Hopefully, there comes a time when the video game you’ve spent the last few years working on is in a polished-enough state that you’re comfortable sharing it with the world, whether that’s alpha, beta, or the entire game.
Either way, congratulations! Now that your game is ready to share, it’s time to get the word out and pitch your game for previews and reviews.
We’ll do this by showing you how to write a great video game press release that helps you stand out from the crowd.
This is where your marketing comes in.
You might be developing one of the best video games in the world, but that’s not going to matter if your marketing efforts fall flat and no one ever sees it.
The amount of time and effort that goes into promoting your game is just as important as the energy you put into it, but with so many things to consider, what do you start with first?
If you’re reading this, then chances are you don’t have your PR and marketing outsourced to an external agency, especially if you’re already working with a limited budget.
There’s nothing wrong with that. In fact, there are times when you might be best off handling the PR for your own game yourself.
But whether you’re handling your game’s PR yourself or you’ve got an external agency doing it for you, it’s likely that those PR plans will require a solid press release.
What is a press release, and why do I need one?
The easiest way to reach the audiences you want your game in front of is usually through the gaming press.
Whether they’re specialist indie websites or the bigger video game publications, they’re all going to want a press release.
A press release is essentially a short document that contains all of the key information a journalist would need to write a story about your video game.
A good video game press release should always include:
- An engaging headline to grab the reader’s attention
- A location and date [or a clear embargo date if the information in your press release is under embargo]
- Enough detail about the game to clearly describe its features, how it plays and (hopefully) what sets it apart.
- Information on the deliverables for your game such as release windows, release date, demos, etc, available now, etc.
- A call to action – register your interest or download the game now
- A boilerplate, or notes to editors section.
- A link to a media pack or assets for your game containing visuals, screenshots, videos, etc.
- If ready, a link to the store page to buy, wishlist, pre-order, etc.
Sounds simple enough, right? It should be, but games journalists can get hundreds of press releases every single day.
That’s not surprising when there were 10,000 games released on Steam in the last year alone!
And out of these game press releases, some of them will be good, some of them will be okay, and some of them will be… not so good.
It’s your job to stand out amongst the crowd.
Despite their simplicity, writing an effective video game press release that stands out can be difficult – especially with journalists receiving so many of them.
No matter what your size, the good news is that there is no difference between a great indie game press release and one from a really big AAA publisher.
But with over 100 years of combined PR and marketing experience between the team here at Big Games Machine, our experts have put their heads together to share their top tips when it comes to writing game press releases that get you noticed and, more importantly, get your game some much-needed coverage.
Let’s start with the most important tip…
STRUCTURE YOUR GAME PRESS RELEASE FOLLOWING THE INVERTED PYRAMID STYLE
This is a writing style that most journalists are taught to follow, and whether you work in PR or not, the inverted pyramid structure is helpful to know if you’re ever going to be doing any marketing or press for your game.
Image Credit: MarketersMedia
True to its name, the most newsworthy information sits at the top underneath an engaging headline, which should give an accurate description of what your story is about.
There’s a good reason for this too.
As journalists receive so many game press releases every day, bear in mind that your average reader probably won’t make it past the first paragraph.
At the start of your first paragraph, you should also include a location and date, formatted in this way: LONDON – DD, MM, YYYY –
If the information in your press release is under embargo, make that absolutely clear to the journalists receiving it by putting the embargo date in red and bold at the top of your release, along with the timezone you’re issuing it in.
What’s embargo we hear you ask?
Put simply, an embargo, according to Wikipedia is ‘a request or requirement by a source that the information or news provided by that source not be published until a certain date or certain conditions have been met.’
This means that you are giving the journalist enough time to look at your press release, then if they want to cover it, they then have enough time to upload it and schedule it for publishing on the day you tell them.
The majority of media will honour an embargo as long as you make it clear. This is why it’s good to add the embargo date and date in red letters to the top of your game press release.
Then, on launch day, you can email the media telling them that the embargo is now lifted.
After this, the first paragraph under your headline should cover the five Ws: who, what, where, when, and why.
This paragraph should be strong enough to tell the entirety of your story if it was cut out of the release and used on its own.
When you’re talking about who (you!), make sure you include any information that demonstrates the experience of your team.
Journalists tend to cut from the bottom upwards when it comes to game press releases, which is why all of your most crucial information sits right at the top.
This is a rule more suited to print publications given the limited space that editors and reporters have to run stories, but the principle is the same.
If you’re announcing a new game, your first paragraph might look like this:
[Studio Name, developer of the best-selling [Your Old Game], has announced its latest title, [Game Name], which will be arriving on [Platforms] from [Date].
But you’re not always going to be issuing press releases for new game releases. You might have a seasonal event or significant update to announce, like these examples:
“AFK Arena is blowing up the balloons and icing the cake as it prepares to celebrate its second birthday this week with the mother of all birthday parties.”
