Episode 5: Making the most of a shoestring marketing budget

The Games PR Podcast helps you level up your PR skills to get your game noticed by media and influencers. With years of experience working with innovative indies and gaming giants alike, join the Games PR Podcast team and special guests for a wealth of tips and honest advice. From writing pitches and getting Metacritic reviews to avoiding common mistakes and working with influencers, The Games PR Podcast is your personal PR cheat code.

In this episode, we discuss how to make the most of a minimum budget for PR – the best places to focus time and money for maximum return on any investment. Essentially a guide to DIY PR.

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Here’s the things we will cover in this episode:

  1. Budgeting for PR – what are your options?
  2. Realistic strategies for media and influencers
  3. Social media
  4. Community building

If you would prefer to read – here is the full transcript below

Introduction

Intro: Welcome to The Games PR Podcast, your regular dose of video game PR goodness, sit down, relax as our team of experts and special guests share tips and tricks to help you level up your PR game with media and influencers.

Jack: Hello there, and welcome to the latest episode of The Games PR Podcast, which should be episode five.

Tom: Hopefully is episode [00:00:30] five or else something’s done very wrong.

Jack: We’ve talked about timelines a lot over the past couple of episodes and a big topic there was shifting things around and we never know if we want to change up the order, like a baseball player in the pitching order. Today’s topic is going to be making the most of a shoestring marketing budget, getting the bang for your buck, or the bang for no bucks. Really we’re going to focus on where the time and the money goes, almost like a DIY PR. Even if you [00:01:00] can’t do everything, focusing on what you should be doing with the limited time you have. Does that make sense to you, Tom?

Tom: Hello, I’m here. It’s just the two of us today. Something a little bit different, but I think that we’ve got quite, like you were saying, we’ve got quite a lot to speak about, but you’ve brought up time, so I’m just going to dive right into things. Because I think that one of the first questions people do ask, people come to us to ask as an agency, or people ask when they’re doing it themselves is how much should you be looking to put aside [00:01:30] for PR or marketing?

How to budget both time and money for your PR efforts (00:01:31)

The first thing you think of is money, but if you’re looking to do things on your own, or you’re looking to run your own PR program in the run-up to a launch or announcement, it’s probably going to come down to actually time and the actual time investment. Obviously, you can save money by doing things yourself, but then you’re taking time away to do these activities.

I think that a lot of people probably don’t understand how much time when [00:02:00] we are doing things, how much time it takes. I know some of the stuff that you do, you probably think on the surface it doesn’t take a lot of time, but it really does. It ends up being a lot of man-hours put into some of these quite simple activities on the surface.

Jack: It also is a fact that really for your game to do well, you want to be spending the most time developing it. Anytime you take out to development can impact how good you can get your game. It is, and I love my sporting metaphors and [00:02:30] analogies, like handing the baton over to someone else on the relay race for a bit. You can pass on these activities to an agency or you set aside and you go, “I need to dedicate this many hours to development. This is the time I have left, so what activities am I gonna put into this time?”

Tom: I think that’s something that we’ll go through later on where we think if you don’t have a lot of time, you should be focusing. It is that balance of, if you [00:03:00] don’t have much money for development or overall, then you might not think it’s the best choice to look for someone else to help you. I think it’s worth mentioning on that front that most agencies, we certainly do, offer a lot of different options at different prices.

It can be very flexible about what you want and how much you’re working with. It’s not a case of this is– There’s not a blanket price for anything or there’s not a concrete, you know this is what you want this is how much it’ll cost. [00:03:30] It can factor really differently depending on what you want. It’s always an option to consider because it allows you to, as we said, focus 100% on the thing that you are best at and the thing that you want to be focusing the most time on, and that’s actually developing the game without having to worry about everything else on top of it,

Jack: It is worth pointing out that we’re quite proud of the content we have on our website. We’ve got a lot of free resources on there in the form of blogs. These podcasts serve that as well. The internet is awash with great resources on [00:04:00] YouTube and Reddit. If you are going to do it yourself, it is not like starting completely with nothing, because there are a lot of people out there who can give you pointers. With that in mind, I think we’re giving over the intro about why you should or shouldn’t do it. In the view that you should be doing PR and you’re going to do it yourself, let’s talk about how we start with that. I think making realistic expectations is the start with that. Having a realistic strategy.

