Last Update: 20. October 2014
A Marketing Log?
I want to make my marketing efforts public available and log them like other developers log their development in a so-called devlog. Therefore, we can call this a marketing log. My overall goal is to let other indie game developers and game enthusiasts participate in my marketing journey and share my failures and successes with them respectively with you. I also hope, that others talk more about their marketing efforts. It’s also a good way to plan and log the marketing for myself as well as getting valuable feedback. To be clear: this is a marketing plan and not a business plan.
If you want to support me, head over to the Steam Greenlight or the Epocu campaign of Orcish Inn, the game this log is dedicated to, and share it with your friends.
Orcish Inn Announcement Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cKxMEHotaI8
Orcish Inn on Steam Greenlight (+News!): http://orcish-inn.stevencolling.com/#Greenlight
Orcish Inn on Epocu: http://epocu.com/campaigns/orcish-inn/
Any support is really appreciated.
Who Am I?
My name is Steven Colling, I’m 26 years old and I come from Germany (golden south-west!). I recently finished my study in computer sciences at the KIT in Karlsruhe and in February 2014, I started my solo company. I released a small non-marketed and soft-launched game The LootCastle which was mainly some kind of test run and to get a feeling for what I’m doing. Since then, I’m developing Orcish Inn (the game this log is dedicated to). I gave me this whole (funded) year and I’m not totally confident that I can finish Orcish Inn in time. (Covered Advertising) If you are an independent game developer who has a payed job and needs some ambitious help, let me know! I’m also good in developing tools and websites. Money is good! You can eat it, I heard.
Some Important Notes
Before we start, some disclaimers: I’m not a native speaker, so please forgive me all the spelling and grammar errors. I’m also totally new to independent game development.
I wasn’t sure if such a public log is a good idea, because chances are high I look like a really dumb idiot. I’m just one year into indie game development with one non-marketed, soft-launched indie game under my belt (made about 1000$). So I probably say and do things which will trigger Picard facepalms. Sorry about that.
Feel Free To Intervene
No matter if you are a game developer, indie or not, a journalist, a game enthusiast or whatever: if you think I do something wrong respectively could do something better, don’t hesitate and let me know. I’m very happy if people write me emails. True story.
- Open Questions
- Marketing Log Issues
- Product Description
- Main Goal
- Sub Goals (Roadmap)
- Distribution: Material
- Distribution: Channels
- Promotion: Material
- Promotion: Channels
- Service: Material
- Service: Channels
I place them at the top so you don’t miss them. The following questions are things I’m still thinking about. If you have an opinion, write me a mail.
- If you have any knowledge to share about game rating (USK, PEGI, ESRB) for selling digital games (Steam, itch.io, own website etc.), please drop me a line. I already tried to examine it in this marketing log under “Distribution: Material” > “Ratings”. As far as I got it, I can ignore them at first...
- Should new Orcish Inn builds during development public available/playable? Pro: Getting valuable feedback, letting players enjoy progress, enforcing a community. Contra: Additional time, security issues, giving bad impressions due to an incomplete game. I do it.
- Is it meaningful near release to ask press people to hold their preview back until the game releases? (respective the last round of previews, not pre-pre-previews during development)
- Should Orcish Inn have a demo after release? I tend to yes. Pro: Let people test if the game works. Contra: The never-ending discussion of showing the player too much or too little.
- Does Google Adwords make sense for indie devs? I’m not really confident about this and didn’t found that much information respective indie games. Google Adwords for the Greenlight campaign? Google Adwords for selling the game? Probably I just test it. Here is an relevant article.
Marketing Log Issues
- Issue #1, 08. October 2014: First Greenlight Week
- Issue #2, 20. October 2014: GameStage Expo
- Issue #3, 1. November 2014: Greenlit
- Issue #4, 11. November 2014: Epocu Successfull, Early Access/Pre-Order/Pre-Release Builds Discussion
Orc Tavern Simulation
Orcish Inn is an orc tavern simulation game full of crops to raise, beers to brew, furniture to arrange and boozy, brawling orcs to satisfy.
Why do I make this game? At first, I like Harvest Moon and somehow grew up with this series. During my World of Warcraft time on roleplaying servers, I also declared one of the inns in the world as mine and held events every evening. This was a great time with a lot of fun people. Orcish Inn is dedicated to the “having an own inn” feeling and putting it in the farming context and especially flow of the Harvest Moon games.
Orcish Inn is an orc tavern simulation game which brings together the farming experience from games like Harvest Moon and adds tavern management elements from typical restaurant management games. Players raise crops, brew beer, furnish their inn and serve the incoming guests, all set in a world of boozy orcs and filled with quests to complete.
The game is played in connected scenarios in which the player has to fulfill certain tasks, including the creation of an inn under challenging circumstances defined by given resources, weather and space.
Unique Selling Points
- Complex Farming: Raising crops is more than planting a seed somewhere. To get high quality crops, you have to keep wetness, eutrophy, windbreak and plant density in mind.
