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Video Game Marketing

Indie Game Marketing from the author of the Game Marketing book, The Indie Developer's Guide to Selling Games. Video Game Marketing made simple... or at least as simple as I can make it.

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Location: Philomath, Oregon, United States

As you can see on the left: I am a professional juggler. The rest you can learn from this Blog.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Off to Origins

As of Tuesday I fly off to Origins- while the rest of you slave away at Casuality.

However, no matter what convention you go to I have a lot of tips I have learned over the space of some years:

First- It's never too early to book a hotel. Really. As soon as you are sure you're going book it!

Second- Conventions are about meeting people. I know there are keynote speeches and boards of people and many experts who want to tell you exactly how much they know while giving away none of their secrets that make them valuable to others.... but that's really not that important in comparison to the MANY important people you can meet. Don't get too worked up in your 'schedule'... when in doubt I say just sit down with someone who looks important and join their conversation.

Third- The BEST way to meet 'professional' people is by common goal or interest. That usually means finding your favorite game (or loading your own) and drawing attention. Really, don't be afraid to be the center of attention no matter how introverted you are.

Fourth- the best way to meet members of the press is to find out where the heck they go. Most conventions have a press area. This means if you hang out near it (or in it, if you can sneak in) you'll meet way more press personelle.

Fifth- Most people won't turn down an offer to buy them drinks. If you need to use this as an excuse to get yourself invited to come along with them for an event later in the evening so be it. You pay a lot of money to go to this place, get a hotel, ect. Don't skimp on an extra 50 bucks in drinks for a potential contact with a lot more. Philanthropy baby!

Sixth- If you really want to play hardball- bring your wife/girlfriend and have HER scout out people for you. A girl interested in games ALWAYS draws attention... and then she can casually guide them to you- ripe for the plucking.

Seventh- Drinking is cool but know your limit. Better to spend your money getting a new contact drunk than getting yourself drunk!

Eight- Soda, Coffee, and Alchehol are ALL bad for your voice. Drinking them will cause you to lose your voice much faster (not to mention it dehydrates you more). Drink water. If you hate water, drink sports drinks.

Ninth- If you DO lose your voice there are a number of solutions. Sign language is one, but its a little hard to learn and harder to find someone who knows it fluently. Instead I suggest tea with honey in a pinch. Do NOT ever use a spray like Vicks 44- while it would restore your voice it would also probably cause dangerous amounts of damage... sometimes perminent. Also a product named Singer's Grace, if you can find it, will restore your voice instantly without any ill effect. However... it tastes like roasted butt. (Opera singers use this stuf though, it really works)

Tenth- Conventions are all about attitude. if you feel out of place you'll act out of place. The whole world will approach you if you look comfortable, approachable, and are having fun. So have FUN. Keep in mind why you are there but kick back and relax and you will find the people you meet will hang around you longer and remember you later.

See you at Origins!

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Share of Voice

An item I didn't cover in my book... because it is a rediculous concept in games, is Share of Voice.

However, recently a website owner friend of mine was asked by a major game company about advertising. They said they would advertise with them if they could provide 15% SOV.

The emphasizes two points to me: One- Most marketing people are book-stupid. Two- Maybe an indie should know what SOV is in case it ever comes up.

So: Item One- This person in question misused the term SOV. I had the site owner clarify and sure enough they wanted 15% of the impressions on the site (minimum). That isn't 15% SOV- that is 15% saturation. SOV is Share of Voice, 15% SOV means that your website reaches 15% of the ENTIRE market. Yes, the way this company stated it they wanted this website to reach 15% of the world's gamers. Hah, not many sites could boast a 15% SOV. Luckily we asked the right question and had them clarify they wanted 15% saturation, which is easily done and we won't let on that this person is totally misusing marketing terms.

Item two: What is SOV and why is it important?
In theory if you can reach a huge % of a market through a single source it becomes incredibly important to advertise or work with that source. In the windows PC game world this is a useless concept because so many sites have a wide range of SOVs. In the Mac market though, there is actually a site which probably qualifies for this huge % SOV- InsideMacGames (www.insidemacgames.com). This makes working with that site incredibly important in terms of building awareness of a mac game. (Apple.com is also one, but they're hard to work with)

There are some pitfalls of SOV though. The first is unlike most %s, the SOV of things need not add up to 100%. Two sites can have SOV of 50% and if you have 100% saturation (meaning you reach everyone on those two sites) you could STILL only reach 50% of the market. This occurrs when the two sites are visited by the same 50% of people. SOV is only useful when you have a huge % at a single source OR you have multiple sources with little overlap.

In PC games this is unlikely at best- however, it is an important concept. If you can prove you are reaching a site that is unique to a market (gamers go there and nowhere else) then that site is also incredibly valuable.

While it is likely not to affect any indies, the trouble most large ad campaigns get into is the level of overlap begins to degrade the quality of the ad. Ads are useful, even if the person sees them more than once and in multiple places- but at a certain point the ad becomes ineffective (you have either reached that person and gotten them interested or you have not). Too much overlap in your SOV ratios and you are likely to reach this level much sooner. This is why there is some benefit to advertising with few very large outlets as opposed to many small ones. For an indie the price difference rarely justifes that though.

