Discover A Better Solution On How To Promote Your Indie Game
Here, listen to this. It's from the Roundtable Live Podcast…
Click play to listen...
This is fascinating because YouTube Gamers and Streamers are now learning how to min/max their profits.
Think about it. A certain words in a title in your indie game will stop a YouTuber from streaming it. They know what keywords will stop them from monetizing their videos.
And you know what? This is great. This is a natural progression into becoming a well paid professional. By min/maxing their videos, they're improving THEIR income. It's smart business. And best of all, these are NEW jobs being created. The older generation don't get this. They think gaming and YouTubers and Streaming is a fad. But real money is being made.
As YouTube Gamers and Streamers start min/maxing their profits, this puts pressure on you, and other indie game devs. This is the first time indie game devs now have to really start thinking about this stuff.
All of a sudden, you have new questions to ask yourself about how to promote your game. Do you try to become friends with YouTubers? Do you save your money and do a promotion with them? Do you design your game so it's viewer friendly? Do you pander to YouTubers and make a game that will min/max THEIR profits?
YouTubers have clout. They are getting more and more power. And it seems like this is the best way to promote your video game: to use a YouTubers power and influence and subscriber count to help you sell your game.
It's starting to become a game where indie game devs are making games for YouTubers... and NOT gamers.
But, this is NOT the only way to promote your indie game.
In this article, I'll show you 3 good reasons why using other peoples communities is a good way to waste time, money, and increase your risks. You'll discover 3 reasons why promoting YouTuber's isn't what it use to be.
Then you're going to learn a solution to this problem. There is a better way to promote your indie game, and not have to rely on a YouTubers community. You'll learn that, too.
Grab your favourite beverage. Come back. And let's learn something new about how to promote your indie game so you can min/max your profits, too...
Argument Number 1: Meet The New Boss... Same As The Old Boss
Before 2009, a gamer had basically 3 options for video gaming news, reviews, and entertainment.
One option was physical gaming magazines you'd have to buy off a store rack.
Second option was gaming news websites (usually made by the same companies that had physical magazines).
Three, you'd watch them on network TV (I grew up on watching Video Arcade Top 10, Video Power, and my favourite, Electric Playground TV.)
But around 2009, there was a NEW source to get video game news and entertainment: YouTube.
And one of the biggest draw to YouTube as a main source for gaming news, reviews, and entertainment was because it offered gamers the something traditional gaming media never did. It's called the "long-tail".
Let me explain...
You probably have heard of the bell curve. It's where all the popular stuff fits under bell shaped curve. And the tail of that bell is the least popular stuff.
Traditional gaming media was interested in the popular stuff. They made content that was under the bell curve.
But not YouTube creators. They created gaming content that fit in the long-tail of things. They put all their focus on the long-tail.
Back in 2009, that's what the environment looked like. You had the mainstream media talking about the most popular video games. Of course, they also talked about small, less popular games. But for the most part, mainstream gaming media made content about what's popular.
Why? Because what's popular makes money. Spending production time on video games that aren't popular meant that they'd risk losing viewers and readers. It cost money to produce videos, and print magazines, and pay writers.
But not YouTube. The content creators did it for free. That means they could take bigger risks. And they played whatever the hell they wanted. And YouTube is a big part why indie games are a huge industry now.
Before 2009, there was very little focus on indie games. Again, whatever got the most views and readers, got the most attention. Most indie games didn't get that much attention.
Basically, old gaming media were gate-keepers to content. They controlled how you found new games. They controlled what new games you'd see.
But YouTube gave YOU, the gamer control. Not only could you find mainstream games, now you could discover smaller, less publicized, indie games that no mainstream media outlet would risk spending money talking about.
Again, YouTubers weren't afraid to talk about the games that were part of the long-tail. This exposed a lot of indie games. The gates were broken wide open. No longer did the gatekeepers control what content was coming out. Now gamers had control over what THEY wanted to watch.
And guess what they wanted to watch most? They wanted more and more info on indie games. Gamers wanted to learn more about NEW indie games. They wanted more entertainment from indie games. They wanted more news about indie games.
