Announcing your fist indie game
So, you've been working away in your little bubble and it's come time to announce your game to the world. If you're anything like me, this will terrify you. The week leading up to the announcement I didn't really sleep. I was mostly afraid that what I'd been working on in isolation is actually not great. I have a habit of looking at my own work and just spotting whats wrong with it. What if I release this trailer and I'm flooded with internet hate? How would I continue on with development having my fragile soul shattered by a few vocal keyboard commandos?
There were a couple of things that helped me to bolster my confidence during the week leading up to the announcement. I contacted my PR guys to show them an early preview of the trailer and if they had any advice for a launch. The advice they gave me was simple but effective. They suggested I send the trailer to some press outlets and just see if there is any interest.
My initial reaction to this advice was "is this news worthy?". They gave me 2 email addresses to try out. I figured while I was at it I'd do a quick search online and contact some indie game websites to see if there was any further interest out there. I didn't expect any responses. After all, I'm an unknown entity announcing an unknown game. To my surprise, one person got back to me. Not only that, they wanted to do an interview. This was 4 days ahead of my launch so this helped with my confidence and nerves quite a bit. I mean this guy would see indie games all day every day. If he wants to interview me maybe he likes what he see's. Or maybe its a slow news week. Regardless, I was excited.
I will always do this now. Contacting the press is a little weird and seems like some kind of self glorification but honestly, you have nothing to lose by trying and may just get a little coverage.
So finally, the day of the announcement. I got about 2 hours sleep before waking up at 7am to kick things off. The first thing I did was make my trailer public on YouTube. Then I turned on my premade Facebook page and invited my friends list to join it. Next a made a post mentioning Unreal Engine and showing my trailer. See the reason I chose 7am on a Friday is because that makes it around 2pm Thursday on the west cost of the US. I was thinking early week would be bad as news outlets might be flooded with weekend news and that by Thursday they might be looking for something to write about and you never know.
I next posted to Twitter and tagged Unreal Engine again. Then.... the waiting. Slowly many of my friends liked my Facebook page and congratulated me on the trailer. Obviously this was an overwhelmingly positive response but most of these people aren't my target audience.
Twitter was totally dead. I usually get decent coverage on Twitter because Epic will re tweet things made in their engine that they approve of but I realised something. They hadn't tweeted anything since 1 hour before I launched everything. I missed them. Being how busy they are it became more and more likely that they wouldn't see it and so far, they haven't. This is something I'll need to do differently next time. I think its important to try to hit the morning hours of where your shares and interest will come from and it'll be my strategy moving forward.
Next I tried boosting my video post on Facebook. It was cheap, around $6 to reach thousands of people that I can target. Sounds perfect. That has been running for 4 days now and I've had 1 page like and one video click from it. My mistake here is that my audience was too broad. Things like "video games" target an audience of millions but there was no option to target "horror video game" so I was left without options on this one. Another thing about Facebook advertising. They count a video view as someone that sees the video for 3+ seconds . So if my video is on someones feed and they take longer than 3 seconds to scroll past it, then its a view and I'm charged money. # seconds is barely out of the fade from black. Plus it ads a view to the view count on the video. From my perspective, a video with 2K views and 30 likes looks pretty bad.
So far things aren't terrible but it's not really making the splash I had hoped for. It hadn't really broken the bubble made up of people I know. Then, out of the blue, one of the sites I had emailed have written an article on it. That was really surprising. Then the interview was published. After these 2 things my view count on YouTube went from 80 or so to just shy of 600 within a couple of hours. A few likes and one negative comment. Still not amazing numbers but its still rising now by about 50 views an hour. According to the video stats, a quarter of them are coming from YouTube Recommendations. Regardless of the response, I've broken the friend bubble.
What's point am I trying to make here? Well, the best thing I did was contact the press. I had a plan for everything else and while it mostly went according to plan, it didn't make any waves. I'd also reconsider my timing. Things would have gone very differently had I nailed that timing. Next time, I'll have to pull an all nigher because the worst thing you can do is engage your audience and just go to bed. You need to answer questions. I'll write another update article on how the announcement performed in a few weeks and we'll see if it gained any further traction.