Having a robust and realistic strategy for media and influencers (00:04:28)

Tom: The way to have a realistic strategy [00:04:30] is to have a robust strategy in place. I think the first thing you need to do before you think about doing anything, I’d say even before things like trailer creation or assets or reaching out to people, media influencers, whatnot, who are all people you’re going to be wanting to speak to because they’re the ones who can spread the word, the first thing you really need to do is sit down and establish who is going to be interested in your game. Who is the audience?

That can be as vague as platforms, or if you really want to dive into things, you should be [00:05:00] looking– If you’re making an RPG, you don’t want to be wasting time contacting people who are websites that have no interest in RPGs. That’s probably quite a bad example because it’s a very, very wide genre. The fact is if you’re doing things yourself, time is important and you don’t want to waste time trying to show your game off to people who won’t be interested. So, the first thing you need to do is sit down and figure out who is interested in our game, what are our USPs, and who should we be looking to approach that is going to be most susceptible to what we’re offering. [00:05:30]

Jack: Exactly. It’s not even just about wasting your own time, it’s you don’t want to, and I think we’ve covered this before when it comes to pitching, you don’t want to make yourself look bad by approaching the wrong person. A classic example is how Rock Paper Shotgun, it says it on their website because they had to remind people, we only cover PC. They have a joke about it in their About, because they only cover PC it makes no sense for them to get PlayStation codes or Xbox codes. Double-check and have in mind your target audience, your target and media [00:06:00] audience.

This extends to influencers as well. It could be a bit trickier with influences because sometimes it’s not as obvious, especially with games being multiplatform. If you don’t regularly watch the content, you might not be sure what they’re exactly playing on. Again, it just takes a little bit of time. I know that’s the currency we keep talking about there isn’t enough of, but it can make the difference between getting a win and getting chucked straight in the bin.

Tom: It can be so helpful. A lot of the time, I think you’ll find, touching on influencers, I found from looking in the past, a lot of the time, probably on the surface might be [00:06:30] quite hard to figure out what platforms they play on. It’ll be incredibly easy to know what games they play because that’s the content they’re making. That’s as simple as going on a channel and reading a title or looking at a thumbnail, or watching a video. Something like the About section on YouTube is a great example or on Twitch. A lot of the time, people will probably note what platforms they play on, or if they’re only PC, they’ll probably have the PC specs in there.

It’s something that, again, as we said, time is so, so valuable. This might not seem like a productive use of time, but if you can know [00:07:00] 100% that everyone that you approach is at least in the position to have interest or potentially cover your game, then it’s much better to have taken the time to do that than to go in with much more relaxed approach. You could have a list of 500 people, but if only 100 of them are in any way able to facilitate covering your game, you’ve wasted a lot of time contacting them and also taking the time to find them in the first place, because you just didn’t do enough research. So [00:07:30] time is of the essence, but it’s worth taking the time.

Jack: Yes. Should you also get your list and your targets down early, it can serve as useful for future projects, either a different game you’re working on or a different time. This could be something you want to get out because you want to announce the game, and then it will then come down to, “I want to reach out to these people again because I want to launch the game.” Having that list is just good for future reference, so it does hold value.

Tom: [00:08:00] Excel or Google sheets.

Jack: It could be whatever you want.

Tom: One of our favorite PR friends is a spreadsheet with all the information you need, platforms, email addresses, names, outlets or channels, things like that. It’s having that in one concrete place is just so helpful. It can take a lot of time to organize and to get it all right, and to make it– You want to make it look nice, but even if you don’t, it takes a lot of time to do that, but it’s great to have that. I also think [00:08:30] on that subject, when you are looking for websites, and again websites and influencers here kind of come into the same circle, don’t avoid smaller creators or websites just because they don’t necessarily have the numbers that you think weren’t your time.

