Developing a video game is a complex process. It involves attention to detail, dedication, and countless hours of work. However, the completion of a game isn’t the endpoint; it’s the launchpad. To ensure your game reaches its intended audience and achieves its full potential, you need a comprehensive marketing strategy. This article breaks down the intricacies of gaming PR and marketing for your video game, providing a roadmap to follow from the early development stages to post-launch support.
We will delve into the setup phase, the pre-reveal, reveal, pre-launch, launch, and post-launch phases, providing practical advice and industry insights. This guide is created to assist developers, especially those in indie game studios, who may not have a dedicated PR team, in navigating the often-overlooked but crucial aspect of the game development process – marketing.
Whether you’re launching your first game or you’re a seasoned developer, understanding and applying effective PR strategies can mean the difference between your game being a hit or getting lost in the vast sea of releases. So, let’s dive in and explore how to get your game the attention it deserves.
I. The Setup Phase
The initial step in the journey of game marketing begins long before your game is revealed to the public. This is the setup phase, a crucial period for laying the groundwork for your entire PR campaign.
1.1 Define Your Game’s Unique Selling Proposition (USP)
Firstly, identifying your game’s unique selling proposition (USP) is paramount. What makes your game different from the thousands already available in the market? It could be your game’s unique mechanics, its art style, the compelling storyline, or the immersive world-building. Regardless, your USP is the cornerstone of your marketing strategy, helping to create a compelling narrative for your game that can catch the attention of your target audience and the press.
1.2 Research Your Audience
After identifying your USP, the next step is understanding your target audience. Who is your game for? What platforms do they use? What kind of games do they play? What are their playing habits? Understanding your audience will allow you to tailor your PR efforts effectively, targeting the right channels and platforms to reach them.
1.3 Create a PR Plan
Now that you know your USP and target audience, you can begin drafting your PR plan. A solid PR plan serves as a roadmap for your marketing efforts, outlining key dates, PR beats, and important events. This step requires strategic thinking, careful planning, and foresight.
Starting at your intended release date and working your way back can be a helpful approach. Leaving a two to three weeks buffer between PR activities is advisable, especially for press who may need time to cover your game. A study by Big Games Machine suggested that press prefers to receive their review kits three weeks ahead of launch, so this should be incorporated into your plan.
1.4 Avoid Clashing with Big Events
Moreover, ensure you’re mindful of key industry events, holidays, and significant game releases that could overshadow your game’s launch. Some industry events, like GDC, E3, and Gamescom, can entirely saturate press attention, making it an inopportune time to announce or launch your game unless you’re participating in the event.
1.5 Set Up Monitoring Tools
Finally, consider setting up monitoring tools like TwitchMetircs, Google Alerts, andTweetDeck to keep track of mentions and conversations about your game online. Other tools like Promoter and SimilarWeb can also be beneficial, providing notifications when a gaming website writes about you and offering insights into website traffic, respectively.
With your USP identified, your target audience understood, your PR plan in place, and your monitoring tools set up, you’ve now laid the foundation for your game’s marketing campaign. Remember, investing time and effort into this setup phase will make subsequent phases significantly smoother.
In the next section, we will discuss the pre-reveal phase, where you’ll start engaging your audience and refining your game’s messaging.
II. The Pre-Reveal Phase
The next step in your game’s marketing journey is the pre-reveal phase. Here, you start building anticipation for your game and test your messaging to refine your marketing approach.
2.1 Start Community Building
Community building is a critical aspect of the pre-reveal phase. Whether it’s through social media channels, your game’s website, or forums, it’s essential to foster a community around your game as early as possible. Participating in events like ‘Screenshot Saturday’, where you share a small preview or a gif of your game, can garner attention and start a conversation around your game.
2.2 Engage at Local Events
Local events can also be a valuable avenue to gather feedback and test your game’s appeal. These events give you an opportunity to understand how your game is perceived and what aspects people enjoy, providing valuable insights to adjust your game’s development or marketing strategy accordingly.
2.3 Sign up for Databases
During the pre-reveal phase, ensure you’re signed up to databases like Giant Bomb, which links to the Twitch database. This makes it easier for streamers to discover and stream your game, broadening your game’s reach and visibility.
2.4 Experiment and Adapt
The pre-reveal phase is also a time for experimentation. Look at the reactions your game gets on social media and other platforms and consider tweaking aspects of your game based on the feedback. Sometimes, an unexpected element might resonate strongly with the audience, as was the case with the ‘bug with a dog’ in the game Overland. Recognizing such opportunities can create memorable, unique aspects of your game that can be highlighted in your marketing.
2.5 Prepare for the Big Reveal
All these activities lead up to the big reveal – your first major trailer. This is a significant event and needs a lot of attention, effort, and potentially, investment. The trailer often serves as the first comprehensive look at your game for many people. Thus, it’s vital to make sure it captures your game’s essence and intrigue potential players.
As you move through the pre-reveal phase, remember to take your time. Don’t rush the reveal. It’s a significant milestone that you only get to do once. So, ensure you’re fully ready before pulling the curtain back.
In the upcoming sections, we’ll delve into the launch and post-launch phases, where you’ll actively promote your game and maintain its momentum after launch.
III. The Launch Buildup: Pre-Launch Phase
After your game’s successful reveal, you’ll move into the pre-launch phase. The work you’ve done thus far should now start to take shape as a coherent plan for building momentum towards your game’s launch.
3.1 Keeping the Momentum Going
During the pre-launch phase, your primary goal is to maintain and amplify the buzz around your game. Continuously update your community with news, share progress on game development, post intriguing sneak peeks, or host online events to engage your potential players.
