Latest Entries »

Jeff

Hey, everyone! As of today I am FINALLY done all the art assets needed to release League of Evil 2 for iOS (universal app, it’ll run on pretty much any iDevice you have, even the really old crappy ones). I’m about to take a massive snooze and then down a bunch of unhealthy celebration food haha I wonder how long it’ll take for my “energy drink stream” to turn back into a “blood stream”. I’m literally counting 7 empty Rockstar, Full Throttle, and Xyience cans just on my desk, just from this final crunch-time weekend. It was all worth it though! The game is awesome and I think it’s going to sell like crazy once word of mouth spreads! I’ve been working pretty much non-stop for like a month now while we’ve been focused 100% on finishing LoE2 up, so I’m probably going to take a week off and just relax and then get back to blogging, Tweeting, and figuring out what’ll be next for Bulletproof Outlaws.

For now enjoy this sweet trailer…I love the epic music haha:

There’s a thread on Touch Arcade with more info and some answers to random questions. MAN I love the end of a project when everything ties itself all up and comes together…That final click as you submit the last of the assets is like a massive weight on your shoulders is just obliterated into a million gibs, ahhh…now bring on the celebration pizza & wings! :)

- Jeff



Jeff

I’m back! Sorry for the random disappearance, but I’ve been working like a mad-man on a new project and between not wanting to release details about it too soon and focusing all my time on it I’ve been a total ghost on this blog and Twitter. I’m back now, though! I totally plan to finally post up Article V of my Indie Game Marketing articles, sorry I left everyone hanging haha I’ll do a little more in-depth post about what I’m up to these days, but for now you’re probably curious what project has kept me so busy. I’ll let this Touch Arcade forum thread Derek from Ravenous Games wrote fill you in:

Sneak Peek – League of Evil 2
http://forums.toucharcade.com/showthread.php?t=114760

The creators of the critically acclaimed League of Evil (Ravenous Games and WoblyWare) have teamed up with Bulletproof Outlaws to create League of Evil 2! BPO have been contracted to kick the graphics up to 11!

League of Evil 2 is building off the same engine with a proven formula of tight controls, short bite sized levels and fast action gameplay. We have totally revamped our graphics engine and are currently displaying some incredible hand illustrated animations that need to be seen to believe. All your favorite (or hated) enemies and hazards are back in the sequel as well as about a half a dozen new enemies and hazards. There will be over a hundred levels at launch spanning 5 environments.

We hope all our TA fans dig this sneak peek!

Also, if you aren’t already familiar with first League of Evil: check the TA Forum thread!



- Jeff



Jeff

Okay it looks like my site is finally fully moved over. It’s been a gongshow month+ of 404s, 500s, 504s, you name it, ugh!! But now everything should be stable…I hope! Let me know if you have any problems accessing this site! The host I’ve moved to is site5.com and they’ve been awesome at helping me move and get set up, I’m super impressed so far. My Touch Arcade banners just went live on Monday and they’ll be up for the next 2 weeks, so I’ll let you all know what the results are after that period is over! For now, I present you with Article IV – Psychology, where we take an in-depth look at the ups and downs an indie dev goes through when they’re focusing on marketing and building up a reputation:

INTRO

Hi, my name is Jeff Hangartner! Recently I started a small Indie game studio called Bulletproof Outlaws. I’m an artist working from home and outsourcing the programming, music, etc. I’ve just finished my first iPhone game – Elusive Ninja: The Shadowy Thief (the App Store link is here). It was officially released on June 6th, 2011. I’ve jumped into the wonderful world of marketing and I’m approaching it from a bunch of different angles and trying various marketing avenues out. I’m fortunate enough (and planned ahead strategically enough) to have some money to spend experimenting with marketing and I figure by sharing what I’ve learned, these marketing articles can help other small Indie Developers who can’t afford to waste money heading down dead-ends and trying experiments that might not pay off.

There are 5 marketing articles:

ARTICLE I – Social Marketing

Using word-of-mouth marketing via Twitter, blogging, forum threads, etc. to build awareness for your game, and a realistic look at the pros and cons of price drops and using microjob services.

ARTICLE II – Traditional Advertising

An in-depth look into the sketchy side of the industry that people don’t seem to talk about like buying downloads, paying for reviews, etc. Also covering traditional expensive marketing like banner ads and marketing agencies and ad services like AdMob.

ARTICLE III – Game Related & Maintenance

What to put in a Press Kit, using Press Releases, creating screenshots and trailers, etc. Plus how to efficiently maintain everything we’ve talked about so far.

ARTICLE IV – Psychology

How to survive the internal side of marketing as an Indie Developer and dealing with the stress of spending your money, watching sales figures rise and fall, making big decisions, handling critics and pushy marketers, and a big blunt look at how rampant iPhone App piracy is.

ARTICLE V – Optimal Marketing Plan

A summary of everything, condensed down into 36 steps from Pre-Launch to Launch Day to Post-Launch, that I feel make up an Optimal Marketing Plan for an Indie Dev with little to no money who needs to make sure every dollar spent counts.

ARTICLE IV – Psychology

PSYCHOLOGY

On my Bulletproof Outlaws blog I cover some of the psychology behind game development and behind running your own business from home. Right now I want to talk a bit about the psychology involved in marketing and sales, because I think a lot of people just focus on the numbers and data and there isn’t a lot of emphasis put on the mental trials you’ll go through. It’s kind of like playing poker, there’s the actual cards involved and that’s important, but there’s also a lot of mentalities and outlooks you need to develop to handle the ups and downs in the game.

Ego And Attachment

To paraphrase Fight Club: “You are not your sales. You are not your website hits. You are not your downloads. You are not your reviews. You are not your App Store rank.”

Learn not to attach your self-worth to how your game does. This can be really hard to do, because you spent weeks, months, sometimes years, putting your blood, sweat and tears into your game and you stayed up all night, worked every weekend, and fine-tuned everything in the game to the best of your skills…it’s your baby, and you’re finally sharing it with the world and hoping to figure out if you can make a living doing your dream job.

Highs and Lows

Your sales do great the first day, and you get a couple 5-Star reviews and you’re thinking “I’m awesome, I did it, I’m gonna’ be a success!!” and start planning out your next game as visions of dollar-signs dance around in your head. The next day your sales drop down to a fraction of what they started at. And you see a few 1-Star reviews popping up. A big review site reviews your game and says the controls are difficult to learn and the game isn’t long enough and gives it 2 out of 5. You reload AppFigures watching in almost real-time as every hour your App Store rank drops. A week later your game is barely selling and you’re miserable…you haven’t touched designing the next game and you’re thinking about how hard it’s going to be to go back to having to work a full-time job while only developing games in your spare time.

When you attach yourself to your stats, your self-worth fluctuates as frequently as your stats do. You’ll go through so many emotional rollercoasters on an almost daily basis that it’ll be hard to really focus on anything else. You’ll start second-guessing your decisions, you’ll be less motivated to work on your next game, and just in general you’ll do a lot of damage to your psyche that will affect your future as an Indie Game Developer.

