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Sunday, June 26, 2011

Advertising and the foot work

The free version of Marty Mongoose went up for download a few days ago so I achieved my goal of getting two version of the game up. So hurray! It's only been a few days so its hard to speak to the success of the game but I would be lying if I said I thought it would be alarmingly successful.

Marty is a baby step in the right direction. It's not meant to be a ground breaking game or even the most polished and entertaining game. While I still fully believe its worth the 99 cents I'm charging for it; I really don't expect to make back my initial investment in the tools to make it. That's for later. This is more a trial run to prove that it can be done by any one looking to try and make their mark. But don't be surprised if your first game isn't an angry birds killer. Don't let that stop you though.

However, there is a whole other side to the beast of creating indie games if you don't want it to fall into the sea of apps flooding the market. Advertising. This was also a first run of figuring out how to spread the word of the game. Again, it's only been a few days so I can only speak to the experience of personally typing up a million emails. Who knows what will actually happen in the coming weeks. But aim low and you wont be disappointed right? But I can tell you its hard.

What I suggest to advertise your game (so far)

Find as many gamer blog sites as you can. There are so many people out there who run their own video game blog. From Kotaku to the individual 16 year old who only has 200 followers on their geo cities account (is that even still around??). But I can tell you, a mention (as long as its some what positive) is a good one. That's 200 followers potentially looking at your product.

Email Email Email. Many review sites will have a "submit an app" option and some of them are direct email links where you send promo codes and a brief email to the writers. Some of them are simply web forms where they will reply back to you if they are interested in trying out your game. (Most of them wont be)
  • Sub note on this. Some sites offer an expedited review. This means that it guarantees you will get a review for a fee. For the sake of testing and hope of a pseudo positive review, I have tried this with a site called the iPhone App Review. There has been no review yet but they promise a review within 5 days so I will report back with the success of it and if it is worth the money to do. The idea is that such a site has hundreds of thousands of viewers and a positive mention is priceless. Is that worth any where from 20 to 60 dollars to you? We'll see.
What that leaves is plugging your game shamelessly to every one and any one who will listen. It becomes very tiring especially without replies from people. BUT! It doesn't mean they aren't reading. I received a review in a mobile round up on Destructoid. The review was what I expected. Not horribly negative but not horribly positive but it was a mention to at least go grab the free version and I'll take that. So it is possible and they are listening. So don't give up! But keep in mind that if you don't have some kind of hook. Most will simply gloss over your work and let it fall into nothingness.

You can find the mention in Destructoid here to see what I'm talking about:

Weekend Mobile Roundup

Promo codes mean business. Once you have successfully gotten your game approved for the app store you will be able to generate promo codes (max of 50) These are for friends and family but more importantly, for spreading the word. You will use promo codes when sending your game in to review sites and blogs so they can download it free of charge and give it a look.

Another strategy is to try and have giveaways on social networking sites etc. Generate 5 codes and throw them up on twitter or face book if you've made one for your game. (I created a twitter, face book, and web site for Marty) Visit forums for developers and put up some codes. People will try it out and if they like it they will start spreading the word.

Be smart with your codes though. This first time around I have been a little cavalier with my promo codes and only have 15 left and only 2 have been used (That's right 2 - be ready for that kind of thing and don't let it get to you.) You can tell how many promo codes have been used because it says so on the iTunes Connect site. If you are smart with how you hand out your promo codes, this can be a way to monitor if your game has at least been looked at by reviewers.

So what did I do for Marty?

I'll take a second to deconstruct what I've done for Marty to try and get some insight into at least one way of doing things.

First things first, I created a web site for white box and a page for Marty here. This is so I had a place to sort of set up base. From there I created a Face Book page and a twitter feed. I set these up long before launch so that I had pages to send people to the day of. I filled the pages with screen shots and info about the game as well as eventually links to the itunes store for each version.

Next, once the game launched, I started an ad campaign on face book. You can put as little or as much money into it as you want. I don't have a ton of money so I put $100 into it. This puts me at about 650 dollars that I have put into the entire experience. So I have drawn the line here since I feel I probably wont be making my money back with this particular game.

So through face book ads you can get people to like your page. This is all well and good but likes don't mean purchases for the most part. This is to get the word out and get those few people that might be into the idea enough to grab it. What I suggest if you do advertise on face book is to create two ad types. One with a link to your face book page and one with a direct link to the iTunes store. This will send some people to potentially buy and some to potentially like the page and help advertise. Still, with little money it is difficult, only 56 people like Marty's page.

Next, I hunted down just about every game blog site and mobile review site I could and started sending emails. Trust me when I say, create a basic email template and coppy paste from it. I tried about the first 10 from the heart and it is very difficult to find the steam. So make good sounding letter (remember to sub out web site or review site names with the correct ones if you name their site - don't look like a d-bag) then plug in the promo code(s) for review.

Then, I purchased an expedited review from the iPhone App Review. This guarantees that I get a review and a mention. This option is available on lots of review sites but be smart about it and know the viewer base. This also doesn't mean you get a good review. Just a review. I don't expect a stellar review from these guys but not horrible. We'll see, but don't throw around all of your money trying to get your name out there are plenty of sites that will do it for free, you just have to keep looking.

Then you wait. This is probably the hardest part. You don't know who is looking at your game and who just pushed it to the trash bin of outlook without even reading. For the most part, it is very hard to get a single mention because they are aware as well as you that it means business if its good and because of that they are selective with the games they even review. They will take the best out of what they look at, then review those, and some of those may get bad reviews. There are thousands of apps submitted all the time and it is very hard to find a part of the pool to swim in.

The best part from trying to advertise a first game though from my view is the potential connections. Be polite. Even if you get a terrible review. They took the time to do it and that means a lot. Follow up and thank them as well as ask what they would have like to have seen change. Even if they don't reply it shows you are nice to work with and you never know. Maybe they will see your next game, remember you, and throw you a bone.

I have received a wake up call though. I knew this before and during making Marty, but its easy to lost sight of when you're caught up in the creating and selling of a game no matter what it is. One game isn't the end all be all and probably barely the start. It may feel like it because you're personal work has gone from nothing to published and its a great feeling but its just the beginning of trying to break into this over saturated industry.

Mobile games are the wild west of the game industry. Angry Birds is a clone of a flash game we have all played a million times. It's nothing revolutionary, but because of the platform and the time of striking it did amazingly well (and still does) so it shows that a game that has fun mechanics or new ways of using the platform at hand will really stand out. A good game combined with hard work trying to advertise does have a good chance. But it still takes a lot of work to get noticed. So good luck to you and I will write more as the experience advertising Marty pushes forward. But it's also time to look on to the next project so we don't lose speed.

Here is a short list of some of the places I submitted to for review

iPhone App Review
iPhone Slutz
Indie Games

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