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Booleans spiffy development journal

Experiment #2 in game promotion: Press Release Results

Posted by , 24 November 2013 - - - - - - · 2,353 views

After releasing my Android game Stupid Human Castles, I quickly realized I have no idea how to market my game. The task of actually getting the world to take notice of it requires a set of skills I don't yet posses. These blog posts will document a series of marketing experiments that I'll be attempting, recording the possibly embarrassing outcomes for all to read.

The Experiment:
In my second experiment I wanted to test the effectiveness of press releases. I figured this would probably be my best bet at getting my game noticed as I had been lucky enough to have a few sites review my game already without me asking. Considering they gave it good reviews, I felt positive that I could get a couple more to respond to my emails.

After sending the emails out, I let them run for a little over a week. A few of the sites I emailed a second time with a follow up email. Of the 15 or so places I emailed I was expecting a pretty low rate of reply. I figured that due to the nature of email I might get lucky with 2 or 3 sites, but that might be enough to drum up a little bit of attention. I felt more positive about the sites that cater to giving indies exposure, but also knew that they must get 50+ submissions per day.

The Result:
The final result of the number of sites that reported on my game are:

Number of places that reviewed my game: 0%.
Number of places that mentioned my game: 0%.
Number of places that looked at the press release: 6%
Number of places that downloaded the free copy of the game I sent: 0%.

Overall result: Level 5 Catastrophic Failure.

But my inbox was flooded:
Now here's the interesting part. While I didn't get any coverage from these sites, I did start getting one very specific type of email: sites started asking for a paid review.

It turns out that there is a large number of sites out there who will charge anywhere from $50-$200 to review your game. In exchange they'll give you a text review for a base price or a video review for a premium price. I don't know how your supposed to have an objective review when someone gave you $200 to do it, but that might be why several of these sites had nearly every game rated 5 stars. All these emails were followed up with very optimistic traffic numbers, the validity of which I don't know.

This seems to me like a pretty terrible industry that is, in my opinion, just exploiting indie devs who want to get their game out into the world. I'd like to think that most people would turn down these sites, but if their huge catalog of reviews is anything to go by that's not the case.

The lessons:
1) Sending out press-releases might be useful, but you really do need contacts first. Mike Rose mentions it fairly often in his article but it only now dawns on me how true that is. I don't really know anyone in the industry and I'm not sure how I would solve this. I see lots of articles online about how to get your game noticed, but not many articles of how to get the developer noticed first. It's a bit of a chicken/egg problem - How does one get their own name out without having a cool game to be noticed, but how does one get their cool game to be noticed without having a name? It sounds like that could be an article in itself.

2) While my press-release experiment was a terrible result, it was still extremely worthwhile process and I highly recommend it. In my case I thought I was ready to go once I had a full version, a demo version and a email to contact me at. It wasn't until I was reading the checklist that I realized how unprepared I was. So while the actual press release submission stage might be a bust, I highly recommend you actually send out at least a few for no other reason that it forces you to get prepared.

3) Without knowing anyone to contact in advance, sending out press-releases comes down to a lot of luck. That being said, there's always a chance you might get lucky! As a form of cold-calls I found press releases less effective, but these sites do cover a lot of games so you might be the lucky one that day.

Next Experiment
For the next experiment I'm going to try taking out some ads on sites like Facebook. I won't be spending much money, but I'll be interested to see what kind of conversion rates happen. I'll be making a blog post starting that experiment in the next few days,

Experiment #2 in game promotion: Press Releases.

Posted by , 16 November 2013 - - - - - - · 822 views

After releasing my Android game Stupid Human Castles, I quickly realized I have no idea how to market my game. The task of actually getting the world to take notice of it requires a set of skills I don't yet posses. These blog posts will document a series of marketing experiments that I'll be attempting, recording the possibly embarrassing outcomes for all to read.

In experiment #1 I tried submitting my game to indie forums around the web. While the traffic was smaller than I expected, it was actually more beneficial in ways outside the direct promotion of the game. In place of traffic it got me pages and pages of valuable design feedback from some really smart communities, nearly all of which ended up in the game. This time I'm going to try another tactic, I'm going to try:

Experiment #2: Press Releases.

Posted Image

I've never sent a press release to anyone in my life. In fact until I started researching this I didn't realize indies even sent out press releases. It seemed like a strange level of self-promotion that requires a lot of talking in third person. To start with I began reading some articles that jbadams linked me too that covered the basics of talking to the press. These include:

An Indie Game Developer’s Marketing Checklist - Robert DellaFave
How to talk to the video game press - Mike Rose
How to contact press - Pixel Prospectors

The article by Robert DellaFave was the first one I read and it suddenly made me realize how woefully unprepared for this I was:
  • I didn't have a facebook account
  • I didn't have a twitter account
  • I didn't have a trailer
  • I didn't have a website
  • I didn't have a press release page online.
It took me about a week to get this all done, but it was an important step. Don't leave it until the last minute like I did - you have to get these up and running. If you don't think you need a press-release page, it just means your not prepared for when someone who wants to cover your game asks for a press release. If you don't think you need a twitter account, you won't be prepared for when that same guy wants to retweet a screenshot. Follow the guide by Robert DellaFave and get his list done. To help with this some tips are:
  • presskit() is awesome. Download it, run it on your server and use that as your central hub for all your information. It runs on PHP so even the most bare-bones webhost should be able to run it.
  • While setting up a Twitter and Facebook account seem easy, they will require header images that you might not have yet. In my case I didn't have anything the size of what they need and had to get them drawn up specially.
  • When you upload a trailer to YouTube, make sure that video is 100% utterly final - Once you send that link out to people you can't change that video content without generating a new URL. I found this out the hard way by posting the trailer on twitter then realizing I had 'Loudness Equalization" turned on in windows. This meant the actual audio levels of my trailer were all messed up. OOPS.
The Press Release:
My press release will consist of 4 main sections:
  • An opener saying hi
  • A paragraph on the description of the game
  • A few lines about the history of the game
  • Links to the press-release online, a link to the game on the android store, a link to the trailer and a free copy of the game.
As I'll get into below, the actual content of the email I'll be customizing based on how well I know the site.