On the flip side, even when your game does good there’s a risk. You start getting cocky, resting on your heels to enjoy the fruits of your labor instead of jumping into the next project to ensure you have a long-term sustainable income, starting to feel like you can’t make a wrong decision so you stop doing as much research and planning and start just winging things, and any down-swing in stats you hit is even more devastating because it’s knocking you off a much higher horse than you started out on.

Like the stock market or an epic poker game, your stats will go up and down all the time. If you can keep yourself from freaking out when sales are low, or slacking off when sales are high, you can make rational decisions to handle the situation.

You have to pay attention to your stats, reviews, etc. but don’t let them define you as a Game Developer. If you get a bunch of 1-Star reviews, read them and look for commonalities and try to figure out where you went wrong…was it the art style you chose? Was it the controls? Was it the overall game design or theme? Were there massive bugs that crash the game? And how can you fix these things in the future? Would more play-testing have helped? Should you have invested more time or money into an area of development?

Sure, you made some mistakes somewhere, but that doesn’t mean you’re not cut out to be a Game Developer. Just take it in stride and try to learn from your mistakes for the next time.

My Own Rollercoaster

When I started my Bulletproof Outlaws devBlog out, I was working on marketing it a bit trying to get some exposure to build up a handful of Followers for Elusive Ninja. At one point I got linked on Hackernews and I got like 5,000 hits in an hour. I remember freaking out (in a good way) and being so excited and picturing that being my big break and how it was all going to be so easy from there. I even panicked and called my web provider to see what the prices were to upgrade my site to handle that much traffic. …one day later, I was back to the usual 20 – 40 hits a day.

I spent a day running around like a chicken with its head cut off haha If that same thing were to happen again today, my first response would be “Awesome, that’s a ton of hits…let’s see how long it lasts before I get too excited.” It’s a lot less emotionally draining to keep a cool head about this stuff.

When I put out Elusive Ninja, I had decent sales the first couple days and then it dropped down from there. Instead of panicking I looked at it like “Okay, this sucks, but why isn’t it selling? Hmmm, looking into it it looks like people like it, it just doesn’t have any exposure so no one knows it exists. Alright, so this is basically a marketing challenge: How can I get more exposure for my game?” Again, it’s a lot less emotionally draining this way.

I still haven’t turned things around, but I plan to start my next game and will try cross-promoting Elusive Ninja when I Launch the new game, and I have some Touch Arcade advertising coming up, so I’m still not panicking yet. I’m going to stick to my plan and trust that I’ll either be able to turn things around in the future, or I’ll learn enough lessons from this game that I’ll be more capable of turning my next games into successes.

Some people will say this is just delusional confidence and stubborn optimism, but I think you need a little of both of those things to succeed as an Indie Developer of ANYTHING, whether it’s games, music, film-making, writing, etc.

Daily Reports

A lot of times I wish I could get up to the minute stats on my sales from the App Store and think “if I could see them that frequently I could capitalize on sales spikes better!” and that kind of thing. Realistically though, all it’d do is have me checking my stats 24/7 waiting for the numbers to go up and beating myself up when they don’t. I like the AppFigures service because it E-Mails me my stats every morning, so I know when I’m thinking about it in the middle of the afternoon that I might as well cut that thread off in my mind entirely because there’s literally nothing I can do about it until I get the next day’s sales E-Mails. When I started my Bulletproof Outlaws blog I was checking the hits every few hours on my iPhone. Now I check once a week at the most and it’s a lot less nerve-wracking.

Dealing With People

Your ego and attachment to your sales will also often affect how you interact with other people. Whether it’s how you describe how your game is doing to your friends at a party, or how you respond to a bad review. If your game isn’t doing well and it’s got you questioning yourself, you start getting annoyed at your friends for asking you about your business and you react a lot more hostile to criticism. When you can separate your self-worth from your sales, you can handle these things in a more positive manner and sometimes find a silver lining in that dark cloud.

It’s hard, everyone slips up with it, but it’s important to work on this because, especially in this day and age where we’re all so connected via the Internet and everyone is Tweeting and friends with eachother on Facebook, the things you say and do stick around forever. In small-team Indie Development especially, people tend to talk about the names behind projects rather than just the projects themselves.

Notch, Jonathan Blow, Adam Atomic, Edmund McMillen…odds are if you’re in the Indie scene you know the games these guys are famous for making. Indie Devs tend not to be giant faceless corporations, so you want to try to handle your personal interactions with other Developers, the Press, critics, friends and family, etc. in positive, productive ways. This doesn’t mean you have to censor your thoughts or your views, it just means that you should try to remember to present them in a way that doesn’t make everyone think you’re a dillhole. :)

Building Relationships

Everyone knows it’s important to build relationships with the Press, but don’t forget about building them with your fans, and even your worst critics. Chat with people on your Twitter, check out the websites of people who are following you, reply when people ask you questions (even hard-hitting questions), build E-Mail lists of people to remember to keep in touch with.

My Own Experiences

When I was starting Elusive Ninja‘s development, I got an E-Mail from a guy who was planning to move to Calgary and looking for a game design job. I didn’t have any money so I couldn’t use him, but instead of just ignoring his E-Mail or telling him “Sorry man, not hiring right now!” I sent him back an E-Mail with a list of Calgary game Developers. I know the scene here pretty good, and I’ve researched that stuff before so I knew where to find websites that list that kind of thing, so I sent them his way and wished him luck. He was super appreciative and it just took a few minutes out of my time to build that little relationship but now there’s someone out there in Calgary who would probably be happy to help me out if I needed it down the road because of how I handled things.

When my testers send me feedback about my game, I make sure to respond to their E-Mails point by point and thank them for helping me out. When people Retweet my Tweets I make sure to Tweet a “thanks to @whoever for the RT!” back their way. If someone’s looking for a gamedev job on Twitter, I’ll RT their Tweet to help their resume get around because I have a lot of gameDevs Following me. I’m still pretty bad at responding to E-Mails in a timely manner, but I DO try to get around to them eventually haha

None of this directly affects the sales of your games, but think of this stuff from a longer-term perspective. As you build a reputation up, you start to carry a little more weight and the projects you make tend to get more attention, both positive and negative. It’s infinitely easier to get through tough times when you have a large support base behind you. Plus most people are pretty cool, and making new friends is fun, so don’t look at it as a matter of “What can this person do for me?” but more “How can I leave a good impression on this person so they feel good about our interaction?”

Keep In Touch

In our Business course we were told that the most important thing at a business event isn’t handing out your business cards, it’s collecting other people’s business cards. Because the reality is that most people have too much of their own stuff going on to bother contacting you until they see you as a friend or someone who’s offering something of value to them. Your Twitter Followers will probably give you a shout here and there because you’re offering the value of your game and it’s development and behind-the-scenes stuff to them. But a Reviewer on some huge game news site who gets hundreds of E-Mails a day? If you don’t make an effort to keep in touch with them, you’re probably not going to hear from them again. So shoot them an E-Mail when your next project is going on, remind them who you are, mention that you appreciated their review of your last game and figured they might want a heads-up about your next one, etc.