YouTube content creators got attention because they were anti-mainstream. And YouTube creators were actually GAMERS. They were young. They were raw. They said whatever they wanted. And they played whatever they wanted.
This appealed to a lot of gamers, too.
Gamers flocked to these new YouTube creators. They wanted to hear their opinion on games. They trusted names like Jim Sterling, TotalBiscuit, Paul Soares Jr, Quill18, Christopher Odd, Yahtzee, and many others.
And that's because their voices were raw. What was said wasn't filtered by ad money, or SEO, or corporate marketing.
It was gamers talking to gamers. It was the only place you could find gamers like you, who thought like you, and found things funny like you.
It was the total opposite of traditional games media. Games media were run by corporations. Their voices weren't raw. They were filtered. The content that they made was content that would make them the most money. And just watch E3, and you'll see how out of touch they are. That's because those people making that content are business people first, and maybe... mabye... gamers second or third.
Now, let's go back to that clip I played you in the beginning of this article.
Click play to listen...
You see what's going on? Old media were the gatekeepers. Now, YouTube Gamers and Streamers and content creators are becoming gatekeepers, too.
No longer are they playing whatever the hell they want. They have to worry about keywords, and monetization, and their subscriber count.
The same beloved YouTubers who were young, who were fellow gamers, who took risks, are now becoming what they stood against.
And again, this is a natural progression into becoming a professional. There is nothing wrong min/maxing your content so that it gets the most income for you.
The problem is that this will impact you as a indie game dev. It's going to be much, much harder to get these NEW gatekeepers to play your game.
YouTube Gamers are now the new gatekeepers. They now control what is said, how it's said, and when it's said.
Of course, YouTube is forcing content creators to do this. Making ad friendly content helps YouTube make money. And their rules trickle down to content creators.
But still, you as an indie game dev now have to play by these new rules. No longer are the day where long-tail games will get their spotlight. Indie game devs are now forced to design games that will fit under the bell curve where popular games, ad friendly, safe games fit under.
Meet the new boss... same as the old boss.
Argument Number 2: Using Other Peoples Communities Becomes Crutch and an Addiction
I just explained a bit of how YouTube and gamers have allowed indie games to become mainstream.
It use to be a small handful of media that were the gatekeepers. THEY controlled what the gamer got to see, read, and play.
With YouTube, the floodgates were opened. Now there were thousands of gamers talking about OTHER gamers that traditional media never talked about. Now gamers controlled what they got to see, read, and play.
YouTube Gamers allowed indie games to get a lot of exposure, and so there was a boom in indie game sales.
So, it's only natural for indie game devs to use YouTube Gamers as a platform to promote their games.
But, and I'm sure you've noticed this too, that it's getting harder and harder to promote your game on YouTube.
That's because YouTube Gamers have become what they were against. They have become gatekeepers themselves.
Of course, that's due to YouTube's ad business model. It forces YouTube Gamers to be careful about what they say, and what they show.
And it's also has to do with so many indie games being made, that not every YouTuber is going to talk about them, or play them.
Even still, YouTubers have to make money. And they will only play the indie games that will min/max their viewership and ad money.
They're not going to play games with the word "blood" in them because their video won't get monetized. They're not going to play certain games that won't entertain their audience. They're not willing to take risks on less known indie games because they might not get the viewership.
But, say you DID get chummy with a YouTuber. Say a well known, popular YouTuber started to showcase your game. They talked about it on their podcast. They made a Let's Play. They streamed it on Twitch. They gave you a lot of exposure.
What's wrong with that? What's wrong with using a YouTube Gamers and their community to help sell your game?
A YouTube Gamer put in a lot of effort into building their community. Their community trusts them. Their community will buy stuff because they recommend it. Their community will spread word-of-mouth about your game.
There is a huge advantage to using other people's community. This is obvious. But what's not so obvious is what happens to the game developer.
As an indie game dev, when you use other people's communities, you give up control. You have to start answering to the YouTube Gamer and his or her community. Your focus turns outward to what a group of people think about your game.
You end up taking orders from somebody else. Your design is determined not buy your creativity, but by what the community thinks. It's their hive-mind that you focus on. For example, one negative comment overridden 1000 good comments. These little things will seep into your brain, and change how you develop games.
