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Aaron Marsden

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Aaron Marsden last won the day on June 6 2018

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  1. There are a lot of blog posts online teaching indie developers “how to write proper press releases for their new games,” and they all provide different (and sometimes conflicting) information. It’s confusing. So, for the past week, I’ve spent my afternoons taking notes on all the useful information within each one, reaching out to established game developers to get their advice on how to write killer game press releases, and talking with PR pros in both game development and outside marketing environments to gather the absolute best information possible on the subject. This post combines all my findings. By the end, you’ll never have to read another “how to write a press release” post again. Sound good? Let’s start with the basics: What is a press release? A press release is a 1-to-2-page piece of writing that announces new and exciting projects you’ve been working on. The purpose of the release is to inform journalists and media sources about your news so they can (hopefully) publish stories about your work. They’re usually written in the third person — in other words, they’re written as if a journalist is writing about your game when in reality it’s just your writing. Press releases are usually distributed through distribution tools or PR firms — but as an indie developer, they’re mainly used to help journalists solidify a story about your news when you pitch them over email. We’ll talk more pitching writers later, but for now, understand this: Getting press is a great way to drive traffic to your new projects and can save you thousands of dollars in advertising costs if done right, so press releases are important! When should you publish press releases? Press releases are typically published when you announce: A new game Game-changing new features or technology Events Partnerships (or other business-related news, like investments or grants (thanks Unreal)) New research Awards Or a resolution to a crisis (which hopefully isn’t your case) …and that’s it for the basics. Now let’s cover the steps for writing your release. Step 1: Find your angle Here’s a brutal truth: No one pays attention to news that isn’t new or interesting. This is especially true for journalists. So without an interesting “story angle” you can take when announcing your news, no one’s going to pay attention to yours either. Gabby DaRienzo, creator of A Mortician’s Tale and co-founder of Laundry Bear, said it best: How do you find that “unique selling point,” you ask? Lewis Denby, creator of the indie dev PR firm Game If You Are (this firm is great for indie devs — check it out!), recommends observing your original motivations for creating your game: A great example of a USP (unique selling point) comes from Numinous Games, creator of Galaxies of Hope, who developed their game to help neuroendocrine tumor patients understand their diagnoses: Taken from an Apple App Store article written about Wahmann’s game. The combination of Numinous Game’s inspiration for creating the game (to help neuroendocrine tumor patients) along with their unique selling point (a game that teaches people about neuroendocrine tumors) makes for a killer story any games journalists would be happy to cover. THAT’s your goal. * * * After you’ve found your angle, it’s time to start the boring s**t. Step 2: Write your headline and subheadline. A good headline serves two purposes: It shows the reader what’s being announced immediately, clearly, and concisely… …and it entices the reader to read the subheadline or first paragraph. A simple formula to follow when writing headlines is “[x] does [y],” like in the following releases: SkyBox Labs Brings Bedrock Version of Minecraft to Nintendo Switch Slitherine is nominated as Economic Disruptor of the Year Keywords Studios acquires Snowed In Studios Bandai Namco Amusement Lab Inc. established for VR arcade development Aaron Marsden writes captivating article about indie game press releases (in his humble opinion) Don’t bury any information here, but don’t make it too boring either. No one wants to read a press release titled “Game Studio releases New Game.” Strike a balance between conciseness and charm and your headline will do just fine. Tip: Great headlines are always written under 18 words. Subheadline The purpose of your subheadline is to expand on the headline if it’s not enough to fully capture your reader’s attention. It serves as an extra “attention grabber” that boosts your readers into the heart of your release. In Numinous Games’ case, the headline and subheadline of their press release could look something like: Headline: “Numinous Games releases Galaxies of Hope for Neuroendocrine Cancer Sufferers” Subheadline: “Game aims to help NET patients understand and cope with their diagnoses” I’d read it. Step 3: Write the first paragraph The first paragraph is the most important part of your press release. Although the headline/subheadline captures your reader’s attention, the first paragraph is what locks them into the piece and keeps them there for the rest of the way. Your first paragraph should answer the all-important “5 W’s”: who, what, when, where, and why. Who’s the press release about? (This will be your company) What’s happening? (This will be your announcement) When will it happen? (The date of your announcement) Where is it happening? (ex. What platforms is your game releasing on, where is your event occurring, etc.) Why is it important? Coschedule, a marketing application, provides this useful template in their blog post for writing effective first paragraphs: [WHO: COMPANY] today announced it will [WHAT] at [WHERE] on [WHEN]. The [EVENT/ANNOUNCEMENT] will provide [BENEFIT] for [AUDIENCE]. Here’s a great example from E-Home Entertainment, the developer of a new game, Gene Rain: Ignore the grammatical errors in the second sentence for now. I’ll say it again: be sure you’re providing the most important information up-front. No burying. (also, stay