Ages and ages ago I wrote a slightly angry rant masquerading as ten tips to indie developers to help get press coverage. Basically, I tend to write these things after being insufferably annoyed by something that makes it literally impossible for me to write about a game I think looks interesting. This time it’s a combination of that, and one that actually impressed me.
So now, I’m thinking everything can be condensed down into one crucial piece of information that it’s handy to remember when trying to get your indie game some press coverage:
Journalists are really busy, and sometimes a bit lazy.
‘Lazy’ is clearly shorthand here for ‘need to take a few shortcuts because oh god deadlines‘, but from the indie dev’s perspective it’s the same thing. And what this means is that it’s crucial to help us as much as possible, every step of the way.
This means the usual things, like:
– Have a website
– Have an email address on this website (no, this doesn’t mean a contact form, or a mailto: thing that opens a client when I click on it, or just a fucking Steam username as I recently came across
– Make sure you regularly check this email account, and respond promptly
But it also means getting into the headspace of a journalist, and really considering the following question: Why would I want to write about your game?
My job isn’t to get indie games loads of coverage. My job is to make sure my readers are kept abreast with all the stuff they’re interested in. So what you need to do is convince me that my readers are going to be interested in your game. Here are some tips.
– If it’s basically a carbon copy of a popular iOS game, only not as good, you’ve hit a dead end before you start. That isn’t interesting. Be honest with yourself about this. It might make you some good money, and that’s fine, there’s a market for that. But the specialist press isn’t the way to go about your marketing campaign. Think of something else.
– “Indie game no one’s heard of releases screenshots” is not a news story. Hundreds of indie games no one’s heard of release screenshots every day. Maybe one or two of those will get picked up by the press, if they’re lucky. To be one of those two, you need a better story than that.
– If your game is genuinely, truly unique, then you’ll have no problem getting coverage. If you are having problems, it means your game isn’t unique at all. This is not a bad thing from a journalist’s perspective. In fact, it makes the game incredibly easy to cover. If your game is “a cross between popular game X and popular game Y”, you’ve just written my headline for me.
– Congratulations! You’ve got a journalist interested and they’ve sent through some questions via email for you to answer. So for goodness’ sake, answer them now and answer them well. A few one-sentence answers that tell me nothing about the game, emailed through a week after the fact, will end up rotting in my inbox. Give me some quotes, and give them to me while I’m obviously interested in your game.
Recently, an indie developer absolutely nailed it, and I’d like to use them as a standout example. I’d tweeted that BeefJack was looking to feature some interesting indie games on the site. Now, I know that a lot of indie developers follow me on Twitter, so it surprised me that only two emails came through, but never mind that. Within ten minutes, I had an email from an indie developer. And here’s what was in it.
– A collection of high-res screenshots
– A link to a playable build
– Some very quotable accompanying text
– A description, which included several popular examples of games it was similar to
Which is fantastic! A prompt response, some attention-grabbing text, some images I can use, and you even let me play it! I wrote about the game immediately. My article ended up on the front page of /r/games on Reddit for about 24 hours, where people discussed how interesting it looked.
Because it was interesting. Not especially unique, nor beautiful to look at, but it had a hook, which its devs communicated with me brilliantly. This is how to sell your indie game – it costs nothing, takes little time, and allows for widespread chatter about the thing you’re working on. Why anyone doesn’t do this is beyond me. Stop being ridiculous, and start doing it now.