Indie Game Developers shouldn’t forget the benefits of PR
Sophie here once again, today i thought i would look at how the internet can be utilized as a PR tool to help Indie Game Developers promote their games.
Public Relations in a nutshell: PR is defined as the art of controlling information flow between a company and the outside world. When you are an independent games developer producing a game using your own IP, it is easy for your indie roars to be rendered to a pitiful whisper in the noisy and crowded sea of the internet.
This means the Indies have to swallow their pride and remember they are not an EA or Activision and cannot use the same sort of PR methods they use, therefore they need to maximise their flow of information and utilize the web as much as possible.
The big guys tend to guard their updates carefully, rarely leaking new information about their game. When they do, it’s very controlled and polished. This strategy may make sense when you are so big that even a small leak of information means multiple Digg front-page stories and coverage by news sites everywhere. For Indies though, your carefully packaged press release would likely fall into obscurity.
This means that you need to get creative, experiment, and make noise often. Since it’s hard to predict what will blow up and what won’t, the more insights you share the better your chances are of getting people’s attention.
Remember that the upside is huge and the downside is small. The only thing you stand to lose is your time if you sink hours into a post that doesn’t earn you any recognition.
The good news is that if a PR attempt fails, no one will see it so you don’t have to feel embarrassed (EA doesn’t have this luxury). Since almost everything applies to games, there are lots of different things you can share.
An important part of open development is reaching out to other people in the industry. Contact other Indies, they are your allies not your rivals. You also want to reach out to press contacts and distributors.
Cold emails are always tough, so don’t get discouraged. Meeting people in person is extremely valuable. No matter where you are, you should try to get involved in your local game developer scene. Raiding conferences is also a great way to meet people. I recommend having a box of business cards, an iPod touch with some videos of your game on it.
To a certain extent indie games represent a chance to find out about the next big thing before it hits mainstream so don’t be bashful, say hello. You never know who you’ll meet and meeting people in person turns cold emails into warmer ones.
Building a community
The best way to build a community is to facilitate communication. Create ways for you to talk to fans, for fans to talk to fans and also for fans to talk to you.
It’s easy to think that you might be overwhelmed by visitors to your site if you allow everyone to contact you directly, however this is a great problem to have and most Indies that are just starting out are not lucky enough to have this problem.
Start early. Starting from zero is tough, so get it out of the way now. The earlier you start the more seeds you can plant by launch.
Onsite PR implementation
The blog is your rock and your most effective tool for sharing your development process with the world. It is extremely versatile and all the original content you produce for your blog can be echoed out to your other pages.
Tips: Use pictures/videos, keep it short, encourage discussion, make blog posts often
The forums offer a place for visitors to share their thoughts. Unlike the blog which you have to power yourself, the forums are largely fan-run. They provide a great medium to share information and solutions to problems that may arise. They also allow for the sharing of creative ideas and mods.
Tips: Seed the forums with appropriate topics. Try not to crack down to hard on anyone or you may find yourself in the middle of a flame war.
Offsite PR Implementation
ModDB is a very indie friendly collection of all video games and their mods. It’s a great place to add your game and keep people updated on its status. If the ModDB staff like your news update, they will promote it to the front page. Many people use it as a news site and keep track of gaming news. It is a surprisingly large site and the community is awesome. Some ModDB visitors have already started modding Overgrowth before it is even released.
Tips: Decorate your page to draw attention to it, update often with high quality content to attract people
YouTube is the best place to host your videos. YouTube has HD now and an absurd number of useful features these days. The most valuable thing about YouTube is that people can easily subscribe to your channel and YouTube will funnel more viewers onto your pages by cross-pollinating your video with other related videos.
Tips: Add a link to your YouTube channel in your videos so people can subscribe to you
A Facebook page gives you a secondary location to host your blog posts, pictures and HD videos. Facebook is the biggest social network and is designed to be as viral as possible. Whenever someone interacts with your page, the activity is splashed around to his or her friends. This helps people spread the word organically and can cause pretty substantial chain reactions.
However, a Facebook page needs nurturing.
Tips: Feed your blog onto your page’s notes, upload videos and photos individually to the wall so that they are more conspicuous
Twitter seemed pretty dubious at first. However Twitter is unique from other pages because it offers a good medium for you to meet your peers in the industry in addition to accumulating fans. Twitter is at worst an alternative to your blog’s RSS feed, but at best, it’s a great way to keep people up to date more rapidly and lets you communicate with tons of other game developers.
Tips: Don’t just link to yourself like an RSS bot, use Twitter to communicate with people
Your Steam group offers a great way to introduce your game to the Steam community. Groups have amenities like screenshots and avatars that you can upload to add some flair to your page.
However, the main asset of Steam groups is the chat room that acts like a public IRC channel tied directly to your game. Because most people on Steam are active gamers looking to purchase games, this PR is extremely well targeted.
Tips: Idle in your Steam group’s chat room so you can meet visitors and answer their questions, offer visitors avatars, you can post important blog posts as announcements
Games Press helps us auto feed our content onto certain sites. It has been great for getting our videos onto IGN, Gamespot, Game Trailers and G4. Even if you upload pictures of a pumpkin with the company logo carved in it getting set on fire with a propane torch, Games Press will get it streamed to a few sites.
Tips: just post it; you never know whose attention you’ll get
Game Trailers is the biggest game video site out there. It’s a constant stream of videos that people watch like TV, so when they post your video, it will immediately get thousands of views.
Tips: Upload videos often, don’t get discouraged if people mistake your early work for the final product, they’ll catch on eventually as they see more videos.
What’s more interesting: a finished asset or an entire time-lapse showing you everything from the initial strokes to the final product? If you can see the appeal of a time-lapse, you should also be able to see the appeal of open development.
There is often a PR quiet period for a game between when it is announced and when it is ready for preview. It makes sense that news sites probably can’t entertain their readers with your latest updates. However, such updates are interesting news to your community, so don’t sit on your hands, and keep showing what you’ve got.
Finally remember to stay agile. The gaming industry is already moving quiet steadily and web based PR tools seem to be moving faster than that. As a small agile company you’ll have the chance to be a first adopter on the next big thing