Why press releases alone are no longer enough to announce your game + The definition of success
Topic 1: The days of announcing your game with just a press release are over
Ok, so first up, a disclaimer. These are my thoughts, and my thoughts only. Take them as you will. However, looking at my recent experiences and observations, I feel that announcing your game the old-fashioned way via a press release and trailer, without a bigger party boost, is less and less the way to go. These days, you need a visibility and credibility boost. There are now more and more games being made, and it’s just impossible to keep up with all the announcements, not to mention gaming news in general. So naturally, to combat this deluge of information, filter and curation systems have been created (subconsciously, by the market) to separate those games that are worthy of the market’s attention, and those that are not. We need that, as otherwise, we would all go nuts. And my job is to make sure you don’t fall in between those attention cracks.
So, what is a big-party boost you say? The first example of big boosters are digital showcases, so your Future Games Shows, PC Gaming Shows, Summer of Gaming, etc. These showcases are a fantastic way to boost your announcement as a) they have a decent-to-big audience, b) journalists watch them too so you could get additional coverage, c) some have good Steam front-page features (and I know that some of those Wishlists may not be as good at converting as getting them from somewhere else, but still, it’s good exposure), and d) being part of a high-profile showcase shows players, journalists, and the industry itself that your game is worthy of being on that digital stage. After all, only the “good ones” make it to those showcases. That’s the natural filtration and curation system at work.
This is as big of a boost as it gets. It's the "Geoff effect".
Now you might be asking “Well, that’s all good and everything, but what if I don’t make it to a showcase or the timings are all off?”. Good question. In that case, I would look for another booster. One such booster is IGN, and sure, they are huge, but they do cater to a specific audience that has specific tastes - keep that in mind. Another booster are console channels, so Nintendo, PlayStation, Xbox. A well-made trailer that caters to that console’s specific market could really make a splash (and get you coverage from those console-specific media). You could go even niche-ier, and give your announcement trailer to a YouTuber that has a following in a specific genre, such as YouTuber MathChief. Reveals by such YouTubers can also blow up in the communities they serve, so it is an interesting option to think of too.
So yes, my advice to you is to boost as much as you can. Plan your marketing campaign around the boosters. Not everyone has the advantage of being a big or cult studio such as Rockstar or CD Projekt Red. Their names are boosters in themselves. All they have to do is flash their logo and people go nuts. Smaller titles, being from premium indies to AA, well, they don’t have that luxury. So go for that boost. It certainly won't hurt you being on a showcase, that’s for sure.
Topic 2: Definition of success
These thoughts are a result of a conversation that I had with a friend. Without going into too much hoopla (if you want more hoopla, let me know), here are my thoughts on what makes a game successful. When I first started my career, my boss at the time (hi Atom!!!) said that there are three criteria for judging a game's success: the number of sales the game had, the reception the game got from critics, and the reception the game got from players. Each game can have multiple combinations of those three - good sales, good player feedback, poor reviews. Or good reviews, good player feedback, poor sales (this happens more than you think). The best-case scenario is scoring positives in all three criteria. The worst is getting “poors” all over the place. If you could get a positive on two out of three, then you’ve done well (preferably with sales being one of those good ones).
The Game Success Criteria Pyramid. A simplified idea of success, shaped like a triangle.
I think that this triangle of success is a good indicator of what success is, but I feel we could add a few other types of success (successes?) too. If you signed an exclusivity deal with a major platform before your game came out, that’s a huge success factor - even if the original three are not so flash. If you have a lot of Wishlists, but not that many high initial sales, well, that’s not a bad situation to be in as you have a pool of people that will be reached via email anytime you do a 20%+ discount. And if your game received post-release awards and recognition, well, that’s just a nice verification that you have a talented team of people doing great work. I guess what I’m trying to say is that success can be a lot of things. What matters is that you move forward. Remember, keep one eye on the future. Everything up until now that you did is a stepping stone to what you and your studio can be. And everything that’s positive can be spun into a nice pitch document for potential publishers or investors for the next project if they’re needed (to a degree).
I hope that you enjoyed this double-themed post. I would love to hear your thoughts on it. Was it too much? Too little? Or maybe just right? Write in and let me know. It’s really cool when you do. And as always, I hope that these few paragraphs were worth the read and that you’ll be smashing marketing-wise like crazy.
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