Creating a game that is appealing to Youtubers
The thoughts and opinions expressed are those of the writer and not Gamasutra or its parent company.
Hi, I would like to talk about creating a game that is appealing to content creators – Youtubers or streamers. We, Alda Games, released rogue-lite FPS game called Killing Room last year and our main marketing focus was Youtube. It may seem difficult to impress these young people who can make or ruin your game, but it can be much easier and have much bigger impact than reaching online gaming magazines. You can also watch Youtube video from White Nights Prague 2017 with my speech about this topic.
First of all, I don’t think that you have to create „silly“ or „AAA“ game to appeal to Youtubers. There is vast space full of opportunities between games targeted only on Youtubers like Goat Simulator and huge and hyped production of top companies. And Killing Room aimed right for this space.
Hard-core rogue-lite FPS is really terrible genre if you want to sell a lot of games as fans of FPS and fans of rogue-lites are only rarely the same people. It is obvious on examples of the best and most famous games of this genre – Tower of Guns or Ziggurat – they sold only 280 000 and 150 000 copies after years on Steam according to Steamspy. It may look like a lot for an indie game but pure rogue-likes like Enter the Gungeon or Binding of Isaac sold many times more.
With technical problems Killing Room have, it is no wonder that it sold „only“ 40 000 copies during first 5 months on Steam but this number could have been much lower if we didn’t target Youtubers and streamers – both during development and while promoting our game before/after release.
Great trailer helps a lot
Why did we choose Youtubers?
Because we knew that they have power, but also because we knew that game doesn’t have to be perfect to impress them, fun is enough. Youtubers are also much closer to regular players than redactors from digital and paper magazines, both in their game preferences and mutual interactions.
We were also quite sure that we will be able to make game interesting and fun but it would be difficult for our inexperienced studio to deliver something that wouldn’t be criticized for bugs and lack of some values important for professional critics. Alda Games has some history of making games but before Killing Room we made only mobile games (and port of our TD game Defend Your Life on Steam) and team working on Killing Room was more or less brand new.
How did we try to impress them?
There are several requirements to meet if you want to be sure that your game has potential to appeal to Youtubers. I will show you some examples from Killing Room later. Our game had two strong features that helped it become quite famous among streamers and Youtubers – online voting feature and „FPS Binding of Isaac“ catch phrase that actually didn’t come from us directly even if we counted Binding of Isaac as one of our major inspirations. So you can try to be original and bring something new or at least not very known (online voting feature is part of few indie games like Party Hard) and try to create catch phrase that tells people exactly what to expect.
We designed our online voting feature to be completely optional so everyone can completely enjouy the game
But what about actual game? First of all, your features should be visual – yes, some Youtubers will bother and read text if it is important for their audience but if you actually SHOW fun stuff, you are much more likely to impress them. If your game allows it, make it over-the-top in some areas, you may even get some additional inspiration if you try to follow this road.
Each boss fight has unique intro animation, we were inspired by Enter the Gungeon bosses
Killing Room is not only name of our game but also name of reality-show that character participates in – winner will be incredibly rich but losing means death, which is great concept if you are creating rogue-lite game with permadeath and it also tells you that you should be very creative and visual with ways in which you repeatedly kill players.
Huge traps, voluntary risk-taking (suicide machine, wheel of fortune with spaces that can kill you or for example give you some money or useful item) and perks that really show its effects on screen (rentgen glasses, one-eyed, lunacy, …). All these examples are very specific but once you decide that your game should be interesting for streamers and Youtubers, you will probably think about ways to do so, just don’t be afraid to make some sacrifices, it is completely undestandable that you want your game to have success and making game appealing to content creators can be important part of development.
So lets summarize it:
- Make your game with Youtubers in mind – they want to show fun/scary/over-the-top/original things to their viewers.
- Make everything visual as much as you can – you are making game, not book
- Don’t be afraid to change your game a bit if your youtuber-friendly approach demands it
- You can still create proper indie game, there is no need to make silly pointless game to impress Youtubers
- Try to be original – our online voting feature was one of the main reasons for most of streamers and probably even Markiplier tried Killing Room
Pretty girls are easy way to attract players, but at least use this exploit of human nature in some interesting way (these are door to Boss room and they are part of funny boss intro animation)
There are few basic things you should and shouldn’t do:
- Don’t panic and only send keys to verified emails, there will be ton of fake Youtubers and redactors who will try to steal your keys and sell them on G2A and similar sites.
- Use Keymailer or similar services to easily send keys to verified content creators.
- Make your own list of Youtubers and send them emails with Steam key. You want to try the biggest ones and also Youtubers that cover games similar to yours – in our case we made sure to write to those who enjoyed Binding of Isaac, Ziggurat etc.
- Be very cautious when asked to pay for Youtube video – there are many companies that represent some bigger Youtubers and they will want a lot of cash. It is extremely expensive and probably not worth it because Youtube is not stable business environment yet and these people know that there are a lot of publishers willing to pay anything to have their games promoted in videos from famous Youtubers. For example we were asked to pay 20 000 Euro for one video and after we told them we are not interested price dropped to 3 000 Euro – we still didn’t accept it but it somehow shows what the problem is…
How did it go?
It was great. First day after release H2ODelirious made video from Killing Room and it soon reached over 1M views. It is difficult to say how many copies was sold because of this video as Steam release generates a lot of sales on its own but it is save to say that it was probably at least 1 000 copies. And it definitely helped us reach Steam top sellers (at least in some regions) and stay in Popular New Releases for much longer – and staying on Steam home page creates that nice snowball effect resulting in game selling much better.
This first video also inspired other smaller Youtubers and streamers to try our game – many probably also found key for Killing Room in their email boxes which helped a lot while deciding to cover it.
After 10 days on Steam, something even bigger happened and it was a moment when we understood that we did something right. It was Markiplier who made video of Killing Room and he even used our Online Voting feature (via twitter – his fans didn’t really know what is happening but they still voted like crazy and made his gameplay and video much more fun). Link to our game in description and praise of our game made big impact on our sales. And we were really happy, more so when he later uploaded second video. Then we had to „wait“ until February to catch another huge channel when jacksepticeeye joined 1M+ views club with his participation in our cruel reality-show. There are many other Youtubers who made video from our game, some quite big, some smaller, some with only few views and after few months after release we can say that our decision to focus on Youtubers was correct.
Direct impact of Markiplier’s video was really big
PS: Not entirely on-topic but one of the funniest creations connected to Killing Room is this animated movie from Freyjinn about Markiplier’s first attempt in our game.