Value

Relationships tend to work based on value. Whoever’s going to receive the most value from the interaction is the one that’s going to make an effort to stay in contact with the other person. Once you both have a friendship together, you’re mutually giving eachother value so you both keep in touch, but at the start it’s often very one-sided especially when it comes to entrepreneurs starting out as nobodies.

Bob knows Joe is a Reviewer for a big gaming news site and Bob is an unknown so he tries to get Joe’s attention and tries to keep in touch because Joe reviewing his game would get him a ton of attention and exposure (Bob gets the value). A few years later, Bob runs a top game development company and is putting out it’s next multi-million seller hit game that people line up outside of stores for a chance to buy. Now Joe is trying to get in touch with Bob because being able to get an exclusive feature from him would bring his gaming news site a ton of attention and exposure (Joe gets the value).

Ideally you want to form relationships where both sides give eachother value. Bob scratches Joe’s back, and Joe scratches Bob’s back. So when you’re starting out, try to think “How can I give this person value?” instead of “What value can this person give me?” The differences might be as simple as the way you word your E-Mails, or as huge as doing favors or teaming up for cross-promotions.

Dealing With Critics

You’re going to get 1-Star reviews and harsh criticisms. This is just going to happen, it doesn’t matter how good your game is or how big your reputation is. Somewhere out there are people who aren’t going to like what you’re doing, and the Internet gives them the ability to express that to everyone in the world, including expressing it directly to you.

My favorite example from Elusive Ninja is when I put the trailer for it up on GameTrailers. When I got the trailer up on a video site I was like “This is awesome! My trailer is up on one of my favorite news sites!! I’m so happy, I’ve put so much hard work into this, this is the culmination of a lifetime of hopes and dreams and hard work and–” and then a bunch of the first comments are like “Laaaaame.” and “Sucks!” and “Ninjas are so cliche.” and “Yet another iPhone game that’s pretty but has no substance” haha It was a little disheartening to be honest. But at the same time I understand that the Internet in general makes it pretty easy to shoot out gut reactions and using aliases means people tend to be a little harsher than they might be in person, plus on top of it there really ARE a ton of crappy iPhone games out there and people have gotten used to expecting them to not have much more than pretty art so as soon as people see a trailer that has flashes of that it’s like an instant “meh, forget it”.

So I told myself not to stress it too much because even the newest Mario or Metal Gear Solid trailer will have people saying “Looks dumb!”

Then a friend and I were at E3 wandering around the booths and we went into one and I was like “pfft. Sucks.” and then realized there’s probably some dude who set that booth up the night before and stood in front of it, admiring his work, proudly looking over the culmination of his life’s ambitions building a videogame company from scratch and managing to take it all the way to E3 making multi-million dollar games…and then I come along and I’m like “Laaaaame.” and that poor guy is in the back crying that nobody appreciates all his hard work. :)

The lesson here is just to not let criticism get to you. Build a thick skin and don’t take criticism of your games as a personal attack.

Kill ‘Em With Kindness

I talked about this back in Article III – Game Related & Maintenance, but I want to stress it again because it’s important. When you’re getting a lot of criticism it can be hard to keep your cool. Try stepping back from the computer and waiting a few hours or a day before responding to anything negative so that you have a chance to cool down a little. Nothing is worse than reacting really badly to someone’s negative comments. It lets them know they’re getting to you which some trolling types feed off, it makes other people think you’re insecure, it keeps you in a foul mood in your personal life, and it extends the back and forth dialogue until you come off like those people who’s 30-page argument with “cooldude69” has morphed into a debate about the political policies of 3rd world countries in the YouTube comments section of a “dog pooping on a baby” video.

Also remember that you don’t have to respond to EVERYONE. If someone is clearly being negative or trying to goad you into an argument, or just seems adamant in their position that you did something wrong in your game, simply stop responding, gloss over their comment in your response, or respectfully agree to disagree. There’s nothing wrong with an “I don’t know what to tell you man, if you don’t like how my game is looking, that’s okay, don’t buy it! :)” It’s a lot better than perpetuating the negativity.

Decision Making

I covered this in Article II – Traditional Marketing, but just as a refresher: Make sure you have Business Reasons for the decisions you make. It’s okay to make wrong decisions, everyone does at some point. But if you had solid, well thought-out reasons for why you made your decision, you won’t beat yourself up about it nearly as much as if you just wing your decision making haphazardly.

Trust Yourself

Once you’ve made a decision, let it go. What’s done is done. You did your research, you know the pros and cons, and you’ve picked which way you’re going. Don’t stress it, second-guessing yourself all night and worrying about the outcome, there’s nothing you can do until you see how it all pans out. Maybe it works out good, maybe it works out bad, but trust that if it works out bad, you’ll be able to recover. There are very few situations that are truly impossible to pull yourself out of. Each decision you make and each crisis you survive builds your confidence and these decisions get easier over time.

Everyone Knows Best

You’re going to run into a lot of people who give you unsolicited advice on how your game should be designed, how it should look, how you should run your business, who you should hire, how much you should spend on what. Often these are close friends and family members and they honestly have the best of intentions and are trying to help you by offering up their wisdom from their own experiences.

But the main rule about this that was drilled into us in our Business Class is to ask yourself “Is this person at LEAST as successful at what I’m doing as I want to be?” If they’re not, then take their advice with a grain of salt and think for yourself “Does this make sense to me and jive with my experiences?” It sounds a little cold, but part of being an Indie Developer is learning to weed out what is and isn’t useful information. Your dad might be an amazing tool salesman, but that doesn’t mean he knows anything about the game industry or running a business. Your best friend might make hobby game projects in his spare time, but that doesn’t mean he knows anything about publishing and marketing a game. On the flip side, if a game Developer like Hideo Kojima gives you some advice, listen to it. This doesn’t mean other people never have good advice, just learn to sort the good from the uninformed.

Even if you have no intention of following the person’s advice, be polite and thank them for their input, then just go ahead and do what you believe is right. :) This comes back to having Business Reasons for your decisions. It’s a LOT easier to avoid second-guessing yourself and to weed out well-intentioned but inexperienced advice when you’ve done the research, calculated the numbers, etc. and you KNOW the reasons you have for choosing Decision A are more solid than the “I just don’t think that’ll work, dude” your friend who hasn’t developed games before is basing Decision B on. He might turn out to be right and you’ll have to hear “See? I told you!” but it’s easier to laugh about that when you know you made the optimal decision at the time regardless of the outcome.

