November 3, 2020
How to promote an indie game: Insights from the Games Lift PR workshop
Working on Public Relations for video games is challenging; it is especially so for small game developers working on tight schedules and limited budgets. That is why at Gamecity’s Games Lift Incubator, PR is a special focus. We sat in on two luminaries coaching our teams.
Plan of Attack is well-known in the games industry for PR work that punches above its weight. The company is helmed by industry luminary Chris Clarke. Helping him in the Incubator workshop is fellow industry veteran Aidan Minter, Account Director at the company. They spent a whole day with our teams to first give them an exhaustive overview of PR and its current state, then to coach them individually.
„The cold, hard reality of game development“
Listening to Clarke and Minter is a delight. They may count as old hands, but they can describe in clear terms how quickly their field of work is moving and where it is right now. They start their talk with a description of the current market, and how the democratization of game development has transformed it. Then it gets practical. Clarke and Minter discuss how to plan a strategy, what questions to ask of the team and the project, how to interact with streamers and journalists, how to build a community, whether to localize a game, and what to do when it is out – all in less than an hour.
Making the right calls in the world of PR can seem like a soft science; not so when these guys speak. Is Russian localization really that important? „Only 20 percent of gamers in Russia speak English.“ When do you start your campaign and how much work do you have to plan for? „At least 6 months prior to release and around three months of extra time.“ Curvature Games‘ Dennis Briddigkeit inquires how to weigh different kinds of PR work against each other – Chris Clarke quickly explains his 80/20-rule. The answers are refreshingly blunt.
„A fluid, moving entity“
Good PR is highly specific to the game being promoted. But here are some lessons that, according to Clarke and Minter, always apply:
- At first, game devs should understand what they are making. What is unique about their project? What are its top 5 features? What games in the market are similar? Where and how have they succeeded?
- At the start and center of PR work is a communication plan that, Clarke advises, is „a fluid, moving entity“ – teams have to check their status every couple of weeks and make adjustments where necessary.
- Teams have to commit to building their own community, to take it with them on their journey, to set the tone of discourse. Communication should be „as transparent as possible.“
- When and how to pitch to media channels is crucial. Minter emphasizes the KISS-principle, the importance of finding the right people, and then he goes into detail about writing your press release. It always should link to a new video and it should contain carefully composed screenshots. Often overlooked: E-mails should be sent during the work hours of the people receiving them.
„I haven’t heard that before“
Our teams did not hesitate to ask questions throughout the presentation. And they appreciated the honest, direct answers they were getting. Crumbling’s Ole Jürgensen heard the advice that he should not invest too much time in PR before his project had developed its visual identity. The advice made sense to him, and it was a relief because it frees up time for now.
Each team had time with Clarke and Minter to talk details about their projects. Some results are already in. Team Ninja Brigade have commissioned new cover art that evokes 80s-style comics after consulting with our experts. And Roman Fuhrer of Leif’s Adventure was „pleasantly surprised“ by the energy the duo invested into coaching him on a PR roadmap for Leif’s Adventure. They give him confidence that he will master the daunting challenge of marketing: „Every time we talk, I leave with a good feeling.“
That energy might be among the most important assets Plan of Attack brings to our Incubator. And in order to make sure that they are laying a foundation that our teams can build on, they are staying for longer than a day: Gamecity Hamburg provides a time budget with the Plan of Attack for each team that can be used even after the end of the Incubator program. This way, our teams can get the individual guidance they need, at the time when they need it most.