And here's my major point on why this is so bad...
You start making games that YouTubers want, and not what gamers want.
Remember, these are two different markets. Making games marketed towards YouTubers begins to override making a quality game for a gamer.
The better your game...the higher the quality of your game... the more your game fulfills a gamer wants and needs, the more they will play the more they will talk about your game.
But when your focus is toward making games for YouTubers, you lose that quality thinking. What YouTubers want is to make money. They are a different consumer than a gamer. And this will dictate how you think about your game, and how you design your game.
You start asking yourself questions like, "Is my game marketable to YouTubers?".
That's when the quality of your game starts going down.
And I get it. When you're starting off, you have no leverage. You have nobody promoting your game. Getting a YouTuber to talk about your game gives you a lot of leverage.
But this becomes an addiction.
After you get a small taste of using other people's audience to sell your indie game, it becomes a crutch.
When you make your next game, you'll be distracted. You're now reliant on YouTubers for your success.
And that's a bad deal for YOU.
What happens when your main source of promotion says something wrong, and the internet turns on them?
When you run out of other's peoples communities, you have to go back and get more. This is where the addiction begins. You use them as a crutch, and now yourself.
And this work is distracting. Getting the attention from YouTubers isn't easy. It use to be that YouTubers went out looking for you. They needed content. But now it's to the point where YouTubers won't even play games that they got for free from the developer -- even AAA games.
Again, trying to make an indie game that is marketable to YouTubers is distracting. Your energies and efforts should go toward making quality games for gamers.
And that's why YouTubers are here in the first place. They forgot that it was the GAME that made them popular... not the other way around.
When you start using other peoples communities to sell your indie game, gamers get moved down in importance. You wind up developing a game that a YouTuber will play, and not necessarily what a gamer would play. You're helping THEM build their audience. And the hope is that you get some "trickle down economies". You hope that their success will rub off on you, and you'll get all that money, too.
But in reality, you just become addicted to this form of promotion. It becomes a crutch. And you lose focus on the quality of your game.
I'll show you a better solution, soon. But first I want to talk about this...
Argument Number 3: You'll Have To Continue Paying If You Want Exposure
Remember how I told you back in 2009, gamers made videos of themselves playing indie games, and that opened the gates for the entire industry?.
Well, they did this for free. For the love of the game.
The best example of this is Paul Soares Jr. His Let's Play of Minecraft is one of the biggest reasons the game took off. His videos not only exposed the game, but also helped HIM get exposure.
It was a symbiotic relationship.
It's the same with one of my favourite YouTubes, Christopher Odd. He's the one that exposed me to games like The Wither 1 and indie games like Bastion,Vampire: The Masquerade - Bloodlines, and Amnesia.
Now, it's no longer this symbiotic relationship. Now people watch YouTubers and Twitch Streamers, not for the game they're playing, but for them. It's more about the personality, rather than the game now.
My first exposure to PUBG was through DrDisrespect. I watch him because he's entertaining. And if he starts playing another game, I'll still watch. Sure, the game he plays, gives him more exposure. But that proves my point that YouTubers and Streamers are playing more popular games for the sake of ad money.
So, what happens is, YouTubers and Streamers homogenize their content. What I mean is, because YouTubers and Streamers are now min/maxing their views, they will often gravitate to the most popular games. This dictates what games will be shown.
Now you start seeing your favourite YouTubers playing the same games as everybody else.
Of course, not every YouTuber and Streamer does this. There are still a lot of content creators that will play indie games. But they will only play the most popular indie games. Whenever the next "Undertale" comes out, they will be there playing it.
So, why am I talking about this?
This "cult of personality" is very marketable. And big corporations, with a lot of ad money, know this.
For example, AAA publisher, Ubisoft, did something unprecedented back in February 2017. They gave a lot of money to YouTubers and Twitch Streamers to play For Honor.
This was the first time you'd seen a major publisher put in so much money into "new media". They found as many content creators who have built their own audience through their entertaining personality, and paid them to play For Honor.
And it worked. Their marketing campaign lead to a lot of sales. For Honor is one of the top 5 selling games in 2017. Despite all the negative reviews and bad press, this game made it to the top 5 sales of 2017. And it was thanks to their marketing campaign, in their first week.
