Jesse "Chime" Collins

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  1. More often than not, I’m asked questions by indie developers about bringing external help in. This lesson of Indie Marketing For N00bs will deal with marketing professionals, public relation firms, publishers, and who you want on your side. An alternate title to this lesson would be: “PR Gurus, Publishing Pros, and Community Managers, Oh My!” All of the lessons before now focus on the assumption that you’re on your own. But, you’re only one person. Your team, whether it’s small or larger, may not have the ability to focus on the particular tasks of managing the social media or sitting down to crack out a press release masterpiece. It’s OK to need help. Everyone should have someone that knows what they’re doing, knows the ins and outs of the game being made, the industry itself, and how to get the word out properly. Whether it’s you or someone else is the question to ask. They are your writer, your voice, your relations with the public, and your metaphoric face. Publishers Are Not Always The Infallible Fix Let’s get Publishers out of the way, because the most common question I get when people ask for advice is “Can you get me a publisher for funding and marketing?” This predisposed and panned need is due to misconception that all publishers are end-all, be-all and will save a game from doing terribly. This, as stated, is one of the easiest mistakes that developers can get themselves into. Indie developers go head first into finding a publisher, but should be more picky because each publisher has their own tools, needs, and requirements themselves. When most people think of publishers, they think of the big names like Activision, Valve, or the countless first-party options out there. These fine folks aren’t the publishers that you’ll be looking for. They comb through thousands of games a day to find the diamond in the rough that will be their poster child of indie in a sea of junk, if they are even looking to add an independent game their their repertoire. Many of them, like Blizzard (under the proper name Activision Blizzard), develop games internally and publish those. Let’s face the facts: World of Warcraft was not an indie game. Now, there are some better alternatives out there. But, they’re not always this almighty publisher that people believe they should be. First off, most indie-based publishers are not going to fund your game. Some will, if they find something they truly and wholeheartedly believe in, but all-in-all, the publisher is there to do one thing: publish. Some indie publishers, like Team17, New Blood Interactive, or Digital Devolver, have their own internal public relations and marketing departments or have their own methods to get what you need. Some will even personally invest in your project and are all self-contained to your liking. But, that’s not all of them and the likelihood that you’re chosen is not very big. Some publishers, like Apogee Software LLC and Digital Smash, are there to help give resources and help liaison the needs of publishing to niche platforms, but don’t have the funds to personally invest. As a developer, understand that this is still a viable solution if you’ve never published before. All options take a percentage of royalties, but these guys might be less inclined to take both the arm and leg to help you. However, they may be able to help get marketing professionals on your side on the back-end or get you properly set up for a crowdfunding option success. Some publishers will, at times, treat their acquired development teams as pets. They feed you, they talk you for walks. But, you better not leave any presents on the carpet or chew up the couch pillows or you’re in for as hell of a time. They will set your deadlines and your timelines. They will be your wake up calls, your drill instructors, and your nannies. You jump when they tell you to and there’s no real problems. This is how half-assed games come out on deadlines, where bugs are fixed post-release. If you feel that the game should be developed at your own pace, a publisher may not be your answer. Just remember: Publishers are not always necessary, but if you get attached to one, it’s definitely a good idea to know what you’re getting into and what to expect for each. There is no I in TEAM What do Marketing people do? This is a question that a lot of developers really have no idea how to answer. More often than I would have ever thought, devs believe that marketing and PR people are in charge of finding funding for the project. I’ve even been asked how well I can program before because they thought “Marketing and PR” had to do with programming the game somehow. All of this is wrong. Where some marketing folks can also specialize in these topics, that’s not the point of a marketing person. You need someone to market the game, get it out to the masses. Someone that can help set the tone for the entire brand you intend to show the world. In larger companies, each of these people even are separate from each other in different roles. As an indie, you may not have that luxury to have a PR manager, marketing manager, brand manager, and community manager. So, you need a well-rounded person to do as much as they can. Enter: The On-Team Marketing Manager. This is your go-to guy to handle community efforts, writing press releases, or focusing on creating and enforcing marketing plans. This will be one of the most hard-working people on the team since they wear so many hats. With that being said, don’t overwork them. Create a plan (you know, a marketing plan) and let them implement it. This can also be an opening to mention interns. Bringing in your own intern off the street has its advantages. You can mold them and shape them to how you want them to fit into your puzzle, especially with everything you’ve learned from the lessons I’ve given. It gets tricky without money up front to pay them salary though and they can quit pretty quickly with no backing behind all the work. If you don’t pay, there’s a high chance they won’t stay for very long. Consider figuring out a budget to pay a marketing person to help, even if the budget is technically zero. They’re not there to work for free, or the possibly empty promise of being paid on the “back-end”. Back-end paying is when nothing is given up front and the share of the revenue is given after the release of the game generates profits. Offering someone only back-end payment for hard work will probably get you laughed at more often than not. If it's firm it means it's ripe, right? Many developers take on the age old mentality of having someone else do it for them. Hiring a public relations or marketing firm is incredibly common and a solid choice among both the indie and AAA developers. A firm will generally assign you an “account executive”, which will dedicate time and focus on you and your needs that you have paid for. They’ll usually have multiple clients that they are involved with and will split their time to each evenly. The real question involved is if you’ve found a valid firm or someone that’ll give you the runaround. If you feel like the price is not right, for instance, you might be correct. Many firms will over charge for minute tasks. Many of them will want a huge chunk of the share of back-end. Get a fair percentage and you know you have a good company working with you. Just remember that almost all firms will want some sort of payment up front. Sometimes they can work with you a little, but they are a business and can’t take on a bunch of free, volunteer jobs. They have to eat and keep the lights on too. Many of these firms will treat it like a job instead of a passion. The very best firms will emotionally invest in your game. Be friendly to the developers, “like” or “follow” the game on social media, be more than just professional. These people are more interested in making lifelong partnerships and networks than dropping you the first sign of trouble. They want to help, give advice, and consult. They generally want to see you succeed. They cross their fingers for you and hope for the best. Additionally, success stories look better on their track record than a botched game, so personal investment helps keep them on track as well. In any case, find yourself a good team for your game. If it involves a marketing consultant, a PR firm’s account executive, or even a publisher to keep you on track, it doesn’t matter. A good team will be cohesive and work together to get the job done, whatever it takes.
  2. Welcome to the fifth lesson in the series known as Indie Marketing For N00bs. Today, we’re going to cover a short lesson that most indie developers believe is a myth but really isn’t. Marketing isn’t free and anyone that ever told you otherwise lied directly to you. If not in monetary spending, it’s definitely in time needed to market properly manually. As you’ve read in the previous entries, marketing, public relations, community development and management, and social media all take time. A lot of it. As the old saying goes, “Time is money”. You will either take the time to do it yourself properly or bring in some additional tools for your arsenal that costs money. There is no in-between. The immediate answer that people go to is advertising. This is the oldest and most well used form of digital marketing in the modern era. Creating an ad, focusing the target market (which you should have a comprehensive idea of due to your marketing plan), and paying for impressions (those that see the ad, but don’t necessarily click) is about as simple as it gets. There’s even a ton of options to go to depending on your demographic and social media that you utilize: Facebook Sponsored Ads Twitter Ads Google AdWords Bing Ads AdRoll YouTube Twitch Wanna know a secret? Put in the Work. If you want a truly successful campaign, you will spend money to get the right resources. But, that shouldn’t stop you from taking on the manual options as well. As I’ve said before: Get yourself out there on your own. Make sure every eye possible sees you. If you don’t know how (or my guides just weren’t as effective as you hoped), there’s always the option of bringing on a marketing specialist to your team or even hiring an outside PR company to handle the affairs. But, again, those cost money. People don’t work for free. If you DO want to do it yourself, here’s the trick. There is no secret, special trick. It’s really just a lot of hard work and know-how. Understand That There’s A Lot Riding Against You Everyone has heard of Star Trek, the classic science fiction show that premiered in the 1960s. Don’t worry, this is relevant. In the original series (and the newer movies), there is a test that is given to cadets of Starfleet called the Kobayashi Maru. The point of the test is that some situations are completely unwinnable and it’s to show how well cadets cope with the concept of a no-win scenario. Now, I’m not going to lie. The cards are stacked against you as an indie developer. The day this was written (October 4th, 2017), 15 games came out on Steam alone and every one of them were a free indie game. There’s a lot of evidence and statistics that show you will fail. You can do everything right, spend money to get the proper tools and help, make a fantastic game, and still fail. This is what I refer to as the “Kobayashi Maru of Marketing”. You just can’t let this discourage you. It’s an obstacle and your next game will do better. Marketing takes a village. If your marketing budget is zero, it doesn’t necessarily mean you will fail. It means you have to work harder, step twice as fast, and learn from mistakes quickly to adapt. Put in the effort, get the word out, make sure every eye that can possibly see it does. Make sure you’re in the face of journalists because you need them on your side because you can show them everything you want, but if they do nothing about it, it’s lost to the wind.