We’ve had amazing success with getting a lot of interest from smaller websites. You’ll probably be surprised by not only how many of those smaller creators and outlets [00:09:00] are willing to work with you and to probably work with you to a more flexible and time-consuming degree than a bigger place is. A lot of the time, you’ll be surprised with things like Metacritic, and how many websites are actually approved for Metacritic.

It’s something we have spoken about before, but it’s worth mentioning again. You could get four reviews from quite small websites, but if they all are on Metacritic, anytime anyone goes on something like Metacritic or, again, OpenCritic [00:09:30] to look for your game, it has a score there. That probably does more, I think than people realize. That can come from so many different places. It doesn’t just have to be IGN or PC Gamer, or these really huge places. Sometimes it can be only websites that have 50,000 to 100,000 monthly viewers.

Jack: It’s also part of that. I think and just maybe more of an influencer thing, but if your game has been covered numerous times by an influencer [00:10:00] and not so much by others, it then stands that that influencer becomes the go-to for that game. If you search for it, and if that content appears all the time, the audience is going to find them. We’ve had channels that grow because they adopted a game early. Then the game got bigger, and other people then came on board late. By that time, you had influencers who were already the experts on that. It can work both ways as a relationship that they can grow by trusting your game [00:10:30], and by putting your trust in them you can grow as well.

Tom: You can also have a very engaged audience, influencers are probably the place for this as well, Wherein someone could have 10,000 subscribers, but if they’re getting 2,000 or 3,000 views a video and they’ve got good engagement, and there are people– I can think of channels that I found where they don’t have the biggest view counts in the world. Maybe you’d look and think, “That’s not many views. That’s not really going to translate to anything beneficial for us.”

Then you go into the comments [00:11:00] and there, are a lot of people will take recommendations from these smaller creators to heart, and they’ll go out and buy the game because they’re engaged with the creator. Then as a result they’re engaged with your game. As opposed to someone who could have 500,000 subscribers, but if they get 10,000 views and barely any comments, then you’re getting the same result. It appears on the surface to be a lot bigger, but it’s not necessarily always the case.

Targeting the best social platforms and how to approach content creation for them

Jack: You touched on comments there, and I think that is a segue to the topic we should talk about next, which is social media [00:11:30]. I think it’s good to touch on right now that that can be an incredible time sink. It can be something that some agencies know it’s such a time sink that they will either charge, and that’s where all the money is going to, it’s running socials, or it could be something that they say, “You’re going to have to do this yourself, because you’re not going to see the value.” I think social media, it could be quite a lot of work and it can seem quite scary.

I think when you break it down it’s almost like a combo meal [chuckles] at McDonald’s or something. You choose what you want out of it [00:12:00]. You don’t have to be on every single social media platform, that’s one of the big misconceptions. You don’t need to be on every single one. You just pick the handful that you think are going to be relevant to you and your audience. For most game developers these days, that is Twitter, that is Discord, and that is YouTube. They are the main three that we see the most often.

Tom: It is always a case of catering to who you– Like what we said before about audience, it’s catering to where you think your audience is going to be. Twitter is an incredible way to communicate with people very quickly [00:12:30], and it’s essential to have a presence there. I think as you were going to go on and say about something like TikTok, and I’ll touch on Instagram as well, with TikTok, it’s a growing platform. I don’t think anyone truly understands even now where it’s going to go as a platform, but it’s continuing to be more and more popular, with more and more users.

It can be a really great tool for highlighting maybe visual styles or a small bit of gameplay to a really big audience of people. You have to figure out does your game make sense [00:13:00] to be on a platform like TikTok or Instagram? I think with TikTok if you’re making a very mature game, it probably doesn’t make sense to be there, because the audience probably isn’t there. Whereas again on Twitter, YouTube, Discord, there’s already that in place for those people to be there, and that’s where you should focus your time.

