“Just put it on Steam!” is Not a Strategy
Okay, to be fair, it is a strategy. It’s just a terrible one.
Let me back up for a moment…
The reason for this post is simple: I’ve seen too many talks and articles stating that the path to success in game development is to ‘make a great game’. While there is some truth in that, I think it’s harmful to tell students and prospective devs that if they just make a great game, everything will work out in the end. It devalues the time and effort needed to launch a successful title, and downplays the amount of investment companies need to make in planning, building, and supporting their marketing, community, and social strategies.
Don’t get me wrong: Building a great game is absolutely the foundation for your success. Without a really solid game, there’s not much you can do to get and keep people interested long term. i.e. No amount of marketing a turd is going to convince people it’s anything but (unless you have a marketing budget that few can ever dream to possess, and even then it’s a short term gain). That said, while building a great game is a solid foundation to build from, it’s unlikely that without a solid social, marketing, and community strategy that you’re going to stand out from the crowd.
What crowd you might ask?
Well, here’s today’s new releases on Steam:
Note: today wasn’t over at the point in which I took this screenshot, so it’s entirely possible there were even more at the end of the day. Now, 15 new games may not seem like a lot, but keep in mind this is just for today.
At 15 new games/day, that’s:
- 450 new games a month
- 5,400 new games per year
What makes your game stand out?
‘Oh well then, I guess I’ll just put it on the App Store’ you might say.
Here’s the tally of new App Store submissions for 2015, by month:
What makes your game stand out?
I get the impression that a lot of the recent ‘indie apocalypse’ fear-mongering is coming from a place of increased competition and quality. While it was much easier to stand out early on as long as you made a great game, the number of new games and the level of quality has skyrocketed in recent years. If you’re not an established company with an existing reputation for making solid titles, why should anyone take a chance on you? If your level of quality is just ‘okay’ in any one of a number of areas, then what’s attracting people to your title? Why should they stick around?
Remember: You are not your customer. While your game might be appealing to you, what are the things about it that will make it stand out to the average person looking for something new to play? Keeping in mind that they now have more choice than ever before.
While it is possible your game might be the one in a million that receives a ton of viral social love and subsequent downloads for no explicable reason, banking on that is a pipe dream at best. It’s not enough to just make a great game. You also need to be considering how you’ll get people interested, how you’ll encourage positive interactions, and how much time, money and effort you’ll be dedicating to those efforts. This needs to happen BEFORE you launch. Ideally at least 3-6 months beforehand.
Now, this isn’t meant to be all doom and gloom. There are plenty of things that you can do to help boost your chances of success, but they need to be considered as part of your larger strategy and budgeted accordingly. If you’re half-assing any part of your development it tends to show. The same goes for your marketing & community efforts. Posting a link on the day of release and hoping it goes viral? Not cutting it.
Creating smart social share opportunities in game that people genuinely want to use? Building a community of interested, emotionally invested individuals months prior to launch, then asking them to share that link on your behalf? Responding to and genuinely thanking people who help your game gain visibility? Now we’re getting somewhere!
There’s no one way to succeed in the market. Even if you’re creating great content, you may be left behind as market needs shift. As with any creative endeavor, the financial success of a project is tied to its reception by the audience. What are you doing to engage and amplify the positive voices of your audience?
Stay tuned for my next article: Considerations Before Launch
Thoughts, comments, random puns? Drop me a line in the comments or on Twitter @boopsocial!
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