So- Share of Voice will probably never come up in your indie life... but be on the lookout for the MISUSE of this term.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Slashdot Review

Ok so my review on Slashdot is now live, it is the same as the review on GameGrene (Same guy)

http://books.slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=06/06/19/1434223

Some people told me "slashdot isn't a big deal" because of all the young kids and rediculous posts you get with it. I'll dispell this myth and talk about something marketing related all at once. This Slashdot review has caused a noticeable increase in sales- not a HUGE increase, but a few more copies a week for sure. It definately created sales.

On the otherhand, a lot of people made some really idiotic comments that even I was tempted to reply to. So here's the marketing advice. Publically defending your work when you are talking to the masses is usually a bad idea. All it can do it add fuel to the fire and really accomplish nothing. On the otherhand, I looked through the posts and those few people who attempted to make valid but false arguments (there was only one, the guys that made Lugaru, www.wolfire.com) and I replied personally to them.

While we certainly didn't see perfectly eye to eye on everything, my personal e-mail certainly gained their appreciation as someone who really does care about the industry... at least that was the impression I got. Here is the intro from their e-mail:

"Wow, a reply from the author. :) Congratulations on getting posted on Slashdot. I probably was a little too harsh, but it is Slashdot after all, I have nothing against you and have not actually read the book. Just a knee-jerk response."

The point is, when you are dealing in a professional mannor with the 'unwashed' masses you really need to pick your battles. The end consumer will always believe things like 'marketing is evil and will ruin your game' (the theme of pretty much every negative post). You won't change that no matter how good your argument is, and the end result will be more flames and negativity.

When you get someone who's opinion may matter a direct reply is almost always preferable to a public post.

This whole topic is untrue when there is a gigantic factual miscommunication going on and something needs to be clarified OR if you are on the other side of the coin and speaking to something the 'unwashed masses' supports (like our games have no copy protection- see the post on Gal Civ II on this review).

That said, anyone who's enjoyed the book and valued it- feel free to post your opinion on the Slashdot thread. It may convince someone to pick it up!

-Joe

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Mac Game Radio Review!

http://www.macradio.com/shows/igameradio/index.php
Mac Game Radio has reviewed the Indie Developer's Guide to Selling Games.

Woot? :) Omaha highly reccomnds the book to any indie developers. While she had a few minor complaints (who doesn't), I felt she did a pretty good job going over some of the things that are both good and bad.

It's pretty early in the podcast so listen away! Plus they talk about the NEW NW Game Convention which went on in Portland and was put on by one of my favorite 'local' writers- Beth A. Dillon. B

Also a couple people mentioned my blog has been a little harsh lately. Sorry folks, I was a little angry when I wrote the last few posts. I'll be nicer in the near future.

Thanks to Mac Game Radio www.igameradio.com and see you at next years Northwest Game Convention http://www.nwgamesfestival.com

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

A 360 Degree Reality Check

A few days ago Russell Carroll (www.gametunnel.com) and I were talking and he mentioned he was seeing more and more developers harping on the idea that the 360 Live Arcade is a great new outlet for indies... and in fact that many people were planning on making games with the objective that they become Live Arcade games.

At the time my response was that he was crazy and it is his imagination, there aren't too many people out there with such a mentality. As of today I changed my mind, the number of 360 'wanna-bees' is growing and he apparently just ran into the horde before I did.

See, it isn't Russ' job to post what I am about to say... if he wrote it people would get angry, for some reason people like picking on what he writes because he runs a game website. I believe if I articulate it though, it will come off a little more 'slap you in the face to stop you from falling down the steps.'

So, here goes:

First, getting into Live Arcade is hard. Really hard. This isn't "if I make a good game I can get it on there" kinda hard. That's actually the somewhat easy part.

It takes a great game, I believe you can create a great game. What you may not realize is it also takes money. A fairly substantial amount. It takes a rediculous quantity of QA work, more than any team smaller than Wahoo Studios/Ninja Bee (www.ninjabee.com) should undertake. It also requires contacts... not just knowing someone's e-mail... but knowing them well enough that they trust and believe in your company: NOT JUST YOUR GAME.

This means you need a well respected company (plenty of business experience as well as programming), plenty of CASH capital, and a team large enough to deliver whatever the various MS people want promptly... and you need this before you even get whatever game you have considered.

So be honest with yourself: Are you in this position? Do you have the above requirements met? If you do, is your game really going to be considered? What's your backup plan if each of these answers turns out to be 'no.'

My opinion is if you haven't made a game for the 360 Live Arcade yet, don't make one SPECIFICALLY for the 360... or even with that as a cornerstone of your intentional business plan. Make it for the PC and if your game does well that it makes your company well respected and provides capital for future development you can take the time to get to know the Microsoft team and convince them they should be interested in your company. THIS METHOD MAKES SENSE.

