An experiment in game promotion: Part #1 Results
Experiment #1 was to see how useful posting on a series of forums around the interwebs would be. The ones I settled on were:
I tried posting on a few other forums like indiegaming and indiedb, but ran into problems. Most forums I came across were pretty restrictive about new members posting their game without having a history on the site.
I posted a thread in the announcements forum with a title that could have been better. The thread itself had about 210 views, of which a grand total of 16 people went and played the demo.
The thread had 250 views, of which 10 people clicked through to the demo.
The thread had 95 views, of which a whopping 4 people clicked through to the demo!
I'm still a little confused by the stats from javagaming. The thread itself has had over 1100 views which is far and above any other posts I made. They have a brilliant way of presenting new games by having a screenshot presented next to the game itself. Not only that, but new games posted in the showcase forum are advertised on the sidebar throughout the site. It's fantastic exposure and I would love to see more forums adopt this system.
The part that confuses me is that despite having 1100 people view the thread, only 66 people clicked through to the demo. There was some good discussion in the thread so I'm a bit confused why the click-through rate is so low.
(I'm not 100% sure how to merge the different URLS from reddit together into one view, so this will be just text.)
From /indieGaming my post recieved 2 upvotes and 26 people clicking through to the demo.
reddit.com/r/androidGaming attempt #1: 13 click-throughs
I had about the same as indieGaming for the first two days, which was about 1-2 upvotes and about 13 click through's.
Now at this point I was pretty disappointed with the views I was getting. It was around now I wanted to try a different take on the title. I had originally chosen a name that I thought sounded intriguing, but my number of views was telling me otherwise. I spent the next day trying out various ideas and then posted a new thread on /androidGaming.
reddit.com/r/androidGaming attempt #2: 600 click-throughs
At this point I had a new title which was targeted more to people who like tetris. I think by ensuring that the people who were checking out the post were already interested in tetris, it made them much more likely to stick around and try the demo. Because of this I had about 600 views come through over the next few days. It was the first day I actually started making sales.
What I learnt about forum posts.
1) A catchy title is important, but it's probably not the one you think it is. It wasn't until i started experimenting with different titles that my game started getting any attention. I thought I had an interesting title, but what I thought was pretty good turned out to be kinda rubbish. It takes quite a few attempts to really narrow down the most attention grabbing part of your game and it's not always obvious how to present that.
2) Getting views is important, but targeting a demographic is better. I think the problem I ran into at the start was that people were seeing the title of the thread, looking at some screenshots and then thinking "oh tetris? I hate tetris!" and closing the thread. It wasn't until people could see what the game was like before clicking through that it began converting to click-throughs and sales. I would suggest then that instead of coming up with a title like "XMan - An rpg set on the moon" which could get a lot of views, it's ok to go very specific and say "XMan - A top down rpg in the style of FF2".
3) Most showcase/announcement forums are flooded. I already knew this going in, but I thought with some nice screenshots I could stand out. With the exception of java-gaming.org, most threads are pushed off the front pages too fast to be of any use. When I would find a thread with 10+ posts to see what they were doing different, it was usually the developer talking to himself
4) WIP (Work in Progress) or general feedback boards are much better than Announcement boards. Finding that it's better to use forums for gameplay feedback rather than promotion, the WIP forums are much more useful. Showcase forums just move too fast to be of much use, but WIP forums give a much longer exposure of your game and will get you much better feedback.
5) Finding indie forums to post advertisements on is actually really rare: When starting this experiment I was expecting to find indie forums everywhere. I thought I would be able to post links on at least 10-15 different boards, so I was surprised when I was only able to dig up 4-5! There were a few other indie forums I came across, but none had boards for promotion. Perhaps the lack of data for this experiment highlights one of the bigger problems - trying to promote your game on forums is made all the harder by the lack of any forums to promote them on!
Would I do this again?
If I released a new game, I wouldn't post on forums again just for the express purpose of getting exposure. The most useful part I got from posting on these forums is not so much the views that came through, but from the bug fixing and gameplay advice people were able to give about the game. If I were to do it again, I would probably only post on one or two forums in WIP boards with the purpose of getting testing feedback. Once that was done, posting on exposure sites like reddit would be useful.
So I'd suggest pick a forum and a WIP board and use it for game feedback. Later you can use reddit or similar sites for exposure. Simply canvasing every forum you can find with a link to your game isn't that effective. Coincidentally enough, if you look back at the forum thread Notch made in his first minecraft post, he was posting it for game feedback, not exposure too http://public.gamedev5.net//public/style_emoticons/default/smile.png
Anyone else have any experiences with promoting their game using forum posts?