  3. Bombs away! Take shelter! The biggest allies that a game developer can have is their community. The gamers themselves are what makes a successful game. A game can be great, well made, and incredibly deep, but if no one buys it, you can assume it’ll go under the radar and has the potential to fall into obscurity. In contrast, the biggest enemies that a game developer can have is also their community. This can be seen in the most heart-wrenching sense this past month. Let’s start early in September to explain what’s all gone on so far. Felix Kjellberg, known by millions of people by his YouTube alias PewDiePie, got himself dunked in hot water again for things he’s said. This is an internet sensation, with one of the highest subscribed channels in YouTube history at over 52 million followers. His fanbase is of all ages, but the demographic does get pretty young. To call him an “influencer” is an understatement. And yet, this isn’t the first time he’s gotten himself put in the news in the past year for pretty insidious things he’s said or done. His previous escapades landed him in the hot seat by both YouTube and Disney, where he lost both of his largest partnerships. That’s a heck of a way to have consequences to your actions. PewDiePie's Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day But, this time, he was live streaming a round of PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds stream (PUBG for short). As someone that curses like a sailor, myself, I can’t really judge him on the vulgar content that was surrounding the offending word. Unfortunately, in a “heat of the moment” call-out, he used a racial slur, the “N-word” more specifically, against a player he was shooting at, without remorse. Now, I’m not here to complain about his crude humor or be offended. I’m here to discuss the implications and consequences that have come due to his (now) third strike in under a year. Let’s cut to a few days later. Sean Vanaman, co-founder of Campo Santo, the developing studio of Firewatch, decided that they no longer wanted to be affiliated with PewDiePie. That’s fair. He has made multiple Nazi references in the past and is now live streaming himself yelling racial slurs. It’s a fair assessment and want to distance yourself. Therefore, they issued what is called a DMCA (Digital Millennium Copyright Act) Takedown of any Firewatch-related videos that PewDiePie has made, which has YouTube personally remove videos under the order. Let’s explain what a DMCA entails. Back in 1998, the DMCA law was put into effect to protect intellectual property and copyright thereof. This law was created to help deter theft or copying of images, writing, video, or any created materials. If someone duplicates a piece of art, the original creator has the right to a DMCA Takedown, which is enacted by the original owner and contacts the incriminated party either by governing or contingence body. In the case of video games, a game developer can send a DMCA Takedown to a Let’s Player or game reviewer, if they so choose. Camp Santo Taking Charge Of the Indie Dev Community In the case of Campo Santo, furthermore, they contacted YouTube directly. They requested the Takedown of any videos that PewDiePie may have done involving their game, Firewatch. The developer won the fight and the DMCA Takedown took effect, which is a success in the name of indie developers having power over offending content. PewDiePie even apologized, albeit after the fact. Now, why is this bad? The developer won. The guy using racial slurs didn’t. Little guy won over the big, bad guy. We all live happily ever after. It’s a classic story trope. We move on, now, right? Wrong. Very, very wrong. Unfortunately, there are consequences. This move has caused two major tremors in two different directions: Influencers and Indie Developers. On one hand, this act has now set precedent for indie developers to abuse the system, if they so choose. The main argument is that indie developers that don’t like a poor review score can now issue a DMCA to remove things they dislike. DMCA Leads To Anger. Anger Leads To Hate. Hate Leads To... So what? The influencer takes it down and they move on? Unfortunately, under YouTube policy, if a video creator gets three DMCA Takedowns, they are banned from YouTube. It does not matter if PewDiePie has over 50 million subscribers and made over $15 million in 2016. If he gets two more strikes, his channel will be completely gone and his bread and butter will be (sorry for this) toast. He’s just one example. Imagine an up and coming influencer gets into video creation and streaming, only to have three strikes. If they do three reviews and give three poor scores because a game may be bad, there’s a chance they might as well just need to pack it up. This will cause a rift on what game people will review, but it will also fundamentally change the way that reviewers look at their subjects. Developers now have the power to only have positive reviews of their games be seen by millions of people. Not only that, but many YouTubers do fun, funny, and idiotic videos to parody games or IPs. Where it is perfectly legal to parody something, Nintendo, for instance, is known to be very protective of their work and have been known to issue DMCA Takedowns for parodies or likenesses to their work on YouTube in the past. As The Bombs Drop... In a very strange twist, a large amount of gamers and/or PewDiePie fans went for the jugular. In an event known as “review bombing”, the community bans together in what can only be described as a “negative carpet bomb or reviews”. In this case, they took to the FireWatch Steam page, which had originally held a “Mostly Positive” score in their rating system. These community members, proceeded to down-vote the game and leave negative and sometimes nasty remarks. They left it vague in some cases, but the majority rule was that the developer had upset them, so they needed to make sure the game suffered. Let Off Some Steam Steam, generally ones to stay out of any and all drama and commotion, spoke up for once. The issue, this time, seemed to line up perfectly with something they had already been doting on: a way to solve for review bombing. They posted a blog to their website which detailed their solvent for this unfortunately common problem. “So why is review bombing a problem?” the blog reads. “On the one hand, the players doing the bombing are fulfilling the goal of User Reviews - they're voicing their opinion as to why other people shouldn't buy the game. But one thing we've noticed is that the issue players are concerned about can often be outside the game itself. It might be that they're unhappy with something the developer has said online, or about choices the developer has made in the Steam version of their game relative to other platforms, or simply that they don't like the developer's political convictions. Many of these out-of-game issues aren't very relevant when it comes to the value of the game itself, but some of them are real reasons why a player may be unhappy with their purchase.” Steam to the Rescue? Noticeably, they seemed very hesitant to get too involved actively, but in the long run, their solution made sense. After solitarily discussing what options they really have or don’t have, they went on to their vision for a better future. “In the end,” they continued, “we decided not to change the ways that players can review games, and instead focused on how potential purchasers can explore the review data. Starting today, each game page now contains a histogram of the positive to negative ratio of reviews over the entire lifetime of the game, and by clicking on any part of the histogram you're able to read a sample of the reviews from that time period. As a potential purchaser, it's easy to spot temporary distortions in the reviews, to investigate why that distortion occurred, and decide for yourself whether it's something you care about. This approach has the advantage of never preventing anyone from submitting a review, but does require slightly more effort on the part of potential purchasers.” Firewatch is a slightly older game, which they can value had higher marks among the excited fans that bought early after its release and ever slowly declined after nearly a year and a half but remain in the “Very Positive” realm ever since. The problem with the review bombs are that they rise to the forefront and become the “Recent” reviews, which currently sits at a “Mixed” rating due to the trouble. Valve’s fix would ensure that people see reviews as a timeline of sorts, giving a historical look at the reviews. The decline is shown, but people can click to see the differences between the higher remarks and the bombing run. This entire situation has been a cavalcade roller coaster and I fear it’s only the beginning. The real core of the situation is gamer toxicity, but that’s a problem for another day. Only time will tell how this will end, though.