I think with something like Instagram, Instagram is interesting because I don’t think that there’s much merit necessarily for the majority of games to have a presence on Instagram, but if you have a game which has [00:13:30], I’d say most importantly, a very distinct visual style or something really special about it visually, then it’s a great tool to have. I know I can recall that Celeste, from when I remember, had a very active Instagram presence and they use Instagram as a way to supplement the game itself. They took parts of the game, they took pictures from the game and things like that, and they told the story through Instagram. 

It was a really great way [00:14:00] to engage with people. Again, it’s that question of, does it make sense for us if you’re just going to be putting a video on Instagram? That’s what YouTube’s for, and the audience is on YouTube. It might not seem to take much time up, but that is time, again, that you can save and put elsewhere. You’ve really got to sit down and think about where it’s best to sync time in regards to social media. That’s all with how your game looks. It’s all about how your game plays and it’s where the audience is going to come from.

Jack: You’re not going to always have the content [00:14:30] available to keep posting, so you have to keep in mind a schedule as well. You don’t want to overcommit and say, “I’m going to go on four or five platforms.” Then realize you can’t keep them all updated, so you, again, had to scale that back. Then even if you are only deciding to go on a couple of platforms, you don’t have to post every day. You need to work out a schedule that works, and you need to have the right content as well.

We’ve seen games where they will just continuously post artwork. For some, that works [00:15:00]. When you’re trying to grow a community, you encourage people to make some art. Okay, but it’s important to have a balance of content as well. Some people will just use their Twitter as just a changelog for betas or dev diaries, which is great, but if you’re only doing that, then people who are interested in maybe following aren’t going to be blown away by just information. They’re going to want to see some visuals there.

Tom: 100% it is difficult, but it is the best way you can engage with people. [00:15:30] I think that we’ll touch on Discord again later. Discord is an amazing way to build a community. I feel like a lot of people on a Discord feel like they’re very much involved in that game’s journey. That comes from developers or whoever within the team is actually handling the Discord, with them being engaged with that community and not just going in and, like you just said, then Jack about don’t use these platforms [00:16:00], and just be like, “We updated the game today. We did this, this, this, and this,” and then never touching it again to actually engage with people.

Because I feel people become quite disconnected if you just do that. I think ultimately social media is an amazing tool for growing an audience and for growing your game’s presence, but you just have to do it the right way. I think a lot of that isn’t simple. I don’t think there’s a book on how you can do that.

Jack: There’s no right answer here.

Tom: You have to adapt. As a self-professed Indie nerd [00:16:30], I follow lots of different Twitter accounts. They all do things very differently, and they’ve all engaged me in the past in very different ways, but it’s always been in a way that makes sense for their game. I think that probably something similar, but not necessarily social media, which is probably worth touching on, is something like newsletters. That can be quite a good and quick way to keep people engaged. That’s also a great way that you can– If you get people to subscribe to a newsletter, you can constantly keep them in the loop of what’s going on.

You don’t really have to do much [00:17:00] aside from just reaching out to these people every so often in a really easy way. There’s not really much else to that. With something like Devlogs, which we’ll touch on again in a bit, that’s a way you can do that. I think, yes, it’s about you have to find a style which works for you, and then really go into it. I know that’s not necessarily helpful to say, because whatever your style is is what your style is.

Jack: It has to fit the personality of you, the developer, the game. It would be a bit jarring if you have a bit of a preexisting presence and then [00:17:30] you decide you want to completely change that 180, like a rebrand. Some people might not be prepared for that, and it could, again, not be authentic. To wrap this up towards the end, definitely you have to figure out what makes sense yourself.

Do look at what others are doing. As we said, there’s no real right answer, but there’s no harm in taking lessons from others and seeing what works and seeing something you’re inspired by. Obviously, you can’t be just copying word for word, plagiarizing, but if something is clearly the way to do it, it [00:18:00] absolutely makes sense that you should be doing the same thing.

Tom: I think that applies to social media, but that applies to everything in this whole process. If you want to do it yourself, the best way to do it yourself is, and I don’t think there’s anything shameful about this, there’s nothing wrong with it, go and look at games that you were inspired by, or similar games in the genre, or maybe times you’ve seen, “Wow, they really did a great job of promoting this. Look at how well they used Twitter. [00:18:30] Look at what they did on Discord.” Things like that.

