So, you’ve begun committing yourself to making your indie game and are making good progress. You have a website representing your company and game’s development. But no one knows your game exists unless they look up your site directly.
Thankfully, the wonderful world of social media can help you raise awareness on your game.
Honestly, I detest social media for reasons most people already state. It’s silly to have such a desire to exist and be seen online, often when you don’t really have anything to say. But for companies and business and products, this sort of thing is invaluable, and only because of the people who already use it.
You probably already know how most media sites work, but here’s a rundown of them. And yes, you should try to make an account on all of these sites (among others), to extend your reach as far as possible to the widest audience.
- Facebook: Rumors have spread on how the popularity of Facebook is declining, to the point where it might go the way of myspace by the time you actually read this. But it is still one of the biggest social sites online, and most of my Kickstarter.com backers would use Facebook more then any other social media, so you need to make a page here. But be careful: Facebook doesn’t legally let companies make standard Facebook pages, and instead allows them to make “company” pages, which are restricted because you can’t actually follow or message other people, only post important updates to your main page. This was my biggest mistake so far, as making a personal page might have helped in getting a few hundred more followers. But then I would have to divulge my name, which you may or may not want to do yet… either way, this is probably your most important social media site. So far, feedback received has been positive here, if somewhat unrelated.
- Twitter: an easy way to post short updates to people, usually by posting links to longer articles and updates on your main site. Twitter accounts are usually one of two things: people who have many followers, and people who want many followers. As such, there is a unwritten code that less popular accounts that follow you expect you to follow back, and vice-versa. This plays in your favor: try following as many game people as possible, especially people with the same number of followers as followees. Do this, and you can get hundreds of followers in a week. Of course, updates everyone sees is based on how recent they are, and when they follow hundreds or thousands of others, your updates might get lost. Don’t be afraid to message or reference other Twitter people in your tweets to help make a stronger connection. A small handful of Twitter followers are actually my biggest supporters, as I am of them. So far, the little feedback I actually get has been positive.
- Google+: Google forced this on most of its gmail and youtube members, in a effort to gain more users. But it is gaining traction as the replacement to Facebook, and shouldn’t be entirely ignored. I don’t have too much experience with this one, but do try to post updates to it, and follow people you think appropriate. It does help you connect with other Google sites and services, including Youtube. No actual feedback received here based on my lack of use.
- Youtube: Youtube is generally a very poor social site, but a fantastic place to upload your videos. Youtube still has one of the best video web players online (for ease of use, at least, if not quality). Post your trailers, gameplay videos, and development videos here when possible. Post updates of it on other social sites. Generally, Youtube has the least impact, but also the less work to maintain, and so far, all feedback I’ve gotten on my youtube sites has been positive.
- Reddit: A fantastic, but confusing site that acts as a giant forum where anyone can post anything. Usually used for funny or strange stories of interest, Reddit is also separated into subreddits that are related to topics like gamedev, indiegaming, kickstarter, etc. But try to make an account early and posting a few updates as practice: most subreddits have unique moderators and rules, and your post can easily get removed as spam. But Reddit is also my most popular social site, and has gotten me more attention for my site and Kickstarter then any other social media. Reddit people are also very honest, and this is a great place to test to see if your game is good, bad, or at least of interest to the general Internet public. Feedback I’ve gotten has been positive and negative, but slightly more positive then negative.
- Steam: Steam is Valve’s popular online digital distribution system for games. Honestly, I think its DRM and intrusive use of Internet access is appalling, but if you want your game to sell, you will need to put your game here eventually. Steam Greenlight is a great way to get votes, feedback and attention for your game, which could lead to obtaining permission to publish here from Steam itself if popular enough. But it also costs a fee, so you can use their optional Greenlight “Concept” area to post your game for free without Steam’s attention or care. You’ll get more honest feedback here, similar to Reddit, and a rough idea on how you’d actually do upon submitting officially to Greenlight.
- IndieDB: most game sites will recommend putting your game here. It’s a little daunting, as they expect you to register your company as well as your game, and have strange regulations with the company part. But the company actually isn’t necessary to post your game, and upon posting for the first time, you’ll be surprised to see your game reach the top 1000 out of over 14,000 games. I actually reached the top 100 after posting a news update. But this is a little biased, and based on how many people have seen your page that day, so your game may jump up and down by huge amounts. But you can get some followers here, and more helpful feedback.
- The Indie Game DataBase: I haven’t actually used this one, but any place to post your game is worth trying. Explore some others like this when you can.