  4. Welcome to the fourth entry to Indie Marketing For N00bs. This week, we’re going to talk about some things that most developers fail to really follow through on: Marketing Plans. These are both fundamental additions to any successful game on the market. We’re going to take the time here to really explain the importance of these tools, what they’re used for, and how to create them yourself. PLAN? I Don’t Need No Stinkin’ PLAN! You’ve designed a game. Go you. What is the first thing most developers do before they make the game, though? They create a game design document, which entails the plan for what’s going into the game, how it’ll be implemented, and something that can be followed through or be utilized by a publisher that wants to take your game under their wing. In theory, you already know how to do exactly this, so why aren’t you designating time to do the same thing for other aspects of the process? A marketing plan is your personal guideline to what needs to be done early on, as well as in post-development when it comes to marketing, public relations, social media, and community management. It’s big, generally. But, it helps developers know when they need to make a post or a blog, or when they need to make an announcement due to hitting a target. This includes when you should do “Dev Diaries” or how often you should tweet. Make a plan and stick to it. I Love It When A Marketing Plan Comes Together! Everyone has a different method for their own versions of a marketing plan. Some people do a simple outline with key points and some people go above and beyond for a true precision strike outward (For instance: My plans tend to be between 9 and 11 pages, including a title page). I mentioned earlier that the plan can be for a publisher. If you ever plan to get picked up by a publisher (even the indie publishers), they want you to be as impactful as you can be autonomously. It’s less work and hassle for them if you come equipped with your own knowledge and tactics. But, maybe I don’t want a publisher. Why do I need a plan? Making a plan for yourself keeps you on a strict regimen to get your game out there. Will it ensure a 100% success story? Of course not. But, it will ensure that you are following my rule from previous entries to this series: “Every eye possible”. Know Your Audience And They Will Know You A plan should include two major sections, split into explanations for each one: Information and Marketing Tools. In the Information section, include a quick description of your game, maybe one or two paragraphs. This is to guide anyone other than yourself that may read this document. If you have any current statistics or analytics about your game or company, include a section for them. Set your goal here, as well. Make an attainable goal based on similar games on market. Knowing what you’re up against and adjusting your expectations to adhere to logic is a perfect way to set yourself up for a win. Additionally, do some research and figure out your demographic. Come up with a range of people that you believe your game is targeting. Include: Age range Is your game more mature themed? Would it appeal more to a nostalgic retro audience? Is it cartoony and kid-friendly? These aspects matter. Gender(s) With women taking to the industry in recent years, more women are likely to play your game. Take this into account here. Languages For instance, if you game is only in English and you have no plans to localize the game to Chinese, China might not be your demographic. Systems Is your game only on PC? Probably shouldn’t focus on console gamers too much then and vice versa. Is your game mobile? Why are you contacting people that only play PC games? Know your audience and it’ll help with future endeavors and needs. List Out All The Tools You’ll Use Marketing Tools should include Social Media, Video platforms, Game’s Website, Community Presence, Press, Paid Advertisements, and Software and Services you plan to use. This section is a lot bigger than the other, but it’s where the majority of the plan is laid out. What social media are you going to use? List them out here. We’ve discussed social media in a prior lesson, so add in any that are going to be linked to this game, no matter how small. Think of this as your reminder to post on Google+ or Instagram. How often will you be posting to each platform? Do you plan to tweet daily? Are you hitting other platforms often? Make sure to include even game developer specific platforms here as well. Any presence needs to be noted and should have a guide for how you handle each one. Do you plan to make videos for your game? Have you made a trailer? Will you be streaming the game during development or post-development for people to see progress or features? Make sure to include if you’re using YouTube, Twitch, or any other video platforms. How will you post these videos and how often? Will you be live for most of it on Twitch and then upload it to YouTube after? What’s the plan? Most indie developers don’t utilize their own website for promotion, but it’s a powerful tool to have a simple domain to send potential eyes to. This looks great on business cards, promotional materials, or any shout outs you make need. Some people even go a step further and implement a dev blog into their site. This can tie to the videos, as well, showing off aspects of the game that may not have been apparent. Dev Diaries, which can be shown on your site, are one of the easiest ways to keep community involvement during the creation of your game. Utilization of the forum structure is always a good way to keep community involvement, in both the traditional sense and the more modern takes. Reddit is ridiculously popular to show off progress and several sub-Reddits (specific sections dedicated to particular topics) are designed specifically for indie developers. Additionally, the use of Discord could be considered a “modern take” to the forum structure. Taking on an old-school IRC style mixed with vocal capabilities like Teamspeak or Ventrillo, Discord is designed for gamers and widely utilized as a community tool for the game industry. Media Shower: Wishing Among The Stars As we’ve discussed in an earlier lesson, the press and media are your friends. List out your plan to contact them and how you plan to keep them notified in your plan. This includes a guideline of when you plan to write press releases to get out to the media and press sites. Figure out what kinds of streamers and “Let’s Players” you want to try to contact and set a target. Include a full plan for a customized “press kit” in your marketing plan. I’m going to be setting “press kits” aside as its own lesson at a later date, but expect a much more substantial detailing of what should be in a standard press kit. Software, Services, and Ads As with any other game-related step out there, tools can and should be used when marketing. This can be a number of things, from minor social media tools like Hootsuite or Buffer, all the way to full analytics reporting programs like Google analytics. A popular free tool to use is Google Alerts, which can set keywords and have Google email you when something comes up in the search engine. If you intend to have people play the game in Let’s Plays, websites like Gamesight can be very helpful in tracking your game. After the game has been published, it’s important to try to get your game on such aggregates as Metacritic, not for any other reason than Twitch and other websites pull from that site for their content. This section should also include any paid advertising you, your publisher (if applicable), or third party will intend to use. Be concise. Since this uses real money, you can utilize the demographics designed in the first section of the marketing plan to focus the impressions and clicks. Ads can be Google, Facebook, Twitter, or a number of other platforms. Understand the difference between sponsored advertisements and "like" purchasing, though. It's the difference between having real eyes see your product and having some company in a click farm boost your numbers in a fake way. Fake followers and "bots"can completely mess up any intended reporting and realistic charts. You'll never know if you're actually doing good. Don’t forget to think out of the box, though. Marketing is only limited to your own mind. Be creative and sometimes it will pay off. Some people get a proper Wikipedia article put up for their game. If you intend to make a commercial, YouTube and Twitter can be tapped for a video-based ad. Heading to small events in your area can help get more eyes. Just make sure you have it all in your Plan.
  5. Video games are finally being looked at not as the toys they were marketed as early on, but as a viable form of entertainment. In that regard, they’re finally being taken seriously in other aspects as well, such as esports. Whereas esports are not new, sports channels and platforms have started the initial embrace of video games being a real sport and treating players as athletes. It was a matter of time before esports wound up sensationalized and put in front of the average joe to watch. Turner Broadcasting, the fine folks out of Atlanta, GA that bring us Cartoon Network, Adult Swim, and TruTV, finally dipped their pinky toe into the video game world. Since early 2016, ELEAGUE, Turner Broadcasting’s official esports league, has been taking the reins for network esports. They started with Valve’s Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, working their way to a short stint with Overwatch last year. This led to a Street Fighter V Invitational and the International DOTA 2 Championships, which was also hosted from their studio in Atlanta, GA, as well. Setting themselves up for more, CS:GO Premier is now in its third season, with a growing audience and tons of new tech advancements. The CS:GO Premier 2017 kicked off September 8th with four teams competing that evening, live. Festivities started at 6:00 PM, EST, and had two teams face off, then the other two. The first match had fan favorite FaZe Clan go against the Renegades, slaughtering them at 16-9. The second match up had European team Natus Vincere (Na’Vi) against G2 Esports, with Na’Vi taking the win at 16-10. These matches were broadcast via Twitch, YouTube, and ELEAGUE.com. At 10 PM, EST, they kicked it up a notch. Bringing in a studio audience, the rest of the show is shot live on the previous channels, and brought to more eyes using Turner’s own cable television TBS station. This is where the masses can enjoy the games as well, tuning in on syndication. This part had the winners of the previous two match-ups, FaZe Clan and Na’Vi, battle it out for an epic showdown for a chance at the playoff spot in the Quarterfinals. FaZe Clan absolutely devastated Na'Vi with a near complete shut out at 16-6. Turner has taken to utilizing some special technology in their attempt to make esports more wide-stream. Innovation will make it stand out and the use of bio-metrics in the players is a good start. Eye-tracking tech developed by Tobii was introduced for this third season, which shows exactly where players eyes move as they play to help home viewers understand the intensity and would-be pros have proper research on what to look for as a player. Partnering with Dell Gaming/ Alienware, the systems that players are competing on are top-notch and designed for aggressive play. Their advanced analytics with Dojo Madness’ Shadow.GG platform, offers viewers more data to take in, including heatmaps, smokemaps, and pathmaps. Tactical and statistical replays are shown during the event using this same tech. These bits of tech help those watching really understand the strengths and weaknesses of each player. Virtual reality finally plays a part in esports with ELEAGUE’s partnership with SLIVER.tv. Matches are shot in 360 degree cinematic VR and allows viewers to really see what the player see. This tech is supported by nearly every VR option out there, including Google Cardboard. Each Friday will put four teams against each other the same way for four weeks, with additional matches the following Saturday. This will lead up to the playoffs, starting October 10th. This leads to the Grand Finals on Friday, October 13th, 2017 at 10PM, EST. The best two of all of the teams will face off in a finish to an awesome season. Afterwards, ELEAGUE will move on to their next game: Injustice 2. Pulling the top 16 players from the four biggest Injustice 2 tournaments, ELEAGUE’s Injustice 2 World Championships will take place on October 21st. Facing off for $250,000, the baddest players will prove their worth in a super-clash of DC characters. With the rise of esports among gamers comes a rise to esports in the mainstream. ELEAGUE is taking it to the next level to give viewers a prime experience to the best of their abilities. What’s next for esports? A multiplayer indie games league? Olympic center stage? If treated like real sports, esports has several avenues that can be gone to.