- Complex Brewing: Brewing beer is more than putting some crops in a box. You have to fine-tune malt, wort and beer production to get a beer which mets your guests’ preferences.
- Complex Building: You create your inn tile by tile, wall by wall. The interior you choose affects the comfort in your tavern. It is up to you, how you fill the environment with live.
- Many Activities: From tavern mini games like dice games over fishing in the swamps up to story unfolding quests. There is a lot of stuff to do beyond farming and brewing, but don’t forget to eat and sleep!
- Orcish Atmosphere: Orcs are more than some green, dumb people housing in tents. Here, orcs are green, sometimes smart people forming an advanced civilization including taverns and production machines.
The target audience in the broadest sense possible are definitely farming and business simulation gamers. In more detail, I want to please Harvest Moon players, which want a shift in the setting and gameplay—something along Harvest Moon turned upside down. This is reflected not only in the setting’s shift (Orcs), but also in the gameplay: relationship and love is excluded, arranging furniture and pursuing quests included. While I don’t like the words casual and hardcore gamer, the game also tries to be a more core experience, with complex mechanics (farming, brewing) while keeping some of what I call the chill flow of the original Harvest Moon series (I really liked the Back to Nature game released on the Playstation 1).
I think of an Orcish Inn player as someone with the following characteristics:
- Misses the gameplay related challenges in today’s farming games.
- Wants more freedom in building houses.
- Wants a shift in the story setting “you are a human who holds a farm”.
- Wants a shift in the gameplay setting “you have to raise a farm and integrate in the local community”.
- Has a rougher humor (compare “getting a bachelorette” with “prevent drunken orcs to destroy your inn”).
Given my budget in time and money, I have mainly two ways how I can address this audience. First and foremost with the help of my wording. At second, with checking out scene forums.
Harvest Moon Wording: Farming, Crops, Raising, Nature, Farming Life.
Business Simulation Wording: Simulation (got somehow a red flag the last time), Building, Creating, Business, Tavern, Inn.
Any ideas? Let me know.
Harvest Moon Scene Forums:
- Ushi No Tane
- Harvest Moon Meadow
- Ranch Story
- Harvest Moon on Reddit
- Harvest Moon Neoseeker Forums
- Harvest Moon Otaku
- Harvest Moon Forever
- Any suggestions? Let me know.
Business Simulation Scene Forums:
None found. If you know any, let me know.
Team and Tools
Sound and music are made by Tilmann ‘headchant’ Hars (@headchant). I do the rest, including game design, programming (Visual Studio Professional 2013, C#, XNA), graphics (GIMP) and so on.
A nice read on this topic can be found here. A good marketing has a marketing story and a good marketing story has a storyteller, a cause, a market, a vision, a creation, an enemy, a never-ending quest and authenticity. The following is some kind of origin I want to read over and over in the hope that I don’t forget what I’m doing here.
At the risk of looking a bit arrogant, my overall plan is to have my name as a label and therefore to bind players to me as a person and game developer. The reasons are first and foremost, that people can relate to the lone tinkerer and to a real human (quotes). Corporations and bigger studios can’t have this. Because I develop the game on my own, I can go further and underline this personal attitude by showing my name instead of being invisible behind a studio name. If I’m able to bind people to me as a person, I get more independent from the platforms I have to rely on (read about the game of platform power by Daniel Cook). Practically, this means to get in direct touch with players and in a perfect world, I would have a bulk of player emails which I can contact to check out my new game on my own website. So in the end, the storyteller is a (still) young, open solo game developer from Germany.
“Markets want to be moved.” Without presuming any power to move markets, I want to deliver an original core farming experience with Orcish Inn. I want to have a contrast to very simple farming games. I don’t like the concept of an enemy, because blaming someone or something makes potential players defensive and that’s not a good thing. I want to bring a more core experience to the farming genre. I want to let people look into my head. I want to stop sentences starting with I.
The never-ending quest is a way players relate to you and your game. As I start the marketing early with a Steam Greenlight campaign of Orcish Inn. people need something to follow, so they can see how it unfolds. As a consequence, I have to share my progress timely and frequently. This relationship is even strengthened, if these players have some influence (which I pick up by Community Votes which I explain later). Authenticity is the most important. No fake, no hiding behind a “studio layer”.
As I said, this is not a business plan. Please, please, please consider this. It’s just a basic “what I’m doing here?”. The following calculations are some abstract number games to check “how much I probably have to sell for which price” and to have a specific goal.
My minimal goal is to sustain a simple life for one year (in the future).
My desired goal is to sustain a simple life for two years (in the future).
My ultimate goal is to cover the upper development cost (in comparison to a programmer job I could do instead of developing the game—very unlikely) and to sustain a simple life for two years (in the future).
I have time until December 2014. Starting this project in April 2014, I have a time budget of 9 months. I will continue after December 2014 given my life situation then.
My money ready to spend is about 500€+. Yeah.
