Indies collaborate on tools to make talking to the press easier
If you want easily-distracted players to stay with your game, to give it a chance and discover all the work you've labored over, you make it as approachable and as easy to pick up as possible, right?
That's the same attitude indie developers should take when it comes to attracting the attention of the press, to ensure people are helping others find out about your game. That's where the press kit comes in.
"It's a general problem in the indie scene, where so many beautiful and lovely games go unnoticed simply because the developer doesn't know how to present their game to the press," says Rami Ismail, an indie developer himself at Dutch studio Vlambeer (Super Crate Box
It's not a magic bullet that solves all your marketing problems, but the press kit can sometimes be the critical item that decides whether those journalists who are inundated with dozens of pitches a day cover your project.
An effective press kit offers all the information and assets someone needs to quickly get a feel for your game and write knowledgeably about it -- if a journalist can't easily find your contact information or a good screenshot to use with their article, they might skip your project in favor of one that's easier to cover.
Creating a good press kit takes time, though -- time to figure out and collect what you need, decide the best way to present it all, and put together the online page. That's all time you could spend on making your game better instead.
Game Oven's Presskit() page
Ismail saw there were few tools serving game makers' needs when it came to marketing their projects, so he released Presskit()
several months ago, a free tool enabling developers to create a site that compiles their project's essential info in as little as 30 minutes.
Using information provided by developers, Presskit() builds a simple page that offers studio factsheets, bullet point feature lists for games, screenshots, videos, logos, sections for awards and previous coverage, and more. The design of the page isn't anything fancy, but it gets the job done.
"I strongly believe that a press kit isn't supposed to look fancy or colorful – a press kit is supposed to be a resource with easy-to-access information and assets," Ismail explains to Gamasutra. "If people want to modify presskit(), they're free to do so by editing the css-file that is installed on their server during installation."
Plenty of independent developers have already started using Presskit()'s beta, including Alexander Bruce (Antichamber
), Broken Rules (Chasing Aurora
), and Young Horses (Octodad
). It was even used for PAX's Indie Megabooth, which needed to provide details for 16 different titles
Since debuting the tool in May, Ismail has updated it based on feedback from the press and developers, and added support for Google Analytics and Andreas Zecher's (Spirits
) valuable Promoter
application, the latter of which served as inspiration for Presskit().
Promoter automatically tracks online mentions of your games, sending you notifications and creating a timeline for your projects' coverage. It also compiles the reviews your games have received, and calculates their average scores.
The app offers other useful features like a promo code manager, a calendar for upcoming indie festivals and competitions, lists for hundreds of sites you can contact for coverage (depending on their platform), and the ability to see which journalists and publications you've already contacted.
Promoter's press coverage timeline
Tools for managing press relationships are key, because one of an indie developer's biggest strengths is the ability to personally getting in touch with journalists, which is completely different from how AAA studios talk with the press.
"As an indie, the press is talking directly to the mind behind the game," says Ismail. That's interesting to journalists, because there are more interesting stories to tell through people than through PR representatives."
With its integration of Promoter, Presskit() can update your page with recent coverage and awards your game has received. Zecher's app features a free plan for one project, but you will need to spend €99 ($125) a year for unlimited uses -- Ismail says Promoter's fees makes up 90 percent of Vlambeer's annual marketing budget.
Release() and other tools
The next update Ismail will put out for Presskit() is a new feature called Release(), which aims to help developers write a proper press email. While talking with journalists about what to include in his presskit tool, he noticed that one of their major concerns was the quality of mail they receive from indie studios.
Along with trying to improve the quality of press releases, he wants to get rid of the hesitation some developers might have when it comes to contacting journalists. Ismail says it can be scary to reach out to the press about your passion project, especially if you're not sure how to do it.
Though he hasn't put out Release() yet, you can still get an idea of best practices for reaching out to journalists with Pixel Prospector's excellent and thorough guide published earlier this week: How To Contact Press (And Increase Chances To Get Press Coverage)
There are other potential services he wants to see solve common problems that indie developers face, like tools that help studios pitch their games, handle their finances, or manage who they should meet up with at events to promote their titles.
However, Ismail is wary of tools that take creative freedom out of the hands of developers. He notes that presskits, press releases, and tracking press mentions aren't really about creativity, but creating pitches is.
He adds, "There's a fine line between where a tool is empowering and where it's limiting, and it's a line I've come to explore while working on Presskit() and Release()."