  6. The Olympic committee has discussed it many times over the years and they have finally considered the option of video games and esports as a viable option during the 2024 Paris Summer Olympic Games. But, there’s some fine print to read beforehand. With the idea that esports has finally hit it big, between paid contracts, cable network shows, and full athletic leagues dedicated to the sport, it was only a matter of time before the Olympics took to the idea of including it. Now, they’ve put some ground rules that might cause some difficulty in developing the idea to be fully functional. No violent video games. This leaves out esports mainstays like League of Legends, StarCraft II, Halo series, Street Fighter series, as well as a slew of notable “violent” genres and games. "We want to promote non-discrimination, non-violence, and peace among people," said, without irony, Thomas Bach, president of the International Olympic Committee and former Olympic fencer. "This doesn't match with video games, which are about violence, explosions, and killing. And there we have to draw a clear line.” This thought process can possibly curtail major esports ideals and focus on the lesser utilized genres. But, on a positive side, this opens up racing games and sports games more to a forefront than the average shooter or MOBA. Additionally, competitive games that don’t focus on violence like Rocket League, Splatoon 2, and Mario Kart 8 Deluxe have a chance to shine with the portability and competition options of the Nintendo Switch. Silver lining, as the saying goes. Bach, (again) a former Olympic fencer, has shown his disinterest in the violent side of games as whole, believing that sports games like basketball and baseball are the real esports titles. He believes those that play may be interested in the real thing. This is a far cry to the reality of esports-based games that are played in majority. While the official word has not yet been spoken, esports will definitely play a part at the 2022 Asian Games, which has been signed off by the Olympic Council of Asia themselves. The Asian Games are only beaten by the Olympics in attendance, meaning that the inclusion of esports will at least get some time to shine. The inclusion of esports is possibly due to the overgrown demographic out of China and South Korea. In 2018, they will include an exhibition of esports, which will include FIFA 18, an unannounced MOBA (think League of Legends or DOTA 2) title, and a Real Time Strategy game (akin to Starcraft 2 or Command and Conquer). No word on exact games that will be included in 2022. I guess boxing, wrestling, fencing, archery, Judo, Taekwondo, karate, American football, rugby, and hockey are just too non-violent to not make the cut. Only time will tell what the official list will entail, if anything actually comes of it.
  7. IGDA gets a new Interim Director: Jen MacLean

    Back in June, the International Game Developer Association (IGDA for short) had their Director, Kate Edwards, step down. Known to her followers as a fearless, headstrong leader, Edwards finished her fifth year on a strong note, having stood up to controversies like diversity in the game industry, unpaid “crunch” time, and the Gamergate menace. Since then, the IGDA has been without an official Director. In the meantime, Beamdog co-founder Trent Oster has served as interim Executive Director until a suitable replacement was found. As of this week, Jen MacLean is the new Interim Executive Director of the IGDA. With big shoes to fill, she fills them well. Starting her career in 1992 at Microprose, she worked alongside industry greats like Sid Meier and Brian Reynold. She joined AOL, at its height, in 1996, where she took the position of Programming Director of the “Games Channel”. She went from there to Comcast as the Vice President and General Manager of Games. She went up the ladder and eventually became CEO of the now-defunct 38 Studios. Since then, she has remained a loyal member of the IGDA, speaking at multiple IGDA events. She has taken the role of IGDA Foundation head in the past year, as well, which is the IGDA’s charity for game developers. She’s been featured across the industry as a true influencer, even going as far as being presented in both "Game Industry's 100 Most Influential Women" by Next Generation as well as being named one of the top 20 Women in Games by game industry publication Gamasutra. Qualifications galore, MacLean brings 25 years of knowledge and experience to the role, working her way up the IGDA for this. With 8,000 members in the IGDA, spanning across 190 chapters and Special Interest Groups, MacLean is expected to stay on until at least March 2018, when another Director will be implemented. Jen MacLean will be joining the Power-Up Digital Games Conference this October 25th to 28th, talking about her role, her past experiences, and the future of gaming. Check it out in the official PDGC Discord server!
  8. Press Releases Are Important, So Why Aren’t You Writing Any? Welcome back to our marketing lessons focused on the indie developer, aptly titled “Indie Marketing For N00bs”. This lesson will focus on the importance of getting the news out to journalists and the media. This can be done a number of ways, but our primary focus is on proper etiquette for writing a press release. If done right, a press release can be seen by thousands of people, so there’s certain things that anyone writing the release needs to focus on and present. The world has their eyes on you for that brief second; make it count. A well written press release can go a long way. What makes a good press release, though? We can talk for hours on intricacies of writing and proper culture in dedicated writing. But, we’ll bring this down to some general tips to make your writing better without boring you too much on the details. No Fluff! Look, the details are important. You need to make sure you convey everything you want to say to the masses and I understand that. But, this isn’t technical writing. This is your great stand about your game. People don’t care about the coding that goes into a game. They don’t want every detail about how it was made. Leave those to Dev Diaries and blogs that you can go into detail about how you made your main character’s arm move super realistic with a special line of code. “Tl;dr”, which is shorthand for “Too long, didn’t read”, is a well-known term in writing. Get your point across first. Saving important details until later in the press release can damage your chances of getting eyeballs on the post. “Personality” Doesn’t Mean “Opinions” Personality is key and will optimize the eyes that see your writing. Boring press releases get overlooked because writers want to write about things that interest them and get their attention. Be humorous and witty. Don’t be afraid to make a relevant pun in writing. If you can make the journalist laugh, you’re likely to have a good write up about the news. Extra fluff can come in a number of ways. Press releases, for instance, should be devoid of opinions. You can be happy you get your game out there, but going into opinion and blog-like writing is an automatic turn off for a lot of journalists that are picking up the write-up. People want news to be, you know, news. Inject some personality into the writing, though. This isn’t an expository high school essay. This is your masterpiece. Be proud of what you’d got here. But, be careful not to turn it into an opinion piece. You may love it, but someone else may not. Create hype by being honest and straightforward. If I wanted your opinion, I’ll read your Dev Blog or watch your Dev Diaries (which are also a great way to create hype, but need to remain separate from the news). Empower Yourself With Quotes Now, let me go against everything I’ve said prior, but only if done in a specific way. Quotes are the one place that a press release should have enthusiasm or opinion. By quoting yourself or someone on your team, you open up the ability to say whatever you want. This is your time to shine as a human that made the game. Be excited and enthusiastic. I’ve seen too many quotes that read like a robot wrote them. I once had to explain to one of these robots the best way to give a quote, “Pretend you’re telling your best friend in the entire world about your product for the very first time. Show the excitement from that moment!” I do have a personal rule that works well for quote, though. Too many quotes will drown a press release. Most reporters that take your release and have to massage it are going to pull the main information and re-write it, then maybe snag one or two of the quotes for the article, if any at all. Limit the amount of quotes in a single release to be no more than three, with no more than two quotes for a single person. Source Your Sources Everyone wants to compare their game to a bigger, well-known game. Everyone wants to mention other companies, studios, or events that are relevant and/or topical to the news. This is where the ground gets a little shaky. This release isn’t about others. This isn't an elevator pitch, this is the real thing. This is about you, your team, your game, and everything involving those things. I highly recommend keeping others out of the mix. But, if you have to, there’s good ways of going about it. Make sure to include the proper copyright and trademark information for any brand you decide to utilize. You can’t mention another company without the proper legalese. This should be included near the bottom of the release, just to cover your own behind. Additionally, if you mention any copyrighted systems that your game will be on, it’s important to give the proper copyrighting symbol with it and make sure it’s named properly. Look up proper style guides for anything you mention, because each brand has their own unique shorthand. It’s “Sony PlayStation 4”, not “Playstation” (The “S” is Capitalized). It’s “XBox One”, not “Xbone”. Properly attributing your mentions makes you look more professional, as well as more likely to have people pay attention. Don’t be afraid of links in the press release. Embrace them and link to all of your sources properly. Did you attend an event that is in your news? Link the main page of the event. Are you name-dropping a specific console or game series? Give them props. Do you have assets for your own game, like a press kit? Link it and make it bold. Adventure, Excitement… A Journalist Craves These Things I talked about journalists a bit in a previous entry to this series, but I want to elaborate on their thoughts about press releases. When you network, you make allies. But, it’s a lot easier if you give them news that they can do something with. Searching them out makes their job much easier for them. They are actively looking for things to write about and most publications keep themselves on a constant stream of press lists for this exact purpose. Even if you don’t know them, utilize that press list that you made in the earlier lesson to get ahold of them and make yourself known. Journalists, for the most part, are pretty personable and are just looking for a new scoop. Just remember: Journalists and the media love press releases. Even if the release you write isn’t as successful as you had hoped, they can be added to your own “Press Kit” that any game should have for later usage. But, Press Kits are a lesson for another day. Also, don’t forget: Hit all of the relevant news-wires and aggregators if possible. This will be key to getting the press release to those you don’t already have access to, as journalists (and even everyday people) look at sites like Gamasutra and GamesPress. Even websites and forums like GameDev.Net are notable examples of places to put your news, sharing among other developers. Additionally, don't forget to share the press release on your social media.