I am, of course, aware of the irony of writing this section in that Elusive Ninja hasn’t really been successful, so you could just write off this entire series of Marketing Articles since I’m not “at least as successful at what you’re doing as you want to be” haha But while my game isn’t a success, I DO have experience taking a game from start to finish, publishing it, trying different avenues of marketing, etc., and I worked in the game industry at an actual gameDev company for 5 years before I started Bulletproof Outlaws, so while I might not have a lot of success (yet!), I DO have experience. ;)

Watch Your Finances

You can’t do anything without some kind of money. You don’t need a LOT of it, but realistically you’re going to have to be able to pay your rent and buy groceries each month at a bare minimum. It’s really easy to ignore your money situation, because when you know it’s not going well you just kind of hope that if you don’t look at your bank account then you’re not really in trouble. But much like accepting that you’re going to make wrong decisions at times, you have to accept that there will probably be points where your finances are low or in the red.

When you know exactly where you stand for money, you can gauge how many projects you can bomb before you’re screwed. You can tell whether you should choose a large project or a small project next, you can decide to scale back game ideas or hire extra help to cram in extra features, you can tell if maybe it’s time to get a part-time job or do some freelance work to help pay the bills or if it’s time to shut things down and go back to a “normal” career.

If other people depend on you (a Significant Other, children, etc.) then this is especially important. You should know and discuss with them “What’s the give up point? How much money am I willing to lose on this before I stop? How much am I willing to go into debt for this, and if I can’t turn it around what’s my plan for paying off that debt?” There’s actually a really awesome Canadian show you can watch full episodes of online called “Till Debt Do Us Part”. I can’t recommend the show enough, it takes really hard-hitting looks at people who’ve gotten themselves into debt and teaches them and the viewers the skills needed to pull yourself out of seemingly hopeless financial situations. Learning to budget properly is a lot better option than having to give up!

Even then though, “giving up” doesn’t necessarily mean never achieving your dream. It just might mean taking a few years to do something else to pull yourself out of a hole before you try again.

For me, I’ve just turned 30 and I don’t have anyone who relies on me for money, and my monthly expenses are pretty low ($600 rent per month, $200 for groceries, $200 for fun stuff like drinking and wing-nights). I don’t have any debt so I’m also willing to go into some debt to pursue this. My cutoff is somewhere around $10,000 in debt before I give up. Through artist friends and general connections I’m making during all of this, if I’m financially tight I can find enough freelance work as an artist to make sure I can pay my monthly living expenses. I’ve got some experience as a bartender and the money in that is great, so I could take that up for a year or two to pay off my debt. And if I want to stick to videogames, there are enough start-ups out there these days and I’m able to re-locate easily enough that I’m sure I could find work to pay off my debt even if it doesn’t pay amazingly or isn’t as fun to work on as working on my own games.

The point is that I’ve planned for the worst-case scenarios and I can pursue my next few games with no concerns or guilt about money lingering over my head stressing me out. I can comfortably invest some money in an expensive Touch Arcade ad because I know exactly what my financial situation is at, and I can tell when to pull money out of certain marketing ventures because they’re draining too much of my funds. It’s important to have this awareness so you can think long-term. I don’t have a ton of money, I’m just really strategic with where I spend it.

Of course if your first game sells millions, feel free to ignore all that and just swim around in a vault full of gold coins like Scrooge McDuck. ;)

Strange Things That Happen

A lot of random stuff starts happening once your game goes live. You’ll start getting a bunch of offers in your E-Mail. Some of them will be legit, some of them will sound fishy, and some of them will be flat out “wtf??” Once your game goes live it triggers a bunch of people’s attention, from marketing agencies to pirates.

Massive Piracy

This will happen the second your game is up on the App Store. You can’t stop pirates. You can invest some development time making your game not work if it detects it’s pirated, etc. but sooner or later someone will find a way around that. Everyone’s game is pirated, so don’t let it phase you…you’re not alone in the piracy boat.

The discouraging part is that usually the piracy happens before the legitimate downloads happen. Elusive Ninja has Flurry in it to track gameplay stats and a couple weeks after it went up on the App Store I was contacted by a guy at Flurry to talk about some promotional stuff. His E-Mail mentioned that my game seemed to be doing great with over 30,000 sales. I was like “wtf?” because I had less than 200 sales at the time according to AppFigures. I checked out my Flurry stats and compared them to my AppFigures stats and…well, compare the two world maps:

I actually laughed when I first saw it because it was so blatant. I had heard iPhone piracy was pretty bad, but there it is slapping me in the face. It doesn’t really bug me because what can you do about it? I remember some guy tracking down who pirated his game and E-Mailing them and getting a big “we pirate your crappy games for justice and honor” response from the pirate himself. It’s all just a waste of energy to me. People will always pirate your game, that’s just the nature of technology. Odds are the people who pirate your game probably weren’t going to buy it so you’re probably not losing any money in the long-run. I wasn’t going to get $30,000 from Asia if it weren’t for those darn pirates messing everything up.

So take it in stride and don’t let it upset you. I decided to use it to my advantage, putting “*** OVER 20,000 USERS! ***” at the top of my App Store description haha It’s technically true, and it makes my game seem more popular when someone new stumbles across it. I considered putting out a Press Release saying “Elusive Ninja passes 20,000 users!” but I figured that’d be a little bit overkill and cross some ethical boundary of mine. :)

Sketchy Offers

There are marketing agencies, distribution services, review services, etc. out there that you can find via Google, but at times they’ll come find YOU. Sometimes you’ll get a legitimate E-Mail from a service who’s name you recognize, and sometimes you’ll get E-Mails that make you go “hmmm…” The first thing I look for is the amount of bad Engrish in the E-Mail haha After that I’ll Google whatever website the person represents to check out if it looks and sounds legit. I’ll Google for reviews of their services, testimonials from previous clients, the amount of traffic their site gets, etc.

I’ve gotten E-Mails from people with sketchy sounding E-Mail accounts saying “Me & my friends will give u 5-Star reviews on the App Store 4 cheap let me know if u want 2 know mor” And I’ve gotten offers from people who clearly threw up quick fake sites and go around requesting Promo Codes just to get free games, with no intentions of actually promoting or reviewing the game.

A lot of the legitimate offers will sound really good, because that’s their job the way it’s your job to write an awesome description for your game on the App Store. And a lot of people will be super pushy with their sales pitch. I find a lot of people like to get you on the phone or Skype, which I’m personally not a big fan of because I like to be able to think out my replies and do my research. Often they call people all day long selling whatever their service is and talking live can be a little overwhelming, especially when you’re developing your first professional project.

Just remember that if they’re contacting you, it’s because they need you. Hold meetings on your terms, turn down offers that don’t benefit you, and let them know you’ll need time to think things over and do your research before you make any final decisions.

CONCLUSION

This concludes our look at the psychological side of being an indie developer. I imagine this Article is the one that most people will skip, but I honestly think it’s one of the most important ones. Going the entrepreneurial route, especially working as a solo Developer can be a long and lonely road and a lot of the battle is more mental than anything else. We can be our own worst enemies, or our own most supportive allies…it all comes down to your state of mind.

