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Influencers and streamers can be a great way of spreading the news about your game, and getting people to play it.
Gaming Influencers are an essential part of the video game PR mix for developers of any size. Just one gameplay video, review or a news piece can cause your game to explode in popularity – for good and bad. Influencers can be essential to building up a community for your game ahead of launch.
However, we know it can be tricky navigating the waters of YouTube and Twitch. With hundreds of thousands of gaming influencers focusing on different games and genres – where do you even start?
Then there’s the whole money thing. Which gaming influencers want to be paid and which ones will cover your game for free?
More importantly, you’re probably wondering if this is this something you can do yourself instead of hiring a specialist game marketing or video game PR agency.
Don’t worry. We’ve got your back. We work with influencers all the time, and we want to share a ton of advice with you so you can get coverage for free. Zip. Nada. Put the effort in, and good things can happen.
So without further ado, here are 30 tips for working with gaming influencers.
(Oh, and as an aside, the term ‘influencers’, ‘content creators’ and ‘streamers’ will be used interchangeably in this blog.)
1. Use tools for finding and engaging with gaming influencers
Most game developers are likely to search manually on YouTube and Twitch for influencers that have covered games that are similar to theirs.
This approach is thorough and often ends up giving you a decent pool of interested people to offer your game out to for coverage.
But do you have time to do this? Likely not.
2. Check that the gaming influencers are who they say they are
Most of us are trusting people. We all get excited when an influencer with a million subs emails us asking for a copy of our game.
Who wouldn’t be excited if that happens?
But hold on a minute. Take a deep breath and start checking your facts.
The sad truth is that there’s a lot of scammers out there looking for a free code from over-eager developers desperate for some coverage.
So what can you do about it?
Quite a lot as it turns out.
Whenever you’re approached via email by a game influencer or streamer, it’s essential to know who you’re sending game keys to. Make sure that you double-check that the email address on their YouTube channel matches that of the address they have used to contact you.
It’s an age-old trick for scammers to pose as a legitimate channel to get free games. But, of course, these scams won’t have the real channel’s email address – use this to identify them.
When you’re done reading these tips, check out this Gamasutra blog about an infamous example.
Here’s another great tip to separate scammers from the genuine influencers. If a gaming influencer emails you and asks for a key, say thanks and ask politely if they wouldn’t mind sending you a DM containing the request from their official Twitter account.
If the influencer is who they say they are, then they will have access to their own Twitter account.
Of course, you can send them via Keymailer, but either approach can be useful.
3. Be sure to check the influencer’s previous work
Take the time to watch a few of the influencer’s videos, so you know what kind of content they make and whether it will be suitable for you.
Want to get granular with it?
For one client, we created a spreadsheet documenting some factors concerning gaming influencers. The information included the influencers social media followers, subscribers-to-views ratio and a comparison of Twitch to YouTube audience numbers.
Doing this allowed us to see whether they were suitable for the game we were pitching – and how successful the video was likely to be if they accepted the game.
If you’re developing a narrative-driven game and you’re pitching to an influencer who only plays games to criticise them you’re going about this completely the wrong way.
If an influencer only plays one game, say Fortnite or Overwatch, then it’ll be a waste of time to try and get them to play something else.
Tip #5 will go into more depth about identifying influencers who play games that are similar to yours.
4. Check The platforms that your target gaming influencers play on
Relevance is everything to game journalists and influencers.
How do we know?
We recently interviewed a load of game reviewers and asked them questions about what they like and what they don’t like.
And do you want to know what we found out?
Pretty simple stuff. The most important thing to people who write and stream about games is to feel like you have taken the time to identify and approach them.
Game reviewers hate being spammed. They hate being given games that they have no interest in for the wrong platform that they don’t cover.
So, in light of this, if you are offering a VR game to an influencer, check that they actually can play it and that they play VR games.
It looks unprofessional if you hand out keys that they can’t use, and it’s a total waste of a key too.
