Network, and make press contacts. It’ll give your work a much higher chance of being featured on a game site if you know the journalist personally.
Charlie Czerkawski, Co-founder, Guerilla Tea

It’s vitally important to ensure media coverage is high-profile with key decision making media outlets and YouTube influencers/streamers. This will improve discoverability of customers being aware of your game and seeking it out on those store fronts.
Bethany Aston, Senior PR executive, Team17

When contacting the press, ensure your website is well laid out and all of the assets are easily available.
James Deputy, Product manager, Kiss

Don’t just use one point of contact. I usually Google, Facebook stalk, phone editors, and do everything I can to make sure people know that I will be sending them the press release momentarily. Don’t just settle for
news@megacorpgames.com, – everybody’s using that email.
Joe Brammer, Producer, Deco Digital

Reach out a few weeks before release. Give the editor enough time to evaluate and review your game before it launches and schedule your review for publication. Don’t expect them to have time available the week you launch.
Sam Dalsimer, Senior PR manager, Tilting Point

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Five tips to get your game on YouTube and Twitch

TinyBuild Games talent scout and Develop: Brighton speaker Mike Rose on how to get your game covered by the big gaming personalities.

  • First, get to know how these services really work. It might sound simple, but the intricacies of how YouTubers, Twitch streamers et al work, and how they differ, is really plain to see once you begin to watch lots of content that is in a similar vein to how you’d want to be covered. Twitch streamers, for example, are far more focused on interacting with their audiences, meaning that you’ll want to give them reasons to use your games to build their communities. Spamming lots of YouTubers and Twitch streamers with your game, rather than learning exactly how they actually work and talking to them personally, is definitely not the way to go.

  • When you’re contacting YouTubers and Twitch streamers about your game, make sure you’re providing them with exactly what they need, as briefly as possible. YouTubers want a quick description of your game, a code or link to download the game for free, and a video or two of the game in action, so they can assess whether it’s worth covering. Twitch streamers want the same thing, except they also want ways to use your game to interact with their audience, be it extra codes to give away to viewers, or an assurance that you’ll tell your own fanbase when a livestreamer starts broadcasting your game.

  • Make sure your game actually records/streams properly. Go download all the most popular recording software, like Open Broadcaster Software, Bandicam, XSplit, Fraps and Dxtory, then make sure your game plays nicely with each. If a YouTuber or Twitch streamer is put off playing your game because of technical issues, that’s pretty silly for you.

  • Talk to Twitch directly about marketing opportunities. Twitch is still pretty fresh and the team is still exploring how it can help games developers out. At tinyBuild, we’ve been working with the Twitch team to market some of our upcoming games, including featuring on the front page of Twitch, and it’s working rather well.

  • Never get downheartened if you’re barely getting any traction. Many YouTubers and Twitch streamers will only play very specific games and genres, and may simply pass over your game because it doesn’t look like their kind of experience. Keep trying and hopefully you’ll start seeing results.

Six ways to use social media for your game

Great trailers are really important and target the largest audience possible.
Bethany Aston, Senior PR executive, Team17

Be active on social media and promote yourself as well as your title. Be sure to partake in #screenshotsaturday on Twitter and Facebook.
James Deputy, Product manager, Kiss

Ensure your fans have a reason to follow you – think carefully about spamming them with praise you’re getting elsewhere. If they’re following you, they’re already on board – don’t come across as desperate by continually regurgitating coverage.
Simon Byron, Publishing director, Curve Digital

Find like-minded developers that you can work with and agree to work together to share communication on social media. We do this with other Games Workshop licensees.
Don Whiteford, Commercial director, Nomad Games

Tweet other developers working on similar projects. If you’re showing an interest in what they’re doing, chances are you’ll get a re-tweet and an engaging convocation. It also helps to build relationships with key industry people.
Charlie Cammack, Marketing executive, Legendary Games

Social media is a conversation that gets uncomfortable when no one is talking, so make sure you reach out to your channels often and let them know you are not just posting stuff about your game, but are also responding
to their comments and thoughts.
Steve Escalante, GM, Versus Evil

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Five tips for utilising your community in marketing

Jedrzej Czarnota, doctoral research at Manchester Business School and Develop: Brighton speaker, discusses how you can use the community, and even trolls, to evangelise your game.

  • Greatest cause for deviant behaviour (‘trolls’) is customer-perceived procedural injustice – make sure that in the process of open-source marketing, the co-creative experience, as well as roles (of both studio and customers) are clearly articulated.

  • Provide incentives corresponding to various motivation and skill profiles present in your community, accounting for the stage in your game’s development.

  • Gear your marketing department’s processes towards absorption of inputs from your community: slack times and responsive, cross-disciplinary teams.

  • Technoliberalism: adjust your organisational culture to one recognising customers as legitimate collaborators; simultaneously games developers should also accept their role as curators of external content.

  • Establish task structure for your co-creating customers that allows for self-selection and modularity.

Seven marketing strategies

The internet is full of information. If you just slowly post work in progress images to the internet, the images will just be more information on the internet. Have a strategy and try and make big announcements instead of lots of little ones – that’s how you’ll get picked up by large games networks.
Joe Brammer, Producer, Deco Digital

It’s never too early to start talking about your game. Announce what you’re working on, and keep sharing updates as development progresses. Don’t wait until you’re approaching release to start trying to promote the game, be it via social media or talking to the games press.
Charlie Czerkawski, Co-founder, Guerilla Tea

There are features and there are benefits. The former will facilitate the latter. You are in the business of creating work that gets transmuted to human experience via player agency. If you understand how your game might make a person feel, you are at the starting point of creating a powerful marketing message.
Shahid Ahmad, Director of Strategic Content, SCEE

Players fundamentally want to be able to do cool stuff. That sounds asinine but it’s so easy to forget: concentrating on showing that your game has a great art style, cool systems, or an interesting story can be the wrong approach. You need your marketing to focus very quickly on what the player is going to be doing.
Paul Kilduff-Taylor, Joint MD, Mode 7 Games

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As a development team you should take a step back and look at what your timeline looks like, when you are going to have the game playable, when press can get hands-on, when consumers can get hands-on, if there are events you can attend, and if you need to produce anything for pre-order/retail launch.
Steve Escalante, General manager, Versus Evil

Make sure you understand the selling points of your game and know your audience. Whether you’re talking to press, or networking, or showing the game to the public at an event – you need to know the hook. This might be different depending on who you’re talking to and the language you use may need to be different for each.
Michelle Turner, Global PR and marketing manager, Ripstone

Your game’s public image has to be meaningfully different and consistently stated. Choice now is overwhelming, so indies especially should embrace their advantages of agility, experimentation and bravery. However, don’t crave ‘uniqueness’. Unique becomes esoteric quickly.
Darren Williams, Marketing director, Havok

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