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I don't know that much about web development, so I whipped up something very simple from an old css template. It's just static HTML with flat colors, images, text, links, and embedded videos.
The website was designed to achieve two things as quickly as possible:
1. Give the visitor everything they need to make a decision
2. Make it very easy to buy the game
The first thing you see when you go to www.defendersquest.com is this:
We do have a really nice quote from Rock, Paper, Shotgun, with a link to the review they did for us, but we didn't launch with it -- Adam Smith didn't get his review copy until after launch, so his article came out a week later. Prior to this, we used a positive quote from Robert Boyd of ZeBoyd games.
Right below the heading is our launch trailer. We put this together using free screen-recording tools and iMovie. Captioning the video is our elevator pitch, and our technical selling points -- "cross platform and DRM Free." Finally, we have our BUY/TRY buttons, which are on every page of the website.
We have the usual information pages: about, support, faq, etc. But the two most important links are FAQ and demo, so I made those stand out in the navigation bar.
I've already written about our free demo strategy, but I'll summarize here. We have a free, lengthy, web-based demo that visitors can play without downloading or installing anything. We also have downloadable demos for each platform, through direct link and BitTorrent.
When the player finishes or exits, the demo directs them to an up-sell page that links to the store and tells them how to export their save file to the full version. We hoped the demo would answer most of the player's questions. Those wanting a richer experience with uncompressed assets and fullscreen support can install the downloadable demos, which also demonstrate whether the full game will run on their system. If the demo works, the full version should work too.
We also considered the fact that some visitors might be parents, so we included a page for them. Standard ESRB ratings aren't very helpful, and as low-budget independent developers, they weren't really an option for us. So to address the ratings issue, this button accompanies every BUY/TRY pairing:
I have observed several e-mails and forum postings from parents specifically mentioning this page as a reason for buying the game.
Next, I'll talk about our conventional marketing strategy.
Level Up Labs is proud to announce their new Tower Defense / RPG hybrid Defender's Quest for Mac, Windows, and Linux!
Media presskit: http://www.defendersquest.com/media.html
Playable demo: http://www.defendersquest.com/play_demo.html
The kit then goes on to give a brief game description, list of features, quotes from reviewers, links to reviews, along with additional pertinent information. However I felt the most important thing was the first five lines. I know reviewers are busy and appreciate us getting right to the point. In the first line, we give our company name and elevator pitch, and mention that the game is cross-platform.
This is followed by our "three magic links." These links contain absolutely everything a reviewer needs, even if that was the whole press release. The first is a video, as it's easy to follow that link, sit back, and watch. If that catches their interest, they'll want to know more about the game and perhaps give it a spin. The playable demo should give them hands-on experience instantly while the media press kit gives them all the material they need for an article. Below is all we included in our press kit:
The fact sheet contains the game's basic info -- price, technical settings, features, etc, and is included in three different formats to make it easy for the reviewer. "Box_art" contains, well, box art -- which makes for pretty pictures to accompany an article.
"Icons_and_thumbnails" includes pictures of the game in all shapes, sizes, and image formats -- these are mostly for Flash portals that want to host the demo, but can also be used for a reviewer, for example, to accompany a short news post link where space is limited. "Press_release" and "screenshots" are pretty self-explanatory.
We created a dedicated media page that has all this information, as well as links to all the press we've received. There's a link to the press kit in big, obvious letters, and anchor links to the rest of the page's content to minimize scrolling.
We've been updating both the press kit and this page after launch to add new quotes and reviews as they come in. We also tried a few things to announce the game prior to launch, which I'll touch briefly on now.
Many developers use Games Press, a clearinghouse for video game press releases, to contact the press. We first used it to announce our public demo a few months prior to launch. Andrew Smee of Rock, Paper, Shotgun wrote a lovely preview of our game, and told me his editor probably discovered our game on Games Press. Using Games Press again after launch had less success -- it seems to have resulted in many mostly blank, auto-generated profiles for the game on sites like GameFAQs and Metacritic, but no actual reviews.
Prior to release, we also sent emails to Joystiq and Jay Is Games. Joystiq accepted our query and ran an article just after the game's launch, and Jay Is Games did the same, both correlating to sales spikes (see chart, above),
I must confess a total lack of experience with social networking. Here's a few things we tried.
We put up Facebook and Google+ pages for our game which link to our site, and we put "like", "+1" and "Reddit" buttons on our front and demo pages. The most attention we seem to have gotten is just from my friends, family, and followers by directly talking about the game and posting links to reviews on my own personal Facebook, Google+, and Twitter accounts.
I've had the most success with Twitter, perhaps because it's so simple. You tweet stuff and if people care, they follow you, etc. That's pretty much it. It's also a great way to connect with people that might otherwise be difficult to meet.
We got a lot of attention from Reddit threads (particularly ones sharing our coupon codes). I posted a $1-off REDDIT coupon when I saw the activity, which generated a decent chunk of sales (see chart, above). I also started an "Ask Me Anything" thread, which generated a lot of interest.
Surprisingly, most of the attention our game has gotten through social networking has come from people sharing an blog I wrote, "Piracy and the Four Currencies." As soon as I saw this, I added prominent links to Defender's Quest in the article.