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An experiment in game promotion: Part #1

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Preamble.



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! laugh.png

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 smile.png
libGDX forums
TIGSource
reddit.com/r/indieGaming
indiedb.com
javagaming.org
indiegamer.com
...
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!
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You can try posting on multiple forums, but you will probably have the best chances here, since you have a presence known. I mean, I know you or your member name and I have been off and on the forums for years.

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Sounds great Nigel, congratulations on finishing your game, and looking forward to seeing your results with different advertising models!

 

Gave the game a very quick try in the browser, and it seems fun, I'll have to give the Android version a go.

 

 

Funny that I should come across a post from you just now after remembering your old comic and sharing it to our Facebook just a short time ago. :)

 

 

Good luck with the advertising! :)

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@Shane C - GDnet definitely seems like it should be the first port of call. Apart from the announcements forum I'm not sure how else to advertise it to GDnet. I figure my forum signature is the best bet right now.

 

@jbadams: Cheers mate, that's cool you found it fun :D

 

Thanks for the link - that's probably going to come in real handy when I attempt to send off press releases in the name of science (whether it ends in flames and misery at the end we'll see).

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Heads up: On mac java doesn't work in chrome (and currently is disabled in safari), and the page fails silently (and there is no way to get help or contact you). In firefox it took almost 2 minutes before java started, so I actually thought there was nothing but a link to play store... In other words: feedback from the get go that things are loading (and nice error messages when things go wrong).

 

You may want to test things out in an unused, basic install of a few systems. For windows use a vm from http://www.modern.ie/en-us/virtualization-tools

 

Game is fun, though!

 

PS! "A new spin on an old game" is not really saying anything. "Tetris with Monsters!" on the other hand, says it all!

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@staunsholm: Thanks for the feedback mate :)

 

 On mac java doesn't work in chrome (and currently is disabled in safari), and the page fails silently (and there is no way to get help or contact you). 

 

So the game itself runs on javascript (in HTML5), so there shouldn't be any dependencies on Java. I tried Chrome on mac the other day and it seemed to work ok. One problem I found was that there's a been a bug in Mac Chrome since 2012 where if Chrome auto-updates, i think it breaks anything that has been compiled with GWT (which I'm using). In that case I found restarting Chrome seemed to fix it. 

 

As for the game silently failing, your right it is a bit confusing. I'll see if I can add something to the site so it's more clear what's going on.

 

 

In firefox it took almost 2 minutes before java started,

 

I did a quick test in Firefox and it seemed to load up pretty fast (maybe 5-6 seconds) - I'm wondering that if there was a problem loading the game in both Chrome and Firefox, it may have just been my webhost having a hiccup. If you try it again now in either of those browsers is it working ok now?

 

 

(and there is no way to get help or contact you).

 

Ah, very good point, I didn't think of that. I'll add a link to the facebook page I setup and a link to my email address to the demo site.

 

 

You may want to test things out in an unused, basic install of a few systems. For windows use a vm from http://www.modern.ie/en-us/virtualization-tools

 

Game is fun, though!

 

Thanks for the link and thanks for trying the game. Glad you liked it :)

 

 

PS! "A new spin on an old game" is not really saying anything. "Tetris with Monsters!" on the other hand, says it all!

 

Very good point!

 

When I started posting the link around I was a bit worried about using any reference to Tetris. I've made sure the game itself makes zero references to it, just because a lot of tetris clones were pulled from the market place a while back (although that was because they were 1:1 clones). However, now I'm pretty sure it's fine to advertise the game as a variation of Tetris. I tried posting a link on reddit with a more descriptive title and it seemed to do much better :D

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Ok here's a metric - you have 231 views at the time I've made this post featured on 10/22 2:22am GMT, so see how many you get in as much time now.

 

BTW the 22222 was purely coincidental

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Good luck!! I know how hard it'll be and it's stubborness and beliving in your game that will be a huge part of the visibility.

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Ok here's a metric - you have 231 views at the time I've made this post featured on 10/22 2:22am GMT, so see how many you get in as much time now.

 

BTW the 22222 was purely coincidental

 

Ha ha, thanks Drew. Let us be mad scientists together!

 

Good luck!! I know how hard it'll be and it's stubborness and beliving in your game that will be a huge part of the visibility.

 

Thanks mate - hopefully the data I get out of this helps us all smile.png

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If possible you really should put some loading... info up front. It took two minutes for the libGDX frame to even appear and start its own progress bar (Win 7, 64 bit, IE10)

 

And currently the progress bar seems stuck after the first update.

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If possible you really should put some loading... info up front. It took two minutes for the libGDX frame to even appear and start its own progress bar (Win 7, 64 bit, IE10)

 

And currently the progress bar seems stuck after the first update.

 

That's the second report of the game downloading a bit weird. I've tried to replicate this on every computer I can get my hands on but just can't get it to happen.

 

I was looking at how many files the game downloads at the start and it's getting about 15MB worth of stuff. That seems really high, but most GWT projects seem to be around a 10MB baseline. I think that between the 15MB worth of files and the 85 requests, one of them is failing (I think I might know which one too). It could be Chrome or firefox timing out on that request and re-downloading the file which finally kicks off the game.

 

I can't be 100% sure, but that's my best guess so far. I'm going to add some text tomorrow that gives some more info before the loader starts. If someone who is finding this issue could try the game again, it would be interesting to see if the problem clears up. 

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Ah wait, is it using Java under the hood, not HTML5? In that case that's probably the cause, I don't have Java installed on my PC.

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Ah wait, is it using Java under the hood, not HTML5? In that case that's probably the cause, I don't have Java installed on my PC.

 

GWT is written in Java to start, but once you run it through the GWT compiler it spits out pure javascript that runs in a HTML5 canvas. So if you don't have Java installed that should be fine - as long as you have javascript enabled it should be good to go.

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OK, so. After fiddling about for most of last night, I got the game down from 15MB to 7MB. I think there was something wrong with the GWT exporter because even after I deleted all my code as an experiment, it was still spitting out a 5MB .js file.

 

I reckon I could still get the size down further to 3-4MB, but it's tricky with the way the asset exporters work. Anyway, point being if you were having trouble before it should be less likely now to happen due to the smaller size and the .js files not being clogged with garbage code that the exporter was generating.

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I love this idea. Can't wait to read the results.

 

But how are you testing so many variables with so few websites in such a short time? If you actually want to test the effectiveness of tags like [Android][Java], and call to action titles vs descriptive titles, you're going to have to make one default format, and then change one single variable on each site to see which performs better. Even that's shaky evidence. I'm not even talking about for being scientifically thorough--just for proving to yourself that your findings are accurate.

 

I guess the best middle ground is to make a big list of forums, and break the most similar in terms of community size, activity and attitude toward advertisement into pairs. Then name the pairs based on what variable you're testing and call each website in the pair A or B. On website A of the Title Pair, make a call-to-action-titled post, and then on website B make the same exact post, but make the title descriptive. The results, theoretically, should only differ as the effectiveness of the titles do. This isn't very scientifically sound, but it's good enough for practicality.

 

I'd be more patient. I mean, if you're serious about this. I'd just do whatever stupid little requirements I have to fill out for each forum, and make a nice big list so the dataset is large enough. Actually, I'll do this myself just for the info. It'll be cool to see how our data stacks up.

 

Good luck with this. I'll be following your journal. It's a very cool idea.

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