Some gaming influencers list their set-up specifications on their channel description too, which is useful for determining whether to offer them a game or not. You can find this in the YouTube ‘About’ section on their channel.
You can get hold of our survey into game reviewers right here:
5. Similar games are your friends!
Finding gaming influencers who play games that are very similar to yours is a great and logical place to start.
This means they have an existing interest, making it easier to approach said influencers with something similar to a game that they’ve already played.
Do this one simple thing, and you’ll be able to curate a list of influencers that are suitable for your game.
You have to use common sense; even if a channel alternates between a few similar games, the chances are your game isn’t going to get a look in if you don’t have the same star power as those other titles.
It’s also important to remember that channels that focus solely on one game are very unlikely to change their schedule just for your game – no matter how big or small.
So, if your game is a Battle Royale game, it’s unlikely that a big streamer who only covers Fortnite is going to cover it.
Likewise, if your game is a zombie survival game, but the channel that you’re looking at only plays Call of Duty: Black Ops Zombies, it isn’t worth giving them a code.
On the other hand…
If yours is a zombie survival game, and the influencer plays everything from Killing Floor 2 to Left 4 Dead, then you should get in touch.
6. Think about the use of commentary
Gaming Influencers who provide commentary can be great for your game.
Whether that’s explaining important gameplay mechanics, their views on characters or story, or just enthusiastically screaming every time they score a kill – commentary videos heighten the entertainment value when they’re playing your game.
That said, in some instances, commentary can be detrimental.
Having streamers talking over an emotional story-driven game when the viewer wants to become invested in what’s being said, can detach the viewer from what’s going on in the game.
Think about your audience when testers are playing your game.
Is everyone actively communicating over how to solve certain puzzles or are they quietly watching the game unfold before their eyes?
This can be a great barometer as to what experience your viewers are going to have when they check out videos of your game at launch.
It’s also worth noting how the commentary will make your game come across – if your game is one that deals with a serious subject matter, a comedy channel making jokes over the top of it won’t be a good look!
7. It’s OK to be a small fish in a big pond
It’s easy to fixate on the PewDiePies and Ninjas of this world at the expense of smaller channels and creators.
We think this is a pretty silly thing to do.
If you’re a smaller developer, working with smaller influencers can help build a mutual relationship and see you both grow together.
Everyone has to start somewhere!
If someone goes onto YouTube and sees multiple videos of your game; regardless of the view count, it makes your game look popular and worth finding more about it everyone appears to be playing it.
The more videos of your game, the better right?
When you’re looking for influencers, consider the fact that a lot of the smaller ones are trying to make a name for themselves and will potentially really go the extra mile for your game.
8. Don’t be a side-show
Adding to the previous point, by working with smaller gaming influencers, your game is likely to receive more focus in any video that’s being made.
This is in contrast to working with a big influencer where your game could end up being a sideshow to the creator’s brand or personality as opposed to the focus of the video.
It’s common that more prominent influencers are happy to receive keys for games they like the look of, only to include a small gameplay clip in a highlight reel of new games being released.
But really, what does that get across to your audience about what your game is about?
Sometimes, a smaller audience will be more engaged and working with smaller influencers will yield better results.
9. Check the ratios
A channel may very well have a lot of subscribers, but it could also have low viewing numbers.
Channels may have accrued high subscribers over time, but what matters is the here and now.
Don’t be fooled by the number of subscribers – not every single one of them will watch that channel’s videos.
Many will be passive or inactive subscribers, some of whom will have forgotten they are even subscribed.
And you need to heed this warning…
Some subscribers will be bots – which is against YouTube’s T&Cs. Periodic purges of subscribers are frequent, so double-check subscriber count against video views.
If a channel has thousands of subs but only a few hundred views, you can tell that there’s something fishy going on.
10. Make a good impression
Regardless of how you contact gaming influencers, you need to make a good impression to get them interested in playing your game.
Influencers are not there to do you a favour, so whether it is a well-crafted email pitch or an attractive gameplay highlight package, make the influencer want to play your game.