Development started ca. April 2014, so that are 9 months until December 2014. The average salary for entry-level “programmers” (very broad) in Germany is 40,000€ per year, roughly rounded to 3,300€ per month. Therefore, the development time is worth a rounded 30,000€ (compared to a programmer job I could take instead of developing the game). I call this the upper development cost. If we use an “okay” life with 1,500€ per month, we get 13,500€ as lower development cost.
I don’t want to disclose what I arrange with my sounds and music guy. Beyond sound and music, I do everything on my own. The Visual Studio Professional 2013 license is already payed with money earned during my study, so I don’t take it into account. Adobe After Effects is offered in a monthly subscription for about 40€. I will require two months at minimum (one for the Greenlight trailer, one for the release trailer), therefore about 80€. Beyond that, I use free software. Submitting to Steam Greenlight costs 100$ (about 90€). I probably will try a game press release service for 30$.
Development cost without time to money: about 190€
Lower development cost with time to money: about 13,500€*
Upper development cost with time to money: about 30,000€*
*ignoring the 190€ peanuts
I calculated 13,500€ respectively 30,000€ as development cost for a 9 month project. That are, like already said, about 1,500€ resp. 3,300€ per month. My goals are to sustain future life and projects, so let’s project these monthly costs on the minimal, desired and the ultimate goal, as I would have another project in the future, which costs the same.
If I want to cover life expenses for one year (minimal goal), Orcish Inn has to make 12*1,500€ = 18,000€.
For two years (desired goal), it has to make 36,000€ (roughly rounded).
For the ultimate goal, the 30.000€ come in, which finally result in a number along 66,000€.
It’s hard to project these numbers on a time-frame, with the unknown time of being in the Greenlight limbo, sales, bundles and boosts through bigger content updates and press coverage. Let’s be pessimistic and say, I have to earn this money within a short time-frame after release and given a certain price x (ignoring discounts). I will refer to this time-frame as “on release”, while not only meaning the 24 hours after release but up to a month or so. Let’s calculate some examples for different prices. The prices don’t reflect the final price, they are just shallow examples to get a feeling.
For x€ per unit (ignoring platform’s cut and taxes), I have to sell a/b/c units (rounded) for the minimal/desired/ultimate goal (rounded up to hundreds).
For 1€ per unit: 18,000 / 36,000 / 66,000
For 2€ per unit: 9,000 / 18,000 / 33,000
For 5€ per unit: 3,600 / 7,200 / 13,200
For 7€ per unit: 2,570 / 5,140 / 9,430
For 10€ per unit: 1,800 / 3,600 / 6,600
For 15€ per unit: 1,200 / 2,400 / 4,400
For 20€ per unit: 900 / 1,800 / 3,300
Given the post-mortem articles I read through, 4000 units over a week on Steam seems realistic (for sure given the price, the game’s quality, the effectivity of the marketing etc.). And 5€ per unit (without the platform’s cut and taxes) is on the lower edge I think is appropriate for the game... I didn’t finished yet.
Relevant German taxes (ignoring tax exemptions) are the purchase tax (19%), the income tax (hard to define without a determined yearly income... guessing 15%?) and the business tax (guessing... 7%?). A typical platform’s cut is 30%. If we ignore the application order of the taxes and the fact, that the taxes are not applied on the plain income, our magical tax kettle outputs something along 30% for the platform’s cut and 40% for taxes then.
So if the game costs 12€ and given the cut and the taxes, I have the discussed 5€ left.
In the end, that means 3,600 units on release given a price of 12€ (about 16$) per unit.
I know that this discussion is very far-fetched, but at least I have something like an overview. I hope that I can share correct numbers in the future (with respect to NDAs etc.). If you agree or disagree with any of my expectations, don’t be shy. Drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Short note without any warrants on juristic correctness: I created an one-man business (Einzelunternehmen) and there is a tax exemption (Freibetrag) where the purchase tax (Umsatzsteuer) drops out as long as you earn less than a certain amount of money (currently 17,500€).
Orcish Inn has to sell 3,600 units for 12€ (about 16$), both at minimum, to count as successful (for me).
Sub Goals (Roadmap)
Stage 1: Setup Campaign
Goal: Announce game to public and setup all channels including Steam Greenlight entry.
Method: Creating marketing material, setup channels/platforms and infrastructure of the next stage.
Deadline: 29. Sept. 2014
Create New Own Logo/Appearance Redesign Own Website Create first Instance of Marketing Log Create Short Trailer Create Screenshot Batch Create Epocu Campaign Create Patreon Page Create Steam Greenlight Campaign Create IndieDB Site Create PressKit Develop Landing Page Develop Community Hub (with first Voting and Newsletter) Upload Own Website Release Epocu Campaign Release Patreon Page Release Steam Greenlight Campaign (with Trailer and Steam Group) Release IndieDB Site Upload PressKit Upload Landing Page Upload Community Hub Release Marketing Log on Blog Release Marketing Log on TIGSource Announce on Twitter and Reddit etc. Cross-Link Steam Greenlight and Epocu campaigns on all other platforms and channels Get players of previous game involved (Desura, Forum, Twitter, Reviewers) Announce in scene forums after contacting/asking forum administrator Send press mails
Stage 2: Get Greenlit
Goal: Get greenlit and create a fun and functional, short demo version of the game.