  9. Nintendo's Nindies Showcase Rundown

    Nintendo has really given a spotlight to the independent developers as of late, which is great for lesser known devs to get some spotlight in such a crowded world. The Nintendo Wii, Wii U, and 3DS systems all have a smattering of indie games, both good and bad. The Nintendo Switch is no different. Nintendo’s “Nindies Showcase” plucked out some of the finer examples of “indie” coming to the Switch over the next 6 months. Super Meat Boy Forever In a silly start to the showcase, the trailer shows off Meat Boy and Bandage Girl from Super Meat Boy on a new adventure to rescue their child named Nugget from Dr. Fetus. If you haven’t played anything from the series, I might sound insane, but the games have always been enjoyable, chaotic platformers. This game will adapt to player experience by making levels beefier and more difficult as you play, as well as updates to the entire control scheme and layout. It’ll be out sometime in 2018. Shovel Knight: King of Cards Shovel Knight has been putting out side games the focus on other characters within the Shovel Knight story, ultimately called Treasure Trove. Shovel Knight: King of Cards is the final game in the saga and focuses on King Knight, an all gold, armored knight with a crown and cape. The game brings four new worlds and more than thirty new courses to the beloved franchise. The game will be out sometime early in 2018. Mom Hid My Game This game is a simple puzzle game where players seek and find their gaming system in different ways. The game will be out on the Switch and 3DS in late 2017. Golf Story This game looks not-unlike Stardew Valley at first glance, with the 16-bit look and RPG elements. But, the fact that the character is a golfer adds to a very different way of play. Players find new courses, traverse a very vivid world, and follow along a deep, well told story. This is definitely a game to keep an eye out for when it comes out this month on the Switch. Floor Kids This is a break dancing rhythm game in a sketch-drawn style. With original beats by Kid Koala, hundreds of moves to use, and several locations, the game is a definite grab for rhythm gamers when it comes out Holiday 2017. Wulver Blade Wulver Blade takes the form of a 1980s and 1990s beat ‘em up-style game with a twist. The game depicts real people in their own way, very much like the Assassin’s Creed series does. The hand-drawn art add to the cinematic appeal and will be a great game to snag this month, when it comes out. Poly Bridge This game is inspired by tons of online browser games with similar ideas. Poly Bridge is a bridge building game that tasks players with figuring out challenges and the best ways to keep a bridge from collapsing, all while dealing with obstacles and events. Bridge builders should grab the game this holiday 2017 on the Switch. Kentucky Route Zero TV Edition Kentucky Route Zero came out in 2013 on Steam and has been a smash hit indie game ever since. Their plans to add a final act, named “Act V”, to the already established game prove to make the “TV Edition” (Their name for the console ports) a definitive edition. It’ll be out early 2018. Earth Atlantis Earth Atlantis gives a real story to a side-scrolling shooter game, focusing on a sub that’s deep underwater. Power-ups about as players shoot ‘em up across many levels and bosses. Expect the game this Fall. Next Up Hero Make by Joe Tringali, of Scribblenauts and Drawn to Life fame, brings a new type of multiplayer game to the Switch. Taking turns, players fight their way through tons of enemies to their very eventual death. When someone dies, the next player can revive your “echo” to play as an AI companion for their turn. This formulaic system keeps players in the game as often as possible and is expected early 2018. SteamWorld Dig 2 During the first “Nindies Showcase” back in February, Nintendo announced SteamWorld Dig 2, the sequel to the critically acclaimed indie game. They proceeded to leave out when it was due out, which this showcase finally announced as coming this month, September 21st, 2017. Mulaka Mulaka, upon first look, is a beautiful game that takes root in Tarahumara Mexican culture and ideas. Fighting monsters and embarking on a journey, this action-adventure game is definitely among the most appealing to look at on this list. Players can expect it out early 2018. Yono and the Celestial Elephants This game takes the cake as the “cutest game”, featuring an adorable elephant protagonist named Yono. This puzzle-platformer game is due October 12th, 2017. Dragon: Marked For Death This side-scrolling action-RPG comes from Inti Creates, the same people that brought Blaster Master Zero and Mighty Gunvolt Burst. This game follows thirty enormous quests, following several main characters to choose from. The game will be exclusive to the Switch sometime during Winter 2017. Battle Chef Brigade Adult Swim Games has been knocking it out of the park when it comes to indie games as of late. Battle Chef Brigade, developed by Trinket Studios, is no different. This is an action platforming game mixed with a “match 3” system. Following the story, players find out different cooking styles of each character and earn ingredients to use during the cooking portion of the game. This will be out this holiday 2017. Morphies Law “A Robot Morphology Driven 3D Shooter”, Morphies Law takes the shooter genre and turns it on its head. Depending where players shoot the opponent depends on what mass they gain in their own bodies. Headshots make your own head bigger, etc. This adds a whole level of strategy needed when you’re too big to enter a doorway. As you steal mass, the background giant “avatar” gains mass as well. Biggest avatar at the end of the match wins. Expect to see this game during winter 2017. Sausage Sports Club This is totally a party game where cute animals with sausage necks and bodies compete in different modes and challenges against each other. Definitely a good game for having people over when it comes this Fall 2017. Light Fingers Light Fingers is a 1 to 4 player game where players control the map and outcome as it progresses, meaning players can work together or not. The game provides tons of game play options, possibility of player misdirection, and tons of loot as the players move along a procedurally generated game. People with friends might pick this game up early in 2018, if they might not want friends anymore. Nine Parchments This game seems heavily inspired by games like Gauntlet, Marvel Ultimate Alliance, and the entire “beat-em-up” genre. Follow a group of wizards as they take down bosses, unlock new spells and characters, and level up their arsenal when the game comes out this holiday 2017. No More Heroes: Travis Strikes Again Suda51’s No More Heroes was an absolute hit on the original Wii and it’s only fitting that “Travis Strikes Again” is exclusive to the Switch. The game takes place 7 years after the original game, where the “Phantom game console” sucks him and “The Bat” into the system. Players have to beat all six of the games and their bosses within the system. This fan-favorite is coming in 2018, exclusively on Switch. So, what new indie game for the Switch are you the most excited for? Sound off below!