In Article V – Optimal Marketing Plan, we’ll take a look at the culmination of all 5 of these Marketing Articles in the form of a list of steps that, based on my experiences, I would follow on my next game to spend the least amount of money and focus on the most beneficial areas of marketing and advertising. It won’t guarantee results or anything, but it’ll help Indie Developers channel their spending into optimal channels for Developers with a small marketing budget!

- Jeff



Jeff

So my Touch Arcade banners have just gone up and I decided to put on a 50% Off sale for the first week of them.  I have no idea if this’ll do anything, but the banners were expensive and I’m looking at it as a learning experience haha  I used an automated service (iSpreadNews.com) to send out my Press Release because I couldn’t be arsed to spend all the time submitting it individually myself.  I also whipped up this flyer because I had a great brainstorm for how and when to use a flyer, and I sent it out go along with my Press Release.  I think it looks pretty mint all-around, and it gave me a new marketing idea to talk about once all my Marketing Articles are done!  Anyway, check out the flyer and go grab Elusive Ninja today!  I swear it’s fun haha:

- Jeff



Jeff

Here’s Article III, which covers the poop-load of work involved in creating Press Kits, distributing Press Releases, etc…stuff that we often don’t think will take long, but then it ends up taking an entire day or week of mind-numbing work.  It also covers maintaining everything we’ve talked about so far and keeping up a web presence.  I switched my website host to Site5.com and it looks like everything has switched over fully, so hopefully that 500 Error shouldn’t be coming up anymore.  Let me know if you guys have any trouble viewing the blog!  Anyway, on to the article:

INTRO

Hi, my name is Jeff Hangartner! Recently I started a small Indie game studio called Bulletproof Outlaws. I’m an artist working from home and outsourcing the programming, music, etc. I’ve just finished my first iPhone game – Elusive Ninja: The Shadowy Thief (the App Store link is here). It was officially released on June 6th, 2011. I’ve jumped into the wonderful world of marketing and I’m approaching it from a bunch of different angles and trying various marketing avenues out. I’m fortunate enough (and planned ahead strategically enough) to have some money to spend experimenting with marketing and I figure by sharing what I’ve learned, these marketing articles can help other small Indie Developers who can’t afford to waste money heading down dead-ends and trying experiments that might not pay off.

There are 5 marketing articles:

ARTICLE I – Social Marketing

Using word-of-mouth marketing via Twitter, blogging, forum threads, etc. to build awareness for your game, and a realistic look at the pros and cons of price drops and using microjob services.

ARTICLE II – Traditional Advertising

An in-depth look into the sketchy side of the industry that people don’t seem to talk about like buying downloads, paying for reviews, etc. Also covering traditional expensive marketing like banner ads and marketing agencies and ad services like AdMob.

ARTICLE III – Game Related & Maintenance

What to put in a Press Kit, using Press Releases, creating screenshots and trailers, etc. Plus how to efficiently maintain everything we’ve talked about so far.

ARTICLE IV – Psychology

How to survive the internal side of marketing as an Indie Developer and dealing with the stress of spending your money, watching sales figures rise and fall, making big decisions, handling critics and pushy marketers, and a big blunt look at how rampant iPhone App piracy is.

ARTICLE V – Optimal Marketing Plan

A summary of everything, condensed down into 36 steps from Pre-Launch to Launch Day to Post-Launch, that I feel make up an Optimal Marketing Plan for an Indie Dev with little to no money who needs to make sure every dollar spent counts.

ARTICLE III – Game Related & Maintenance

GAME RELATED

Website

You need a website for your game, obviously. The good news is it doesn’t have to be anything epic. These days a lot of game Developers simply have WordPress blogs with a page for their game, or a simple one-page website for their game. Make sure there’s a link to your game’s App Store page in an obvious location on your site. Use the little “Available On The App Store” image Apple gives you, people recognize that quickly. Have some screenshots up, your trailer, some marketing blurb, and a link to a Press Kit for people who want to do articles or reviews of your game.

Pay a few bucks to register a domain name like http://www.thegame.com/ that redirects to your game’s website so that you can seem all professional and awesome and people take you more seriously when you link your stuff.

App Store Description

There are a bunch of sites that offer the service of writing an App Store description for your game, but there are also a bunch of sites that offer tips on what you should put in your App Store description. Spend a couple hours Googling for tips and writing your own App Store description up and save yourself the fee someone else would charge. Most of them tend to follow a common structure:

- Catchy first two lines (when the user first loads the game’s App Store page in iTunes, only the first few lines of the description are shown till the user clicks a button to show the rest)

- Quick description or summary of the concept, plot, objective, etc. (exciting marketing blurb)

- Quotes from reviews or awards received (people want what other people approve of)

- More in-depth feature list (more detail on what makes your game unique)

- Contact info (the game’s website, Twitter link, FAQ link, etc.)

My App Store description for Elusive Ninja strays a bit from this and I have like no sales, so don’t use Elusive Ninja‘s description as a guide haha I’m messing around testing different stuff out with this project to see what I can and can’t get away with and where I can break out of the standard formula, but it’s probably at the cost of some sales…so like the saying goes “do as I say, not as I do”. :)

App Store Screenshots

You get 5 screenshots, so use ‘em all up. Originally I was going to just post raw screenshots, but Derek of Ravenous Games whipped up a template to use to make my screenshots look more fancy. I dug the look of it, so I decided to run with it. My Press Kit still has a bunch of raw screenshots for reviews and such, but your App Store screenshots should catch people’s eye. Normally I’m not a big fan of the “tiny screenshot within a screenshot” thing because I want to see the game’s art clearly before I buy it, but I figured the art in Elusive Ninja is large enough that everything is still clear even with the raw screenshot shrunk down a bit. I don’t know if this is a good move or not, people might like plain raw screenshots more, but I like the look of the fancy ones so I’m going with them for now.

VS

Something to keep in mind is that some Reviewers just grab the screenshots for their Reviews off the App Store and might not want to use fancy ones with marketing text on them. Or they might not be ABLE to use them, because if they have marketing blurbs on them and they’re in a review it may look like the Reviewers are the ones that said “Epic Ninja Action!” and such…so understandably they’d probably rather have raw screenshots they can use and stamp their website’s logos or caption text on. So if you’re doing fancy screenshots, make sure you have a link to your Press Kit with raw screenshots in your App Store description.

Trailer

You need a trailer these days. Everyone wants to see a game in action. Keep in mind though, that you don’t want to show too much in your trailer. Better that your trailer is too short and has people curious about your game, than too long and has people bored of your game. I’ve seen a lot of trailers where people just record themselves playing their game for 5 – 10 minutes when the game is a puzzle game or simple action game. If your game’s concept is simple, keep your trailer to 30 – 60 seconds or people will watch your trailer and learn how the game plays and what to expect, and see most of the power-ups or special features, and really there’s nothing left for them to bother buying the game to discover.