There’s nothing wrong with taking that and thinking, “We’ve got all these ideas now from all these other people. How come we make them work for us?” I think that’s probably the thing you don’t have when you choose to do it yourself is the expertise and the knowledge, but there are ways you can still find that and learn. I think it would be a bad idea not to do that. I don’t think there’s anything–

No one’s going to think anything different of you if you look at what other people [00:19:00] have done and do something similar, because if it works and it works for you, that’s great. If it doesn’t, you can always try something else. As we mentioned a couple of times, just because you’re doing it by yourself doesn’t mean you have to start from zero. There’s no point doing that to yourself. Be prepared to look at what other people do, what’s been successful, and make that work for you, and mold it to exactly what you want.

Jack: Making it unique could be another problem where deciding you want to outsource this because chances are [00:19:30] whoever’s doing is following the same strategy they use for existing clients, clients they’ve used before. This might not even be restricted to agencies, but just freelance social media managers. There’s a real chance that they’re just copying the same playbook that they already use.

Then that, again, doesn’t make sense, that you’re getting value from that other than saving time, because you want to stand out. I know we were going to talk about taking opportunities with things like Steam Fest and conventions [00:20:00]. This is outside of social media, but when it comes back to socials, your game is going to be looking the same if you use an agency to do your media, or you do a freelancer to run your socials. Tick off the bingo box and I’m going back to sports again.

Tom: Full house.

Jack: The amount of football clubs that have the same Twitter accounts effectively. It’s been seen with leaks and things where players as well, their agencies have had each– They’ve posted the wrong player’s status because their agency messed it up [00:20:30]. They all basically have the same content, the same style, they make the same jokes, because again, if one company who has maybe five Premier League teams on the books to manage their socials, and then you look at that and you go, “No one’s really standing out here. It’s all the same.”

Tom: We spend a lot of time with every campaign that we do, we cater it for who we’re working with, but as you said, there are the timelines and things like that, which we know work and are the same. It’s always a case of identifying what’s different about your product and [00:21:00] taking advantage of it. With what you said about things like Steam Fest before, I think that’s quite a good thing to go into a bit more detail. I feel like things like that are quite double-edged. They’re an amazing opportunity. If you can get on them and if you can actually get involved in them, not every game can do that.

Taking advantage of opportunities such as Steam Fest, conventions, and online resources [00:21:16]

It’s a really good chance for you to have– It doesn’t have to be the full version, it can be demos. There’s always a lot throughout the year of demos being presented. That’s a great way for you to open up wishlists [00:21:30] and get people playing your game. On the same side, and we’ve seen this when we’ve done some things in the past, is there are a lot of games and there are a lot of people who have the exact same idea as you and thinking, “There’s another Steam Festival coming up in the next few weeks. Let’s get our game there.

Everyone in the world is going to play it because it’s going to be right there on the front page. It’ll be amazing.” Everyone’s having that thought, so you still have to make yourself stand out, but it’s a really good chance to– If you have a quality product and it’s there, [00:22:00] and it’s in this official festival or promotion, things like that, you’ve got a decent chance at appearing–

You might not necessarily get a completely unique, only-focused-on-you article, but we’ve seen where quite large websites will cover the best games from the latest Steam Festival and then that’s getting your name out there. I think the biggest thing with if you choose to do things and you haven’t got a lot money-wise, [00:22:30] it’s about seeking opportunities and finding them where they come. I think that if you are on Steam, that’s probably one of the best ways to do that.

Jack: They can serve as some free market research if you are looking at the amount of competitors out there, either done at the same time, or you say, “I’m going to skip this one and do the next one.” You can gauge how many games you’re competing with. You can then search those online and see the types of people that are playing, the types of people are covering it. 

That can really then help to bring it back to the start, [00:23:00] shape where your strategy is going, shape who you’re reaching out to because you’ve seen it from the other games that are in the same area. It might be a case of you skip out a Steam Fest and you note down who was there and then you keep an eye on them going forward, and that might shape your strategy going forward.

