Marketing your game is hard. But trying successfully to pitch your indie game to influencers, you can potentially reach a much wider audience. Just think. Some big time YouTuber reviews your game in his or her perfect way, to an audience that is already attuned to them. Recruiting influencers is a great way to multiply your audience while actually decreasing your own work load. But there's a right way to do it and about a thousand wrong ways to do it. You're about to learn how to approach influencers and get your game out there!
At IndieWatch, we get submissions all the time for indie games. We appreciate it, really. It’s good to know developers trust us to help them market their game and get the word out.
BUT! When it comes to trying to pitch your indie game to influencers -- or even us, there are certain bare-minimum ground rules that will help get your game beyond that initial glance.
I’m not exactly buried under game submissions, but I get enough that I can be choosy. And I have enough going on in my life that I can’t possibly review every game that comes my way. So here are some tips to help you capture the attention of gaming influencers and avoid the void of email deletion!
The scenario below doesn’t happen all the time, but often enough that I feel like it needs to be addressed. We sometimes get messages from indie developers pitching their games that read something like this:
Hey, I just finished a bad ass game. Its the pinned post on my profil. DM me if u want buy it
Just…no. This message does so many things wrong. Let’s break it down.
I mean, there’s nothing objectively wrong with this. It’s conversational. But that doesn’t quite cut it with me.
I’m a stranger you’ll probably never meet and you’re about to ask me to do something for you. At least have the decency to find out my name or social handle or you can even call me “IndieWatch” or something. But when you just call me, “Hey”, I’m assuming you quickly tapped out a message and are copy/pasting it to send to as many reviewers as you can. The last thing you want to do is seem generic, okay?
Take a moment to personally address the person you’re contacting. It’s polite. It shows that you are at least willing to put in some work, and it tells me you put some thought into where you’re sending your game.
I just finished a bad ass game.
If there’s one thing bad asses are known for, it’s not having to announce their bad-assness.
Did George Washington have to tell everyone what a bad ass president he was? Did Einstein have to tell everyone what a bad ass physicist he was? Did Muhammad Ali have to tell everyone what a bad ass he was? Well, Ali is an exception; he could get pretty braggy. But then again, you ain’t exactly Muhammad Ali, are you?
We writers have a saying: Don’t say it; show it. That means you have to demonstrate your game’s bad-assness in a tangible way that allows readers to draw their own conclusion. Confidence is good, but overconfidence will always backfire. Be humble and polite. Tell me what makes your game unique. If you just tell me it’s bad ass, I won’t believe you.
Its the pinned post…
Not everybody is going to be a stickler for apostrophes like me, but it’s probably a good idea to try to use your best grammar. I’m a professional, after all. I’m not your buddy. Not to say that I couldn’t become your buddy, but so far you’re off to a bad start.
Also, please don’t make me go to your profile and find your pinned post just to see something I never knew existed until you trolled me about it. You have to make it as easy as possible to find your game.
At this point in our contact, I have zero investment in your game. I have no desire to click your profile. I do not want to have to go out of my way to look at whatever game you made. And if you spent the same amount of effort on your game as you did in this message, then I really really don’t care.
Instead, try this: Include an image of your game. The best image of your game! Something that will actually interest me more than your shoddy grammar.
And include a link! That way I can just tap and go to your website or your press kit. You might include a short GIF to demonstrate something interesting.
So, by including the image, I’m intrigued. And by including a link, even super busy (lazy) marketers like me will still have the 0.3 seconds it takes to click that link and learn more!
As I mentioned above: If I can’t trust you to spell out entire words, how could I trust you to program an entire game that won’t make me want to gouge my eyes out?
I’m not going to do that.
if u want to buy it
I’m actually not sure this has happened quite like this. However, I do get developers contacting me with their press kits and information but no offer of a key. And usually when I contact them, they don’t respond or they tell me there arent’ any keys available but I can play the demo here…
Now, look: I know I’m not PewDiePie. But even at my modest level of popularity, I don’t remember the last time I paid for an indie game. Actually, I think it might have been Axiom Verge (so worth it). Unless we count Kickstarter games, but that’s different.
If you want me to play it, you’ve got to give me a key. If I don’t use the key then oh well. I might give it to one of my reviewer friends. But if you want to make actually money off your game, then giving away 20, 30, 50 or 100 keys isn’t going to break you. It’s something you need to do. If losing 100 sales WILL break you, then you aren’t aiming for much success.
Giving away keys is the best way to ensure that the right people are playing your game. And by receiving a free key, influencers are more obligated to actually publish something about your game. And get this: if you give them a free key, and they don’t like the game, they are far less likely to give it a bad review. Instead, they’ll give it no review at all. But if they actually have to pay money for your game and it sucks, they are much more likely to review it poorly.
Think about that!
Doing it right
Here is a message that would interest me a great deal more:
Hey @longie_long ! My team just finished a 16-bit style JRPG for Android. It features the classic gameplay we know you like, but with modern updates, great graphics, an engrossing story and… oh yeah, there’s tons of llama poop!
Here’s our press kit and we’d love to give you a key to review.
Let’s break this down.
Hey @Longie_long !
That’s me. That’s my Twitter handle. I’m already more engaged in this message.
My team just finished a…
Giving credit to those who work with you on the project shows humility and politeness. Good job!
16-bit style JRPG for Android.
Mobile games aren’t usually my thing. But since I do have an Android, and you’ve been so friendly, I might just have to check it out.”
It features the classic gameplay we know you like, but with modern updates, great graphics, an engrossing story
See how the dev isn’t promising a bad ass game? He’s telling me about the game and I’m drawing my own conclusion that this could in fact be a bad ass game! Plus the dev is showing that he has at least glanced at my Twitter profile and knows I’m into classic games.
and… oh yeah, there’s tons of llama poop!
Say whaat!? If you didn’t have my attention before (you did), you definitely have it now! This silly crap (pun intended) can really set you apart from other devs. You don’t have to go this route, of course. The point is to be yourself and think outside the box. #LlamaPoopEnthusiast
Here’s our press kit and we’d love to give you a key to review.
A link to the press kit (hosted on their website). A single tap and I’m there. And I know all I have to do is reply to the email to get a download key.
No, polite indie dev. Thank YOU!
Remember, if you want to pitch your indie game to influencers, you have to remember that they owe you nothing. Nobody is going to promote your game for you just because you made it. You must offer something special and you must pitch your game the right way.