Try to get the trailer going as soon as you have nearly-finished visuals going. You want to be building up hype before the game is actually Launched, and a trailer with some cool gameplay footage can help do that, and might get you some feedback that you can use to tweak the game before it Launches.

Do-It-Yourself Trailer

Unfortunately, I was surprised to find that Apple doesn’t really provide tools for making trailers easily. You’d think there’d just be a “record the device when it’s plugged in” button but nope! It looks like the only way to really collect game footage is to run the game in the simulator and record the desktop with some kind of desktop recording program. This isn’t bad for iPhone games that don’t use crazy controls or phone features, but the iPad simulator is horribly slow and I can’t imagine recording footage off it.

I decided to go with SimCap, which is built specifically for recording from the Simulator (ie – you don’t have to crop the final footage or anything). The main benefit to using SimCap however, is that it combines with SoundFlower to record the audio. Basically SoundFlower re-routes your Mac’s audio into SimCap so it gets recorded along with the video. It’s a little cumbersome and I don’t entirely understand the mechanics myself, but all I know is the tutorial was super easy to follow, it was super quick to set up, and it worked flawlessly so I highly recommend it.

I used After Effects to arrange my trailer, but you can use iMovie, Adobe Premier, or Windows Movie Maker, etc. Google around and find a program you dig that you can afford or that’s free. Snip out chunks of exciting game footage, throw some transitions in, some text overlays describing the game’s features, add some catchy music in the background if you weren’t able to record the game’s audio as you played, upload the whole thing to YouTube and you’re good to go.

Outsourced Trailers

A lot of people on freelance sites like oDesk and Elance offer trailer-editing services. You’re probably looking at dropping anywhere from $80 – $300 to have someone else make your trailer, but if you’re not artistically inclined or don’t want to dive into the wonderful world of video editing yourself, it might be worth saving yourself a bunch of time and hassle. A few people on microjob sites like UpHype and Fiverr offer trailer-editing services but I’d be pretty skeptical about what kind of quality you’re going to get for $5 – $10 so don’t set your expectations too high there haha

Press Kit

This is something a lot of Indies don’t think to make. When a Reviewer wants to write about your game, they often want to include some screenshots, or some game art to spruce up their article, or their website has a specific design template it follows for reviews and it specifically needs a title screen shot, a piece of art, and a gameplay shot, etc. On top of all that, honestly from what I’ve seen so far, a lot of reviews and articles are just cut & pasted text out of your game’s description…but hey, no complaints, exposure is exposure! The key thing to understand is that a lot of Reviewers have a ton of stuff on their plates on any given day, especially Reviewers that cover iPhone news because there are so many new Developers with new games contacting them every day…so you want to make it as easy as possible for them to review your game.

What’s in it?

My Elusive Ninja Press Kit is probably a little excessive in places, but I figure better to have too much than too little. It contains:

\ElusiveNinja_PressKit\BPO_Logos\

This contains various versions/sizes of the Bulletproof Outlaws logo. Some are horizontal, some are vertical, some are black and white, some are full color, some are PNGs with transparent backgrounds. Main thing is just to have a variety of stuff so people can use whatever fits best on their layout.

\ElusiveNinja_PressKit\Game_Art\

This has various art from the actual game. Since I did the original art large to fit big iPad screens, this was easy to throw together…I just grabbed some sprites of the ninja and throwing-stars and junk and the title logo and threw them in here. If I had concept art, character designs, etc. from the game, I’d put those in here too.

\ElusiveNinja_PressKit\Icons\

When you submit your final game to the App Store you have a handful of icons for it, from tiny 57×57 ones to large 512×512 ones…so I just threw those in here.

\ElusiveNinja_PressKit\Press Release\

Elusive Ninja only has one Press Release so far, but if I make some more (for updates or cross-promotions) I’ll add them to this.

\ElusiveNinja_PressKit\Screenshots_Fancy\

These are the fancy App Store versions of my screenshots, with borders and marketing blurbs on them. These are great for the App Store because they look good and catch the eye, but you should keep in mind that Reviewers might not want to use them, or might not be able to use them, because if they have marketing blurbs on them and they’re in a review it may look like the Reviewers are the ones that said “Epic Ninja Action!” and such…so understandably they’d probably rather have raw screenshots they can use and stamp their website’s logos on and such.

\ElusiveNinja_PressKit\Screenshots_Raw\

So with that in mind, these are raw screenshots. There’s only 5 fancy ones, but a solid 20 random raw ones. I figure it’s good to have a variety so that reviews won’t all use the same screenshots. It’s a pain to grab screenshots from a game so in the vein of making reviewing your game as easy as possible for the Reviewers, grab a bunch of screenshots in advance.

The other benefit to including these is that YOU can choose which screenshots are in this Press Kit, so you can make sure that all 20 shots are cool looking scenes from the game instead of someone else just randomly capturing the screen and ending up using a screenshot where your main character is obstructed or there’s some graphical glitch.

\ElusiveNinja_PressKit\AppStoreWriteup.TXT

For this I just grabbed the App Store description I wrote. I saved it out in a few different versions: .TXT, .DOC, and .ODT (OpenOffice) because I figure some sites allow bolding, italics, etc. and some just use raw text only.

\ElusiveNinja_PressKit\Factsheet.PDF

This is a big .PDF file (took a while to fiddle with the compression settings to get it down to around 2 megs instead of a ridiculous 20 megs or a super compressed ugly 400k .PDF), saved out with selectable text so a person can just click-drag on it and cut & paste the text off it or click the links. I pretty much copied the layout of League of Evil and a couple other Factsheets in terms of what info to throw on there. I honestly couldn’t say if this was worth the effort in terms of if anyone actually looks at or uses this, but since it’s using in-game art and screenshots it didn’t take very long to throw together and it makes things feel more professional to me so I’m glad I made it.

\ElusiveNinja_PressKit\Factsheet.PNG

This is just a shrunk down version of the Factsheet in-case someone wanted to post it on their site. I threw a bit of random stuff into the Press Kit that I have no idea if someone would use, because it’s my first one and I’d rather err on the side of too much stuff than too little.

\ElusiveNinja_PressKit\ElusiveNinja_PressKit.ZIP

This is a .ZIP of all the above stuff for convenience. I tried to keep it around 10 megs max. I figure if you know you’re downloading a Press Kit, you’re not going to be mind-blown by it being large but no one wants to download like a 50 meg kit unless it’s for like, Halo. Instead of attaching this kit to E-Mails I just made a customized bit.ly link to link directly to it (bit.ly/elusiveninja_presskit goes to the directory of raw files and bit.ly/elusiveninja_press links to the .ZIP file directly). I was worried that people might not trust bit.ly links so much (especially the ones with randomly generated URLs) so I tended to include both links just to be like “Here’s the raw files and here’s a conveniently zipped up version!”