Method: Progress on game and share development with community and press.
Deadline: 8. November 2014 (probably takes a bit longer... but hey, just hoping) // reached on 1. November
- Make prototypes and share with Let’s Players and own videos (didn’t got around to doing it)
Update Epocu with new information Update Steam Greenlight with new information Update IndieDB with new information Update Patreon-only feed with new information Share Progress on Twitter (if appropriate): #OrcishInn
- Share Progress on Reddit (if appropriate) (not worth the time)
Add new Community Votes to Community Hub Add Technical Blog Entries to Devlog (C#, XNA etc.) (had mostly no time for it) Participate in Screenshot Saturday (Twitter, Reddit, TIGSource, IndieCade)
- Participate in Feedback Friday (Reddit) if meaningful (not worth the time)
- Check out press and forums (didn’t get answers and respective forums, didn’t got around to doing it)
Get players of previous game involved (Desura, Forum, Twitter, Reviewers, see relevant section)
On getting greenlit:
Share on all channels described above Send thanks-newsletter Send press mails
Stage 3: Release Game
Goal: Release Game. ???. Profit. Joke aside, the game gets released.
Method: Progress on game and share development with community and press, like above.
Deadline: Q1/Q2 2015
- Steps from previous stage
- Investigate which SteamWorks-features are possible (in reasonable time)
- Implement SteamWorks-features and share
- Organize Preview Coverage
- Release on Steam with Link on Landing Page
- Release on itch.io with Widget on Landing Page
- Release on GOG
- Release on Desura
- Release on IndieGameStand
- Release on Humble Store
- Share on all channels described above
- Send out newsletter
- Get players of previous game involved (Desura, Forum, Twitter, Reviewers, see relevant section)
- Send press mails
Stage 4: Support Game
Goal: Support game after release.
Method: Give support, fix bugs and balancing problems and probably release bigger updates.
- Give support
- Fix/Balance game and release these updates
- Investigate if bigger updates make sense
- Investigate if Community Hub Voting makes still sense
- Check out porting to other platforms like Linux, Mac etc.
I have to keep the following ratings in mind: USK, PEGI and ESRB.
The USK (Unterhaltungssoftware Selbstkontrolle) has the responsibility to classify/rate games in Germany. Retailers then have to respect this classification, so that no games are sold to children which aren’t appropriate to them. You can check the different age related categories here (German). Trailers can be rated, too.
While the USK isn’t obligatory, unrated games can’t be advertised or sold to people under 18 years. As far as I get this, I have to get an USK rating for both the game, every relevant update and trailer to make everyone’s life easier (from the selling platform up to online magazines and game databases). At the time of writing this text, the costs are:
- 1200€ for rating the game
- 300€ for trailers and updates
That’s a lot of money for indies. A lot.
The PEGI (Pan European Game Information) isn’t relevant in Germany, but as I don’t only sell to Germans, it’s relevant too. With respect to their FAQ, the rating is voluntary so I don’t have to let my game get rated as long as the retailer, publisher or platform requires it.
As far as I got it, I don’t require a rating by the ESRB (Entertainment Software Rating Board), if I sell my game online, e.g. via Steam. Referring to their FAQ, the rating is voluntary, most retailers in the U.S. require a ESRB rating (which isn’t relevant for me).
Given the platforms I wish to get on to (Steam, Desura, GOG, HumbleStore, IndieGameStand, itch.io), I don’t require any rating. With respect to the German market (German websites including my own), an USK rating is recommended but not obligatory. I let the USK rating open for now. Especially because I know some German indie games which sell over stores and from their website without an USK rating. I probably won’t get killed without having one.
I appreciate any help on this topic, so if I’m wrong with something or if you want to clear anything up, write me a mail: email@example.com.
I have no idea how much Orcish Inn will cost. Beyond that and citing the Steam FAQ, Valve will help on deciding on an appropriate price.
I already have some experience with bundles respective my previous game and while everything went nice, I’m not a fan of, mainly because I see my previous game in various key stores. It’s a bit confusing that someone buys a shitload of your game for a very, very low price and then makes money with it. Such bundles are good for small and non-marketed games, because you can make some hundreds of dollars given a very small time. That’s especially nice, if you don’t expect to make any money at all. I don’t want to define that Orcish Inn will never be part of a bundle, but for now, it’s unlikely.
It would make no sense to discuss this now. I will update that section later, especially if I made sales and can provide some insights. I’m open to sales even though I fear that “I wait until it’s in a sale” gets everyone’s approach.
With multiple stores I increase the potential customer base and give everyone what they want: some want their games and achievement hunting on Steam, others want to play without DRM.
