Hello everyone, Clay here yet again with a more instructive piece, and this one is aimed primarily at Game Developers and Creators of that sort. I noticed a few times on the /r/indigaming Subreddit that people seem to have an issue with understanding how to get the word out about their upcoming projects. When I asked if people on twitter would like me to write something about this, I did get some requests so here we go!
Now, this piece is going to be from the perspective of first a Consumer, and then as a Content Creator. It will be divided into two sections as well, the first major one discussing how I, as a consumer of games, find out about upcoming projects, kickstarters, and the like and what I feel is the best way for a Dev to get the word out.
The second section will be discussing the role of a Content Creator (ie a Blogger, Reviewer, Youtuber, Streamer, ect) and how Game Devs can locate these folks in order to assist with getting the word out about their creations.
I want to be clear, this is my own perspective / opinion on things and may not be what works for you as an individual Dev. But this is an opinion formed over around 30 years of hunting down and playing a variety of games, so I like to think its pretty solid. I could also be completely insane. You tell me!
Lets begin shall we!
Getting the Word Out
Lets start by asking this simple question: Do you have an account on every social media site? If the answer is no, start there. You are going to need accounts on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Tumblr at the minimum. These will give you access to those communities, and allow you to start interacting with those communities to get the word out about your game.
Word of Mouth you see is KING.
I am not going to pretend its not going to be daunting to keep up with 4 social media accounts, plus creating your game, because its going to be intense. But the fact remains that many of us choose one, maybe two sites, and stick to em. For example, I am pretty much a Twitter guy. I have a facebook and tumblr, but barely use them. I tend to stalk twitter looking for new info about upcoming games from developer accounts, creatives, and my own friends / followers.
So start by hitting all 4 sites, and then pare it down to 1 or 2 once you see where you are gaining the most interaction. Getting tons of likes, follows, and shares on Facebook but not much else? Stick there, and grow there.
Now, bare in mind that you want to seem human on these accounts. Don’t JUST Pimp your work. Interact with the greater communities on each one and connect with the consumers. We are an even increasingly connected world, and many of us are savvy to being marketed to. Plus, many of these sites will forcibly lower the visibility of anything they deem “marketing”. You need to make friends, connect, and organically grow in that manner.
Also, you need to find and use the relevant communites / groups / hashtags on each site. Are you a board game creator on Twitter? Use #boardgames for one. Making a new indie game? #indiedev is an option for you. Tags are how people locate things, as you can filter many of these sites by tags. The more tags you have, the more chances people will see YOUR work.
Another place you can turn to is Reddit. This is just one of many sites, honestly, but its a huge community driven platform based on sharing interesting things. If you have never used reddit, think of it as a giant forum divided by interests. And those divisions can get VERY Granular. For example, there is a subbreddit (thats what the divisions are called) known as “ChildrenFallingOver” which is, quite literally, nothing but gifs and videos of kids falling over. Some that you will want to get into are the following:
Be aware that Self Promotion, while allowed, is fairly restricted on reddit, and you need to prove you are there for more then just marketing. If you are going to use reddit, start by finding these communities that you want to use, and interact with em. Comment on things, share other interesting news you find, ect. Be a human. Its very very important. Also make sure you find the exact subreddits that fit your game. Are you making a VN? Then check out /r/visualnovels! Are you making an RPG? Then perhaps dive into /r/rpg_gamers! Like I said, there is a subreddit for every interest, ever genre, every THING. Dont be afraid to get in there, discover, and connect with others.
Also, dont be afraid to create your OWN SUBREDDIT COMMUNITY For your game! It gives you yet another avenue to post news and get people engaged with you and each other. Both Skyhearth and Siralim (2 Indie Games I keep an eye on) have their own Subreddits, and use them to great effect.
Personally, I find most of my info on Twitter and Reddit. Just to give an example.
And yes, this is a lot of work, but if you want to get your name out there, get your game out there, your product out there, this is the kind of stuff you have to do, at least until you have the budget to hire a Community Manager, whose job would then be to manage all of this for you. You will either spend time or money on marketing. One or the other.
One final option, specifically for the Physical crowd (Board games and Card games) to get the word out is to actually go out to local stores and see about holding an event to promote your game. Dont be afraid to go into your local mom and pop card shop / game shop and introduce yourself, and see if you can setup a promo event, showing off your game, inviting people to play, and so on. You can get both the word out (make sure you got flyers / business cards available for folks!) AND get some testing done on your game! Also, for those Board/Card game folks if you are not using BoardGameGeek already get on that site, get connected to the community, and get to work. Those are your people, right there. For the Tabletop RPG crowd, the same thing about events apply, but the site you might want to connect with is ENWorld, one of the biggest TTRPG News Sites out there.
So you got your name out there, people are engaging with your tweets, your facebook posts, your subreddit, ect. So what else can you do?
Thats where Content Creators, like myself, come in.
Finding the Content Creator thats Right for You!
Lets start by saying that there are tons of different kinds of content creators. You got Youtubers, Streamers, Podcasters, Bloggers, Social Media Influencers, ect. Each one reaches a different audience, each one will have a different focus or style, and each one will have their own unique take on things.
Finding them shouldn’t be too hard, you would think. Its not like we hide (thats literally the opposite of what we do) but there are a LOT OF US OUT THERE! Sometimes, finding the exact type you want can feel like finding a needle in a haystack.
First things first, finding us can actually be pretty simple. Using the same methods above to find consumers (events, websites, social media) you can locate us. We tend to use the same sorts of hashtags you will use, to promote our own content. For example, when I go live streaming I use #streaming as a hashtag, plus some for genre of what I am streaming. When I write a blog post (like this one) I use tags relevant to it to appear in searches. So if you want a board game reviewer, for example, try to find #boardgames on your site.