Exclusive Content

A couple sites mentioned that they’re interested in exclusive content for my future projects. This is something I didn’t think to do, and might not be possible until you have a few Press connections who are actually interested in your stuff. But for the next game I’ll probably whip up some exclusive stuff, whether it’s behind-the-scenes sneak peaks or contests or what-have-you. The website with the exclusive content gets attention from your stuff, and you get attention for being Featured by them, it’s a win-win situation.

Press Release

A Press Release is important for getting word out about what you’re doing. Our business coach recommended putting out a Press Release for pretty much ANYTHING. Realistically, there’s no downside to it since you can use a bunch of free Press Release services. Check out my blog entry where I was experimenting with different services a while back and the results. Looking back, it’s probably better to have too many Press Releases than not enough…at the end of the day, it means your company and game’s name will keep crossing people’s news feeds and that might make them more likely to pick up and publish your Press Release when you have actual big news, VS a company they’ve never heard of before. It also hooks you up with some totally random connections…I got a couple interview requests from people who would otherwise have no idea I existed, off my first Press Release.

Writing A Press Release

I write my own Press Releases because there are a ton of “how to write a good Press Release” articles all over the Internet.  Hit Google up for some because they go into a lot of detail about what should be in a Press Release, what order things should be in, what to make sure to mention or what to leave out, etc.

Outsourcing A Press Release

You can hire someone else to do your Press Release for you, most marketing agencies offer this, as well as tons of freelancers. Personally, I think it’s silly to spend $100+ for someone else to write you a page worth of text about your own product or announcement since you’re the one that’s going to know the most about what you want to announce. Especially if you’re going to put out Press Releases frequently. But if you’re not a very good writer, or if English isn’t your first language, outsourcing the Press Release might be worth the money.

Submitting A Press Release

A Press Release can take a while to submit to a ton of different sites because each site has a different form and different length requirements or ways to divide up the sections of the Press Release, so if you’re doing it yourself expect it to take a good chunk of the day just to submit the thing. And if you hire someone else to write it for you, expect to have to break it apart or re-word chunks of it to fit in the various “100 characters MAX” boxes on some of the sites.

You can hire a service to submit your Press Release for you, which I haven’t tried yet but I think I might try next time, just to save myself some hassle and to see what the results are. You can also submit your Press Release to sites that charge a fee for accepting and posting them, but if you’re tight for money you really can get a pretty wide spread for your Press Release off just the free sites.

Leaderboards

Consider publishing your Leaderboard if you have a game that’s heavily community-based or competitive. Rewarding people at the top of the Leaderboard, holding contests, announcing winners on your blog, etc.

Merchandising

Don’t spend a lot (or ANY) money on this.  If your game hits huge and gets into the Top 10, it might be worth spending some money on it (do your research first!) but if your game isn’t super-popular then no one probably cares about merchandise for it.  But if you have some downtime and you’re feeling artsy-fartsy, consider throwing together some stuff and create a free CafePress store. Put some wallpapers together with in-game art. The guys at The Behemoth make little statues/toys of their characters. Odds are for your first few games no one is really going to care about merchandise, but if it’s quick to throw together and free, and creating it doesn’t take long, it doesn’t hurt to have it available.  I threw some Elusive Ninja wallpapers together for fun, but they were quick to do since I just used in-game art and realistically I know probably no one will use them but me haha

MAINTENANCE

So now you’ve got a ton of stuff out there related to your game. Twitter and Facebook accounts, banners, reviews, a blog, etc. It doesn’t end there! Once you’ve made this stuff you need to maintain it to keep your web presence solid and the information up to date. So let’s do a quick run-through of everything that needs to be maintained and some efficient ways to do that:

Banner Ads

Keep track of the results of your banner ads and try to find ways to determine which ones are bringing in actual sales, not just views of your App Store page or Impressions of the banner. If a banner isn’t reaching the goal you set for it, don’t bother renewing it and giving it a few more months, try putting that money into a banner elsewhere or some other type of marketing. If you’re a small Indie, this is the time to be experimenting because your money is limited. When you’re a big company with tons of marketing funds you can leave a bunch of stale banners that barely do anything all over the Internet, but right now you need your money bringing in the best possible results.

Twitter/Facebook

Stay on top of these! Especially Twitter. Facebook you can kind of let slide aside from responding to comments on announcements or what-have-you. But Twitter is huge right now, everyone is using it all day every day, so you want to make sure you have a presence on there. I’ve slipped a few times and been off-the-grid for a couple weeks and you miss a lot of what’s going on, a lot of chances to Retweet other people, a lot of conversations to participate in and get exposure from, a lot of news about what’s happening in the game development industry, etc.

I installed Tweetdeck on my iPhone and laptop so I can check it on my iPhone when I’m out and about with some downtime like riding the bus or taking a poo, and I leave it running in the background on my laptop so I can have it pop up new Tweets as I work.

Forum Threads

I started using FireFox and the LastPass add-on and it’s pretty convenient. I basically made all my accounts, saved the passwords to LastPass so I could auto-login, then whenever I made a thread I bookmarked it to a Threads section in my Bookmarks. Now I can regularly click “Open All in Tabs” and all my threads will pop up and log in for me so I can tab through them quickly to see if there are any new replies and if so I’m all logged in to respond. This is pretty efficient all-around.

Reviews

When you stumble across new reviews (or articles), take a moment to thank the Reviewer, whether it’s by Twitter, E-Mail, or leaving a comment at the end of the review. This is partly just polite, but it’s also something that helps build good relationships with the Press. They’re taking time to review your game, which helps you out, and it only takes a minute to shoot a quick thank-you message out.

If there’s a comment section and other people have posted opinions or asked questions etc., pop in and answer the positive and neutral comments. This is part of building relationships with the Gamers that have bought or may buy your game.

I’ve noticed that people can leave some pretty harsh comments when they feel like they’re anonymous, but when when the Developer makes an appearance in the comments everyone tones it down a bit. They don’t suddenly start sucking up or anything, and if they have a negative opinion of your game that’s totally okay, everyone has their opinion…but it tends to change the vibe:

randomguy1: “this game sucks ass”

randomguy2: “looks gay”

randomguy3: “waste of money”

Developer: “hey all, I’m the dev who made this game! Just curious what parts of the game you guys don’t like if you don’t mind giving some details? I might be able to fix some stuff for an update, or at least take the feedback into consideration for our next game!”

randomguy2: “didnt buy it cuz it should be 99 not 4.99”

randomguy3: “too easy finished it in an hour”

randomguy1: “(big huge 2 paragraph critique of every aspect of the game)”

Developer: “cool, thanks guys. I was actually worried about it being too easy, but it’s hard to tell when you’re the one making the game ’cause you get used to playing it. I’ll look into releasing a set of harder levels, that might help justify the price a bit more too. Wish I could just give the game away for free, but I gotta’ pay the bills. :)”

It’s not going to magically make everyone like your game or anything, but being friendly and letting people know you’re reading what they write can help reduce the big doggy-piling negativity that tends to happen in these situations. It makes the thread look less hostile to other people who read it which leaves a better impression, and it helps build a relationship with Gamers…and occasionally it can result in some useful feedback!