away from cliches — everyone has “the best game” or “the most exciting gameplay.”) Step 4: The second paragraph The purpose of the second paragraph is to elaborate more on your game and why it’s important to you and to your players. A great way to do this is with a personal quote. As an indie dev, personal quotes allow you to dive deeper into your USP— what compelled you to create your game in the first place? What problem does it solve and how do you hope it helps your players? That’s the information your quote should contain. In the App Store article I referenced earlier, Amy Green of Numinous Games provides a great quote where she talks about the game’s purpose of sharing stories from other tumor patients: Notice how Amy’s quote fits perfectly into the context of her game’s story — this is exactly how you should format yours. Your goal is to make it as easy as possible for journalists to write stories about you, and allowing them to grab a relevant quote straight from your press release without an interview is a great way to do that. Note: In your actual press release, your quote should be a bit longer than Amy’s and should be written in third person. I don’t have the original press release for their game, but if I were to guess, the quote was written something like: “Our goal with Galaxies of Hope was not only to share Maryann’s personal story with NET, but also to help other patients,” said Amy Green of Numinous Games. “It meant so much to tell our own story through this medium that we started thinking about how we could share the stories of others.” Step 5: The third paragraph (Don’t worry, we’re almost done.) The third paragraph completes your story. This is usually where you’ll write about the nitty-gritty details of your game: When writing your third paragraph, ask yourself: “What’s interesting about my game from a player’s perspective? What makes it enjoyable? What could I say to get potential players excited?” That’s what you should describe here. I really love Magicka’s third (and fourth) paragraphs in their press release for their PvP mode. Notice how they’ve divulged just enough information to excite their players on the new mode: (Their tone is killer, too.) Step 6 (Optional): Key, bulleted features If your game has some interesting features that wouldn’t fit into your above paragraphs but still deserve a spot in the press, a common practice is to list them near the bottom of your release. Here’s another example from Magicka: Just be sure not to go overboard — only include things you think your players (or journalists) would find value from. Step 7 (Optional): Technical details. If your game is resource-heavy, it’s a good idea to throw your system requirements here. Step 8: Call to action By now, your potential players have read your release and are pumped to jump into your game. Now they just need to know where to play it. A CTA (call to action) is a short action statement at the bottom of your release that drives traffic to your Steam page or website. Think of it as the “final push” your readers need to take action on your announcement. The key here is to make your CTA actionable. A simple link to your page or a “click here to buy” isn’t enough — you must make it enticing. If you were releasing a VR war game, for instance, you could write something like: Tip: If your Steam store page is super long, consider using a bit.ly link to shorten it up. Step 9: Link to your press kit. If you aren’t already aware, a press kit is: Press kits make it super easy for journalists to grab videos and gifs of your game to use in their articles. I highly suggest checking out the Mortician’s Tale kit on Laundry Bear’s website if you’re making your kit for the first time. It has pretty much everything an effective kit needs, so feel free to copy its base elements. (Thanks again Gabby!) Step 10: Contact information. If a journalist were to reach out to you for more information, where would you send them? It’s usually formatted like so: Name Company Name Phone Number Email This information can go both at the top of the page, as well as near the bottom like on this release (we’ll format this in a second). Step 11: Add the final touches Almost done. Now you just need to add some extra information to make your press release an actual press release: A “FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE” tag with the date of your release. This will go to the right of your contact information. City, state, and location information. This will go directly before your first paragraph. An image, video, or gif showing off your game. This can go directly above or after your headline and subheadline. And BOOM — you‘re done! At the end of the process, your release should look something like this: Although Magicka’s release is really good, there are a few things I’d change about it: There’s no “FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE.” This may confuse journalists. There’s no quote from the developers. This makes it feel impersonal. Their CTA is pretty bad (“Find out more here”). …but other than that, it’s a great reference point you can use when writing your own release. Extras When should you post your release? Sometimes the timing of your release is as simple as “whenever your game is ready.” But other times, especially in Tim Ruswick’s case, putting thought into the timing of your release can be crucial to its success: Keep this in mind with context to your game. Where should you send your release? Most companies simply post their press releases on their website, announce it on social media, put it through a PR distributor like PRNewswire, and wait for journalists to pick it up. But that won’t work for indie devs. When you’re starting out you don’t have enough of a media presence to simply post your press release, and on a tight budget, paying big bucks for PR tools isn’t viable. That means you’ll have to manually send your release to journalists. So before you post your press release, go on some of the popular gaming news sites like Kotaku, Polygon, or PC Gamer and gather a list of journalists (and their emails) who’ve written about games similar to yours. Then, once