You see what's going on? Exposure use to be FREE. Now that AAA ad money is being thrown at content creators, there is even LESS incentive to play other non-popular games.
Indie game devs are being pinched. They're being forced to have to either come up with a game that is so popular that it grabs content creators attention. Or indie game devs now have to pay for this exposure.
And the problem with paying for promotion is it's addicting.
If you do have some ad money, and say you use it to sponsor a content creator. And let's just say that it worked. You got a spike in sales.
It's what happened to For Honor. Their sponsorship campaign worked. Their initial sales spiked. But in order to keep that kind of sales consistent, they need to keep pumping money into marketing and advertising.
This type of marketing is addicting because you may see a spike in sales. But this is an inflated spike. It's artificial. It wasn't gamers who made the game popular. It's marketing that made the game popular.
This means that you need to keep this artificial spike in sales up. And you do that with MORE marketing and advertising.
It's a cycle. It's the "Industrial Advertising Cycle". It's where you put money into marketing and advertising. Sales increase. But this is an artificial increase. So when sales start dropping again, you put in MORE advertising money to artificially increase those sales.
You have to keep feeding the beast if you want to keep your sales up.
My point here is, in the long-run, this isn't sustainable. Promotion costs a lot of money. Branding costs a lot of money. Most of your profits will go toward this type of marketing.
For indie game devs who don't have a marketing budget, putting in $250 to promote a content creator isn't enough to sustain sales. You'll have to keep pumping money into the "Industrial Advertising Complex" for it to keep working for you.
There is a better way. When you're starting off, relying on content creators, and THEIR community to sell your indie game is not sustainable.
If it does work, great. But it costs a lot of money. Especially now. Content creators have become the gatekeepers. And if you want them to push your game through the gate, it's going to cost you.
So, what's a better way? Let me show you a solution...
A Solution For Indie Game Devs Who Don't Want To Rely On Content Creators To Sell Their Games
Here's a quick take-away of everything you've learned...
- 2009 - 2015 was the golden age for indie games
- That's because gamers started playing games they wanted to play, and broadcasted that on YouTube
- This was free exposure to indie games, exposure that traditional media didn't give them
- Traditional games media were the gatekeepers, they controlled what games they showed you
- YouTube busted open the gates, and exposed gamers to a whole whack of indie games
- As YouTube and even Twitch (Justin.tv) matured as a platform, content creators become more and more influential
- Watching a YouTuber was less and less about the game, and more about the personality of the content creator
- This "cult-of-personality" is very marketable
- So, AAA game companies are starting to use their ad money to promote these content creators
- This puts indie game devs in a tough spot
- No longer are the days where indie game devs got free exposure, now they have to compete with AAA games and their ad money
- Also, content creators have become min/maxers
- Content creators play games that lead to more subscriptions, views, and monetization
- If your game can't be monetized, content creators won't play it (for the most part)
- This puts indie game devs in even a tighter spot
- Indie game devs are now designing games for YouTubers and Twitch Streamers and NOT for gamers (not all indie game devs do this, of course)
- When indie game devs start developing games just for content creators, the quality of their games go down
- What YouTubers want are NOT the same thing gamers want
- Gamers want to play games, YouTubers want subscribers, views, and monetization
- Indie game devs are finding it harder and harder to get exposure on YouTube or Twitch
- It's come to the point that indie game devs will have to pay for this exposure
So, what's a better solution? I got one for you. And it comes from an unlikely place.
Go have a quick visit to https://stonemaiergames.com/.
Jamey Stegmaier is an indie board game designer. And he's also a content creator. His content is what helps him sell his board games.
You see, instead of relying on other peoples communities, a better solution is to build your OWN community.
Sounds obvious, I know. But it's not easy to do. So let me show you
He's built up his own community by using fundamental marketing practices. Blogs, articles, podcasts, ebooks, videos.
I'm showing you him because I often cite myself as an example of building up a community. I've been doing this type of marketing to sell my own apps and online services since 2005. But I want to show you another example, that this type of marketing -- content marketing -- is the best option if you don't have a huge ad budget.
So, Instead of relying on other people's community to sell your indie game, the best solution is to build your OWN community.