But you can’t send them an essay about the game – that would be a waste of their time reading it, and a waste of your time writing it!
Just keep it snappy.
Once again, take a look at our survey to understand the importance of a well-crafted and concise pitch to any game reviewer.
Some influencers may be getting heaps of game requests, so you have to stand out from the crowd – which brings us onto the next tip…
11. Be memorable
Influencers receive a lot of emails and messages every day.
This means that as well as making a good impression and piquing their interest, your game must be notable enough for them to bother taking a look at it.
Gaming Influencers work differently to traditional game media and bloggers as they’re not tied down to editorial obligations like a traditional game journalist is.
There is no set way of doing things, but some will schedule content months in advance.
So unless your game will stay in their memory, it may get lost in the crowd.
12. Be prepared to spend money
You will find that a lot of gaming influencers will only create content in return for cash.
We’re all about earning free coverage here at Big Games Machine Towers but there ‘may’ be times when you have to allocate a budget if you are serious about influencers as a promotional strategy.
Combining organic coverage with paid-for coverage will maximise visibility at a reasonable cost.
A specialist game influencer service like Matchmade will match influencers with your brand and game.
This allows for a targeted campaign to make better use of any marketing budget you may have set aside.
We’ve also highlighted the service Indie Boost Bid which provides an interesting way for you to set a budget and then allow relevant influencers to bid on creating videos for you.
Every influencer is different, with their costs depending on a multitude of factors like channel size, workload and how much they make in advertising.
Try and do some research if you can about what people are charging, or what people have paid in your position. It varies from influencer to influencer, and many influencers won’t even ask for payment.
If you don’t have the budget, that’s fine, just move on to another.
13. Know about the multiple paid options
It may be more cost effective to ‘sponsor’ a video, and get an ad-read at the start, middle and end of the video rather than paying for an entire video about your game.
Sponsored ad-reads are particularly popular with mobile games, whose content may not be designed for a whole gameplay video but instead is much more suited to a short advertisement.
A typical example would be the video opening with:
“This video is sponsored/brought to you by (your game here)” or “Thanks to (your game) for sponsoring this video.”
Next, they offer a little description of the game and when it is out.
Then, the standard content not affiliated with your game goes on.
These ad-reads could go anywhere in the video, and you can negotiate as to how many you want in the video.
Another option would be to have a paid gameplay, which can also confusingly be referred to as sponsored. This is when the influencer is paid to play and make a video of your game.
This option means the entire video is about your game, but unlike the ad-read, you cannot control the messaging.
It is a common misconception that paying for gameplay means paying for a positive review.
The gaming influencer can still criticise your game if the game warrants criticism.
14. Be transparent
You have to be transparent when contacting gaming influencers, that you are the developer and the keys are to be used for gameplay or reviews only.
The legalities can be murky, so it’s best for both parties to be open and safe.
Risks are usually minimal as an influencer is expected to state it’s an advertisement or make it clear they received a free key from the developers. YouTube now shows a ‘Paid Promotion’ if applicable in the video’s opening.
But there have been cases where the developer has paid for influencers to pretend they are playing the game, while pre-recorded footage plays – acting as a mask, pretending to be gameplay.
Perhaps the most significant influencer of all, PewdiePie, called out Lords Mobile in front of his millions and millions of subscribers, for faking influencer gameplays.
The developer behind Lords Mobile had paid different influencers to ‘play’ the game – but crucially it had given them all the same footage, meaning there was nowhere to hide once they had been rumbled.
So don’t play any tricks – it won’t work out for anyone involved!
15. Don’t just restrict yourself to one platform
Twitch and YouTube are generally the two primary sources for content-creators to upload/stream their content to.
Be sure to try and target a presence on both platforms.
There are positives and negatives for each platform.
Twitch is excellent for real-time feedback, but often Twitch streams are not archived, making long-term exposure to your game difficult.
Twitch was built with gaming in mind, meaning that it is much more friendly than YouTube is currently for gaming influencers.
