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I released a game on Steam a year ago - This is how I marketed it.

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I released Boot Hill Bounties about a year ago on Steam (https://store.steampowered.com/app/727290/Boot_Hill_Bounties/.  Now I have the opportunity to release it on the [redacted] platform.  I made another post on GameDev where I asked for input on some updated storefront art for the game (https://www.gamedev.net/forums/topic/699493-help-me-decide-on-storefrontboxart-with-voting/). Some people were interested in what marketing I had done for the game when I released it on Steam where it received very little notice.  Still not even enough reviews for it to qualify for a rating.

It was a year ago so I may have forgotten some things.  I’m explaining mostly everything I can remember I did to see if anyone has any suggestions on what I might do differently or in addition to as I prepare to release on [redacted].  Or maybe another dev will find this useful.

Keeping the Fire Going:  I made an uncommon decision early on to not do any marketing whatsoever until the game was close to release (originally, I planned to go dark on development until 100 days before release).  Before you tell me this was bad, please read.  Why did I do this?  The idea was that I felt like marketing is like starting a fire and keeping it going. You start it, feed it, make it stronger until it grows and grows. But if you start it and then neglect it, it dies out - then all the work you did on it was wasted. So rather than dedicating a chunk of my time over the years to keep this fire going and staying lit, instead I waited until near release and then put all my time into growing it over a 100 days. That was the idea, but in actuality I was still too busy fixing bugs and stuff to put all my energy into marketing. Also 100 days turned into just 50 days.

Anyway, the controversy is whether it’s better to keep marketing going during a long drawn out development or put your energy into it when close to release. In retrospect, I don’t know if it was a bad move or not. One thing though is that making a game without talking about it was pretty lonely over the years, so I think next time around I would not follow this path.

Countdown: When marketing did begin I started the Corral Countdown (http://www.experimentalgamer.com/corral-countdown/corral-countdown/) where over the next 50 days until release I would talk about some unique/interesting feature in the game. I was following the Super Smash Bros Dojo from when Brawl was coming out, if anyone remembers. This idea had a few aims 1. Talk about the features of the game 2. Have something new to talk about eacy day 3. Build hype that culminated in the release of the game. So I would write these countdown posts a week in advance and release them on my website, twitter, facebook group, Kickstarter and IndieDB pages.  It did more than nothing, but was it all worth it? I don’t know.

Contacts: Over the years I collected a number of contacts from gaming websites/youtube twitch. I got these from simple research, conventions, meetups, other devs, etc.  I would email them during the 50 days before release to tell them about the game release, the corral countdown. Of course I’d offer early review codes. I had a Press Kit (http://www.experimentalgamer.com/Press/BHB/BHBPressKit.zip) with images that were easy to pop on their websites. Or they could just go to the Pres Page (http://www.experimentalgamer.com/Press/BHB/). You want to do everything you can to make it simple for them. Few actually wrote about the game though.

Youtube/Twitch: A wise person once explained to me that if you want the big dogs to notice your game, you have to get the medium dogs to first notice your game. And if you want to get the medium dogs to notice your game, you got to get the little dogs to notice your game. So I wrote to every YouTube/Twitch player I could find that would have any interest in my kind of game.  Some very small time youtubers did a few playthroughs and some twitch players played live while I visited the channels. I don’t think any medium dogs ever took notice though.

Scheduled Tweets: I learned a lot from a fellow dev about how to best use Twitter.  I used Twitch deck to schedule tweets throughout the week. Many tweets would repeat but no one really minds that.  It would be a mix of tweets about stuff revealed in the Corral Countdown, or other tidbits about the game, plus just any gaming-related opinions I had at the time.  I think I probably got a few hundred more twitter followers during the marketing push.

Conclusion:  With marketing, it’s like none of these ideas were bad, but maybe it just wasn’t enough and I should have done more?  It’s easy to say “yeah, you did a, b and c but you should also have done d, e, f, g, h, i, etc.”  There’s no end the amount of things you can do. So how do you know when it’s enough? Maybe there was low hanging fruit here that I missed?



Edited by DapperDave

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It's probably not very helpful, but I'm reminded in such cases, and inspired by a couple GDC talks. One is "How to survive in gamedev without a hit for 11 years" https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JmwbYl6f11c 

Another is more a more recent "Failing to Fail: The Spiderweb Software way": https://youtu.be/stxVBJem3Rs 

That said, their practical usefulness might be questionable, especially because by now they were both made at a very different time (or the companies, in any case). But yeah, your game looks very niche to me, and while I don't have any marketing experience myself, I feel like it just might be unsuited for traditional marketing methods. I think in one of those talks they say that on a smaller platform than steam it's easier to get noticed.

Anyway, good luck with your next effort.

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@DapperDave thanks for writing this down. I think it can be helpful to many people. I've never marketed a thing myself but it sounds you didn't approach it anyhow wrong.

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