Whether it’s something they’re doing well on socials that you want to adopt, or whether it’s something like a particular phrase they’re using in their marketing or their wording, [00:23:30] something you keep seeing being used as comments to the game that you want to make sure you match that as well. Taking opportunities, like we say, on a budget, Steam Fest– Steam is tricky because obviously, you do have to pay to have your game on Steam so there is some cost there, but we’re talking fairly minimal compared to a full-on paid promotional campaign thing there.

Tom: Definitely. Even more minimal to segue to conventions. It’s a lot less to get yourself onto a Steam Festival than it is to get yourself and [00:24:00] your team maybe, and demos and whatnot to a convention. Obviously, there’s things like E3 [00:24:00] [that is] seeming to disappear, but there’s still events like GDC, Gamescom. They’re big and they’re going to be expensive, and that’s going to require if you don’t live in those countries, finding a way to get there. At the same time, I’ve lost count of the number of local festivals.

I see them all the time in the UK, I see them all the time in Europe, but wherever you are, there is likely going to be regional conventions that are a great way to meet people. You could be [00:24:30] meeting other developers and trading ideas with them, or you’re going to be meeting your actual potential players who are interested in playing your game and there is obviously a cost to doing that, and if you don’t have a lot of money, might not be the most worthwhile thing to do.

From my side as being on the journalist side, there are people from, funnily enough, other PR agencies and from in-house teams that I’ve met at conventions and gone on to do a lot of work with, [00:25:00] I’ve gone on to play their games, and that was purely because I actually met them. That’s just by chance. It’s not something that should be overlooked. It’s just a thing, again, of cost, but it’s a great opportunity if you can get somewhere and you can actually create an attractive space for your game because you don’t know who you could potentially meet there.

Jack: I think that’s what we’re seeing the blend now of, like you referenced, D3. So much of that is just moving to online. I can understand if Steam Fest is a little bit like this, but how you can have a lot of publications hosting their own– [00:25:30] Like obviously the PC Gamer show E3 has been going for a while, but a lot of publications will have their own roundups and highlights of games that are out there. You see other Indie organizations, other Indie devs, and publishers hosting their own online events, bringing that event feel without having to fly out to one.

It is a way of advertising yourself, getting noticed, and again, speaking to the right people, both if you’re looking for a publisher or if you’re looking for marketing help [00:26:00] or you just want to make sure journalists are seeing it, definitely search out for those because there’s a lot of them out there. It’s definitely a trend we see continue going forward as traditional ones like E3 bite the dust because it was only the other day Nintendo did a massive indie one.

Tom: Yes, I think again, that’s an opportunity. I can’t personally say that I know how– Take like the Nintendo indie directs, I don’t know how you get your game onto one of them, but it’s things like that where I’ve seen games appear [00:26:30] on a direct, and not even have a full slot, even just having a tiny 5 or 10-second clip in a montage of 50 games and then go on to blow up from it. Again, that’s just taking opportunities. I’m aware of what time we’re at now. I think it makes sense to finish on ways to build a community because I think that this is–

The Importance of Community building and top tips for how to build a pre-launch community for your game [00:26:53]

In my opinion, I think the best way, if you’re doing things yourself, to actually build up the profile of your game and that is through community building [00:27:00]. I think one of the best ways you can do that, and I think it’s really important when you’re trying to engage people with a game that’s not out yet, you have to consider that you’ve played your game and you’ve spent years maybe working on it and you think it’s great or you know it’s great, and you think that people are going to love playing it, but you are trying to make people who haven’t played it or haven’t been in that process engaged in it.

I think that making people feel a part of what you are doing is an [00:27:30] amazing way to do that and it’s an amazing way to engage people. I think that development blogs, that could be the way you can do that on Steam or you could even do YouTube videos highlighting– It can even be as simple as something like, “This week, everyone, we’ve added some new animations or we’ve got some new characters, or new art.” Keeping people updated with your progress can keep them a lot more engaged in a game they haven’t played yet as opposed to once every six months going [00:28:00], “The game’s still coming out,” but you’re not showing people anything.