Content tagging is better, meaning finding content for specific games is much easier.
Additionally, Twitch influencers are arguably more influential than their YouTube counterparts because their Twitch subscribers pay to subscribe to them.
Therefore it’s inferred that the gaming influencer has a significant impact on their followers and community.
This means that if they play your game and are positive about it, their community is more than likely to follow suit.
This is especially the case if it gives them the opportunity to interact with said influencer through multiplayer.
YouTube is perfect for on-demand viewing, and content can spread much quicker through people sharing it on social media as well as content staying in people’s recommended feed, providing some more permanent visibility.
YouTube has improved its streaming capabilities in response to the growth of Twitch and offers similar real-time feedback and interaction with the community in live-stream chats.
It has also introduced video hashtags to help tag content better (remember this bit when we find out more about hashtags later on).
The drawbacks of YouTube are mainly centred around the fact that content is continuously at the mercy of YouTube’s algorithms.
Videos may not show up in the feed, they could be subjected to incorrect copyright takedowns, and some gaming influencers may be reluctant to play it if it’s not advertiser-friendly, as this has a negative impact on their income.
Both Twitch and YouTube can suffer from a deluge in content from a small selection of games.
In general, though, YouTube offers a better chance of cutting through the Fortnite and CS: Go streams of which there are so many on Twitch.
Gaming Influencers do take notice if a video of your game is doing well in terms of views, they will be encouraged to make one of their own to try and get in on the bandwagon.
Some influencers will put the same content on both Twitch and YouTube.
16. Have an objective in mind
Ultimately, the reason for using influencers is to promote your game and increase sales – but this is not a guarantee.
Your objective may be to boost brand visibility or to build up a fanbase.
Or, that objective may be to showcase a particular aspect of your game – perhaps its multiplayer function, and so you want to focus on influencers who like to play multiplayer games.
With a clear objective in mind, you can go about starting an influencer campaign that is more likely to succeed.
You’ll be able to put the research you should have carried out into effect, targeting the specific types of gaming influencers that you recognise are best for your game, and vice-versa.
If your game is available in multiple languages, then be sure to look for influencers outside of your native language.
Even if your game isn’t in another language, it may be easy to grasp for foreign players, so don’t discriminate between nations!
You may even discover an entirely new fanbase.
When it was released into early access, Executive Assault 2 was entirely in English but had influencers from Japan to Germany, Russia to Spain, who were all playing it despite the language barriers.
18. Make sure that your game is in good shape
While it may seem like an obvious point, make sure your game is up to scratch before you send it out to gaming influencers to play.
If your latest build is suffering from performance issues, the videos will reflect this.
The earlier you game appears in a video, the more likely it is to list near the top in a search.
Gaming influencers have a powerful effect on how audiences perceive games, so sending them a buggy and sub-optimal game is likely to end in tears.
You don’t want to get off to a bad start by being known as “that broken game” when people find it on YouTube!
19. Timing is key
Be careful when considering the best time to reach out to gaming influencers and give them your game to play.
When audiences come to watch the content and want to play your game, it’s a missed opportunity if the game is not yet available to buy (or preorder).
If you get in contact with influencers before release day, feel free to offer it to them under what’s known as an ’embargo’.
An embargo is an agreed day on which you permit the influencer (or journalist) to release a video/review of your game.
It’s okay to explicitly tell the person you’re dealing with that your game is under embargo until the day that you want them to release the video.
If that gaming influencer is unwilling to respect the embargo, then move on.
So, choose your day and date release and be sure to tell interested influencers that your game is under embargo until that date.
This way, you ensure that any content they make before launch day doesn’t go up until the game is available for the public to play.
It also means that people who see the video can actually go and get it there and then.
20. Don’t give too much away
While you want the gaming influencer to show off the game as much as possible, you need to consider whether your game is suitable for them to play and for audiences to watch, and still want to play it.
Visual novels and heavily narrative-driven games run the risk of being shown in full by an influencer’s video, and there is no reason for the viewer to buy the game because they have ‘seen it all’.