you’re ready to release, send them an email with a pitch for your story. I just made that process sound way more simple than it actually is, so I recommend using this guide for reaching out to journalists. * * * That’s it! By now, you should have enough information to write effective press releases without having to read another “how to write a press release” post. But here’s the thing: Getting press is only one way to market your game, and by no means is it the end-all-be-all. Continuing your marketing efforts is crucial to your success. That’s why I put together a complete guide on how you can promote your game with Twitch influencers — it covers everything from finding the right influencers, to reaching out, to setting up deals, to verifying content, and much more. You can read that here. Note: This post was originally posted on the author's Medium blog, and is reproduced here with kind permission. Aaron recommends PowerSpike's Game Marketing Advice Newsletter, sent every Monday. [Wayback Machine Archive]
  2. Aaron is hosting an AMA in the GameDev.net Business and Law forum. Click here to participate! “$100. Gone.” Jonas leaned back in his chair, staring at his screen in disbelief. His social media ads had failed. A few weeks before, he had launched the beta for his first game, Startup Company, and planned to use the ads to drive pre-release sales, but to no avail. Frustrated and out $100, Jonas started looking for another marketing method — one that could successfully generate the excitement and sales he needed for Startup Company’s launch. And that’s when he found influencer marketing. His plan was simple: gather a list of YouTube and Twitch influencers, send them free Startup Company keys, cross his fingers, and hope they play it on stream/video. After hours of searching for and sending 500+ emails, Jonas waited. The result? The game took off. Within two weeks of its launch, hundreds of influencers were playing Startup Company and sharing it with their viewers. His success began to snowball — as more people starting playing the game, more content creators started making videos about it. With the help of those creators, Startup Company sold over 50,000 copies within its first two weeks on Steam. Jonas had made a hit. After seeing successes like Startup Company’s, many game devs have begun looking at Twitch influencer marketing as a means of spreading their game across the gaming community. The only problem? They have no idea how to start. The world of Twitch influencer marketing is frightening. But by educating yourself on the platform and learning the proper methods for conducting sponsorships, you can use Twitch to achieve your sales goals just like Jonas. But before you do anything…. 1. You must formulate detailed goals. To succeed on Twitch, you have to know why you want to work with influencers in the first place. Are you trying to… Drive beta users for QA testing? Collect feedback? Generate hype around your launch? Develop a tight-knit community? Promote a new patch/feature? Or blast your game to as many people has possible? Be sure to set your goals early. They’ll provide a framework for the rest of the campaign you’ll build shortly. 2. Next, set a budget. How much money can you realistically spend promoting your game? Your budget should reflect your goals — if you want to maximize awareness around your launch, you’ll have to hire more influencers than someone looking to drive a few beta users. We’ll talk more about promotion strategies and pricing shortly. But for now, go ahead and map your available funds. 3. Now brainstorm promotion ideas and their requirements. Many game devs think there’s only one way to work with Twitch influencers: Don’t get me wrong — that strategy will work occasionally (just look at Jonas). But if you want to run long-lasting campaigns that help you reach your specific goals, you’ll have to go deeper. There are thousands of ways to promote your game on Twitch — too many to list. But here are a few to jog your mind: Sponsoring an event between streamers from the same Twitch community (e.g. the “Binding of Isaac” game directory) would work great for developing your game’s community within a tight-knit group. Paying a large streamer to play your game for 1–2 hours would allow you to generate brand awareness, hype an upcoming launch, and/or increase sales. You could even give them a discount code to share with their viewers if your goals are sales focused. Offering social media promotion to streamers in exchange for on-stream promotion could be a great way to generate buzz on a low budget. On top of promotion ideas, you’ll also need to plan the smaller aspects of your promotions. For instance, do you want your streamer(s) to: Place your branded graphic in their info section? A streamer’s “info section” is a small section below their stream where they place links to social media pages, gear lists, and most importantly, sponsored graphics (like in the image above). Post timed discount codes in their chat? (Most chat bots have this capability, so ask your streamer which one they prefer.) Promote sponsored content on their social media channels (e.g. post to Twitter announcing your partnership)? This is your time to get creative. The more engaging, entertaining, and easy your promotion ideas, the faster you’ll reach your goals. 