Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Push your game into the spotlight... on the cheap

Elvis Alistar: We all love games and we all look for something special in the games we play: having fun, getting an adrenaline rush, feeling a certain type of emotion, celebrating cracking that difficult puzzle and so on. Making games comes with its own set of challenges, most connected with the game design and development itself, and later on when the game is ready, marketing, player acquisition and monetization, updates, support, etc.

As game developers we want to create the games we would love to make, but we also want these games to reach a wide audience and be played and loved by many people around the world. Give yourselves a headstart here and start building a community around your game as early as possible.

Build a community around your game before it is released
By being open, transparent and constantly communicating with people out there that might be interested in your game, you will gather a core group of vocal people that are going to become your game’s ambassadors. If you also ask for feedback from them and listen to it, they will become invested in your game and feel that they are part of something bigger. They will care about what you do and they will tell everyone around them about it. Word of mouth is a powerful marketing tool and the best thing about it is that it’s free.

Your community can give you a big moral boost when you need it.
Show people who you are, why do you want to make the game, why your game is unique and why they should care about it. Make your game stand out and point out the things that make it unique. Be personal, try to reply to all the messages you get, be friendly and show your community you care about them. They will be there for you when you go through rough times encouraging you to keep going and they will be alongside you celebrating your achievements and progress. Your community can give you a big moral boost when you need it. They can playtest your builds, stream early playtest sessions on their social media channels, write about your game and so much more.

How do you build a fan base?
Social media and a strong web presence are powerful tools these days.

Setup a website for your game. It doesn’t have to be complicated and have a lot of information on it, but make it look good. Have a dedicated page for your game, a way for people and press to contact you, and links to all the other channels where you post updates about your game.

Write a dev blog. This can be part of the website or a separate blog, linked from the website. Aim for at least one weekly update. This will always give you a milestone for what you plan to achieve that week that you can work towards achieving.

Create social media accounts: Twitter, Facebook page, Instagram. Post short periodic updates on Twitter, longer updates or dev blog cross links on Facebook, concept art and screenshots on Instagram. If you make a video blog or have video progress updates, trailers, etc. create your own YouTube channel. Link all of these from your website.

Make smart use of hashtags. Use hashtags that can reach a large audience, like #indiedev or #gamedev. Use hashtags that your game engine provider and their community keep an eye on - in the case of Unity, for example, you can Tweet using #madewithunity or #mwu. If they like your Tweet and retweet it, it will reach a massive amount of users.

Meet other developers in your area. Talk to them about your games. Share ideas, knowledge, experiences, promote each others’ games.

Be active in the large communities that surround the game engine of your choice. Unity, for example, offers https://madewith.unity.com/, where you can create a page showcasing your game, even if it’s work in progress. Or log in with your Unity Developer Network account and create a good looking profile showcasing your game. Other like-minded Unity devs will find your page and if enough people like it, it will get featured on the main Connect page. Getting featured anywhere there are lots of people looking at your game can bring you a huge boost in popularity. Go to Unity Messenger and introduce yourself there and what you do. That message alone will reach 40000 people. Go to Unity Forums and create a WIP page for your game - remember to share progress periodically. Join Unity’s dev Slack channel; there are 4000 more people there that can give you feedback on your game or help with technical issues. Best part of all, developers from Unity itself are hanging out in there as well.

If you can afford it, go to conferences, get an indie booth and showcase your game - make sure you have business cards and some swag. Try to get registered or selected for competitions. Winning any kind of prize or title - that you can later mention on your website - will give you even more visibility and credibility and will boost interest into your game.

Just do it!
We just scratched the surface with what you can do in order to get the word about your game out there. It’s too easy to let the daily work and struggle to get the game done get in the way of communicating with people outside the team. But, you will do yourself a favor if you do that. It can be done by spending a few hours every week connecting to your community and building it. If you have more suggestions of your own, please share in the comments below.
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