If this applies to your game, be sure to make a point to the influencer when sending them a key, not to give everything away!
A great example of this was with a very well known game called That Dragon, Cancer, an incredibly moving game that follows the grief of parents after the death of their child.
The game’s developer famously called out gaming influencers who played too much of the game on stream.
This was because it felt it had effectively been robbed of sales because millions of potential customers had seen all the game had to offer, and so felt no need to buy it.
You can read more about it in this article.
During the preview phase, you can easily control this risk by sending builds with limited content.
Demo’s may seem old-school, but they are just as useful as ever.
21. Provide as much promotional content as you can
Giving images and artwork to the gaming influencer you’re working with helps them put together a better video.
Having a good quality image and logo for the thumbnail is vital in attracting viewers.
Create a Google Drive folder and fill it with as much artwork, screenshots and icons as you can.
It gives influencers choice as to what to add to their thumbnail and giving them variety means that the thumbnails of all the different videos of your game will be, well, different!
Providing a lot of content means that each video looks more professional, making it more likely that people will watch.
If every thumbnail seems the same across different influencers, chances are viewers will watch only one video of that game and then think that the other videos will be the same as what they have just seen – even if the titles are unique!
If you have one, provide a detailed synopsis of the game or at least some bullet-points and even some exclusive information not found on the store page for the game. Make them feel special!
This can help the gaming influencer to structure their video.
Information might be used either in the video description or utilised by the influencer as talking points/sub-headings in their video.
22. Keep track of keys that you’ve given out to gaming influencers
It’s a good idea to make a spreadsheet and keep track of which keys you have given out and to whom.
Keeping track of your key/code allocation prevents you from sending duplicate keys out. This is extra-important when your game is available across multiple platforms.
Keeping a spreadsheet can also serve as a handy way of listing which of the influencers that you’ve given a key to made a video. Using this you can chase up those who haven’t made a video.
A spreadsheet record can also help you remember friendly gaming influencers to keep in mind future projects.
23. Get to grips with Steam curation
If you have a game on Steam, you may be contacted by Steam Curators.
Steam Curators are individuals, or groups, that make recommendations to Steam users on which games to play and which to avoid.
Some of the most popular Steam curators are IGN and PC Gamer.
But the fact of the matter is that anyone can be a Steam Curator and this can lead to some very suspect Curators.
One example is the Fortnite Curator who leaves negative reviews on every game because it’s not Fortnite.
If a Curator has reviewed a game, the Steam page will show this:
So users have to make an extra click if they want to view the Curators and their opinions.
It is quite out of the way, and the average user will go straight to the reviews rather than clicking on the Steam Curation page.
This all limits how effective a Steam Curator is.
But, due to ‘Steam Curator’ sounding quite important, it is quite easy for someone who has no idea of what a Steam Curator is to fall into a trap.
From experience, supposed Steam Curators will often ask for multiple keys – which is suspicious. This isn’t helped by the fact that checking if they are exactly who they say they are can be tricky when compared to verifying users on YouTube and Twitch.
There is also no guarantee they will leave a review, and the Curator’s reviews are much shorter than traditional Steam reviews.
Some Curators leave ‘reviews’ that are copied and pasted from previous games and have no relation at all to the game being reviewed.
Unless you can see real value in giving a Curator a key, it is recommended to avoid doing so and to focus your efforts elsewhere.
24. Filming and editing content takes time
At the risk of stating the obvious, don’t expect a video to go up within an hour of talking to or giving the game to an influencer.
It can take a lot of time to edit videos, especially if the influencer works alone as opposed to having dedicated editors.
If you feel it has been a longer wait than you expected since the gaming influencer told you they were going to make content with your game, then politely ask them what the status is. Just don’t bug the influencer incessantly!
25. Audience traction can be slow
YouTube’s algorithms are a mysterious beast, and your game may end up trending, or it may end up being excluded from showing up in people’s feeds.
This can change at random.
