January 06, 2017 | Filed under: business004
There are a lot of indie games being released these days, hell, a lot of games full stop. There is evidence of this from this wonderful graph courtesy of steamspys twitter account:
Its hard to imagine the number of gamers has increased to the same extent, or the amount of games press covering indie games, so the inevitable conclusion is that chances of the press caring about your indie game are less than 1/6th as high as they were when I released Democracy 3. In short…in terms of getting press about your game, you are kinda fucked.
And not just you. I haven’t been able to set the world of gaming media on fire with Political Animals or Shadowhand or Production Line either. If it makes you feel better…its me as well. In terms of getting press, I’m probably only slightly less fucked than the average reader of this blog (assuming you are a developer obv.).
The good news is, I don’t think this really matters. These days, I increasingly hear about a new game from world of mouth, a reddit/forum post, twitter or facebook. Or I see it on my steam front page. None of these are areas where the press is dramatically driving eyeballs. The idea that all discussion about video games is emanating like a funnel from the core seed that is planted by a number of gaming websites and print magazines is rooted in the 1990s and 2000s, not today. I actually think that if the editors of Kotaku, Rock Paper Shotgun, PCGamesN and PCGamer all HATED YOU with a vengeance, and refused to ever mention your game, its not really going to have much effect, because the percentage of the games-discussion taking place online that is controlled by a few media people with megaphones is actually pretty small, and my gut feeling is that it is shrinking.
So how do you fight that?
You don’t, you embrace it.
The fact is, gamers like to find, play and talk about cool stuff. Despite us complaining that only 1% of steam players leave reviews, thats still hundreds of thousands of reviews, and tens or hundreds of thousands of comments, retweets, likes, upvotes and all the other social media stuff. I have to admit, given the option of a front page article on a news site about production Line, or having the game discussed in a top-voted subreddit by hundreds of redditors…I may well choose the reddit option. Social media gets a bad rap, and sure its a cesspool of trolls and people referring to each other as Hitler, but in amongst it all there are a lot of people talking about games, and these people BUY the games, they aren’t the ones getting free press passes.
I, like everyone in any branch of the entertainment industry, have absolutely no idea what I’m doing. Sometimes I’m right, sometimes I’m, wrong, but I like to think I make informed decisions. In a day when googling for almost any topic or question will get you video results near the top of the list, its hilarious that so many once proud gaming websites don’t even have a video channel. The same people who laughed at their bosses not understanding the shift from print to web are missing the shift from web to video. I strongly think that a constantly updated and topical video channel is not just an option for the fully staffed indie studio with a full time community manager, its absolutely essential.
I’ve done 11 blog videos to promote Production Line, and done my best to respond helpfully to all the comments on them. I fully intend to blog every week in video form until final release and then beyond. I may prefer text to video, but many of my customers do not, and they are the ones in charge. I’m no longer releasing videos as a way to persuade the ‘big press’ to run a story with the video link, the video IS my story, and it IS my coverage, and I’m fine with it.
Right now my videos average about 600 views each, hopefully this climbs over time. If the game looks good, people will share the videos and tell their friends. I am not trying to rush this, or be too pushy about encouraging it, I’m hoping to just make a great game and let it gather attention organically for now. I’m not saying i wont advertise at some point, I’m just saying that chasing the conventional press is starting to feel to me like perhaps a bit of a dated strategy.