Steam is the most valued platform for Indies on the PC/desktop platform with multiple millions logged in. While I fear to be too much dependent on a single platform and its features like achievements, groups, the sales and more, I think Steam is a good way to create an engaging player base. I have no game on Steam, so I have no experience with it. The cut is arranged in secret and per game, but I guess it is like on similar platforms about 30%. With Steam Greenlight, it’s relatively hard to get on Steam:
About 30% cut + hard to get onto + DRM
itch.io is a relatively new platform with a lot of nice functionality, especially for indies. I already use the itch.io widget on my website for my previous game. itch.io allows to set a higher price, which was sometimes used by my players. While I made a lot of good experiences with itch.io, the platform isn’t that famous yet. I hope we can change that together in the future! Right at the moment, itch.io doesn’t make any money but given the FAQ, it will have a 10% cut. By the way: if you want support your indie developers, buy their game via itch.io and ask if you can redeem a key for the platform you want.
About 10% (currently 0%) cut + easy to get onto + No DRM
I have no experience with GOG yet. With respect to their website, they have a 30% cut. Browsing their catalog, I think it’s tough to get onto it.
30% cut + seems difficult to get onto + No DRM
I released my previous game on Desura. Desura changes and gets it into the modern age (sorry!). I made a good experience, but as you can guess, Desura doesn’t creates the audience for you. I made more money with the itch.io widget on my website than via the Desura store. But this isn’t representative because these numbers are... very low and all my friends bought it on itch.io, so the comparison is a bit unfair. I want to give Desura another try so we can see how it compares to all the other stores. The cut is secret, like on steam. Common cuts for platforms are, like already said, about 30%.
About 30% (?) + easy to get onto + DRM (but standalone downloads possible)
I have no experience with the Humble Store from the developer’s perspective. In their FAQ, they refer to a 25% cut (15% humble store, 10% charity). Their widget is famous and prominently represented among indie developers.
25% cut + seems difficult to get onto + No DRM
My previous game was released on IndieGameStand, too. While I made nearly no money at all, I’m happy with the way IndieGameStand operates with their developers and customers. There are special kind-of-pay-what-you-want sales over there and it’s also open to new developers. It’s a young platform and we will see where they are heading to. The cut is secret and I will stay with the 30% cut as part of general knowledge.
About 30% (?) + easy to get onto + No DRM
Press Release Template
The press release comes in two variants: in a neutral, public way for game press release services and in a direct, personal way for editors. If I know the person I send to, I normally write it just down instead of using the following.
***************** PUBLIC PRESS RELEASE *****************
Title: Orcish Inn Game and Steam Greenlight Campaign Announcement
Germany, October <XX>, 2014 – Solo game developer Steven Colling announces his upcoming game Orcish Inn and its Steam Greenlight campaign. Orcish Inn is an orc tavern simulation game for Windows, coming early 2015. Players raise crops, brew beer, furnish their inn tile by tile and serve incoming, orcish guests with their home brew. It combines a more complex farming experience with a business simulation.
The Orcish Inn Greenlight campaign and trailer are available at
***************** PERSONAL PRESS RELEASE *****************
Title: Orcish Inn, the Orc Tavern Simulation
My name is Steven Colling and I’m a solo game developer from Germany. <personal address>
Today, I announce my upcoming game Orcish Inn and its Greenlight campaign. Orcish Inn is an orc tavern simulation for Windows, coming early 2015. Players raise crops, brew beer, furnish their inn tile by tile and serve incoming, orcish guests with their home brew. It combines a more complex farming experience with a business simulation.
A short announcement trailer and the Greenlight campaign are both available at
***************** ADDITIONAL INFORMATION FOR BOTH *****************
- Farming: a complex farming experience where you have to consider wetness, eutrophy, windbreak and plant density.
- Keeping of Animals: breed and feed the hell out of them.
- Exploring: explore the nature and gather resources like firewood.
- Brewing: produce malt, wort and finally beer and control their characteristics like alcoholic strength and acerbity.
- Furnishing: Create and decorate your inn tile by tile, wall by wall.
- Serving: At dusk, orcish guests come in and enjoy your beer.
- Amusement: Play tavern games with your guests or try your luck with fishing.
Steam Greenlight Campaign
If you have any questions, please let me know!
The landing page’s purpose is to motivate the visitor for a specific action which is the focus of the whole landing page design. With the help of Google Analytics (which requires a written agreement with Google in Germany...), I will track the efficiency of my design (bouncing rate etc.) and hopefully I have the time to make small A/B-tests. If so, I will share the results with you.
- My logo linked to my website
- Orcish Inn logo
- Orcish Inn short header text
- Orcish Inn USPs
- Social media links (Patreon, Twitter, Email)
- A batch of screenshots
- Link to the PressKit
- Link to the Community Hub
- Link to Patreon Page
- Review quotes
Prior to Release:
- Steam Greenlight Widget (Focus) (Changed to Newsletter after being greenlit)
- Newsletter Registration (Focus)
- Epocu Campaign link (threw it out because of space and minimize options for visitor)
- Steam Greenlight trailer
- itch.io widget (Focus)
- Small Icons with links to the different stores
- Release trailer
The community hub is part of my goal to let my players relate to me as a person on my website instead with a storefront as a middleman. The Community Hub is mainly for players, while potential customers can get more in touch with the game and me. I show you the details under “Service: Channels” some sections below.