It sounds silly, but I think it means a lot to players nowadays and for people interested in games to actually feel like they are a part of that process. I think that showing them a glimpse of what’s going on every so often is a really time-effective, money-effective way to keep them engaged without having to do anything crazy because people will take anything they can get shown.

Jack: I think it’s also really important to make sure you appear active if you’ve received funding from– I don’t know. If you’re a kickstarter [00:28:30] project and it’s like, “All that money is meant for development, so we don’t really know what we’re going to do for marketing.” You need to make sure people are aware that their money is being used correctly, that the project is still alive. I know it’s tricky if you’ve been silent for a while due to delays or if development is halted, but just staying active, keeping engaged with the community, just interacting with them. Even if you have nothing really of substance to show, just some kind of vague roadmap. Just be there, be active. [00:29:00]

Tom: Most people will be patient. There’s always going to be some people who will complain and moan if you say, “We’re announcing we have nothing to announce.” Well, there’s nothing inherently wrong with that. Like Jack said, it’s about being transparent. I think that people really appreciate that. We were touching on Discord before, I feel like you can foster a really great community using Discord and you can use it almost like something like a newsletter. Just really quickly, [00:29:30] it’s important to be consistent across everything that you do.

If you want Discord to be the hub for where people go– I know there used to be quite a big thing of having forums on a website and things like that, but nowadays I think it’s very much Reddit, having a sub-Reddit or having a Discord. If you want people to go there, you’ve got to make sure people know that because if you are not consistently saying, “This is what we’ve been doing recently, be sure to head to the Discord to see what else is going on, to chat to everyone,” people aren’t going to know that.

To name drop a really [00:30:00] good example from my own research and from my own experience because I played the game, Descenders is a couple of years old now. The developers of that, RageSquid, they are a really great example of how to use Discord to build a community essentially, because they use their Discord too– They’d say, “Come, enter our Discord, and you can have beta access to the game.” They gave out thousands of beta access keys on Steam to people in their Discord. Only the people who joined that Discord in the first place [00:30:30] were able to do that.

They got exclusive updates on what was going on with the game, where the game was, roadmaps, and things like that. They even ran competitions within the server itself. They got to a point where they built before the game had even come out yet, they’ve got thousands of people essentially beta-testing the game for them, but they’re giving them access to a game that they’re interested in, which is a win-win for the developer and the player.

They managed to build a community of invested players before the game even came out. By the time it did come out, [00:31:00] they already had a really well-established number of people who straightaway were going into that to play it. They were invested in it. They were making content. They were talking about it and that all came from just having a good strategy in place.

Jack: That’s a great example, really good example because like we referenced to earlier with so many people in socials, Steam is the same, really the main thing is you have to make yourself worth the follow. Incentivize an audience like giving away Steam keys in the Discord [00:31:30]. It’s like one of those typical funnel things. You need to funnel them in, or you need to make them want to stick around to the point where they follow you.

They’re with you on that rest of the development journey, whether you’re very early on, all the way to launch, or if you’re ramping up to the launch and it’s that final push. You want to get those people in. Make yourself worth a follow on whatever platform you’re on. Don’t spend too much time on the content, where you’re not going to see the results. Just do enough. As you go, you can find out what does and doesn’t work [00:32:00] and adapt accordingly. I think it’s important not to set expectations too high and then realize you can’t do it because again, development is where you are.

Tom: I think you could be a very small team and run a Discord server really well. You don’t have to have someone 24 hours replying to people, but along with everything else with having that consistency across everywhere you have a presence is the most effective way of keeping people interested [00:32:30] in your game, because if you and I can think of very good examples of this, and I can’t remember the name of said games, but where every four months, I’ll say, “Hello, we’re still doing this.”