Easier said than done.
But it can be done. And I've put together 3 lessons for you, to help you start...
How To Build Your OWN Community, And Not Have To Rely On Other Content Creators' Fanbase To Sell Your Indie Game: 3 Step Plan
What you're about to learn is called "content marketing". It's designed so people find YOU and not the other way around.
When you're using content creators to help you sell your indie game, you're actually doing what is called "interrupt marketing". It's where somebody, like a content creator, will "interrupt' what they're doing, to talk about your ad.
This type of marketing interrupts the viewer, too. The viewer is watching the content creator for their work, and having an ad interrupts a viewer to pay attention to something other than the reason they are watching.
However, content marketing is where you put as much content out there, and the user finds YOU. They go out of their way to consume your content.
In other words, instead of you bugging them to buy your stuff, they find YOU and want to buy your stuff.
So, how does this exactly work?
How do you make content that get's a person so interested in your stuff that they go out of their way to find you?
Let me show you 3 ways...
Step 1: Be Prolific and Distribute Your Content 3 Ways
People consume content differently. Some people like to read. Some people like to watch. Some people like to listen.
The blog or articles are still king in content creation. More people prefer to read because it's faster than watching and listening.
However, watching and listening is more convenient. So videos and audio are becoming more popular in ways people consume content.
Again, people like to consumer content in different ways. There is no best way. Watching, reading, listening are all popular forms of consuming content.
I'm telling you this because back in 2005, having a blog was enough to get you some attention. Google would index your site, and people could easily find your content.
Now a blog isn't enough. You need all 3, including video and podcasts.
And just having a YouTube channel isn't enough. And just having a podcast isn't enough. You need to utilize all three.
Remember my example I showed you, Stonemeirgames.com? It's exactly what he does. He blogs. He makes videos. He has a podcast.
It's a lot of work. But making money is a lot of work. And it's worth the effort.
Ok, that's great... make a lot of content. Good. Now what? How do you commit to doing this? What do you say in your content that will get attention?
I'll show you that in the next steps...
Step 2: Set 1 Hour a Day To Create Content
You have to make a commitment to pull this off. But it doesn't mean you have to become a full time broadcaster, podcaster, writer, blogger, video producer.
All it takes is 1 hour, every day. And shoot for 1000 words. 10 minute video. Or a 50 minute podcast.
What's most important isn't WHAT you say, but to start. It's important to start this habit of 1 hour a day content creating because in a few weeks, you'll notice how much content you've created.
And also, this will help you with your creativity. It's counter intuitive, but to set rules like this actually helps you come up with ideas.
My best ideas came to me in 45 minutes of writing absolute garbage... then all of a sudden, an idea came that would not have if I didn't put in that 45 minutes.
Also, it's important to turn off all and any interruptions. No reddit. No texts. No Facebook. No email.
It's easy to burn through 1 hour by distracting yourself. So put away any distractions. It's just you and your word document, or camera, or microphone, for 1 hour. That's it.
When you focus your brain one task, you'll be amazed at how much you get done. It's when you multitask when you get nothing much done. You might feel like you've done a lot, when you multitask. But at the end of the day, there's not much work to show for it.
But by focusing all your energies on one task, one hour a day, you'll see tangible results. You'll have at least one article done, one podcast done, or one video done per week. And this adds up.
Ok, so what do you SAY in your content to grab a gamer's attention? And then how do you convert a person who's consuming your content into a gamer who is buying and playing your indie game?
Let me show you, next...
Step 3: Use Your Content To Build a Relationship With Your Audience First -- NOT To Sell To Them, Yet
It's important that your content builds trust. Before you can start pushing your game on your reader and viewer, you need to build that trust.
It's exactly what successful YouTubers and Twitch Streamers did when they first started. The reason people watched them is because they had an unbiased opinion on the games they played. Gamers trusted them.
It's only when gamers trusted them, that YouTubers got away with some "interrupt marketing". Gamers understand that their favourite YouTubers get sponsorships, and money to talk about certain games. Gamers are OK with that because they trust is there.
It's the same with your own content. It's there to build trust FIRST. Then once that trust has been built, then it's ok to ask for a purchase.