Making your beautiful, magnificent game is all well and good, but unless you can persuade people to buy it, all your hard work was for naught. As much as you can hope that your game will reach its audience based on word-of-mouth alone, you're going to need to give it a little shove to get the ball rolling.
Beyond the players themselves, there are two main groups of people you'll want to get your game in front of to help reach a wider audience – press and influencers. Both remain extremely valuable for improving visibility around your game, but it's also trickier than ever to get their attention in the first place.
We can't guarantee that your game will get written up on the biggest website or that Ninja will suddenly drop everything to stream it, but with these tips, you'll definitely have a better chance at getting more eyes on your game.
Everyone working in the games industry loves playing games – that's just a fact. And since we all share this one hobby, it can be easy to see journalists and influencers as good pals who all want to hang out and play some games together, and approach them accordingly.
Here's the first piece of advice: don't do that. Remain professional at all times, unless you've already built up a relationship with them. Contact press and influencers via their email addresses, not just in Twitter DMs. Don't make any silly jokes in your first contact, unless your game is built around that kind of humour. And definitely don't try to cosy up on social media by replying to their cat pictures. It's immediately clear what you're doing, and it's kind of creepy.
At the end of the day, you want to be taken seriously. So make sure you're taking the people you're talking to seriously as well. Offering up that extra bit of professionalism (and respecting their professionalism in the process) will score you points early on.
Give them the game
This might seem counterproductive from a sales point of view, but if you want press and influencers to play your game, you should make it as easy as possible for them to do so from the very first email you send.
Asking them if they want to try the game in your opening email will more than likely lead to you being ignored and your game unplayed. Remember, journalists and influencers get hundreds of emails like yours every day, so by the time they've replied asking for code and had to wait for your reply, forty other games have landed in their inbox.
If you have a PC or mobile executable build, put it on Dropbox or any file-sharing site and include it right at the top of the email. If you have console codes, include one. You still might not get coverage, and you will have to sacrifice a precious code, but just by taking this leap, you're more likely to have someone stop and take the time to play your game.
Tailor your approach
Blanket email-blasting press and influencers is going to lead to you being ignored. You need to make sure you're contacting the right people for your game, rather than asking everyone and their dog to check it out when they have the time.
Influencers will usually stick to a certain genre of game, or titles with similar vibes and styles, so make sure you fit in with their strategy – a battle royale player isn't likely to try out your rich visual novel. Likewise for journalists, though their beats and interests can be a little trickier to figure out. Check out what they've written about before, have a scroll through their Twitter to see what they're enjoying at the moment, and decide if your game matches their interests.
And for heaven's sake, don't open your email by telling them that you've noticed them playing a lot of Game X lately, so you think they'll enjoy your new release. This will definitely make your game look derivative, and it'll show the person you're emailing that you've been cyber-stalking them – never a good look.
Don't forget the little guys
When trying to build up word-of-mouth, it's often best to start small. Don't immediately reach out to the biggest streamers – look for streamers with a modest but dedicated following, and offer them the chance to grow with you. These streamers will appreciate the support and this can often lead to valuable relationships if you can maintain them for the long run.
The same philosophy applies to sites. It can't hurt to contact the IGNs and Gamespots of the world, but also look for smaller, more niche sites. News about your game is less likely to get lost in the shuffle of, say, a Nintendo-specific news site as they have a slower stream of news. There may also be a website that caters specifically to your game's niche. Look for sites that specialise in the genre of your game and you could reach your target audience quicker.
Tidy up your Steam page
As the home of PC gaming, Steam is where the vast majority of players and journos alike will go to learn more about your game. As such, it's worth taking the time to make your game's Steam page as beautiful and appealing as you can. Study the Steam pages of some of the most popular games and consider how they make them look and feel. Can you add animations? Art assets? Videos? Find a talented copywriter to write the description? All of these things will help your game make a great first impression.
We hope these tips will help your game get noticed. Remember that it takes time and patience for word-of-mouth to spread, so don't be discouraged if your game doesn't immediately take off. For more game development resources and marketing tips, check out more content from Talenthouse.
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