4. Gather a list of streamers. After you’ve set your goals, defined a budget, and planned a promotion strategy, it’s time to find the streamers who will spearhead your campaign. Streamer delivering sponsored content to their viewers, circa 2018. …but before you start searching, it’s important you understand some key Twitch influencer marketing metrics: Followers: How many users have chosen to see a streamer’s broadcast in their “Following” list. Average Concurrent Viewership: The average number of viewers in a streamer’s channel. Follower Growth: How many followers a streamer is gaining daily. This number should always be positive. Monthly impressions: The number of unique visits a streamer had on their broadcasts throughout the month. Engagements: The number of chat messages sent during a given stream or over the period of days or months. The higher the engagements, the better. ACV is the main determinant for how much money you have to pay a streamer for sponsored content — as their ACV increases, so must your budget (generally). There are a few ways you can discover new streamers and measure their analytics: 1. Do it manually. Head to Twitch, click on a game, and start watching streamers that pique your interest. Measure how many viewers they receive on a daily basis and how many followers they gain. Observe how active and positive their chat rooms are. Determine whether you like their personalities. If everything matches up with your goals and your budget, you’ll know the streamer is a good fit to promote your game. This method is pretty monotonous, but it can work if you’re just starting out. 2. Use a tool. Twinge.tv is great for discovering new streamers and viewing their metrics. Or, if you’re looking for something more powerful, PowerSpike is a good option. It has all the metric measurement features of Twinge and more. The platform also allows you to post a “campaign” to a marketplace where streamers can apply (like a job board) — this is great if you don’t feel like manually searching for streamers. Full transparency: I work with PowerSpike so I’m biased towards our platform, but any tool will work for your needs. Once you have a list of potential streamers… 5. Find their contact information. If you manually searched for your list of streamers, you’ll have to manually find each of their points of contact. There are a few common places you can look for contact info: 1. The info section. This is where most streamers link to their emails or Discord servers. If a streamer’s info section is crowded, just Control + F and search for “@,” “gmail,” or “email.” If nothing comes up, you’ll have to look elsewhere. 2. Twitter descriptions. If the contact info isn’t in their info section, there’s a good chance they’ve linked it in their Twitter bio. You can usually find a streamer’s Twitter account from their info section. If it’s not there, however, you can Google “[streamer name] + Twitter” and (if they have an account) it will appear. 6. Send a sponsorship proposal. We’re finally getting to the good stuff. A “proposal” is an email that introduces you to a streamer and informs them of your sponsorship offer. It usually acts as your first impression, so it’s important to get right. Here’s the process I use to write proposals for custom-managed campaigns at PowerSpike: Greet the streamer and tell them a bit about yourself and your game. Briefly mention how you discovered their stream. Make it personal. Next, tell them you want to send them a free copy of your game and let them know you want to sponsor them. Give a brief description of your promotion idea. Then, provide an offer for how much you’d pay them for completing the sponsorship. Let them know when you’re looking to start the deal. Lastly, encourage ongoing communication by inviting them to a short voice call to further discuss the deal. Once your proposal is completed, send it to the streamer on Discord, Twitter, or email. Then wait. If the streamer accepts your proposal, great! You can move on to the next step. If they want to negotiate your price or requirements, that’s fine too. Talk it out with them. Be honest about what you’re able to offer and how far you can go in terms of pricing. If the offer goes out of your range or they decline to accept, it’s no big deal — thank them for taking the time and move on. 7. Send the necessary deal and promotion materials. Once a streamer accepts your proposal, there are only a few things left to do: If money is involved, send a contract. You can skip this step if you’re using PowerSpike. Set a time and date for them to complete the sponsorship. It’s best to let them choose this time, but don’t hesitate to propose your own time frame if it’s important. Send the necessary resources (e.g. game keys, branded info section graphics, tracking links, documents that restate your requirements, etc.). Lastly, ensure the streamer knows to include #ad or #sponsored in their stream titles or social media posts during sponsored content. If you‘re unsure whether this FTC rule applies to your sponsorship, more info can be found here. Almost done! 8. Watch the sponsorship. There are several reasons why you’d want to watch your sponsored content live: Viewers like to interact with devs. You’ll make them feel like they’re a part of your project by talking with them in the chat, and that’s cool. You can collect feedback and answer questions. The streamers and the viewers will know you care. Just be sure you aren’t micromanaging from the chat. Let your streamers do their thing and you can interact with their communities. 9. Record results, pay the streamer, and restart. It’s done. And now it’s time to measure the results. How many clicks did your website get? How many game copies did you sell? How much feedback did you receive? Did the streamer provide high-quality content? Were they professional? Did you set the grounds for an ongoing relationship? And most importantly: Did you achieve the goals you set in step one? I hope so. But if not, you can always learn from your mistakes and try again later. Once all your requirements have been fulfilled, you can pay your streamers and restart the process! By now, you should have a great understanding of how you can sponsor Twitch streamers to achieve your marketing goals as a game developer. To quickly recap the process: Formulate your goals. Set your budget. Brainstorm promotion ideas. Gather a list of streamers. Find their contact information. Reach out and propose the promotion ideas and sponsorship offer. Send necessary deal and promotion materials if they accept your offer. Observe the sponsored content. Record results, pay the streamer, and restart. And that’s it. Good luck out there! If you're interested in trying PowerSpike for free to kickstart your influencer marketing efforts, feel free to DM me and I'll help you out! Originally posted on Medium at https://medium.com/@aaronmarsden/a17045c32611.
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