Take a look at the game press release example HERE
“Game developer and publisher Moonton is getting set to sleigh the competition this holiday season as it launches a massive Christmas seasonal event in its smash-hit idle RPG Mobile Legends: Adventure.”
Take a look at the full press release HERE
Your second paragraph should dive into the game’s main features and highlight any USPs or significant aspects of development.
If your game doesn’t break new ground and doesn’t have any distinguishable USPs, don’t be afraid to turn its recognisable traits into something special, especially if you’ve been inspired by iconic franchises.
Take a look at these two examples:
“Drawing on their experience of working on blockbuster titles such as Ratchet and Clank and Resistance: Fall of Man, Victory Lap Games has created the ultimate love-letter to the bomb-based strategy genre by adding an explosive array of multiplayer modes, levels and gameplay options plus thousands of character rewards and customisations.”
Example 2 :
“Aiming to deliver the ultimate multiplayer experience for both console and PC gamers, Blast Zone! Tournament is a treasure trove of cross-platform multiplayer riches. At its core, up to 8 players can compete locally on their couch, or they can take the battle online in 32-person multiplayer frenzies.”
Depending on whether you need one paragraph or two paragraphs to describe your game’s features clearly, we’d recommend inserting a quote from someone at your studio next.
This is where you get to big your game up subjectively and get people excited about it.
Quotes are important because everything you’re written so far in your press release should have been written objectively and from a third-person perspective (we’ll get to this further down…).
They can also make people feel like they are peeking behind the curtain of the game’s development.
Once you’re done with that, you can use the remaining paragraphs to cover some broader gameplay elements or stats about your game (number of game modes, maps, characters, etc.).
At the very end of your press release, leave a call to action for your reader.
Even if you’ve got the platform and download/purchase information at the top of your game press release, don’t be afraid to sign off with it again at the bottom.
Here’s an example:
To signal the end of your press release, always use ENDS after the final paragraph.
After this, you’ll have a Notes to Editor section with your contact details if any journalists want to get in touch with you for more information.
Underneath this sits your boilerplate, essentially a paragraph of information about the game.
Think of this as your main marketing company. You can also put your studio information in here too that tells your story as the developer.
Here are some examples:
Example A: You may need to add information about multiple companies if it’s a collaborative effort.
Example B: It’s always good to list previous projects and the experience you or your team have.
If you’ve followed all of the tips above, when you’re finished, your press release should end up looking something like this…
And if that wasn’t helpful enough, we’ve even put together a press release template you can download – see details at the end of the post. Just remember to remove the section that we’ve highlighted yellow and replace them with your own copy…
MAKE SURE YOUR USE OF LANGUAGE DOESN’T MAKE YOU SOUND UNPROFESSIONAL
The job of your GAME press release is to update the journalists and hopefully members of the public on the key facts and information about your game.
Nothing screams unprofessional like a press release claiming your video game is groundbreaking, revolutionary, state-of-the-art, incredible, amazing… you get the picture.
Your opinions are not facts, and it’s the journalist’s job to inform others about the content of your game.
Once they’ve played it, they’ll be able to tell their readers what they think in subjective reviews, but until then, try and keep your press release as professional as it needs to be.
This doesn’t mean your press release needs to be dry.
These rules are not hard as fast and can be bent when they’re used alongside certain gameplay elements such as mechanics and characters.
Playing with language is meant to be fun, so feel free to throw in some verbs, phrases or puns that relate to your game as long as it doesn’t feel too forced.
As a general rule of thumb, you can get away with more when you’re describing specific characters.
While superlatives are generally best avoided, you can use them with reference to real-life characters.
Check out some of these examples below for inspiration.
“Whether players prefer a powerful mauler, an agile technician or an unpredictable wildcard – Mighty Fight Federation’s squad is ready to rumble with a mix of exciting original characters and licensed crossovers including classics like ’Toejam & Earl’ and ‘Yooka and Laylee’, with ‘Kunio & Riki’ from River City Ransom coming soon as DLC. Now, the game’s incredible line-up is set to enter the ring and do battle against one another in the most electrifying pay-per-view event in the universe – The Mighty Fight Federation!”
(Full release is HERE)
“Van Damme, star of countless action movies, swaps the red carpet for a grey runway as he leads Warpath into its latest incarnation high in the skies. The world-renowned actor brings his years of experience fighting bad guys on the screen to star in an upcoming action-packed commercial promoting the Warpath Air Force update, and making sure generals are prepared for the fight ahead”
(Full release is HERE)
Ultimately, don’t be afraid to use colourful language if it fits your game, but avoid being too over the top or trying to make jokes.