The Targets:
I have a list of about 15-20 websites I would like to contact. They fit roughly into the categories of:

Places I actually visit often and care about: 6-7 sites
I'll be writing emails that, based on the advice from Mike Rose, will be a more personal. I'm going to try and make it sound like I'm not a robot (beep-boop) and start with a little bit of info on how I know the site.

Places I sometimes visit: 2-3 sites
I know the names of a couple of the editors but nothing in particular. The emails will probably be a little less personal but not a complete copy+paste.

Places I had never heard of: 7-9 sites
These I'll be places that I will copy+paste cover letters too. They are pretty generic in their content.

And now we sit back and wait.
By making all the marketing content very easy to find and trying to make my trailer look at least halfway decent, I think I might be able to get 2-3 of the sites to report on my game. I'll run this for about a week and then post back with the results!

An experiment in game promotion: Part #1 Results

Posted by , 26 October 2013 - - - - - - · 1,465 views

It's been a week since I started game promotion experiment #1. I wanted to see how useful different promotion techniques were for my new game Stupid Human Castles.

Experiment #1 was to see how useful posting on a series of forums around the interwebs would be. The ones I settled on were:

libGDX forums

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.

The Results:


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.

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libGDX forums

The thread had 250 views, of which 10 people clicked through to the demo.

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The thread had 95 views, of which a whopping 4 people clicked through to the demo!

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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.

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(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 Posted Image

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 Posted Image

Anyone else have any experiences with promoting their game using forum posts?

An experiment in game promotion: Part #1

Posted by , 19 October 2013 - - - - - - · 2,168 views


I finally got around to releasing my first game, Stupid Human Castles! It took a good number of evenings after work, skipped social events, rubbish dinners and a deal with the devil that is Java, but it's done! It's complete!

Unfortunately, programming the damn game was the easy part.

Next comes the harrowing task of actually getting people to look at my game. Being someone who knows about as much as marketing as the mating habits of furniture, I'm completely out of my comfort zone. I've tried reading some articles, I've read some guides, but for all practicality I have no freaking idea what the best way to market a game is.

So, with that in mind, I'm going to start this series of blog posts called "An experiment in game promotion". Each post I'll be experimenting with a different promotional method and then, after a week or so I'll post the results. I'll be describing my plans on how to promote my game before I have a crack at it, and then do a post-mortem on how successful it was. For example, forum posting, Facebook ads, emailing websites with press releases etc.

I'm hoping that by using my game as a bit of a lab rat I can figure out what techniques actually had a positive result. In the end if we are lucky this will benefit everyone! Posted Image

Experiment #1: Forum posts.

One of the easiest, and probably the first ways, a lot of people try to promote their game are forum posts. They are easy to do, don't take much time and given the right circumstances can be extremely positive. Posting on forums though is made slightly trickier by the fact that a lot of them have a zero-post policy - people posting their games with no posts tend to be looked down upon as spammers. Without having given anything back to the community first, it can often come across as a bit self serving.

With that in mind, I'm going to post my game on a bunch of forums with zero posts.

Ok to be fair not all the forums I'll be posting on will be zero-post accounts. It's actually quite hard to find ones that don't make you to post for a week or so before promoting your game, which is fair enough. Below is a short list of the forums I'll be posting on, but over the week I'll increase this as I hunt down more forums.

gamedev.net Posted Image
libGDX forums
I'm going to run these for about a week and then I'll see what the results are. Some different techniques I'll be trying are:

1) Descriptive forum thread titles - Does having a title like 'A new spin on an old game' beside the name make much difference?
2) A stand alone title
3) One screenshot - Is one screenshot enough to pique intrest?
4) Multiple screenshots - Do too many screenshots kill the curiosity?
5) Including [Released][Android] style tags. I'm curious if pointing out it's an android game has a good or bad effect.
6) Call to action style headlines - "Spectragate releases first android app!"

Hopefully giving these a bit of a spin results in some interesting data next week.

For science!

S.H.I.P C.R.A.F.T.E.R - Update #3: 382 Items so far!

Posted by , 19 February 2012 - - - - - - · 918 views
browser, pvp, space, game, sci-fi
The game is at http://shipcrafter.stillholdsup.com

Ok, it was painful but it's done. The game now has 382 damn items in it, so there should be enough content to progress all the way to level 20. Posted Image I think this should make the game more interesting to test now. This means that a bunch of the items/numbers are unbalanced right now, but just getting the items setup was the time consuming part, balancing them all should be easier and can come later.

New ship chassis: This includes (under Ships > Chassis Types) - 12 new ship chassis! So once you hit level 5 you can buy some different ships and build them up. At the moment they have no special abilities and the stats are kinda out of whack, but this will all be fine tuned later.

Ship Packages - While there are new chassis types, I've not created any new ship packages yet. I figure once the game gets a bit more balanced and people have some good builds going the packages can be created then.

Issues: There's no descriptions for most of these items and it's using the default icon at 0.0 which is the CPU icon. That should make things nice and confusing. Sitting down and coming up with icons for all these items plus descriptions seems like a big task that could be better spent on fixing broken code. I don't suppose anyone wants to help with this do they? Posted Image

Whew, making a browser game is tiring.