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Launch day blues: And no one came

October 24, 2013


Introduction

For many games studios, it’s a chicken and egg problem. A small team with a brilliant idea, then design, code, tweak, more code, more tweaks and finally, that magical day arrives. Launch day. Whew! But the sigh is very short lived. No one knows about your game.

If this is your scenario or soon to become your scenario, don’t worry, you are not alone. Here are some tips and advice to help break through the noise, get your game noticed and build a rabid fan base you own.

To do this, you need social media accounts like Twitter, Facebook, Vine, Instagram and your company website or blog. Most of these platforms you probably use already. The other thing you need is some imagination and consistency. Let’s get started.

Get talking

As soon as you have drafted the very first sketches of your game, get talking – on your website, on Twitter, on Facebook, on Instagram. Show the sketches, tell the story. Tell me about you and your team. Who are you? Let your users in. Allow these users to sign up to your news feed. Give these amazing first users compelling reasons why they should become part of your team in the first place. Why not document your game journey from sketch to demo to launch in tiny video vignettes or use www.vine.co. Why not? You have all the content, fantastic content from now to well past launch day. Make a list of every type of post, content, mad idea you can share. No idea is off limits at this stage. Write it up and post daily. Do it now. Build buzz from day one.

Target users

In building this buzz, be clear to go where your users are online. If your target audience for example are female, late teens to early 30s, they are on Facebook. Go there. Likewise, investigate where your user demographic are online and share the best content you have. Make sure to bring these users back to your website for more information and try not to replicate the same content on too many platforms at once. Posting the same content across all your social media channels looks lazy. Remember to keep people engaged and interested. Don’t drive them away.

Figure 1:  Who is your target?

Figure 1: Who is your target?

Think about the type of conversations you can have with these users over time. The process of game making is fascinating to game players. And it is lovely to be in on the action early. Also, consider that these users, if you give them a great experience, will be your user for life, long after this particular game. You can count on them to return to your next title and the next and they will tell others about you. This is a long-term, sustainable, business development strategy. Done well, it will reward your company well into the future.

Think laterally

Some of the smartest marketing campaigns have come about by chance; from a random fan video, to larger staged events with thousands of people. As a small company without a revenue stream or investment, you need to think smart. Smart marketing tactics. Why not get early versions of your game projected on walls of abandoned buildings and bring your early adopters in, by invite only, to experience your game. Make some videos. Get testimonials. Record the spirit of the game. Post this content online and bring real world and online together. Once you make any changes or add something new, do the same again.

Think of ways your embryonic game could be shared and played in regions outside your own county. Could you appoint “your game name ambassadors” in countries you want to launch into? Get them to blog and guest post on your website. Maybe they can help you do user tests and talk to people face to face where they are. Make it fun. Share.

Leads, conversion and sales

How can you get leads of potential users in the door? Think of the influencers. For every niche and industry under the sun there are influential people who spot the trends, point the way forward and always find the cool stuff first. Get to know these people. Follow them. Begin a conversation. Could you appoint an “influencer board” to your team, a group of well clued in folk who will tell others about you and your game. Make a list. Journalists, bloggers, trend spotters. Think laterally could you make use of trend spotters’ form outside your industry? Start today.

What will I do now?

Influencers can help you to find new leads. Once these new leads come in your door what do you want them to do NEXT? Do you want these new users to sign up to your newsletter, feed or Facebook. Do you want them to place a pre-order? Do you want them to try an early level of your game and give you feedback? Do you want them to co-create the story with you? Make sure you tell these new users what to do. Otherwise these leads will get lost, won’t convert and you will never make the sale.

Capitalise on the emotion

In behavioural psychology it is well documented that when buying goods, services and products people buy emotionally. So, what has this got to do with my game? Firstly, games and creative products are emotional in nature, an emotional bond is formed with you user. When you are selling a product, it is far easier to sell something emotional. Secondly, by having this emotional product to sell, you have a huge advantage over non-emotional products; think plastic piping! Finally, people love to connect with and be part of experiences bigger than themselves. To belong and to be part of a wider cultural experience is something humans have craved since we took our first steps. In essence, the product we care about, your game is a vehicle by which our needs as humans are met. So make sure to capitalise on the emotion.

