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Hannah Flynn has overseen the marketing of successful games like Fallen London, Sunless Sea, and Sunless Skies as communications director at London-based Failbetter Games. On the latest episode of the GDC Podcast, she shared the fundamental guidelines of game marketing, particularly for smaller studios.
Flynn spoke at length with Gamasutra's Kris Graft and Alissa McAloon about effective marketing practices, practical ways to improve your game’s store page, and more.
“If you’re marketing by yourself, the way that you start is with a really good store page, with a really good Twitter, and with a press list and press information. You commit to doing those things, you nurture them, you cultivate those things. Start making a press list. Start day one by looking up a game that is a bit like the one you want to make, Googling the reviews of that game, looking up the journalists who worked the reviews, finding those journalists on Twitter, and saying ‘Hey, I saw you liked X—I’m making Y. Can I put you on the press list? Could I send you a key?’ and do that until you have a list of people who are warmly interested in the sort of stuff that you make and do a little bit of that every day.
“The big mistake is feeling like marketing is a big homogenous, single activity thing that you spend lots of money on and if you don’t have any money you can’t do marketing. You can. You just need to account for marketing time within your development time. It’s part of development, it starts at the beginning of development. It’s people who ignore it because it’s daunting that will miss out.”
“It feeds into what I call the health metrics of your store page. I say when you start marketing your game, you should start with the store page. No amount of stuff you do to drive people to your store page will sell your game if your store page sucks.
“So when you put it up, go back to it every two weeks, review it, change things, tweak stuff. We were named a game of the year recently by a couple of wonderful outlets, so I put that up on a bit of artwork and slapped it on the store page. Your store page has to look healthy and alive and a contributing thing to that is review numbers...What you really want is ‘Overwhelmingly Positive,’ which is extremely hard to get.
“…But the rest of the health of your page is if people can understand your capsule image when they look at it. Do they understand the vibe of what they’re getting? Do they get the genre of your game from what you’re putting on the [page]? Genre is so important to convey…Selling the genre and getting the actual verbs that the player is doing and using every bit of the page [is important].
“So many times, people have not been specific enough to describe their own game in their own tone of voice, they haven’t given enough imagery they haven’t given enough sense of genre, and just a few change of word brings the health rating of the page up. It just raises peoples’ confidence to buy. People look at your page every day, and people decide ‘Is this something I want to buy or not?’ And you’re just like, ‘Ugh I just haven’t updated my page in a month,’ people are going to look at it and think it’s crap! (laughs)
“You kind of have to give yourself a recurring task and think of it as that’s the shopfront, that’s the book jacket for your game. It’s so important.”
“Collaboration and strategic discounting, I would say. The biggest things this year that have moved the needle on Sunless Skies have been big sales, targeted sales, and digital collaboration / events with other developers.
“…Collaborating with other people who are at a similar level to you or a slightly more aspirational level than you is a really good way to reach new audiences. We’re in a couple of bundles now across different publishers which makes our game appear on the Steam pages of other games in a way that we control and not just algorithmically.”
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