  10. Gamescom 2017 News Round-Up

    Gamescom may not announce as much as E3, but there were some good morsels Gamescom was this past week in Cologne, Germany, and along with any major event in the game industry, announcements were made throughout the week. For the sake of time and your patience, I’m making this list a little different than most. Instead of rehashing things we already knew about getting trailers or minor updates, I’ve curated a list of new things to come out of Germany, with a little bit of peppering of interesting side notes. Microsoft Microsoft started off the event with a bang, showing off two special editions of the Xbox One X. The Minecraft Edition comes with a blocky themed console and a Creeper-themed controller. The system comes with Minecraft and the “Redstone Pack” extra DLC. Additionally, the Xbox One X Project Scorpio Edition was announced for pre-order (and promptly sold out). It comes with a custom printed exterior to the console and “Project Scorpio” labeled controller for fans of special editions. Aside from the special edition consoles, Microsoft also announced that there are over 100 games confirmed that will be “Xbox One X Enhanced”, including the upcoming Wolfenstein II. These titles get special graphical pushes when played on the new console and is meant to make the transition between the Xbox One to Xbox One X much more smooth. Microsoft gave some of its old-school fans something this time around, as well. The original Age of Empires is getting a “Definitive Edition”, where Microsoft also has stated that Age of Empires II and III are both getting Definitive Editions, as well. This led to the official announcement of Age of Empires IV, which will be available on PC, which will have 4K support. Microsoft’s final announcement was that the Xbox Games Pass is expanding to 8 new markets and adding 7 new titles this month alone. ReCore, the easily forgotten Microsoft PC and Xbox One game of 2016, is getting a “Definitive Edition”, and is being added to the Games Pass list as one of aforementioned 7 new titles. The Definitive Edition includes a brand new expansion to the original game. Those few people that bought the original, though, get the expansion for free. Sony Sony had two major announcements for Gamescom and a whole lot of nothing else. The centerpiece was the announcement of Shenmue III, including a trailer. In addition, GT Sport is getting a limited edition version of the PlayStation 4 console, which simply features the GT logo on the side of a gray PS4 and will include the “Day 1” edition of the game. This Day 1 edition includes $250,000 in-game credits, sticker packs, a chrome racing helmet, and 60 PS4 avatars related to GT Sport. EA EA came out swinging during their presentation, but didn’t really land many punches. Aside from Star Wars Battlefront 2 getting a trailer about starfleet battles, Battlefield 1 Revolution was announced as the first major DLC for Battlefield 1. The Sims 4 is getting an expansion focusing on pets, aptly titled “Cats and Dogs”, which brings to mind earlier iterations of their “Pets” expansions for their titles. Last year, EA showed off their “EA Originals” program, which focuses on publishing indie titles. They announced the game Fe, created by Zoink Games in Sweden. During Gamescom, Fe finally got a new trailer, but the news that it was coming to the Nintendo Switch would be the biggest news. This is in addition to the game already coming to PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC. Nintendo Most of Nintendo’s announcements were re-hashes of prior commitments, such as Super Mario Odyssey and Metroid. Among the stack of retreaded area, Nintendo did get a chance to announce a Super Nintendo themed New Nintendo 3DS XL to satisfy those that may or may not also be looking for a SNES Classic this holiday. The buttons are colored like the European version in the images shown, so it is unknown if the colors will match their respective regions. Additionally, Rocket League is a game we already knew was coming to the Nintendo Switch this Holiday season. We knew there would be Nintendo themed exclusive cars for it, but we we never truly told details about them. There will be a Mario-themed “Mario NSR”, a Luigi-themed “Luigi NSR”, and one named “Samus Gunship” which takes on the look of Samus’ gunship from the Metroid games. Square Enix Secret of Mana has been a nostalgic game for anyone that owned a Super Nintendo back in the day. It’s so noteworthy that Nintendo included it in their upcoming SNES Classic console. For those that want to enjoy the game in modern beauty, Secret of Mana was announced to be getting a truly cinematic remake worthy of its former version. The game will include a mini-map in the game, which the developers thought themselves cheeky by making it look identical to the original game’s top-down pixelated look. It’s been announced for the PlayStation 4, PlayStation Vita, and PC through Steam. No word on if it’ll be on a Nintendo console like it was so many years ago yet. During Gamescom, Square Enix finally proved a possible future true by announcing that their beloved Final Fantasy XV would be coming to PC early 2018. This version will have mod support, to allow the community to make the kingdom how they see fit. This version will include a king’s ransom of content, including all of the free content previously made available for consoles and the entire Season Pass without need for extra downloads. Along with the content, a First-Person mode will be available on PC, breaking the usual third-person law that Final Fantasy has had for decades. In an interesting turn of events, Ubisoft and Square Enix have teamed up for some special offerings between their flagship titles, Assassin’s Creed and Final Fantasy. In a subtle build up in old and new trailers, easter eggs have been making their way into each others’ most recent games over the past year or so. This crossover event will include special things in both games for each franchise. The event officially started on August 30th when Final Fantasy XV players obtain a special Dream Egg from the “Moogle Chocobo Carnival” event, which rewards players an assassin outfit. Then, on the 31st, players got the Assassin’s Festival DLC, which gives another Assassin outfit and more Assassin’s Creed-like abilities. No word on what the next Assassin Creed will include for Final Fantasy. Under The Radar On top of the already anticipated Aquaman villain Black Manta and Mortal Kombat god Raiden character additions, fans of Injustice 2 are getting treated to a special DLC character in Fighter Pack 2. Dark Horse’s Hellboy is debuting in the DLC, which will lead to some very awesome crossover concepts and possibilities. No word yet on when it’ll be released, but they’re hinting it’ll be very soon. Biomutant was announced from THQ Nordic, as well. It’s a third person shoot and slash that offers charming characters, beautiful environments, and evolving combat. It’s definitely a game to keep an eye out for in the future. From the fine folks that brought us Elite Dangerous and Planet Coaster, now bring dinosaurs. Jurassic World Evolution is a full Jurassic World park builder, in light of older games they’ve worked with like Rollercoaster Tycoon and Zoo Tycoon. Build, then manage the park. Take care of problems and maintain the island and surrounding islands for tourists and visitors to enjoy. The only thing really given so far was the trailer and minor detail in a press release, but if done right, it could bring the Jurassic video games back into the limelight.
  11. Harness Your Followers Welcome to this week’s lesson on Indie Marketing. This is the second part of a 5 week series that will teach you, as an indie game developer, the basics of marketing your projects and games. Last week, we touched on Networking and how important it is to not go alone. This week’s lesson focuses on social networks, like Facebook and Twitter, and how you can harness the power of as many people as you can. What is a Social Network? So, let’s start with the basics. Social networks/media are, by definition, any of the several websites online or services through which people create and maintain interpersonal relationships. That’s pretty broad, when you think about it, and that’s a good thing. Some of the more obvious ones are Facebook and Twitter, but we’ll be talking about some of the lesser-known ones later in this article as well. The Power of a Hashtag Social networks utilize the most primitive form of marketing: “Word of mouth”. These platforms help you share news, network new contacts, and rally the masses for whatever you may need. If you make something quality, people will follow you. Each platform has their own rules and needs. And trust me when I say, “There’s plenty of rules.” Between proper manners, knowing all the right times to post, and hashtags, these can fill an article all on their own. So, I won’t bore you with too many of the intricacies. I will tell you that hashtags are your best friend on multiple platforms. I recommend starting by making a list of every possible hashtag you will ever use. The usage of hashtags should be classy and more conservative on Twitter. There, you should be focusing no more than two or three per post for optimal focus. Learn the most optimal hashtags for each particular post. Opposite the spectrum, it’s generally a hashtag-a-palooza on Instagram, sending the picture of choice to as many eyes possible. Facebook has hashtags and it doesn’t hurt to add minor ones to focus a group, but it generally doesn’t help as much as other platforms. Joining “Facebook Groups” is your best mode of info transportation on Facebook. Stay focused on your posts in these groups, though. The second someone gets out of line or betrays the individual group’s rules section, they become ridiculed and, in some cases, flat-out banned. That group is for only Unreal Engine developers, so make sure you only post projects relevant to Unreal. That group over there is tied to another group and bans for cross-posting to both. Sailing your ship through the Facebook sea is the quickest way to make haste in your journey. But, tread lightly, for these waters be dangerous. Every Eye Possible I follow a simple mantra when it comes to getting the word out which I call “Every Eye Possible” (or “EEP” for short). The thought process of EEP is that no person should go untold about your product. Some marketers refer to this as “carpet bombing” the audience. Leave no stone un-turned in your quest to get your product out there. Just because that particular person may not care, does not mean they won’t mention it to a friend that might because they remembered seeing it somewhere. Sharing is the easiest way to get the word out. It’s an old fashioned style to marketing set to a digital age. The only way to achieve true EEP is to make sure other share your posts. Hashtags, which we discussed earlier, bring in a focus group directly looking for your post and those like it. I discussed the idea of standing out from the crowd in Lesson 1. Your posts need to be eye-catching and have character. You are a human making a game, not a lifeless robot. Be comical. Be humorous. Interact with the trends. Show your audience that the person behind this awesome game or project is, you know, a person. As my mentor, Bill “The Game Doctor” Kunkel, taught me, “It’s not who you know, or even what you know. It’s who knows you. You can say you know everything in the world, but if they have no idea who you are, it’s not worth a thing.” This line will hold true throughout all five of these lessons and it definitely is true when it comes to your social media. What Should I Have and Not Have? This is the part where I tell you that social networking is hard and you’re going to hate it. There’s a few easy going platforms, but there is a lot to wade through. And to achieve EEP, you need to set up scheduling for every last one of them. We’ve already discussed the need for Facebook and Twitter. Google+ and YouTube are necessary for those that want to show videos of their creations, create trailers, or show off behind the scenes work. This, additionally, applies to Twitch for those that want to stream it live. LinkedIn is a necessity for the professionals to keep in touch with other professionals. Reddit is a need for anyone, as well, due to the overwhelming power of that community. Websites dedicated to your art are generally a good way to show off your projects as they are in progress. DeviantArt, Instagram, Pinterest, and Tumblr are prime examples of places to put screenshots, concept art, or anything else. Post accordingly and don’t forget those hashtags. There are a few websites out there that truly cater to game developers as well. Develteam, YUNOIA, and LikeMindedd (formerly Gamxin) focus their entire strength on the needs of the indie developers as opposed to being a generic platform. There are more upcoming websites that are joining the fray, like Project MQ. There have been multiple others that have come and gone over the years, but these ones are still around and solid to build community and followers within your peer group. Paying for Viewership Isn’t a Sin I’m going to start by saying that I never recommend paying for “likes” or “follows”. Not only does it completely ruin the ability to keep tabs on reports properly, it comes off incredibly shady and untrustworthy. With that being said, paying for sponsored advertising is a remarkable idea if you know how to do it properly. Let’s face it. Facebook’s algorithms suck. You can create a business page and gain followers. But, due to the way Facebook works, most of those that actively “Like” your page will not see your posts. This is their way of making people need to pay real money to advertise their business. It’s underhanded, for sure, and I don’t commend their business tactics. I wouldn’t recommend paying for advertising if you have minimal followers. But, with a properly made campaign, making targeted strikes in Facebook Groups while promoting a sponsored ad can really boost a post to the highest degree. Twitter, Youtube, Google, and so many others offer targeted advertising too. These are pretty straightforward and can help skyrocket a particular post or call to action. This just goes back to the EEP method. Carpet bomb the hell out of your potential audience. Seeing the same posts in different platforms really helps remembrance and brand recognition. Just try not to make it the same exact thing every time. Everyone has different experiences, of course, when dealing with social media. But, take these tips with you and you’re likely to be successful in your marketing campaign. We’ll be continuing the next lesson on the importance of press releases. Just remember: “Every Eye Possible”.
