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Given a chance for free promotion, why donít developers promote their game?
by Carla Engelbrecht Fisher on 11/21/13 09:28:00 am   Expert Blogs   Featured Blogs

The following blog post, unless otherwise noted, was written by a member of Gamasutraís community.
The thoughts and opinions expressed are those of the writer and not Gamasutra or its parent company.


On Wednesday (November 20, 2013) I launched an experiment. I posted a list of 112 of my favorite kid and family games to a public Google doc. Anyone and everyone had the ability to edit it.

Anyone can edit it, even those with games that are not family friendly. (There’s a section for that, too.)

The doc is still posted (and publicly available for editing) at

Why would I do this?

  1. A lot of people ask me for the games I recommend. It was time I wrote down the list.

  2. I’m growing an email list for a curation service that I’m beta testing and figured this would be a good experiment. (You can sign up at

  3. I was fascinated by the Startup School notes experiment, where people were encouraged to contribute to a public document detailing a set of lectures.

  4. I wanted to see if developers would take advantage of free promotion when given the opportunity.


So what’s happening?

The list is growing. It’s now around 150 games.

That’s a lot slower than I expected, especially considering I shared this with a lot of developer friends and developer lists.

Why aren't you promoting your game?
When I talked about it with colleagues and friends, a few have joked about putting their own games in, but few have actually gone so far as to add their games. A few have also joked about putting their games at the top of the list, but no one has done that either.  

I think that's being short-sighted. It’s free promotion. Hundreds of people have seen the list so far. Yeah, sure, that’s not going to make you a zillionaire, but are most developers in the position to turn down even the chance of a few more users? What if this list does catch with the press? Can you afford to not be on the list?

Still feeling creepy about self-promotion? Then make the changes anonymously.

Yeah, I’m poking the bear with this post. Obviously I don’t want people to be total jerks and destroy the entire experiment. But seriously. It’s free promotion. It takes 5 minutes. Anyone?

I'll report back...

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Kristian Carazo
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Hey Carla,

Thanks for the opportunity. I added my games to the list!

Paul Nisenbaum
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Great idea! See what happens.

Paul in Los Angeles

Phil Maxey
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You know that's a very good point. I'm seeing exactly the same thing with I've created the site to try and help indie game developers promote themselves and their games, and so far the take up is minimal. Even though I've got roughly 270 followers on twitter, a tiny fraction have signed up and an even smaller amount have actually posted (although the few that have, have been very enthusiastic supporters).

This has surprised me as reading about all the hardships that indie game devs go through to promote their games, I would of thought they would have rushed to self-promote their own work.

I'm still working out exactly what the reasons are for the reluctance, although a clue might be in one of the first comments I got when I first started promoting it on twitter which was "What's in it for you", which I thought at the time was an odd comment because what difference what's in it for "me" if the service is free for indies anyway? After I explained that I have set the site up at my own expense purely to try and help indies the dev signed up and posted.

My conclusions so far is that devs (people in general) get suspicious when they are offered "free" services, so much so that it stops them from participating even if it's their own self-interest. The other reason is that the site is obviously still very young (i'e very low traffic) and even though it takes hardly any time at all to post about your own work, devs seem to only want to take the time to sign up/post if the site they are doing it on clearly is already successful and therefore will have clear benefit to them.

Carl Kidwell
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Hey Phil; just book marked your site I have a release coming out soon I'll send you at the right time. I had not previously heard of your site!

Sjors Jansen
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Some possible reasons...
- Because few developers with those kinds of games knew about the document.
- Because it might feel rude to edit a public doc if you just stumble on to it.
- Because the list is called Great apps for kids and that is obviously somebody's opininon (that might differ greatly from the reader) and therefore personal.
- Because the list would get diluted rapidly.
- Because the apps on the list might be bad company for the developers game.
- Because it's only been 2 days

Those reasons are kind of intertwined.
But this just seems like shameless selfpromotion with no point to it. Which is fine and all but couldn't you at least mention why each app is supposedly good?

I'm playing teddy's advocate obviously..

Curiously waiting for your report back.

Michael Owens
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Definitely this.
I feel like a more honest title would be "Given a chance for free promotion, why donít developers promote their game on my Google Doc?"
I think you could get a pretty good discussion around that.

Andy Lundell
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So they stumbled across an user-driven internet phenomena and they DIDN'T immediately introduce advertising?

For shame.

These are probably the same idiots who don't send out unsolicited marketing emails, randomly cold-call people at dinner time, or add their own links to competitor's Wikipedia articles.

I'll bet not ONE of these people has ever added their link to the comment section of over a hundred personal blogs in one sitting.

Andy Lundell
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To be less sarcastic, It was probably basic etiquette that stopped them from self-promoting all over someone else's internet experiment.

I know that if I was a blogger who asked his readers for a list of favorite games, I'd be pissed if I caught developers covertly spamming list.

Patryk Batko
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Hey. I'm from polish site and if You have any interesting game don't be afraid to e-mail us. Many websites around the Internet are trying to promote indie games, but we can't spend all our time on searching great projects. You have to promote yourself is you want to gain any attention. Feel free to e-mail me (sorry for terrible grammar :) )