The blog as multiple purposes. Firstly, I want to share the things I learned through game development, mainly coding in the XNA framework with C#, using Visual Studio or working with GIMP. I will also put my marketing lessons learned into single blog posts and release it there. Secondly, I will make some Orcish Inn related development blog posts, so it’s a devlog, too. Thirdly, I will post about my game jam games and the released games, mainly for portfolio building. The blog is realized with WordPress and an own theme hacked in.
There are many festivals to submit an indie game to, which is very nice. I use the public and free calender of the promoter app to stay up-to-date. I already submitted Orcish Inn to the following festivals:
Steam Greenlight let’s you present your game to many players out there. The game can be unfinished and for very early ideas, there is also a category Concepts. Steam users which navigate to the Greenlight page can browse new entries or work through a queue of suggestions. They vote per game “Yes”, if they are interested or “No” if not.
All the games are placed given their Yes-votes and Valve will have a look into the top entries and decide, if they want to greenlit it. They say, the amount of No-votes doesn’t affect anything and having a high place doesn’t automatically mean that the game is picked. The amount of games picked vary.
It’s hard to say how many votes are necessary to rise to the higher ranks. Articles like this one refer to 16,000-17,000 yes-votes to reach the top 100 and 50,000 for the top 10 (the article is from January 2014). This articles mentions about 6000 votes to get into the top 100 (in April/May). But everyone fears the Greenlight Limbo.
A huge problem is to let external people vote on your Greenlight game, because most Steam users are not logged into Steam with their browser and if that’s the first time, they have to hassle with the security mechanics. The linked article even describes it was more difficult to get a vote on Steam Greenlight than a backer on the corresponding Kickstarter project. To solve this, one can link to a php script which will result in a Steam client opening browser. The code is:
<?php header('Location: steam://url/CommunityFilePage/yourid'); ?>
Epocu is a new way to build up some hype for your game. It’s like Kickstarter but without money and pledges. Instead, people support the pitched project and if the number of required supports is met, all supporting people automatically send a notification on their preferred social media channel (like Twitter). Such a synchronized announcement may have a higher impact than single messages.
The platform is not for everyone: the team behind Epocu checks which projects get on the page. The amount of required supporters is set by you. While a small amount is easier to reach, a bigger amount may have a higher impact.
GreatestIndieGames is a platform which promotes a set of handpicked indie games on a monthly basis. I can’t say how well this works and I hope, the Steam Greenlight page let me know from which website voters come. If so and if I get onto GreatestIndieGames, I share this with you. Regular submissions are closed at the moment I’m writing this. They offer also advertising space, which I will check out, too. At least they offer a retweeting of a game related tweet.
PressKit + Press Releases
Given my previous game, I have no good expectations respective this. I sent dozens of press releases and except one minor blog, no one cared—and that’s totally normal. No offense intended, it’s just how it seems to work (referring to all the press release related articles out there) and how it worked for me. While I have some press contacts meanwhile, I give this another try. PixelProspector offers a big list of sites reviewing games.
Beyond that, I want to try the following two press release services this time:
http://www.gamerelease.net/ (30$ for 2 releases)
If you know other “must-have” services, let me know.
The newsletter will be one of the important efforts to bind people to myself. My strategy is to send out max. 1 issue per month, so it doesn’t get annoying. Newsletter systems have to respect strict privacy protection in Germany. There are very special and specific rules how to setup a newsletter system. If you create one, inform you and don’t treat the following as juristic advice (it may be out of date or just wrong).
- Double-Opt-In: The customer has to verify the newsletter registration via email.
- Both the registration on the website and the verification via email has to be logged.
- The newsletter should be accessible with the email address only and without further information like the real name.
- There has to be a deregistration with a link at the newsletter’s bottom and with additional contact data like the hoster’s email address.
- There has to be an imprint in the newsletter.
I have already “some kind” of activity on Twitter and got used to it. It’s fun to discuss with other game developers and to share progress. Hashtags of interest are #ScreenshotSaturday (more details in its own section), #IndieDev and #GameDev. Do you know any other remarkable hashtags? Let me know.
I’m just thinking about how to phrase it politely. I just don’t like Facebook. Anyway, I know how valuable Facebook can be as a marketing platform while it feels somehow alienating to use it as a game developer with all these non game development related contacts there. Furthermore, I really dislike the politics behind Facebook and how it treats humans. I just can’t relate to Facebook and while I have an account, I never used it, don’t use it and probably won’t every use it. If you want to underline the inevitability of Facebook as a marketing platform, let me know.
To be honest, I don’t quite understand Reddit and never used it, really. This will be a hard time for me. I always fear to violate important rules and look like a spammer. Common and relevant subreddits are indiegaming, greenlightquality, gamedev and indiedev. I try my best to get used to it and I will share my insights here.
