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My Notes from The Steam Dev Days Marketing Session

January 16, 2014

Marketing is the eternal bugbear for many indie devs. I know I’ve spent waaaaaaaaaaaaay more time doing marketing over the last few years for games I’ve worked on like Chainsaw Warrior, Call of Cthulhu:The Wasted Land and NarcoGuerra, than I ever thought I would. I’ve also seen a lot of these sort of sessions, and we got to them (or take part) I suspect because we’re all looking for the killer formula we can apply over and over.

What this talk did so well was burst that bubble that such a formula exists. So here’s the notes:

When to start marketing? Consensus was early is best. However you need to make sure you keep the information coming over the development period. So don’t just blast everything out, drip feed it over time. Use this drip process to assess what works and what does not. So if you can, tray starting small with a focused community or at events and get a feel for how people are responding. When people see your game on the store, ready for sale, people need to have heard of it already to guide them into buying it. If they have not heard of it, then it’s probably too late.

Is marketing and development not a different set of skills? No! You make a marketing decision early on – in what the game is and what you are going to call it. These matter and are core to communicating your game with players. It’s wrong to think developers don’t have to be marketers. Marketing is a developer skill – so get stuck in. For example in-game features need to sell the game and so are part of marketing.

What is your game? You’ll get asked this by everyone from journalists to gamers. Have a good answer ready. For example try summarizing your game up in a single sentence. If this does not sound cool, then you might need to rethink? It might be that you need multiple versions of those sentences; a nongamer one, a gamer one, a long version, a short version etc. Experimenting at events to talk about the game is good as you can test these sentences out in advance. The panel talked about how their experience of demoing the games at events helped shape these sentences, which then helps shape the marketing.

Are trade shows worth doing? Mixed views but all agreed that trade shows are not about sales, they are about networking, about the media being able to meet you and put a name to a face… Meeting a journalist face-to-face is key, seeing people play your game and respond to your messages about it is key too.

Are ads not a waste of time? No! If you’re doing it right, it’s a major undertaking. Marketing is a science – data analytics, split A/B testing etc. You need to take this seriously and analyse where people go, how they find you and more. So just buying ad space alone won’t work, but buying ad space linked to data analytics, testing and iteration does.

When is the marketing done? It’s not! Marketing is ongoing – keep the game in the mind of people. You’ll never speak to all the people you who might buy your game, so lots will still not have heard of it. Make sure there are always things to say, so keep an ongoing list of interesting stuff. User generated content is always good for this.

Are demos worth it? A mixed response. The Stanley Parable demo as a good example of the idea but not the game, so you sell the concept and keep back the game itself. Mixed thoughts of how it works. Some say it has made the success, others that it can put people off. However if not demo you need to prove what the game is and why they should buy it…

And… The key take away from this was that marketing is an essential and ongoing process. What works now won’t work in the future and you can’t just copy what others have done and expect the same results. Take the essence of what successful marketing ideas and use that to come up with new versions of it as for all marketing it always has to feel fresh…

Books suggested:
The Advertised Mind


PS. If you want to sign up to our marketing, you can get the inside info on Chainsaw Warrior and other games here and on our Jack the Ripper playable documentary here.

Seattle, host to Steam Dev Days

Seattle, host to Steam Dev Days

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