Nurture the process

Devise a strategic marketing plan for your game and tweak it constantly. Be proactive and work across platforms both online and offline. Nurture the process and manage the communication constantly. Listen clearly for fan’s reactions and feedback. Encourage users input and give fans as many opportunities as possible to engage and co-create content. Invest time in understanding their relationship with your brand and make good on your promises. If things go sour, as they often do when building new things, be up front and honest. Tell the truth and ask for help. No wonder conferences like FailCon are so successful. We have all made mistakes and let people down. Just communicate clearly what will happen next and how hard you are working to make things better. Fans will understand and will respect your honesty. Don’t be afraid to share your successes as well as your failures. Allow your users to do the same. Lifetimes of friendships have been made like this, think of your user’s journey to your game and document this too.

Thank people

There are so many ways you can spend your time online. If a user finds you and loves your work make sure to thank them. Make that familiar mantra “the customer comes first” the cornerstone of how you do business. A sincere thank you is rare these days. Be the exception. Write a note. Pick up the phone. Send a video thank you. Let it become part of your practice. Post a thank you a day. Be sincere. Stand back and watch the response. You’ll be amazed.

Next steps

Look at curating content from your game across multiple online platforms. Crate a slide deck on Slideshare. Make a play list on YouTube of all the music that has inspired you while making the game. Make another list of possible music choices for the score. Have your users vote and add their suggestions. Build albums on Pinterest. Pin characters that inspire yours, or draw new ones. Find new ways every day to share and converse with your fans, new leads, influencers and audience.

Be proactive, allow your users to steer your marketing activities. If something unusual happens or a piece of content starts to trend on Twitter for example, go there. Make the most of it. Jump on every opportunity that arises. That fan video uploaded to YouTube could be the start of an amazing campaign.

Own your own audience

Figure 2: The scurvy pirates

Figure 2: The scurvy pirates

Make sure to gather email addresses everywhere and communicate regularly, where you push your users to connect more deeply with your brand. Be personal. Tell your story, in your own voice. Why not steal like a pirate? Look at what your competitors do and do it better. Be yourself and create amazing experiences.

Launch day: Wins

The day has arrived. The party is in full swing. This small group of early adopters, who walked in your door on day one, have grown into a throng of evangelists who are part of your story; part of your team. They counted down the days with you and gave you hope in the moments you thought this game would never ship. They took the journey with you and believed in your vision. Take a deep breath of relief. You deserve it. Everyone has come.

On the web
Social media platforms to get the word out
http://instagram.com/ – Image sharing website
www.vine.co – short videos, can be used on Twitter and Instagram
www.facebook.com
www.twitter.com
www.slideshare.com

Email Newsletter platforms
http://www.campaignmonitor.com/ – design, sending and reporting
www.mailchimp.com – design, sending and reporting

Conference
FailCon is a conference for technology entrepreneurs, investors, developers, and designers to study their own and others’ failures and prepare for success. http://thefailcon.com/

Image credits
Figure 1: Jasper Johns. Target with Four Faces. 1955 www.moma.org
Figure 2: The scurvy pirates. www.scurveypirates.com

About the Author

Mary Carty is a creative entrepreneur. CEO of BAFTA nominated agency Spoiltchild.com. Over the past ten years she has built a startup and run a digital agency. Carty is passionate about building long-term, profitable businesses whose core product or service comes from creative practices. She mentors games startups, helping them scale and source investment, while selling and communicating their story from day one. If you ever find yourself in Dublin, make sure to give her a shout. Connect on Twitter @marycarty or email mary@spoiltchild.com. Read more on her blog www.marycarty.com

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4 Comments
    SDJ Team Oct 25, 2013

    Someone has to be the first… Mary’s article make some noise in our team the very first day it arrives. Smart, very juicy, even if it’s not written in technician point of view. But it surely deserves a few words. We were very glad about this text because it makes SDJournal a better magazine. Don’t you agree?

    adityamenon Oct 26, 2013

    Awesome article! I think you condensed a couple years worth MBA marketing program in here. So many people talk about “guerilla marketing” but then don’t give *any* ideas: they just say “use your creativity” – but even that needs a start! So thanks, bookmarked and will come back again. This stuff can even be applied in web apps.

    marycarty Oct 29, 2013

    As I was writing this article, I was thinking about bringing users from one title to the next; cutting your customer acquisition costs. The thing to remember, is to build this strategy into your game/app development plan. Start on day one and execute daily. It’s a 50/50 job; 50% build, 50% show, tell and sell! Thanks for your feedback, I really appreciate it.

    sorguc Oct 31, 2013

    thank you for sharing dude

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