Because there’s nothing else in the meantime, anyone who was interested the first time you said that the first time you said, “Oh yes, don’t worry, we’re still here,” across every platform they’re on, it’s okay saying that. If you’re not actually delivering on that, then people aren’t going to be interested. It’s something that is quite simple to do. You only have to do a little bit of research [00:33:00], I think, to figure out how to manage things like Discord, especially when if you can keep a good relationship with the people on it, even showing people screenshots of a game every so often, or, “Here are 30 seconds of gameplay.”

That will be enough to keep people engaged. That doesn’t take the most time in the world. You don’t have to be spending thousands or investing hundreds of hours into these massive campaigns if you don’t want to. I think as you said, Jack, a few times, the most important thing is just to be realistic about what [00:33:30] you can achieve with the time you have or with the expenditure that you have. I think that one final thing on the topic of community building and working with people is if you get people who do cover your game, and I think we did touch on this earlier, but on the media side.

If you’ve people who are writing about your game, or you have someone on Twitch who’s playing your game, if that person on Twitch is streaming your game every so often to 10 people, or you’ve given them access to an early version of the game [00:34:00] and they keep playing it, even if they don’t have that many people engaged with them, keep that relationship with them. Every win that you can get, don’t just take it for granted because every person who plays your game, who streams it, who makes videos on it, who talks about it, they might only have their own little blog, or they might just tweet about it all the time. It might just even be a Twitter thread.

If you can keep every single one of those people engaged and onboard and can offer them exclusive early access to something or you [00:34:30] could keep them in the know about things that you can make them aware of, well that person will have your back and if they keep enjoying your game, they will keep playing it. There’s more risk in choosing just to not engage with them because if you don’t make them feel special, they will stop and it’s a shame to lose people who are passionate about your game. It’s hard enough to find people in the first place who will– You’ve got your favorite stat Jack about how many games come out on Steam every year [00:35:00].

Jack: It just goes up. It’s in the thousands, which is the problem.

Tom: When you get the people who play yours, who choose to play yours, that’s a choice on their account. They’re not doing it because they owe you anything. They’re doing it because they choose to and because they value the product you’re making. Just keep track of them and make sure they’re always where they should be. Don’t be afraid to, use them, because essentially, what they’re doing is they’re promoting your game to an audience, which can continue to grow. That’s on the topic of not having money or not having time. [00:35:30] They are doing that all by themselves. You can just help them. That is very simple to do.

Jack: It’s like I said earlier, it goes both ways. Your game, you’re wanting it to grow and that influencer wants to grow as well, you both want to see more people engaging with you. You both want to grow your audience. It makes absolute sense to work together on that because if both sides do well, or one side does particularly well, you will benefit from that as well. Influencers really need to be seen as this symbiotic relationship. With both sides supporting each other [00:36:00], then you’re going to see better results.

Make sure they have access to high-quality thumbnails so they can make better videos. That makes your game look better because instantly when people find it on YouTube, it looks professional. It looks nice. There’s a good quality thumbnail and title there, not just a random screenshot. It just makes your brand look better. Again, supporting influencers, they can support you similar with the media, everyone wins. I think that’s a nice place to end on because games should be fun, is what the key [00:36:30] thing is here. This is all very, very business-y.

Tom: What a positive way to finish things off. You want to have fun making it. We have fun. A lot of the stuff that we do we enjoy doing because we wouldn’t be doing it otherwise. I think number one, if you’re going to take anything away from this, it’s just set your expectations, set them well, be aware of what you’re working with. Take the time to study the market, see what other games are out there, see what [00:37:00] you’re up against, look at effective ways of doing things. Don’t be afraid to reach out to people.

Like we said, if you ever see something you like, reach out to them. If you choose to do things by yourself, it could be hard, but it’s all about allocating the time where the time should be spent and making sure that you don’t waste time on things that don’t make sense. I’d like to hope that we’ve given some quite good insight into where we’d focus, because I think that’s what we set out to do is the things we’ve discussed are what we believe [00:37:30] makes the most sense if you choose to do things by yourself. I think that they’ll set you in good stead for building a profile and building a presence wherever you wish to build one.

Jack: That is everything we can think of. We’ll catch everyone on the next episode. I look forward to seeing you there.

Tom: See you later.

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