Release, promotion, community

In this class we focus on making original, functional, meaningful games, but what happens afterwards? How do you release and promote a game?

Preface

First: consider most professional tips in the game industry come from people who succeeded. For every success story there are hundreds of unsuccessful ones.
Also the field evolves very quickly, what may have been a great move 5 years ago might not make sense now or after you graduate.

 

Distribution

If you are working independently or in the industry there are plenty of platforms for digital download. From the player’s perspective they seem interchangeable but from a developer perspective they can be very different.

Steam
Epic Store
Itchio
Humble store
Kartridge
Discord
App Store
PSN, Switch, Xbox, ORIGIN etc

What are some things to consider?

User base: popularity/install base but also demographics
Openness: can you submit anything?
Revenue share/revenue model
Developers Fee
Devkit cost (ie you need a special playstation to develop for playstation)
DRM – Digital Rights Management
Discoverability
Saturation/Newness
API/Services (badges, steam workshop, community tools, micropayments etc)
Exclusivity programs
Content limitation/guidelines

Alternative models

Selling units aka premium, subscriptions, or Free 2 play are the most popular models to make money with games (aside of commissions and working for a company with a salary). But there are some alternatives:

Oikospiel – pay what you want

Kickstarter – crowdfunding/preorder

Patreon – exclusive content to subscribers
Sokpop – porpentine – Alan Zucconi – 100 rabbits – Beware

Line Wobbler – custom physical games

NITW – merch

Cordial Minuet – grey area gambling?

Prompt: come up with an alternative strategy to make money through games.

Promotion

Promotion typically starts way before the release with teasers, announcements, trailers, etc.

Self promotion on social media via work in progress
#gamedev
#madewithunity
#ScreenshotSaturday

Wishlist campaigns
Launch Sales
(related to Steam discovery algorithms)

Performative game development
Ooblets, Mosh Pit Simulator

Reveal trailers

Narrative Trailers

“Gameplay” trailer

Press

There are several site that cover indie games, exclusively or not:

Kotaku

Polygon 

Waypoint

IndieGames 

rockpapershotgun

Gamasutra 

 

A good practice is imagining early on a headline, or a tweet length synopsis for your game. If you struggle to find one, it may need something more distinctive.

Can you imagine more than one paragraph written about it? If not, it may lack substance, lore, conceptual or mechanical depth.
Of course good authors can write excellent articles starting from the simplest games.

Presskit() is an easy webpage template that makes the journalists’ life easier. It’s useful for bigger releases, when a certain degree of attention is expected.

Festivals

IndieCade in Los Angeles, is a festival for indie developers and students. This event features a lot of non-digital and experimental games. Show, conference, and awards. http://www.indiecade.com/

IGF – International Games Festival –  This is the award show at the GDC. Very competitive. Money prizes, expo floor and pass for nominees.
http://www.igf.com/

Amaze – Great medium sized indie festival in Berlin. Focus on edgy content and small developers.
https://www.amaze-berlin.de/

PAX Penny Arcade Expo ( Seattle, Boston, Melbourne ) – Popular consumer show. Costs money.
http://east.paxsite.com/

Indiemegabooth – helps indies to get into more crowded and expensive shows above.
http://indiemegabooth.com

More regional or specialized game events can be found here
https://www.zo-ii.com/events/

https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1AzXJtsGA_qxSsMBZ-rgn8SYAu8V41Hve3yYiWHVS_vc/edit#gid=0

Youtubers / Streamers / Influencers

They are certainly annoying, but are they good for getting the word out? How to get them cover your game? Is your game video/streaming friendly? Why are they doing this? What do they want? I have no idea.

Consider:
– Streamers expect to receive free download keys from the developers. You can try identify steamers with compatible taste and contact them.
– The sector is consolidating to the point any developer on Steam may be contacted by sketchy influencer services promising exposure.
– The streaming ecosystem is highly dependent on specific platform mechanics. Fall Guys became a viral hit even before the release due to a planned marketing campaign.
– Streamer-driven virality is kind of unpredictable as demonstrated by Among Us
– Top streamers are paid to play games. A lot. And it works because gamers are sheep.

Publishers

Publishers can support developers from funding to promotion. In recent years a variety of indie publishers, labels and collectives emerged. Here are some examples:

Devolver Digital

Indie Fund

Humble bundle

Annapurna Interactive

Finji

Icewater games

Collectives and communities

Maybe the real treasure is the friends you made along the way!
Some collectives and entities creating contexts and communities around games:

Kokoromi

Babycastles (New York)

Juegos Rancheros (Austin)

Copenhagen game collective

Glitch city

Hand Eye Society (Toronto, Canada)

Dames Making Games (Toronto)

The Wild Rumpus (London, UK)

Bit Bridge (Pittsburgh!)

IGDA International Game Developers Association (everywhere)

Online communities
Definitely not exhaustive

Reddit / R/ IndieGames http://www.reddit.com/r/indiegames/

Reddit / R/ GameDev http://www.reddit.com/r/gamedev/

TIG source http://www.tigsource.com/