Tim Cain Explains How He Marketed Fallout 1 -- And Lessons You Can Use as a Indie Video Game Dev
You want to sell a lot of copies of your video game, right? How do you do that when there's so much competition? How do you grab a gamer's attention? How do you spend months or maybe years on a project you love, and then take a risk and "hope" that people will buy it?
Well, inside this article, you're going to learn a simple lesson from the developers and artists of Fallout 1, Tim Cain and Leonard Boyarsky.
What I want you to take away from this article is not just a lesson, though. You're also going to get a technique that will help you improve how you market your video game. And the entire reasons why you're marketing your video game is so you can make good money.
However, if you don't learn some basic marketing, then you'll be like most game devs... Most game devs are talented. Very talented. But most of them don't know how to make money from their talent.
I'll show you the marketing technique soon. But first I want to play you a short clip from a podcast I love. In it, Tim and Leonard explain how they used a simple technique that turned into a whole entire sub-genre.
How Fallout's Story Will Help You Sell More Video Games
Leonard Boyarsky was the lead art director / story developer for Fallout 1. Let me play a short clip from the podcast he was on, Dev Game Club. He explains how he came up with the idea of Fallout 1 theme...
Now, what's the lesson here? How can you use this insight to help you sell more video games?
Well, look at what he said more carefully. Then I'll give a some action steps you can use to help you market your own video game the same way.
He didn't want to do another "fantasy game".
In the mid 1990's, the gaming industry was full of Tolkien-esque RPGs. You go on a quest. You meet orcs, wizards, dwarves, trolls, hobbits. Then you fight dark lords.
But Fallout 1 went the other direction. Leonard wanted to do something that was totally different than what was out there.
This seems trivial, but look at what's happening in the gaming industry right now. Almost every new game is going the same direction.
Let me explain, and show you why what Leonard said in this clip is very important in how you approach your video game, and how you market it...
What Sells Games Isn't Innovation or Copying What's Popular, It's This...
If you notice the indie games that explode on the market, come out of nowhere, get instant attention, are not a "me-too" games. They didn't copy what's popular. They didn't follow a leader.
Also, you'll notice that really innovative games don't sell either. Innovation is great, but it has to be grounded with something familiar. Meaning, a gamer doesn't want an innovative RPG game. They want an RPG game with some innovation sprinkled in it.
It's only the games that stop, and turn and go another direction that get noticed.
And that's what Fallout 1 did. It didn't follow what was popular, And they didn't try to innovate and make something completely new.
They took a sub-genre that is grounded, and well known: RPG. And they they went a total different direction, and went post-apocalyptic.
Let me explain why this helped them make millions, and how you can use this technique, too...
A Video Game Fulfills a Gamers Need -- If That Need Is Being Met, Gamers Don't Buy
I always put myself in the perspective of a gamer. Back in the mid 1990s, most RPG games were fantasy ones.
A gamer had one theme to pick from. Their "need" for fantasy RPG games was being saturated. They didn't need another fantasy RPG.
So, when Tim and Leonard came out with Fallout 1, a post-apocalyptic RPG, that grabbed a gamer's attention.
A new theme, a new setting, a new set of baddies, a new way to play an RPG.
That's what sold this game. It wasn't trying to copy what's popular out there. It wasn't trying to become the most innovative game.
It was a simple switch in direction in theme. Or in other words, in a "sub-genre".
Post-Apocalyptic has now become it's own sub-genre. And that's thanks to Fallout 1 and other games, like Wasteland 1.
Gamers have a huge need for this sub-genre. And in the mid 1990's, nobody was fulfilling that need.
Even though movies like Mad Max, and games like Wasteland were pretty popular... no video game dev was taking advantage to his huge gap in people's need for a post-apocalyptic themed video game.
So, what does this have to do with you and your video game? How does this help you make good money?
Let me explain that next...
Sub-Genre Marketing Technique: Your Action Step
The only way to get your video game noticed today is to do what Fallout 1 did. And that is, focus on a sub-genre that nobody is taking advantage of, yet.
How do you do that? It's a lot easier to say, than to do. So, let me explain and it will be simple...
Fallout 1 hit a jackpot: no game dev was doing post-apocalyptic themes. But yet post-apocalyptic was a popular theme in movies and in games like Wasteland.
Fallout 1 indirectly discovered a jackpot, because not a lot of games were taking advantage of this need people had for post-apocalyptic themed video game.
It's the same today. There are a lot of game devs who follow trends... copy what's popular out there... or they live in their little bubble and have no idea what gamers want... and make a game that is truly innovative but nobody wants.
The trick is to have a balance of what YOU want to make and what gamers want but aren't getting yet.
In other words...
What does a gamer want -- but doesn't have yet?
I remember hearing that Kirk Hammett of Metallica talk about how in the late 70's, he wanted to hear harder, heavier music. But nobody was making that kind of music. So he decided to make the music he wanted to listen to.
And he got lucky because a lot of other people wanted to listen to that type of music too. Metallica were responsible of creating a NEW sub-genre of music: speed metal.
It's the same with video games.
Make a game YOU want to play but at the same time, what gamers want to play but can't get yet.
This is what Undertale did.
The theme of where you don't fight and win is a game the dev, Toby Fox, wanted to play. No other game dev was doing that. So Toby Fox went out and created that game.
But at the same time, he discovered a NEW sub-genre in RPG that gamers wanted to play, but couldn't find yet. This little change in direction of where NOT fighting wins you the game hit a core in a lot of gamers, too. Nobody was doing that. Toby Fox wanted a game like that. Nobody was making one. So he made one.
This is the insight I want you to learn:
There is something in your video game that is unique, that gamers don't have yet, but want to play.
So let me show you how to use the "Sub-Genre Marketing" technique so you can discover something new about your game and come up with a NEW way to market it.
One Step Action Plan: How To Discover a New Sub-Genre No Game Dev Is Taking Advantage Of
It doesn't matter where you're in the development of your game. This technique you're about to learn will work whether you're just starting your first code, or you finished your game.
What I want you to do is, to discover what's the unique theme or element about your video game that no game dev is doing -- yet gamer want.
To help you with this, what I want you to do is take the next 10 minutes to answer me these questions...
Here's a hint: when you're answering these questions, I want you to quickly write down 5 answers for each of these questions. Don't think. Just go as fast as you can. You'll soon realize some insights that you never thought of before.
- If My Video Game Is Another "Me Too" Game...
- My Video Game Is Unique Because...
- Gamers Want To Play...
- My Sub-Genre Is...
- If I Discovered a New Sub-Genre, My Video Game....
Again, write as fast as you can. And give 5 to 10 answers to each question. My goal is to help you discover something new about your video game. What you'll discover will help you market your video game in a way that grabs a gamer's attention.
If you just copy what other games are doing, you'll have a hard time getting a gamer's attention.
It's the games like Fallout 1, Undertale, etc, that go another direction that grab a gamer's attention. And that direction is usually away from what's popular, and into a direction where gamers have a huge need but aren't being fulfilled, yet