The need for marketing your game cannot be emphasized enough. Nobody is going to stumble upon your game without you doing some sort of promotion. While you can get some initial momentum going by launching your game at the right time, you will need to put in the extra effort to keep getting your game noticed. Here’s some tried-and-tested marketing tips.
I call Youtubers who specialize in showcasing games Gametubers.
They are your allies for getting hundreds to thousands (if you are VERY VERY VERY lucky, millions) of people out there to know about your game.
If your game belongs to a particular niche – say VR – look for Gametubers who specialize in that niche. For example, NODE, Nathie and JoshDub are all Gametubers who specialize in showcasing VR games. You can probably find more of them by doing a search on who has done a video on the popular VR games. Some of them come with a large subscription base comprising gamers interested in virtual reality games who may just become your customers if they see their favorite Gametuber do a fun play test of your game.
I would then compile a list of these Gametubers and write in to them separately with a polite request to do a play test video of your game. Now remember, Gametubers are gamers too and they want to know why they should play your game. Tell them what’s special about your game. Include a great screen shot and a link to your promo video. Let them know that you would be very happy to furnish a free Steam key or two to download your game.
And please treat them with courtesy and respect.
I have read game developers ranting online about Gametubers being snobbish because they are asking to be paid to play test a game. Personally I really don’t think that’s very fair on the developer’s part, considering the following.
1. Gametubers are very important members of the gaming ecosystem. Without them a lot of gamers would not get to see how our games look like in action. We should see them as friends and partners and accord them the credit they deserve.
2. Gametubers are exchanging their time to make videos of them playing games. If they treat it as a profession, then it is a job like any other. Unless it is of a voluntary basis, nobody wants to work for free. If they expect some gratuity for making a video, it’s really up to the developer and Gametuber to work something mutually beneficial out. There’s no need to get personal about it.
My personal experience is that I have very seldom met Gametubers who ask to get paid for doing a video. And when I do meet the occasional one who does, I follow my own advice and try to work out a deal with them. My rationale is that if I really want them to do a video that badly for me, I will try to work out a fair deal I can afford.
Getting word on your game out to relevant websites is important for getting eyeballs.
I have found a strong co-relation between an increase in sales and a mention on high traffic VR centric websites that VR gamers tend to visit. Hence it makes perfect sense for developers to try our best to reach out to editors and writers of these websites.
However these professionals are literally swamped with dozens of emails, tweets and Facebook messages asking for some sort of favor every single day. So we need to be mindful of a few things when approaching them.
Some writers focus on covering general VR news, some on VR hardware and gadgets and others on VR games. Obviously we should focus only on writers with a focus on covering VR games. Like my advice with the Gametubers – be polite and professional, be clear on the selling points of your game, include a couple of screen shots and a link to your game play video and probably include a Steam key to download your game.
Lastly, be clear on why you are approaching the writers. Are you telling them about your game launch? Are you giving them an exclusive on your game preview? Are you asking for a game play coverage? Are you telling them about a major update? Don’t be ambiguous and make them guess. Be as clear as possible.
I do want to say that maintaining good press relations require a great deal of time, patience and good communications skills. If you don’t think you can handle this on your own, consider hiring a PR specialist or agency to help you out.
My only advice in hiring someone like that is to make sure that they have relevant credentials and that you pay them by milestones.
I know of a business associate who made the mistake of engaging a PR firm helmed by a lady which promised everything but delivered nothing. To be fair, they had a portfolio of game companies they have ‘helped’ before and he hired them based on that. Unfortunately he did not check with the companies if they were happy with her services. If he had bothered to check how much coverage the games got in the end by simply Googling, he would have avoid paying a few grand for her to get a few lousy reviews on some low traffic websites.
These are a couple of PR agencies specializing in games promotion I know of that enjoy good reputation.
If you know of any others please include them in the comments below.
The power of the social media channels cannot be underestimated in promoting games. I’ll zoom in straight to the ones that I’ve personally seen a direct co-relation to sales –
Facebook | Like it or not, tons of people use Facebook and what Facebook is great for reaching out to people who may be interested in your game. For Sairento VR, I searched for groups like SteamVR, OpenVR and HTC Vive Owners whose members are likely interested in VR games and built up a rapport there. Mingle with the members, comment on threads, share information, discuss other games and finally share updates on your game whenever appropriate. If you have a marketing budget, consider creating sniffy videos of your game in action and promoting it under Video Views to Facebook members you think may be interested in your game. The great thing about Facebook is that you can easily target groups of people according to their preferences and demographics.
More on Marketing Games On Facebook.
Reddit | You either love Reddit or hate it. It is a super forum filled with all sorts of people. With every few nice people you meet there, you are bound to run into one or two nasty ones. The way Reddit is structured is that there are many sub-forums – or sub-Reddits. These sub-Reddits discuss all kinds of topics under the sun. Directly related to games will be the Gaming sub-Reddit, with a whopping 17 million members. There are of course other sub-Reddits related to games and game development but I won’t list them here. It’s quite simple to search for them on the website. Now, the trick to posting on Reddit is to appear to be neutral and non self-promotional. If you want to post about your game, it is far better to say something generic like – ‘New VR Game Sairento VR Is Out’ – as opposed to ‘Try Out The Cool Awesome Super Cyber Ninja VR Game Sairento VR!!!’. Redditors have a talent for sniffing out self-promoters and will be all over you like hounds if you haven’t built a rapport with them already.
Imgur | Imgur is a bit of a hit or miss. Essentially a popular social platform where you can upload a GIF or a series of GIFs to make up an article, the trick is to make sure you make posts that are visually interesting and potentially sticky at the same time. Audiences here like memes that are punchy and correspond with them. When marketing Sairento, I made a few posts. One is a lengthy one – and two other shorter ones – this and this. Incidentally the lengthier post performed better than one of the shorter ones but also performed worse than the other shorter post, so it is hard to say if a shorter post will always perform the best. I believe that more testing needs to be done to have a conclusive statement on this. From my limited test with Imgur, I saw some sales spike likely thanks to Imgur, but at the same time it is the least powerful of the three platforms.