- Kickstarter: don’t post here until ready. But as of now, Kickstarter has gotten me more attention then any of the above sites. Like it or not, Kickstarter campaigns are a social haven for people wanting to support the next big thing. But you can get both good and bad attention, so be prepared.
The pattern is that you want both praise and critical feedback, and you are more likely to get criticism from social media that forces your material in their face, as opposed to sites where they have to look you up themselves.
Also, you’ll need to contact indie news sites to promote your game at some point. You won’t get IGN or GAMESPOT to talk about you easily, but sites dedicated to indie gaming are a little easier. Most sites won’t write anything after you contact them, but keep trying and a few might, and that’s great for using quotes to further promote your game. Of course, be sure to use what makes your game unique when asking for press. The followers from the above sites might also help you if you message them.
“…Most sites won’t write anything after you contact them, but keep trying and a few might… “
This was a useful link on how to write an email to promote yourself, what a press kit should have, and some sites to contact. Here’s a few sites I’ve contacted:
- The Indie Game Magazine: normal sending of my game for review was ignored, but the site was going into a major and moral overall in early 2014. After posting my game in their “Tell Us About Your Game” forum, they quickly got in touch and wrote an article about my game. Nice people.
- Indie Games – The Weblog: sent an email, and they posted an article less than a week later. Greatly appreciated.
- Rock, Paper, Shotgun: news for indie games and important PC games. Have not talked about my game.
- Kotaku: not easy to contact, but they promote some strange stuff, so you might get a chance here. Have not talked about my game.
- Indie Statik: good choice, but have not talked about my game.
- The Indie Mine: have not talked about my game.
- Just Adventure: a site dedicated to adventure games. They posted my game without me contacting, having found the game on Kickstarter. Well appreciated.
- Pewdiepie: one of many youtube users, but a popular one who likes playing games and recording his reactions. He probably won’t play your game unless it is stupidly silly, but many other youtube users would be happy to give your demo a try. A Russian youtuber played my demo, and that video has more views then all the videos on my youtube channel combined!
There are hundreds of other sites out there. PixelProspector is a great site for indie devs, and they have a big list here for you to see. Try submitting to as many as possible, but also choose appropriately based on your game. Remember that any site can be quoted when promoting the greatness of your project, and helps with integrity. Try to record who talks about your game, but only list your favorite 8 or 10 quotes (if you get that many), as more then that makes it sound like you just paid people to review your game. Also, there are press kit publicists who allegedly send your game out to everyone for a fee, and if your are desperate for getting your favorite sites to talk about it and think you are unique enough for them to do so, then that might be worth a try (I haven’t done this yet, it might be a cheap tactic, but all advertising is).
Here’s a quick tip: the few gaming sites that wrote about my game made no real difference in my Kickstarter’s campaign whatsoever. Sadly, most indie sites willing to write about your game, even the popular ones, only get a few hundred readers a day, and most of them like different things. The big sites that get readers tend to focus on AAA titles, which is why they get so many readers to begin with, and most of those readers love to leave both good and bad comments in waves. So whatever press you get would be great for quotes, but is only one small part of building your audience of followers. Of course, if your game is actually really good and easy to differentiate, it might fare better, even on smaller sites.
Feel free to comment on other blogs and news sites. But don’t spam too often, people don’t like that. Try to be professional, but friendly and grateful. Do other indies a favor and promote other games as well as your own.
Also, try attending indie game jams and conventions if you can afford the time and money to go to. This is also a great way to get press with the biggest sites, and mingle with the rest of the indie community.
Keep in mind that you should update all of these sites and keep track of them regularly. Some people might leave questions in the comments, and it feels nice if you answer them. It keeps you busy, to the point of feeling like a part-time job. Of course, focus on development of your game first. If all of this gets in the way, first finish most of your game, and then start using the above sites more often. But don’t wait too long, bigger audiences build overtime, not immediately.
Speaking of which, exactly how long should you be building your social media audience before beginning a Kickstarter campaign? Ideally, you need to spend several months, or even a year, before getting the audience you need. Or you can check to see if you have at least 1,000 followers combined across all of your social media pages. Of course, followers doesn’t always equate to hyped-up fans. There’s no rule here, but don’t rush into crowdfunding until you are sure that an audience would care.
Any other sites you can think of? Let me know and comment below (my site might see you as spam, but I usually allow comments within a day)!
Speaking of which, you better learn how to handle praise and criticism. You will get both, and lots of it…