Now, you can also use the actual search functions on google and youtube to help as well. Go to Youtube, and type “board game review” and I promise you will find a ton of Youtubers who do it. If you are searching say Twitch, try to look up the name of a game thats similar, or just try Board Games, and see who pops up. For Bloggers, you want to go on google and type “Board Game Review” and see what sites show up.
Any Content Creator worth a damn is going to have their own social media accounts at the minimum, and possibly their own website (like mine right here). These will usually have ways to contact them, whether its email (like mine linked up top in my Review page) or social media accounts. Find them, and engage with them. The bigger ones will prolly have their own PR Emails that you will need to send your request to, and dont be upset if they do not respond.
Now, assuming you found a Creator you think might be interested, before you start sending em products, VET THEM. Make sure they are a fit for what you want to represent your game, and that their audience is the kind you want. Some streamers are “toxic” and have communities that are, frankly, a mess for example. Some youtubers are “edgy” and might be promoting things you dont like. You will want to sit down and consume their content.
Watch their Youtube videos
Read their Blog Posts
Watch / Interact on their Livestreams
Listen to their Podcasts
See if their “voice” is what you want to associate with your game. Because once they get ahold of it, what they say is out of your hands. Further, see if they have interests in your type of game. For example, you wouldnt want to come to me to review your Battle Royale game because I dislike those games immensely. You would however come to me for say a Visual Novel, or an RPG, because those are the sorts of games I like.
Now their are thousands of creators, big and small. I consider myself on the smallish side for example. Do not neglect us smaller ones though, cause we tend to have very rabid and devoted fanbases. You do not however want to go too small because then you simply wont have any audience whatsoever to reach. Here are some loose numbers, if I was a Dev, that I would look at before contacting a content creator.
Streamer: Affiliate Rank on Twitch, or at least 100 followers / 3+ Active Viewers per Stream
Youtuber: 250+ Subscribers, and at least a number of views per video equal to 10% of their sub base
Blogger: Varies but you want something like a thousand monthly views on average if you can find that data (For example, I am in the 10k a month average views as of Jan 2019)
Social Media: 1000+ Followers is a good start
The reason here is you want to be able to get your name out there, get your creation out there, to an active base. It also shows that they are trying. For example, if you go by my Youtube progress you might be sad to find out I rarely use it. But I am an Affiliate on Twitch and stream almost every weekend, and I am (weirdly enough) fairly large on Twitter, and my blog gets around 8k views a month (which still freaks me out btw)
Now there are some red flags to watch out for. If for example a creator is constantly doing giveaways to boost numbers and get followers / subs, you might want to be careful. Their audience will most likely only be there for the giveaways. Also, be careful if a content creators asks for multiple copies of your product. Generally, they should only need a single copy in order to stream/review/promote. If they contact YOU saying “I need 10 keys so I can give them away to my followers” be very careful with that. If you want to work WITH them to do a sort of hosted giveaway that is something you can do, but make sure that they are not constantly doing that. You dont want to run the risk of your game ending up on a pirate site or a grey market key reseller.
Once you find a creator you like, reach out to them. Email, social media, whatever option they have, reach out and tell them what you are looking for. Don’t expect a reply, and DO NOT Blindly send a copy / pdf / key to them. You want to make sure they are up for working with you. At least the small ones.
I want to stress do not be afraid to reach out to the bigger ones as well. Just be aware that the larger the creator, the greater the chance that you will have to sponsor them (ie pay money + provide product) in order to get them to work with you. Smaller ones like me, we dont usually have that restriction.
Now, for Board Game Creators and Tabletop RPG, I am sorry to say there is no other real options here. You are going to have to get down and dirty and do some leg work to find people willing to review / promote your product. And, because you will frequently need to send review copies out, this can become costly. Do your research, I cannot stress this enough. You will want to pick the best podcasts, youtubers, and streamers out there to reach the widest audience possible.
For Video Game Creators, however, you actually have two more options. Now, as a content creator these options cost me nothing to use, but they MIGHT require you to spend some cash, you will have to, again, do research.
These are PR firms that allow creators and designers to connect and offer a variety of tools to make things simpler. Terminals is the harder one to gain access to (on both sides) and is the one that will most likely cost the most money, but its also a well known option that has hard rules for creators (like me) to meet before we can gain access.
Keymailer.CO however is a little less strict on both sides, and I think has even free options for you to use. Now, what makes these sites handy is that they organize all a content creators information into one location. Keymailer for example will show you what I have streamed, how many followers I have on my linked accounts, easy ways to find me, and even what kinds of platforms and games / genres I am interested in assuming I filled out my profile. Terminals does similar.
Both require accreditation so you can be sure that anyone who is “Accredited” (on Keymailer) or Visable on Terminals has met their requirements to be an active and useful creator. I suggest looking into BOTH of these services and using them to learn about the creators out there. As of 9/25 I was lead to another platform, Woovit, which seems to be in the same vein as the last two with similar regulations and rules in place. Your mileage may vary but its worth a try. I signed up as a creator at least.
There you have it, some hopefully useful info on finding both Consumers to enjoy your product, and Content Creators to help you get the word out. If this has helped you please let me know, and maybe share it with your fellow Dev Friends. The more who know about this kind of stuff, the better it will be (especially for me, so I can find out about cool shit yo)
Thanks for reading, I hope you have a wonderful day, and Stay Nerdy!