  12. Network, Network, Network: Make Your Contacts Early On Welcome to the first lesson for Indie Marketing for N00bs on GameDev.net. This will be a series of blogs to help indie developers really focus their marketing techniques and be successful in their campaigns. I’ve been with the game industry for over a decade, with focuses on journalism, marketing, public relations, advertising, and community management and I’ve boiled some of the more key components to know down into 5 lessons. We’ll start today’s lesson with Networking. Networking is an essential part of anyone that wants to get their game out there. Who are you talking to about your game? Are the masses even hearing about it, or are you just throwing up up on Facebook to friends and family? Who should you be talking to? This brings us to the first point. Take All Of Your Contacts And Put Them Together Make a media list. As a marketer, we’re handed massive media lists from events and create our own from around the industry. But, as a developer, starting from scratch is the main place to be. This list is who you will talk to every time you want to make an announcement. The list should include relevant press and media, influencers, press websites, newswires, and publications, as well as the swath of Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn contacts you have derived in your adventure of development. You’re going to want to make it as easy on yourself as you can because it’s not a quick job. I always recommend a spreadsheet. Anyone and everyone that is press or media should be included on the list because you don’t want to have to submit through a “tip form” every time you want to get ahold of a publication or outlet. That’s annoying, frustrating, and most of those “tips” are skimmed past and ignored anyway. You need a name, a contact, to go straight to. Making the list, you should include relevant contact information for each person, like their full name, title, publication name, and relevant notes about their specific functions. For instance, you probably don’t want to send your single-player game to a website that focuses on multiplayer games. Stay Current One major point of interest is the need to keep the list current and updated anytime you can. Ultimately, people lose their lobes or leave for other positions. This can not only leave a hole in some large contact spots, but also displaces contacts. Additionally, contacts from one publication may leave and make their own website, which can open up more possible eyes. I found a list I had made from 2010, recently, and went through is to see what could be relevant to my modern list. Out of nearly 200 contacts, I kept a total of 6 exactly as they were. A very unfortunate amount of those websites didn’t even exist anymore. They had gone the way of the wind. Many of the publications that still exist had new people in the reigns 6 or 7 years later. Now, a chunk of those names still are writers in the industry, though. Researching each one found that they had moved to a different website and changed their email from the business email they had previous, but were still relevant. Out of those, I kept another 30, but it took work to find the right contact info for each. Know Your Industry So, you’re making a game. What platforms will it be on? Who are your contacts within the industry? We’re beyond the days of old-school Rolodexes, but we’re not beyond the need to have people available at the touch of a dial. Developers should figure out their contacts and representatives for each outlet. ID@XBOX, Playstation, Steam, Nintendo, IndieBox, and Itch.io are just a few to find and keep, as well as contact information for recruiting agencies and websites that can help you find who you might be looking for. Websites like GameDev.Net are key ingredients to your contact smoothie to help like-minded developers meet and make contacts. Remember: You might not know a person, but someone else may. Bill Kunkel, known as The Game Doctor, was the very first game journalist, having helped found EG Magazine in the 1980s. He mentored me in his later years and something he told me resonates a decade later in my mind everyday. He told me, “It’s not who you know, or even what you know. It’s who knows you. You can say you know everything in the world, but if they have no idea who you are, it’s not worth a thing.” As a developer, you need to stand above the rest of the crowd. The loudest wins. Make sure people know who you are. But, how do I make people remember me? Join websites and social media platforms for designed for developers. Join dev groups on Facebook. Go out and join in on some of the thousands of Game Jams held every year. Join forum communities like GameDev.net. Attend game events in your area. You have to make friends that are like minded because allies will boost your name. Advice can come from anywhere, as well. One of the folks that you meet in your travels may make it big before you, or they’re already big. Our industry may be rough around the edges sometimes, but the pros and classic legends are some of the most helpful people in the industry. I remember working on an old website years ago, and I had an error in the coding of the site. I just couldn’t figure it out. As I was cussing to myself over it, I happened to have been talking to John Romero (Yes, John Romero from ID Software) at that moment. I remember him going “Aha! I see the problem!”. I gave him access to it, and he solved it for me. It really shows how friendly people are in our industry. Don’t be afraid to talk to them. Networking will also help you find people you need, like artists, programmers, and the like. The people you meet on your journey might be exactly who you need or put you in the right direction to find your grail. Of course you’ll get detractors here and there, but if you don’t have a list of allies and contacts for your quest, you’re likely to not be as successful. No one does this completely alone. Just remember: The answer is always “No” unless you ask.
  13. The V-aRms Race Has Begun: VIVE Drops Price $200

    This is only the beginning, VRm I right? Not unlike an arms race, the VR price war has only begun. Who has the best Equipment? Early this Summer, Oculus had a massive sale on their device, the Oculus Rift, ending in a permanent price drop. HTC is now following suit, cutting out the sale, dropping the price altogether on their Vive Head-Mounted Display. Yesterday, The HTC Vive took a hefty slash in price, dropping from their $799 price tag, down to $599. This comes as no surprise after the Oculus Rift dropped down to $399 earlier this Summer on sale. At the end of the sale, the price raised back up to $499 as the final price, $100 less than previous to the sale. The HTC Vive comes with plenty of their worth for the price, too. Along with the head-mounted display, accessories include two wireless controllers, two bases stations, comfort-related materials, and everything purchasers need to get going (cords, etc.). Additionally, the system comes with Google Tilt Brush, Everest VR, and Richie’s Plank Experience as promotional content, as well as one-month subscription to Viveport. Vive's Giving Away Some Free Content For New Owners As a breakdown of the free content, purchasers of the Vive get $53 of extra content from the promotional pack. Google Tilt Brush ($19.99 retail value) gives artists a full 360-degree canvas to paint massive murals and masterpieces. Everest VR ($14.99 retail value) allows people to climb Mount Everest in first-person, without the fear of dying from hypothermia. Richie’s Plank Experience is a starter “game” for new VR players, teaching balance using VR, as well as giving a couple extra modes like a sky-writing experience. But, that’s not all! Purchasers of the $600 system also get a free 1-month subscription to Viveport, HTC’s subscription service, valued at the incredibly pricey $6.99. Subscribers can choose five games/experiences to try out during their subscription period, with five more for each additional subscribed month. The list to choose from includes some amazing titles like ROM: Extraction, which has players shooting robots in a space station. But, people should research their potential options to maximise their potential. For instance, players can also choose the (somehow) award winning title, BUTTS: The VR Experience, which may or may not push virtual reality to its foremost limits (spoiler: it doesn’t). But, What About Me And You? The question to ask is “What does this mean for potential VR buyers?” Well, the war is in motion here, showing both of these price drops. Virtual Reality enthusiasts and companies are pushing that VR is the future. With this price drop, the Vive finally becomes more affordable to the masses, as well as the even more affordable Oculus Rift. But, alas, other companies are starting to get in on the game, as well. Some people just want entertainment instead of gaming. Artists want whitespace to create. Experiences can be strapped to a face for cheap. Google, the folks that bring the Daydream to the VR market, is pushing their own boundaries by teaming up with HTC and Lenovo for cost-effective standalone experiences. Microsoft’s HoloLens will take users into augmented reality, albeit from a much higher price. VRotica, an erotica-enabled standalone HMD device already on the market, costs a fraction of the price of other HMDs. Essentially, VR is getting cheaper. For those that have a device already, awesome. The experiences are unlike anything ever before. For potential buyers, as with all technology in history, VR is getting cheaper all the time. Thousands of games and experiences inhabit the SteamVR storefront and respective virtual shops. “VR Ready” Computers are coming down in price as well, eventually making the idea a non-issue. But, the average joe still has to fork out some cash for a game-capable machine, because cheap computers still can’t handle it. VR, at the moment, is for the elite, but it won’t be for too much longer. Is it the perfect time to grab a now $599 Vive, a recently dropped $499 Rift, or should buyers wait it out for even better prices and devices later?