Often comment sections are filled with “Why did YouTube recommend me this?” or “I saw this was trending.” This is while some other videos will stay in the YouTube recommendations feed for a long time. It can be a lottery, as stated before, absolutely nobody fully understands YouTube’s algorithm.
Japanese singer Mariya Takeuchi’s 1984 song ‘Plastic Love’ went viral after many saw the now iconic black and white image of Mariya smiling back at them in their recommended feed for months on end until they decided to click on it finally.
The video had been uploaded in 2010 but was picked up by the algorithm and put front and centre on millions of users feeds in 2018.
It must also be remembered that viewers are watching something on demand, so viewing figures may not pick up until some time later.
But, as mentioned in the comparisons of YouTube and Twitch, if a game is proving successful with viewers then more and more gaming influencers will look to make content from it.
Often, if viewers see lots of videos appear in a short space of time from different influencers about the same game, they will be interested. So traction will pick up this way too.
26. Trends change
It’s also worth bearing in mind that viewing trends change over time and so you should choose a gaming influencer that matches your style of game.
An old style of content such as ‘jump scares’ and ‘reaction videos’ now have negative connotations surrounding them, because they are seen as low-effort and low-quality content.
In-depth video essays, themed challenges and speedruns are all pretty timeless content types outside of the general ‘let’s-play’ umbrella.
Be mindful of this when looking for gaming influencers to work with. Always consider whether you think their style of content will suit your game just as much as you consider their personality.
27. Show social media synergy with gaming influencers
To use a buzzword, it is essential to be ‘synergistic’ with the influencer.
By that, we mean that you need to show them some love and react to anything they do or say about your game.
So, if they put out a social media post, make sure you like, retweet, share etc. – even better if they tag you in it.
The same applies the other way. Give the gaming influencer extra accreditation by giving them and their content a mention on your channels. They will likely re-share what you mentioned them in too. It’s a win for all sides involved.
Maybe your game will have a particular hashtag that you want to use, and therefore ask influencers to use it on their social channels.
They can also use it on their YouTube content for your game (remember, we talked about it in Tip 15!)
28. Keep on interacting
Do you have an official channel for your game or studio on YouTube?
Use it to interact with audiences in the comment section of the influencers video.
Twitch live streams offer real-time interaction between the gaming influencer and their viewers so that the influencer can have more prolonged and more organic reactions and interactions with the audience regarding your game.
If you’re watching, you could join in the comments on the streamers live-stream.
This gives you a great chance to get real-time user feedback and answer questions on the fly.
Responding to both positive and negative comments helps bridge the gap between the influencer, their audience and you.
29. Learn from the experience
So, the game is finished, the gaming influencer has posted their video and people are watching it.
Sure, you can sit back and relax. Mission complete, right?
Well… sort of.
The process may be finished, but take some time to reflect on it all.
It is unlikely that every gaming influencer you contacted made a video. If they didn’t give you a reason, think about why they didn’t.
Maybe they were simply too busy, or it wasn’t the right game. But perhaps it was the pitch you made?
If you have another project in the pipeline, you may want to take a different approach next time.
For the videos that were made – what were they like?
If the video was well produced and boosted interest in your game, you should consider working with them again in the future, so keep a note of their details.
Also, be sure to see how the different videos all compare. Did they all focus on a specific aspect of the game? What stood out to these influencers?
You can take it as play-testing feedback if you are updating the game – or use it as a focal point on your next project if you think it will be able to interest even more people.
30. Understand all the work involved
Having got to this tip, you’ve probably made your mind up that getting influencers to play your game is something that you want to make happen. Or maybe you have just reached out to some influencers, but none of them got back to you.
But you can also see just how much work goes into this process.
If you are serious about getting gaming influencers to play your game, you have to be serious about the effort.
Take time to plan your pitch carefully and research those influencers whom you want to give keys and codes.
Getting assets together and then communicating with gaming influencers can be very time consuming, although it can be rewarding.
So there you have it. We hope that you’ve found our 30 tips for working with gaming influencers to be useful.
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