How we lived together for 3 years while making FORCED
The thoughts and opinions expressed are those of the writer and not Gamasutra or its parent company.
This is the most seen picture on imgur of all time:
Now I would love to tell you what this picture actually did for us.
My aim with this blog, besides telling our development story, is to describe how we achieved our success and maybe inspire developers to think creatively about their marketing. If you are new and upcoming like us, it's insanely hard to get press coverage - unless you've made a gem like StanleyP, Limbo or Fez, which has a unique appeal.
Our game didn't get quite the same success, but it definitely was a great success for us especially since we have no investor or publisher, and everything goes directly to us.
A few weeks ago I was in a huge debt, because me and my partner as you know - had borrowed money with private risk, to pay our team and finalize our game.
Then we released Forced on Steam and made the above picture. It has become the most seen image on Imgur of all time (imgur is the 36th most visited site in the world, alexa.com).
The image tells our story - and even made us able to compete with the new batman on our shared release day as you can see here:
On release day, we were rank 2 on the top selling games on steam, and we didn't even get a single review on any of the top 15 gaming sites, however almost all of them had a review on Batman. It's interesting to witness how powerful reddit and imgur can be.
#Spreading like a wildfire)
If you've seen the comments on Imgur, you can see how it was received. It was also shared by fans on sites like pixeljunk where it acquired around 100k views in a day. Additionally Russian, Turkish, Spanish and German media asked for localized versions of the image, to post it on their sites.
Twitter also helped quite a lot, huge profiles like Michinima and personalities such as Cliff Bleszinski tweeted about it. But even more powerful was reddit, were a random person with a good karma shared the imgur link - which quickly went to the frontpage of reddit. Not on /r gaming but on Hot - which is insanely powerful, not to mention that we actually had two posts on the front page at the same time.
#But is Forced even a good game?
I'd say our game is definitely good, and it has received some great reviews. It's a bit niche maybe, being focused on co-op and it has some network problems as it's build on peer to peer connections rather than dedicated servers. I think Forced is one of the best co-op experiences one can get, but i'm also a bit biased... :) Nevertheless I think that a solid (not perfect) multiplayer game combined with our viral campaign was ideal, spreading like a wildfire a whole week after launch. Selling 70.000 units in a few weeks (again without publishers or investors) has definitely enabled us to keep making games.
#Persons and stories
From when I started my game development career, I have been raised and taught by the industry and journalists to believe that persons and development stories matter. I have made sure that we've been taking photos and collected material from our journey, but I hadn't planned for our journey to be that spectacular from the start. I have tried to tell it in many ways, with videos, at talks at conference etc. but the image ended up being the best method, for me at least - it doesn't require good actors or a perfect english accent.
#Playing by the rules
It's a tricky balance though, it's very easy for your picture on imgur or your post at reddit to get banned because it's advertisement. You can't control that so easily, so you have to offer viewers enough entertainment value, for them to accept the self promotion. As you can see on the first comment on imgur "This is one self-promotion on Imgur that I greatly approve. Well done and congratulations to everyone; way to stick to it." which was upvoted 3300+ times.
It's different with youtube, since it's easier to avoid bans there, however much harder to get traffic.
We have done this picture twice, with a year in between. Last time we did it, it saved our kickstarter project and was seen by many people as you can see here.
With the recent 2nd picture, many imgurians reckognized us from last year and we've sort of been accepted as "Adverticing storytellers" on imgur and have built a relation to its community. Then again - I believe it's a fine balance, that we must not ever abuse.
Imgur has indeed changed our lives here at BetaDwarf - thanks!