  14. Educate En Masse: Gamifying The Process

    When I Was Your Age... Video games have been part of education since the beginning. When Spacewar! was developed in 1962 for the PDP-1 at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), a new era of entertainment was born. In the 55 years since, countless educational games, the creation of Serious Games, and so much more has happened. Growing up in the 1990s, I was bombarded with mounds of games, between Humongous Games, Nintendo edutainment titles, the Carmen Sandiego series, and so many more that it’d take a separate article just to list them alone. Additionally, if you can get through this article without getting the “Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego?” television show theme stuck in your head, you might not have lived through the 1990s yourself. But, I digress. By that point, educational titles were in full supply and we were put on full blast. Students lined up at computers for these video games to learn from Reader Rabbit, Mavis Beacon, and Pajama Sam. The holy grail was getting to play The Oregon Trail, a game where players had to make it on the Oregon Trail itself, utilizing resources given, without dying. Looking back, it was a 20 year old educational game from 1974 that kids clamored to play even then. Delve into the Past to Learn the Future! History has shown games and “edutainment” titles even in 1967, with a software title named Logo Programming, which taught the programming language Logo as an early example of a serious game. The late 1970s and 1980s saw a boom of new titles due to the ease of use of the new Personal Computers, like the TRS-80 and Commodore 64. Though, Lemonade Stand is the seemingly sole heir to the popular 1970’s educational titles for the Apple II. Atari even got an early chance to jump in with Math Gran Prix in 1982. Nintendo jumped onto the bandwagon, pushing their educational Mario-themed games. These commonly known titles included Mario Is Missing!, Mario’s Time Machine, Mario Paint, and Mario Teaches Typing. But, Nintendo started even before those with Donkey Kong Jr. Math (Japan 1983, North America 1986). In the modern era, Nintendo’s edutainment doesn’t seemingly focus on the concept like it used to. But, they do continue with games like the knock-out Brain Age. Unfortunately, this progression also includes tons of shovel-ware titles available for the Wii and 3DS/DS, but every so often a gem is discovered. What's the Future of Educational Games? Education will only get more diverse as the years progress. With the uprising of “Serious Games” in the past decade, doctors can learn proper techniques and skills without needing a real corpse. Police officers are trained in problem solving skills, digitally. Organizations like the Serious Games Institute (SGI), focus on applied research into the thought process of Serious Games, providing courses and education on how to properly convey the development. Training and technique are gamified across multiple vocations. Additionally, Virtual Reality is at an all-time high at the moment. Back in 2011, author Ernest Cline dreamed up a world of VR, in his novel “Ready Player One”. In a dystopian near-future, people prefer to live in the virtual world, even attending school in the aptly named OASIS. Where, this is a nearly complete science-fantasy, some truth can be found in it to hint at our future. With online and virtual schooling, professors and teachers are just an email or a webcam call away. As technology advances, so do the ideas. For instance, companies like Google and Microsoft look into their respective head-mounted displays for new ways to give entertainment, which often runs parallel with education. Immersive VR Education is working on a platform called Engage, which brings Cline’s VR classroom closer to being a reality than ever before with fully interactive lecture halls. Virtual assets and tools can help presenters teach their lesson plans, draw on the white boards, and interact with students through their Engage avatars. Engage 0.2 can already be found on Steam, Vive, and the Oculus Store. The advent of the 360-degree camera is playing a part in the process as well. Google Expeditions Pioneer Program lets students travel to far off lands they normally wouldn’t have visited, whereas Alchemy VR lets people dive into the sea and explore the Great Barrier Reef. On-The-Go To Learn Where full-on teacher replacement is not in the outlook very soon, there are so many possibilities to learn using games and gamification today. With more virtual realities on the horizon, one has to ask when the educational institutes will eventually go fully digital, or if they will at all. Or will the idea be simplified and streamlined even more? But, not all of the future of education is in virtual worlds; some can simply be found right in the palm of one’s hand. Digital mobile education is as simple as learning a new language with a slew of gamified apps available, such as Duolingo, or helping math skills with apps like Photomath. Out are the days that students have to write notes with a pencil. Note-taking in the modern era is simplistic with apps like OneNote and Evernote. TED-Ed gives a platform for more than 250,000 teachers and public speakers to do what they love. Websites like Udemy offer a mobile app to allow education and training in whatever the heart is set on completely on the go. My Avatar And I Not all games in education is embedded within the technology. Sometimes, it can be in the unlikeliest of ways. For example, school shootings over the years have put people up-in-arms about video games whenever it turns out the suspect plays them. Several here in the USA have been reported on, but in 2002, Germany had a similar situation. The Erfurt school massacre left 16 people dead at the Gutenberg-Gymnasium and because the gunman was an avid fan of first person shooters (called “ego shooters” in Germany), parents rose up against video games for a time. Fifteen years later, the situation has shifted dramatically in favor of games. In 2011, a computer gaming educational group from the University of Erfurt named “Spawnpoint” worked on a project with teenagers of all ages at the Gutenberg-Gymnasium called “My Avatar and I”. They let the students create digital avatars of their own personal identity, share screenshots, and discuss the appreciation and contribution of computer games into the modern culture. Aside from the creativity factor involved, the project helped students learn from gamification and have self-reflection on their own multimedia usage. The project won the 2011 Dieter Baacke Prize, an award given each year to educational, social, and cultural work. Since then, Spawnpoint and the University’s Erfurt Gaming Group continue to help train teachers on how to utilize games in their curriculum. They are taught that classic educational games are considered “chocolate-covered broccoli”, which refers to the idea that it may be sweet on the outside, but the second kids see the green vegetable, they will reject it. Instead, AAA games are introduced to the students to keep them engaged and teach the relevant lesson involved. The group also holds public events and presentations to advocate games as a cultural asset. To Clarify: We Must Gamify! In conclusion, video games, gamification, and utilization of digital tech is the future of education, training, and culture itself. The quicker we, as society, embrace this concept, the sooner we can move forward to make education easier to those that want to learn.
  15. A part of gaming culture for over 20 years comes back! In a completely expected-unexpected turn of events, Blizzard has jumped back onto its own band wagon. Last September, Blizzard announced that their near-and-dear “Battle.net” would be no more. They were attempting a focus on the Blizzard brand itself, with features like “Blizzard Streaming” and “Blizzard Voice”. The entire Battle.Net desktop application was transitioned to be the profoundly-named “Blizzard desktop app”. With their announcement on Monday, Blizzard has realized their crucial mistake: “Brand Recognizably”. The Battle.net brand has been a mainstay of gamers since 1996, debuting alongside the original Diablo. While Warcraft II’s expansion pack, Warcraft II: Beyond the Dark Portal, came out the same year, it was reintroduced for free with a true “Battle.net edition” in 1999. StarCraft was the true game-changer for Battle.net, requiring real change to their systems due to needs of the time, thus becoming the, as Blizzard puts it, “central nervous system” and “connective tissue” that Blizzard fans know and love. When Battle.Net termination was announced last year, fans called foul. Even though the program remained nearly-entirely intact, the brand itself was erased. In a rare fan feedback moment, the game company gave in. With this update, the Battle.net wording will be connected to the brand forevermore as “Blizzard Battle.net” in logos and marketing material. What do you think about the change to the name? Sound off below!