I'll be deeply saddened if I see some good idea get canned because they couldn't get MS behind it without having a proven track record.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

The First Reviews

So a few reviews, both formal and informal, have come my way so far on The Indie Developer's Guide to Selling Games (www.indiegameguide.com). I'm also happy to report I am now about $500 in the black... which doesn't quite cover the time it took to make the book, but at least I have paid for what it cost to produce it!

So, here are some links and things that have been said:

GameGrene:
http://www.gamegrene.com/node/637

"... you can see right through the skin, down to the bone. The book's bones are solid, however, and they provide a good foundation for any Indie game developer to build upon."

Julio Gorgé said...
"I finished reading the book yesterday and I liked it. It's like comprising 5 years of Indiegamer.com advice into 150 pages : )"

Tero Miettunen, Mitorah Games (http://www.mitorahgames.com/)
"An excellent compact book for those of you who haven't read these forums a lot or who wish to get all the IndieGamer marketing knowledge + some in one package."

For those who like the book, be sure to tell all your geeky programmer friends :) For those who DIDN'T like it- Be sure to tell all the geeky programmers you don't like to go buy it also! :)

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Reasoning, Logic, And Games

I made a post about spam e-mails. This is a related subject that I will now tie into games.

Lets talk about the logical and illogical decisions you can make about marketing your game. Oh yes, there are many: So many in fact I can't simply list them in 'do or don't style.' Instead I am going to teach or refresh your memory on what the very foundation of logical arguments are.

This will be fun!

There are mainly two kinds of arguments in this world, inductive and deductive. Each argument has FOUR states, Valid and True, Invalid and False, Valid and False, and Invalid and True.

Ok, bored yet? Lets go to story mode then!

Meet Bob. Bob wants to make a game. Bob says to himself.
"A good game gets traffic.
"Dinner Dash is a good game."
"If I make a game like that, I will get traffic."

Bob continues:

"Portals exist to make money."
"I want to make money too."
"Therefore I don't want the portals to make money from my game."

And Bob releases his game and says:

"So far my first three reviews have been good"
"Therefore I have made a good game."

And later comments:

"A site has given me a bad review"
"That site wants to become an affiliate"
"Because of the bad review they must not believe in our product and shouldn't sell our game."

Ok bob, you may be smart in programmy world but deep down you're a marketing moron who has all the logical sense of the flying cat with buttered toast on his back*.

What went wrong here, why has bob produced a game, released a game, and experiences lack luster sales?

Comment 1: Invalid and False Deduction. Because the first sentence is invalid the entire thought is invalidated and the conclsuion is false. Believe it or not, many people still believe that a good game is all you need. It's not, it helps, but it isn't the solution to your woes... because I can name several bad games who make more money than some small countries.

Comment 2: A valid but false deduction. When you write it like I did this whole argument sounds stupid, but I encounter a lot of people who have 'something against' portals because they make money. Ok, there are reasons to dislike portals and reasons to avoid using them, but the argument that you don't like them simply because they are 'big companies' is retarded. Lines 1 and 2 are VALID and TRUE statements. The third line is a FALSE conclusion drawn from them. Just because they make money and you want to doesn't mean you should ensure they DON'T make money- it means you have a common goal!

Comment 3: An INVALID and FALSE induction. I hate it when people get all pissed off over a bad review. Do you honestly think you've created a game SO good that every human on earth thinks it is a 7/10 or higher? Look, people like different things and there's NO SUCH THING AS A GOOD GAME. There are only games that seem good to YOU. Don't get pissed off at any bad review you get, take it as feedback on a 'type' of person who is an unlikely buyer and try to use that information to HELP YOU SELL YOUR GAME to the RIGHT people.

Comment 4: I come across this one every so often. A site or a person who is reviewing games for a PORTAL (non-published) will have negative comments to say about your game. GASP. You need to fix your tutorial. You should add a few more musical tracks. Your main character looks like he has an erection all the time. Because they tell you negative things people assume they DON'T want to sell your product and have some EVIL scheme in mind when they tell you they are still interested in publishing or affiliating. Yeah that's right, the evil portal is out to get you! A) You aren't that important. B) They are telling you these things because they know stuff about THEIR customers that YOU apparently do not and they WANT your game to sell better.

I'm not an expert on logical arguments and all the ways you can manipulate them, however, even I can spot many developers who make comments that are simply false reasoning. They present a series of facts (deduction) or findings (induction) and make downright poor use of those facts or findings to arrive at a decision that HARMS THEIR BUSINESS.

Take the time to read and get a better understanding of what deduction and induction are and how they may be affecting your decisions. It can be very, very, tricky at times- much more so than I have made in these examples...

For Additional Information take a read at:
http://www.triviumpursuit.com/articles/two_methods_of_reasoning.htm


*The Flying Buttered Cat refers to strapping a piece of buttered toast to a cat's back and the dropping it out a window. Everyone knows a cat always lands on its feat and toast always lands butter-side down, therefore the cat would simply hover unable to achieve its goal. Brillaint :)