3.2 Store Optimization and Contacting Platform Holders
This stage is also critical for store optimization. Most curated stores highly value direct contact with developers, so make an effort to reach out to platform holders. For platforms like Steam that operate based on algorithms, understanding those algorithms can help your game reach more people.
3.3 Attending Shows and Previews
Attending gaming shows and expos can provide invaluable opportunities for marketing your game during the pre-launch phase. Make sure to arrange press appointments in advance, as catching them on the show floor can be challenging.
3.4 Framing your Game for Headlines
When reaching out to press, try to think from their perspective and frame your game in a way that makes it easy for them to create catchy headlines. This could significantly improve the chances of your game getting featured and thus reaching a larger audience.
3.5 Ensuring Readiness for Launch
One crucial piece of advice for this phase is never to announce your game’s release date before passing certification. It’s also beneficial to leverage your community to reach out to influencers, streamers, and YouTubers. You can also use resources like Hunter.io and Twitch Metrics to find relevant press emails and potential Twitch streamers to cover your game.
By the end of this phase, you should have a comprehensive PR plan, a solid community base, and a substantial presence in the gaming community. With these in place, you’re ready to move on to the next significant phase – The Launch.
IV. The Big Day: Launch Phase
At last, after the diligent work in the preceding phases, comes the launch day, the critical moment you’ve been building up towards.
4.1 Your Launch Trailer
Arguably one of the most crucial elements of your launch phase, the launch trailer serves as the final and potentially the most impactful advertisement for your game. Ensure it encapsulates your game perfectly, inviting your audience to dive into the world you’ve created.
4.2 Launching Your Game
While it’s been a long journey up to this point, launching your game should be a time for celebration. It’s when all your hard work comes to fruition. You’ve already set the stage, now it’s time to present your creation to the world.
4.3 Communication and Outreach
Upon launch, send out a press communication to notify media outlets, reach out to YouTubers and streamers, and inform your community through all your channels. Remember, the goal is to reach as many potential players as possible.
4.4 Day One Reviews
Importantly, encourage day one reviews. These early reviews can significantly affect your game’s initial performance and visibility on various platforms, particularly on Steam. Use your community to encourage initial reviews; this early feedback can often be instrumental in driving initial sales and creating a buzz about your game.
Remember, while the launch day is a significant milestone, it’s not the end of your marketing journey. There’s more work to be done in the post-launch phase to ensure sustained success for your game.
V. Staying on the Map: Post-Launch Phase
The game has launched, and initial sales figures are coming in. But your journey isn’t over. In fact, it’s just begun. The post-launch phase is a crucial period that can often determine the long-term success of your game.
5.1 Maintaining Relevance
The gaming world moves fast, and it’s easy for a game to get lost in the noise. To prevent this, you must work towards maintaining your game’s relevance in the gaming community. One successful example of this approach is the game ‘Armello’, which had its second-highest sales two and a half years after its launch.
5.2 Managing Review Scores
Reviews can significantly influence your game’s success. Encourage your players to leave reviews, and respond constructively to feedback, whether positive or negative. Remember, a bad review is an opportunity to improve and show your community that you’re committed to providing the best possible gaming experience.
5.3 Updates and Expansion
Regular updates can significantly enhance the lifespan of your game. Each update presents a new opportunity to generate press interest and revitalize your player base. Don’t be afraid to be creative with these updates – think of them as a chance to experiment and bring fresh elements to your game.
5.4 Building for the Future
Lastly, keep your eye on the future. Use the launch of your game to start building a fan base for your next project. This approach will provide you with an engaged and excited audience ready and waiting for your next game.
Remember, your game’s life doesn’t end at launch – in many ways, it’s just the beginning. A well-executed post-launch plan can significantly extend the lifespan of your game and set you up for future successes.
VI. Wrapping Up: The PR Timeline Summary
Reflecting on our journey, we can distill our PR strategy into key phases and actions that ensure a comprehensive and effective approach.
6.1 The Set-Up Phase
Setting up is the foundation on which everything else is built. Here, we solidify our game concept and ensure that it’s distinctive and captivating. We also learn to articulate our game’s unique selling points and establish a preliminary PR plan. It’s a crucial phase that should be given the time and attention it deserves.
6.2 Pre-Reveal Phase
This phase serves as a testing ground. We test our game and our marketing messages on a small scale before unveiling them to the wider public. Here, we fine-tune our marketing strategy and start building anticipation for the game.
6.3 Reveal Phase
The reveal phase is where we make our first big impression. We aim to make a splash with a compelling reveal trailer that truly encapsulates the essence of our game. The reveal should be planned meticulously and not rushed – after all, a game can only be revealed once.
6.4 Pre-Launch Phase
This phase is all about keeping the momentum going. We consistently put out news beats, keep updating our community, and continue building on our marketing channels. It’s a period of extensive work, but it pays off in heightened visibility and anticipation for our game.
6.5 Launch Phase
Launch day is a culmination of our efforts. While it’s a significant milestone, it’s not the busiest day in terms of PR and marketing if the previous stages have been executed effectively. Here, our focus should be on celebrating the launch and encouraging early reviews.
6.6 Post-Launch Phase
Finally, in the post-launch phase, we focus on maintaining relevance, managing reviews, releasing updates, and building for future games. Remember, the journey doesn’t end at launch – a well-considered post-launch strategy can keep your game alive and successful for years to come.
In conclusion, a strategic, structured approach to PR can significantly enhance the visibility and success of your game. It’s a marathon, not a sprint, so patience, perseverance, and careful planning are key. Good luck on your journey!