Jokes that are perceived the wrong way could end up creating a PR crisis for your studio, and the last thing you want is to follow in the footsteps of these major video game PR mistakes.
MAKE SURE YOUR PRESS RELEASE CONTAINS NEWSWORTHY INFORMATION
This may sound obvious, but make sure the content of your press release is actually newsworthy.
You’d be surprised by how many people get this wrong. In fact, we asked hundreds of journalists to share their PR gripes, and they mentioned this.
So what counts as newsworthy information? The release of a new game, for a start.
Also, a new update or patch that adds new elements if you’ve already got a decent number of active players.
Things get a little trickier when it comes to things like new staff appointments, acquisitions, successful fund rounds and award wins – all topics that are typically associated with corporate/B2B press releases.
If you’ve gone on a hiring spree as part of a major studio expansion, then that’s newsworthy if you can relate it to your studio’s growth.
If you’ve hired a new junior developer or designer with no previous industry experience, that’s not newsworthy.
This press release for 1939 games is a good example of a newsworthy B2B release.
It’s newsworthy due to the size of the studio, the amount of funding raised, its large player base and its future impact on the industry.
Journalists can easily get bombarded by award wins and only tend to cover the usual big events, except for some specialist websites.
If your studio has won a regional business award, this may make a good news story for your local paper but not games media (unless it’s a significant award).
WRITE DIFFERENT VERSIONS OF YOUR PRESS RELEASE TAILORED TO THE SITES YOU’RE TARGETING
The best example of this is if you’re launching your first game as a studio and you’re intending to distribute a press release to the typical games websites as well as local papers, radio stations and broadcasters.
Your local news reporter may not even play video games, so they’re not going to find an in-depth summary of your game’s features, gameplay mechanics and story lore of interest.
What they will find interesting is the story of your studio, any publishers or platforms you’re partnered with, and what the success of this game might mean to your business and the local economy as a result.
HINT: Tell them that the future expansion of your studio will help create X new jobs.
Bear in mind that if you’re running an international PR campaign, your game press release is going to need localising.
We’d strongly recommend enlisting the support of an agency here with the language skills needed to do this (such as ourselves!)
As for sending your press release to influencers, that can be a whole different ball game that needs a strategy of its own.
We could go on about influencer marketing for ages, and actually, we already have done…
If you’re interested in learning more about the importance of influencer marketing, you should check out our 30 PR tips for working with influencers.
HOST YOUR MEDIA KIT ONLINE AND ENSURE ALL OF YOUR FILES ARE LABELLED CORRECTLY
A tidy media pack makes you look slick and professional, so make sure you clearly divide your screenshots, visuals, videos, fact sheets, game documents and anything else into separate folders.
Always name your images in a way that provides enough information and context to the journalist.
Always include names starting from left to right if you’re including studio shots of staff members too. Journalists will appreciate not having to ask!
Rather than sending everything as a massive zip folder, we’d recommend using Google Drive, Dropbox or something similar to host your media pack.
We’d strongly recommend checking out Rami Ismail’s presskit(), a press kit collation tool created by developers with input from journalists.
ONCE YOUR GAME RELEASE IS FINISHED, CHECK IT AND CHECK IT AGAIN!
Before you prepare your release for distribution, make sure you’ve read through it a couple of times to make sure there are no silly spelling mistakes.
Where possible, we’d recommend printing out a hard copy and reading through it, or giving it to someone else at your studio (or just someone else you know altogether!)
If any mistakes make it in and get published, it’ll be your responsibility to contact editors and remedy them. This risks damaging your relationships with journalists, especially as they won’t be happy that you’ve sent them something with mistakes…
Whilst it’s no substitute for a real person, we also love using Grammarly.
YOUR PRESS RELEASE IS FINISHED, SIGNED OFF AND READY TO DISTRIBUTE – NOW WHAT?
If you thought writing your press release took up a lot of your time, just wait until you have to distribute it…
The distribution process for a press release often involves far more work than writing it, and there’s a whole different set of rules to follow, from ensuring you never send your release as an attachment to understanding the various distribution platforms that are out there.
If you’re handling this yourself, we’ve got you covered. Our next blog will cover the distribution and pitching process from start to finish such as using a free newswire such as Gamepress.
In the meantime, if you’ve finished reading through this and would rather enlist the support of an agency to deal with your PR and marketing, we’d love to hear from you.
Whether you’re an indie studio, start-up or a major developer, we’ve got a solid track record of writing press releases and delivering PR campaigns that cut through the noise and get your game in front of the people that matter.
Without blowing our own trumpet (too much), one of the press releases we worked on was deemed so good by a journalist he wrote an entire piece about it.
Finally, if you found this piece useful, we’ve got plenty of other resources that might help you out, like our seven proven ways to get your indie game reviewed.