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GDC: Wolfire's Guide To Indie PR

GDC: Wolfire's Guide To Indie PR

March 9, 2010 | By Brandon Sheffield

March 9, 2010 | By Brandon Sheffield
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More: Console/PC, GDC



Wolfire, developer of Overgrowth, managed to create a lot of buzz for its game before it was even released in fact, the game still isnt out, but John Graham, one of four people on the team, says that it doesnt matter. You can and should create buzz as an indie even if your game isnt finished.

When youre beginning a company you have to figure out how you want to approach that issue, he says. Most traditional PR mandates, such as only showing off finished assets, never mentioning the competition, and avoiding direct interaction with press, They all act as excuses to cut down the flow of information between you and the outside world, he says. You cant afford to cut down on that information flow.

Wolfire calls their PR tactic open development. The three major goals are to make noise, make friends in the industry, and build a community around their game. Like other internet-related phenomena, these three pillars kind of cross pollinate each other, says Graham.

Making noise

His first advice was to be open. Lots of people want to know what its like to be a developer, Graham noted, so you can leverage that to get some views. Keep it real, and just try different things. For Overgrowth, the team just started talking about their tech first, and their concept art. Game design posts are always great because every game designer has their own idea of whats fun, he said, reminding us that Its ok to be silly too.

To that end, he showed a video theyd done showing their level editing tools, done with a humorous and ridiculous voiceover. It managed to get over 20,000 views.

Friends

When youre just starting out, cold emails are pretty much whats gonna happen, he said. Its hard to know whats going on when they dont respond whether its in their spam or they just dont like you, but keep trying.

In the offline space, you should go meet local indies. He admitted that being in San Francisco makes that easier than it may be in some other places, but its still good to try. The fact youre all here [at GDC] is a good thing, because youve got a great opportunity in front of you. Remember that conference does not equal vacation, he said.

You should also get out there and meet the press. If you do, youre not the random dude, theyre actually like oh, that was the guy in the lumberjack beard who showed me his game.

Build Community

The number one thing, of course, is blogs. Find reasons for people to visit you, and make them stay. One thing that worked out for us was using OpenGL, and reaching out to the Mac and Linux communities, said Graham. Reaching out to smaller communities will often get them to evangelize you.

Adding mod support was an instant community booster, because its something you can do by design to support and build a community.

Communication is a two-way street, he reminded attendees. You cant just give info out, you have to absorb some. Wolfire went out and asked for questions from the community and the number one request was for Graham to do an interpretive dance about Overgrowth while wearing a kilt so he did.

Other useful on-site devices include forums, public IRC, or a live chat widget, which Graham is usually on himself. Offsite, we try to leverage all the social media we can, referring to Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and the like. Its basically free so you might as well try it. It might be depressing at first because itll be like a ghost town, but if you keep at it people will come.

Now, they have over 1,600 preorders for their game based on their own grassroots PR. About 1/3 of our sales were driven by Facebook and Twitter, he said. It wasnt so much that wed built a Facebook and twitter presence, it was more that people just wanted to talk about it.

Theres always going to be some new social media thing, he said. As a small company, your best strength is that agility. So dont be afraid to start that new thing. One final PR tip if youve got a chance to speak at GDC, youve got to say yes.


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