From time to time I see posts floating around the web on how to market your game. These are usually made by people who are trying to market their game. They saw an article once about how it’s a good marketing ploy to write articles when you’re trying to market your game.
Our experience is probably quite a bit different to most developers but here’s what I think about marketing your PC game.
Make a fun game
I really can’t emphasise this enough. You can’t make a shitty generic game and hope that marketing will solve all your problems. If your game is shit people won’t want to play it. If your game is unoriginal people won’t want to play it. A game with bad gameplay and awesome graphics won’t sell as much a game with bad graphics and awesome gameplay – that should be common sense.
You can’t blame marketing if your game doesn’t sell. You have to blame your game.
Your game has to be marketable. It has to have stuff to make it stand out, to make people want to buy it.
A good example of this is the nudity in Rust. Traditional logic would tell you that if you have cock and balls on show in your game then less people will buy it. Obviously because games are for kids and their parents buy the games.
Don’t listen to traditional logic.. instead do the opposite. You don’t stand out by doing the same thing that has been done for 10 years. Would Rust have got more or less attention if players had spawned in full army gear? Would it be a better game? Seems like that’s a win win, right?
Advertising is Shit
If your game is fun enough to buy then you won’t have to pay these websites/magazines to advertise/feature/review it.
Your target audience should be you
Time and time again I see people making games targeted at someone else. This is always an issue because they’re assuming a lot about the target audience, and they don’t enjoy the game they’re making.
Make a game that you want to play. Make the features you want to see.
YouTubers and Streamers sell games. This is the industry now.
It turns out that a perfect ecosystem has developed. Most streamers are playing games purely because they’re fun, which means people are buying those fun games. And as an industry that’s what we want – right?
So include them in your plan. Make your game fun. Give them a way to request keys. If your game is fun then they’ll end up playing it anyway.
Booths are for Posers
Spend $10,000 on a booth at an industry event. Fly 7 of your staff over there for 4 days. Lose a month of productivity due to preparation, the event itself then the headbuzz comedown. But it’s worth it because you’ve reached 700 of people in 4 days.
Alternatively spend your time working on your game, give keys to a popular streamer and reach 2,000,000 people in 2 hours.
When considering things like this try think about whether this is a vanity thing. Are you doing it to look like a ‘proper’ game company?
Use the internet like a person
You don’t have to be a faceless, heartless corporation. You can communicate like a human. You can hate things, you can love things, you can have opinions. Sometimes people will disagree with you, sometimes people will call you unprofessional. The people who love you will love you more for not treating them like aliens that you’re trying to scam business out of. They will respect you for treating them like humans.
You can’t please everyone and you definitely shouldn’t try to. Shitty “community managers” who communicate to the community like they’re reading from a script. This is what the shit game companies do who are trying to be like us. Don’t be a shit game company.
Show your passion
95% of the games industry are 9-5 brain-dead automatons who are working on games they hate. They’re bad at what they do because they don’t enjoy it. They’re doing the bare minimum amount of work they need to in order to keep their job. Their work rate is low because they’re not excited to move onto the next task.
Let people know why you and your team are so excited about what they’re doing that they’re working until 2AM. Show them how you’re all working on weekends because it’s your hobby too. Real game developers love what they’re doing – let people feel that.
Your launch isn’t the cumshot
Our game launches are the foundation, they’re just something we’re going to build on.
The traditional approach is probably something like “development -> release + marketing -> work on sequel/go bust”.
Ours is more like “development -> release -> update -> update -> update -> update -> update -> update”.
Consider the Garry’s Mod’s launch.
We could have quite easily said – yep – good launch guys, lets start working on the sequel. And stopped development. So this would have obviously tailed off to like 10 units a day. But we didn’t. We kept on working on it, week after week, update after update. For 8 years. And here’s what that looks like.
You can see the launch right at the start of that graph. Sure a lot of this graph is down to Steams growth and sales.. but I’m also sure it would have looked a lot different if we hadn’t updated it at all.
Get this book
Rework is an awesome book and it goes in more detail on a lot of the things here, and more businessy stuff. Everything in it is straightforward and obvious. Don’t worry – it’s got pictures every other page. I will end up validating a lot of the things you feel but don’t want to act on because everyone else is doing it the stupid way.