I have no experience with Reddit’s Feedback Friday for indie devs, but I will try it out and share my experience. Developers share builds of their unfinished games and give feedback each other. Sounds nice!
Screenshot Saturday is a ritual where developers post screenshots of the game they are working on, every Saturday. It’s a nice way to share progress with other devs and some press people have a look at some of them.
Patreon is a platform where people can support artists of all kind financially, including game developers. There a two ways this to do this: on a monthly basis and on a per creation basis. Similar to Kickstarter, the artists can set certain goals for total monthly/project related income and reward supporters, if they spend a certain amount of money. While Kickstarter is used for one big project, Patreon is an enduring support across multiple projects, like games made by a developer.
I think I just try it and tell you how it works. It’s a great and modern way to support developers directly and could probably work (in terms of a nice extra tip), if you link it everywhere (where it’s appropriate).
The monthly basis sounds a bit better, because in game development it is really difficult to plan for the required time and for my goal of releasing one game per year, it just feels a bit strange: it always looks like someone wants to rush through projects to get the money. The per-project basis sounds more reasonable for online magazines with an issue every 2 or 3 months, in my opinion.
I though about the following pledges:
- Buddy of the Month (1$): Your name in the “Patreons of the Month” section (updated monthly) on the game’s website for... one month + your name in the “Patreons of All Time” section on the game’s website... forever + your name in both sections linked to an appropriate (!) website, like your personal website, Twitter and so on. See how this looks like: (link) + your participation in community votes (for Orcish Inn features implemented) has doubled weight (votes are not monthly, but irregular!). See how this looks: (link) + access to the Patreon-only feed
- Buddy Creator (20$): Previous rewards + create a part of the game every month; the subject changes every month. This month, you can name an orc guest in the game. Other ideas for future months: write a message in a bottle which can be fished, draw a wall picture, let a character something say, design a floor tile or banner and so on.
And the following milestones:
- Funded! (2000$ per month): Wow! We proved that a solo guy can live from game development! Without suffering under inhuman deadlines, I actually can go more in-depth with my games and take time to attack normally no-go features like multiplayer.
If you have any critic or idea, let me know.
During my marketing research, IndieDB was often cited for being good at getting eyeballs on your project. It’s not only used to present a project, but rather to keep followers up to date with announcements. This is caused by the fact, that IndieDB members can track your game and get notified if you update your entry. It also allows to distribute your build for feedback.
I post this marketing log not only on my blog, but also in the TIGSource devlog section. I hope I get some valuable feedback here/there (dependent from where you read this...).
After release, Steam offers multiple ways to push promotion, like sales. I have no idea how this works and if I get on Steam, I will share my experience with you.
Desura offers a new way to promote your game, which they call Cheap End. At the end of each months, developers compete by lowering the game’s price. I’m not totally convinced and never tested it. I think it’s more for older, declining games.
Previous Game: The LootCastle
My previous game the LootCastle has a small player base (mainly Pirates). I’m not a fan of updating the game only for adding a shiny advertisement banner, so I skip ingame-advertisement. The reachable player base consists of:
- Players on Desura (can be reached by posting on the game’s page).
- Players visiting the LootCastle highscores (adding a Steam Greenlight / Landing Page banner).
- Players who engaged in the community (politely emailing them).
- Other contacts I gained through this game.
Orcish Inn Information and Community
http://orcish-inn.stevencolling.com (Landing Page)
http://orcish-inn.stevencolling.com/hub.php (Community Hub)
http://www.stevencolling.com/blog/category/orcishinn/ (Orcish Inn Development Blog)
http://www.stevencolling.com/press/sheet.php?p=orcish_inn (Orcish Inn PressKit)
http://orcish-inn.stevencolling.com/index.php#Newsletter (Orcish Inn Newsletter)
irc://afternet.org/orcish_inn (Orcish Inn IRC)
http://steamcommunity.com/sharedfiles/filedetails/?id=320951828 (Orcish Inn on Steam Greenlight)
http://orcish-inn.stevencolling.com/index.php#Greenlight (Orcish Inn on Steam Greenlight via Landing Page)
http://epocu.com/campaigns/orcishinn/ (Orcish Inn on Epocu)
http://www.indiedb.com/games/orcish-inn/ (Orcish Inn on IndieDB)
- (Orcish Inn Steam Community)
- (Orcish Inn Desura Community)
Buy Orcish Inn
(Steam Page Link) (Orcish Inn on Steam)
(itch.io Link) (Orcish Inn on itch.io)
(Desura Link) (Orcish Inn on Desura)
(GOG Link) (Orcish Inn on GOG)
(IndieGameStand Link) (Orcish Inn on IndieGameStand)
(Humble Store Link) (Orcish Inn on HumbleStore)
Moved to the appropriate section on the website.
The Community Hub is, like already described, the anticipated center of the community. I will give my best to utilize the features of the other platforms like Steam or IndieDB, but my overall goal is to drive people to this hub. The hub is dedicated to players, not potential customers, with the following features:
- IRC Website Widget: A place I will hang around.