I’ll get more in-depth about this in Article IV – Psychology.

Trailer

If you have a new event to announce that creates new visuals in the game (new map pack, new characters, new endings), you should throw together a new trailer showing that stuff off. If you have a large game, like say, an RPG with multiple main characters, or a puzzle game with multiple big core mechanics, you could have a trailer highlighting each character or mechanic (Capcom does this kind of thing with their Street Fighter games).

Press Release

Do an occasional Google search for key phrases from your Press Release, just to see where they end up. And write a bunch of Press Releases…as long as you’re writing and submitting them yourself to free distribution services, you’re not spending money, so go for it. You never know which of your Press Releases is going to catch someone’s eye and land you mention on a website.

Press Kit

Update this if it needs it. Like if you put out an update with some new art in-game, throw some of that, or some screenshots of it, into your Press Kit.

Blogging

Do it regularly. We ALL slip at this, so don’t beat yourself up if you miss a few updates. As a way to keep myself accountable I tried updating daily for over 100 days, but I still had points where I missed a few days and had to play catch-up posting 4 or 5 updates on one day. You don’t need to do huge epic updates, it’s more just to let people know you’re still plugging away. I’m being a little hypocritical on this because as I write this I haven’t updated my blog in like 2+ weeks. It’s because I’m just focusing on writing these marketing articles and there’s not really anything to write about aside from “wrote more stuff today”. Soon as I finish this it’ll be back to regular updates, though I probably won’t shoot for daily this time.

Digg, Tweet, etc. your posts if you do something “article”-ish. You never know what’s going to pique someone’s interest. I had a post that was about making rain effects and someone posted it to Hackernews and it happened to start a little discussion on there that got me a ton of website traffic and a handful of regular Followers. If it hadn’t been submitted, they’d never have seen it.

Be sure to allows comments and feedback on your site. For the first while (LONG while) you’re not going to get more than a comment or two here and there with most of your posts having 0 comments, but over time that’ll build up. Be sure to respond to the people who DO comment, because if they took the time to comment on your post, they’re probably going to be someone who’s going to follow your progress pretty closely and you’ll likely be hearing from them again. This is that “making new friends” thing I talked about, don’t be shy!

Contests

Run these whenever you get some downtime and can manage them. There’s nothing wrong with running the same contest over and over (like a weekly high score contest). Over time you’ll come up with new ideas for prizes or challenges and can slip those in there. And if you’re about to Launch a new game, what’s a good idea to boost attention for that game and your old games? Hold a contest for one of your older games where the prize is a Promo Code for your new game!

As I type this, The Behemoth just Tweeted that for every download of their free Pink Knight character in Castle Crashers, they’ll donate $1 to the Keep A Breast Foundation to help fight breast cancer. Not only is that totally admirable and awesome of them as genuinely good people, it’s also going to bring their game a bunch of attention. The Behemoth is really a prime gameDev company to study for marketing and community building.

Merchandising

If you decide to make some merchandise, which again you can do for free with something like a CafePress store, throw together new designs every now and then. This kind of stuff is good for giving out as contest rewards.

Another thing to consider is holding contests to have other people design merchandise. Like a wallpaper design contest or a T-Shirt design contest. There are some phenomenal artists out there who love doing that kind of thing, just as a chance to show off their skills or to kill some downtime.

App Store Description

Update this whenever you add new features in updates, and add short but positive quotes from new reviews you find. Be sure to include what site the quote came from, because the bigger name the site, the better. A movie review quote that ends in “– Roger Ebert” holds more weight than one that ends in “– My Mom” haha

RESOURCES

AppFigures – This service is great. It’s $5/month, but totally worth paying for. You get a ton of data, charts, you can check out all your reviews in all the different App Stores, etc. And you can have it E-Mail you every morning to let you know what your sales were the day before.

Flurry – Throw this in your game to keep track of stats, from playtime and frequency of play to custom events. Like I have an event flag trigger every time someone visits the Get More Games section so I can tell how many people use that button.

AppMetrics (iPhone) – I was using a free App called AppStat Lite to check my Flurry stats on the go, but just switched to AppMetrics the other day. It’s also free and also loads your Flurry stats, so through the day you can check out how many New Users you have and stuff…it’s not the same as actual sales (since the mass amounts of piracy going on screws with the stats), but it gives you something to look at haha

bit.ly – I made an account at bit.ly so I could customize the URLs I shorten. So instead of bit.ly/aBCdeF my Elusive Ninja trailer can be found at bit.ly/elusiveninja_trailer which looks more pro.

Google Analytics – Much like everyone else in the universe, I use this to keep track of hits on my blog. Remember back when people’s websites had little “number of visitors” counters at the bottom of their sites to keep track of that? ahh, I’m gettin’ old.

Analytic (iPhone) – I use this free App to check my site hits on my iPhone when I’m on the go.

Paypal – I’m not a huge fan of using Paypal because it takes a while to deposit money into it, but all the banner advertising and microjob and freelance sites seem to require using Paypal. I found out that now you can click a “Don’t have a PayPal account? Pay with your debit or credit card as a PayPal guest” option at the bottom of the Paypal login you get redirected to and just pay directly with your credit card instead of having to have funds in your Paypal account. Much more convenient!

OpenOffice – It’s free and awesome. I’m writing this doc in it, and I use it for all my spreadsheet stuff to keep track of my marketing costs and results and all that. I’ve been stressing keeping track of all this stuff, so now’s the time for you to get familiar with a spreadsheet program!

CONCLUSION

Thus ends our look at game related marketing and maintenance. This stuff can be pretty time consuming when you’re doing everything by yourself. Ideally down the road I’d like to hire someone to do a lot of this stuff for me. I think a full-time “Marketing Guy” is a good investment once you have the money for it because while this is time consuming it’s all very important. As soon as you let your web presence die off, people start to move on. You can make a comeback, but it’s a lot easier to just pop in now and then and maintain things, and it helps build and keep a loyal community which is vital as an Indie developer these days! …until you pop out a massive hit game and make it big at which point you can then just randomly vanish whenever you want and become a hermit making random appearances here and there and still ending up on the front page of every news site. :)

Next up is Article IV – Psychology. Before I get into the Optimal Marketing Plan of Article V, I want to sidetrack and talk about the psychological side of being an Indie Developer spending money on marketing because I think it’s important to have a strong internal mindset as well as an outer plan to follow. You’ll be pushing large amounts of money around, watching your stats rise and fall, dealing with App Store piracy…there’s a lot that will blindside you if you aren’t prepared for it so I’m hoping the Psychology article will help Indies handle that stuff in a healthy, productive way!

- Jeff



Powered by WordPress | Theme: Motion by 85ideas.
©2010 Bulletproof Outlaws[ Back to top ]
Rss Feed Tweeter button Facebook button Reddit button Delicious button Digg button Stumbleupon button Youtube button