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How We Approached The Press For Velocity Reviews
by James Marsden on 06/18/12 05:04:00 am   Featured Blogs

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

 

It can be hard to get the games press to take notice of you if you're an indie nobody. There are a bunch of posts around the web dedicated to giving advice on how to approach the press, but none that we've seen which give concrete examples. Here's how we did it for Velocity.

We sent this initial email from our game's main character, Lt. Kai Tana, using this email address: kai.tana@powerlev.com:


Hello,

You have been selected for a top secret mission, the attached invitation will provide you with further details. We urgently need your expertise.

I look forward to hearing from you.

Lt. Kai Tana

Lead Test Pilot | PowerLev Research

http://www.velocitygame.co.uk
http://www.powerlev.com
http://www.futurlab.co.uk

Kai Tana's Invitation (click to read larger version)

 

This was Play Magazine's initial reply:


WE ACCEPT

WE SUPPORT YOUR TELEPORT RESCUE MISSION

SEND US A SEN CODE SO WE CAN GIVE YOU OUR HELP

GODSPEED

 

Then we responded, still in character, with this:


Welcome aboard Commander,

Everyone here at PowerLev is extremely pleased that you are willing to help us!

Crew have become stranded in 50 of our Space Stations, the mainframes have malfunctioned and reprogrammed themselves, trapping the survivors. The stations are being sucked towards a black hole - time is critical!

Your ship, the Quarp Jet, has been equipped with an innovative teleportation device which will be crucial to your success.

Please enter the following code into your PS device to start your mission:

7N89-9MNN-KRTJ

Your Flight Computer will provide you with further information, including an extra 20 bonus missions.

PowerLev ask that you please do not publish your findings until the 16th May - the date of launch. We'd love to hear any initial thoughts or previews of your experience before then though.

We will endeavour to assist you in any way we can, please let us know if you require any pictorial data etc.

Thanks again - and good luck Commander!

Lt. Kai Tana

Lead Test Pilot | PowerLev Research

 

Finally, Play Magazine responded with this, which made us love them:

 

MY GOD THIS SOUNDS SERIOUS!

I WILL INPUT THE CODE INTO MY PS DEVICE AND I WILL ENDEAVOUR TO REPORT BACK TO YOU WITH MY INITIAL THOUGHTS AND HOW MANY SURVIVORS DIE IF IT ALL GOES A BIT WRONG I HAVEN'T FLOWN A SPACE CRAFT FOR A FEW YEARS I'M A BIT RUSTY BUT IN FAIRNESS IT WASN'T MY FAULT I TOLD CAPTAIN JENKINS I DON'T LIKE INVERSE CONTROLS

I AGREE NOT TO PUBLISH MY FINDINGS UNTIL 16TH MAY I WILL REPORT TO YOU IN PRIVATE

THE PLAY TEAM IS WITH YOU KAI TANA!

(In all seriousness - brilliant email, so rare for a PR email to stand out!)

 

We used this approach for every website and print publication that we didn't already have a relationship with.

You might find it interesting to know that most people from the UK replied in character like Play Magazine did, whereas people from the US chose not to.

Most of the time, it pays to do something different :)

 

[ From http://www.futurlab.co.uk/blog/ ]


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Comments


Chris Hellerberg
profile image
Thanks a lot for this!

As you've pointed out, it's rare to find actual examples especially on the subject of PR so this is very much appreciated.

Nonetheless, is it possible to provide more in-depth information? What I'm talking about specifically is:

- How were your past experiences with the video game press?
- What went better/worse this time?
- What changes to your approach did you make compared to previous approaches and why?
- In hindsight, what do you think you could've done better this time?

I think those points would be very interesting and useful.

James Marsden
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I've not had much time this week, but here's some quick replies:

1) How were your past experiences with the video game press?

The first time we got in touch with the press we used this to get their attention:

http://blog.eu.playstation.com/2010/05/06/futurlab-pitch-to-sony/

That did the trick, but ultimately Coconut Dodge isn't a very desirable game, so the big sites didn't bite. However, it is a very fun game, so the smaller sites bit down hard because they could spot potential in what we were doing. We developed strong relationships with those sites going forward, and they helped us launch the teaser campaign for Velocity:

http://blog.eu.playstation.com/2010/08/31/mystery-puzzle/

16 different sites took part, each hosting a piece of the puzzle with their name highlighted. Readers of those sites worked out they had to visit all the other sites listed on the puzzle pieces to put together the full image, which eventually led to this:

http://bit.ly/MqT5t7

2) What went better/worse this time?

This time we had a better game, a more desirable game (which is the key), and so found the press more willing to take a look, give their time for reviews etc.

3) What changes to your approach did you make compared to previous approaches and why?

Our approach stayed largely the same actually. We like to do things in fun and different ways to stand out - no more so in the game we designed. It's different and fun :)

4) In hindsight, what do you think you could've done better this time?

I'm not sure we could have done anything better. We had zero budget for marketing. I think next time we will begin the promotional campaign earlier.

It will be hard to tell whether things go better next time due to our approach though, because now we've made some pretty good contacts. It won't be as hard to get attention - but we will still try and do something fun and engaging :)

Hope that all makes sense!

Chris Hellerberg
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Alright, that pretty much covers it. Thanks a bunch for the reply. Very interesting! :)

E McNeill
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Clever stuff. I especially like that linked story of how you pitched to Sony. :)

Chris Hellerberg
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I concur. The story in that link is kind of awesome. Really well written. I didn't notice the link until you pointed it out lol.

Muir Freeland
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This is all pretty clever. It's great that you guys were willing to think outside the box and take a risk on marketing yourselves, and I'm glad it paid off.

James Marsden
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Thanks, it's good fun, which is ultimately what people in games are supposed to be having :)

Dan Fabulich
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What subject line did you use? (In other words: how did you get them to open your email in the first place?)

James Marsden
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The subject line was: "Invitation / Mission Briefing"


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