- Contests: If I have the time, I want to create some little contests for fan art, Orcish Inn playing guides and so on, for digital goodies like game keys for friends, a mention in the game etc.
- Community Voting: On an irregular basis, I present a “X vs Y” voting on things I want to add to the game. Players then can vote on their favorite element. I’m always open to implement the losing feature too, it’s just that I will implemented the winning feature next and definitely. To vote, you have to subscribe to the newsletter first. Patreons have an increased voting weight.
- Modding (if available): Guides and links to the required files and Steam’s Workshop.
- Suggestions Board: A place to discuss ideas.
- Balancing Problems Board: A place to discuss balancing issues of the game.
- Bugs Board: A place to discuss bugs.
- Technical Help Board: A place to discuss technical problems like crashes, installation problems etc.
- FAQ: Showing all the current FAQ entries.
- Media Section: Lists all sort of screenshots, videos, logos, wallpapers and so on. It also has a section for fan art.
- Review Section: Lists all sort of previews, reviews, Let’s Plays and other kind of mentions.
- Link to the Development Blog: my blog showing only posts with the Orcish Inn tag.
- Link to the PressKit
- Link to the Landing Page
- Link to the Patreon Page
- Link to Twitter (showing only Tweets with the OrcishInn-hashtag)
- Link to the Other Community Platforms: Steam, IndieDB, Desura.
- Patreons of the Month Section: Supporters who pledged on Patreon get mentioned with a link.
- Patreons of All Time: Supporters who pledged.
The Steam Community offers multiple features like Steam Groups, Steam Forums and places to submit fan art and so on. If I get onto Steam, I will check these features out and will write about it.
SteamWorks offers an API and enables multiple Steam-related features like Achievements or Trading Cards. Features I will check out if Orcish Inn gets greenlit:
- Big Picture Mode
- Trading Cards
The Steam Workshop offers a great way to handle a game’s modding. I will definitely look into a map and a quest editor for Orcish Inn after release. They will be available as standalone applications and as part of the Steam Workshop.
Similar to Steam, Desura offers multiple community related features like a forum, user reviews and a comment section on the front page. The forum wasn’t used at all respecting my previous game. Anyway, I will create and check them.
IndieDB is new to me, but its community features and the activity over there seems to be valuable. I will use it to share news and gather feedback through their user review system.
I guess you already know PixelProspector’s resources (including their Big Lists). Go and check them out, if you are interested in indie business and marketing (and a lot of other game development related stuff):
A selection of marketing related articles I read through and which may be helpful if you want to engage with this topic.
The Game of Platform Power by Daniel Cook
Marketing in General
Talk about Marketing by Darren Williams and Dan Adams (Video)
Talk about Indie Marketing by Emmy Jonassen (Video)
Indies, Dr Gillen Will See You Know (Video)
You Need A Niche by Tadhg Kelly
You Need A Marketing Story by Tadhg Kelly
5 Indie PR Tips From Wolfire
GDC Austin: Wolfire’s PR Tips
Motivational (... sort of)
The Missing Team Member by TeeGee
Surviving In the Post-Indie Bubble Wasteland!!! by Jeff Vogel
That One Lethal Mistake Of Indie Marketing by Adrian Chmielarz
Developers: Stop Being Shit by Brain Baglow
The Indie Marketing Plan by Joost van Dongen
Building Buzz for Indie Games by Paul Taylor
A Basic Marketing and PR plan for Indies by Daniel Griliopoulos
Marketing Your Indie Game: The Single Most Important Thing That No One Knows To To Do by Robert DellaFave
An Indie Game Developer’s Marketing Checklist by Robert DellaFave
Indie Game PR On A Shoestring by Rob Remakes
How to Get Reddit to Notice Your Game by Aurimas
How to Write a Press Release by Thomas Faust
How to Use And Abuse The Gaming Press And How The Gaming Press Wants to Use and Abuse You by Kieron Gillen
Official Super Meat Boy Press Release
Ask Gamasutra: How to Annoy a Game Journalist With a Press Release
Ask IndieGames: How Do I Get You Guys To Pay Attention To My Press Release
Tips for Getting Greenlit on Steam Greenlight by Robert DellaFave
Getting Your Game Greenlit in 2014 by Colm Larkin
Greenlight Forever by Petrucio Stange
We have been GREENLIT! Here are our stats, thoughts and tips by Artur Hilger
Landing Page Design
Landing Page Design And How To Use It To Sell Your Indie Game by Emmy Jonassen
13 Solutions to Your Most Common Landing Page Problems by Ginny Soskey
Google Analytics for Software Sellers by Positech Games
What (I think) I Know About Advertising As An Indie Game Developer by Positech Games
Game PR and You: A Comprehensive Overview by Julien Wera
Creating the Trailers Your Game Deserves! by Kert Gartner
Beyond that, there is a Pixel Prospector List of Marketing Resources you can check out: