Game Marketing Tips From GDC
I gleaned some game marketing tips from several talks at GDC this year.
Tom Francis (Gunpoint) described how to explain games in writing, while Kert Gartner showed how to make good trailers for games. The techniques are quite similar since both require efficient communication. Taken together, these two talks were filled with great advice for telling people about your game. Also, Nathan Vella (Sword & Sworcery) explained how they used consistent PR to communicate the spirit of their game to potential players.
How to Explain Your Game in Writing
Tom Francis talked about explaining a game to impatient readers. Keep the explanation short, about 3 sentences, by means of ruthless editing. Do not make these common mistakes, they waste words:
- Failing to explain things. Don't post a gameplay video with no commentary and hope viewers understand. They won't.
- Explaining artistic intent. It doesn't explain why I would want to play your game. It also uses too many words.
- Explaining story. A compelling explanation of your games story takes too many words. Skip it.
- Saying it is "innovative" or "awesome." These words mean nothing coming from the creator of the game.
Instead, you need to fit these 4 things in 3 sentences:
- Type of game. Just a few words. 2D platformer. Racing game with RPG elements.
- Coolest unique thing. Rewind time to fix mistakes. Tear down and rebuild the entire world.
- The fantasy. Not story, that takes too many words. Just the fantasy: You're a criminal driving around a sprawling city. You're searching for your sister in a creepy forest.
- Give one example of the gameplay. You fly your helicopter up the river bed, staying behind the trees to avoid detection, then sneak over the ridge to drop the commandos off at the enemy base. You drive your moped up the stairs, through the shopping mall, then jump over the embankment to get away.
Focusing on efficient communication makes it more likely you'll get your point across before the reader loses interest. Tom has posted his talk here.
How to make a good trailer
Kert Gartner explained how to make good trailers for games. Similar to Tom's points about terse writing, Kert stressed the importance of keeping the trailer short.
- Make it longer than 60-90 seconds. Most viewers won't watch that long
- Try to explain everything.
- Cram too much information in.
- List features of your game. This is boring and not a good use of precious time.
- Release a bad trailer. You'd be better off with no trailer.
- Make sure the first 5-10 seconds capture attention.
- Use a simple dramatic story arc. A clear beginning/middle/end structure which builds to a climax is good.
- Show what the game is about.
- Capture the style or feel of the game.
- Use zoom-in to focus on the important parts of busy/complex gameplay footage.
- Use slow-motion to help the viewer catch important parts of fast gameplay footage.
- Leave the viewer wanting more.
He showed several example trailers with a detailed explanation of the techniques going into each one. It would be worth going over to his blog to see the examples.
How to Keep Your PR Consistent
Nathan Vella talked about PR for Sword & Sworcery. I was impressed by how much they focused on consistency and on getting the feel & spirit of their game into their PR material.
Nathan had a couple tricks for making sure the vision for the game is communicated in the PR. First, base the PR on the vision for the game instead of the game itself. If you base the PR on the game, the vision will be watered down. It is ok to reference the game, obviously, but make sure the PR is being influenced by the vision. Second, make sure that the person who is in charge of the vision for the game is involved in the PR directly. Ideally you want your PR and your game to feel like part of the same whole. Example: gameplay in Sworcery is tied to phases of the moon, and they kept this same astronomical spirit by doing sales of the game around the solstice.
There was also the mechanical side of consistency: use the same fonts in your game and your PR material. Use the same color palettes. Use the same sound effects. Maintain a common voice between your game and your PR (and make sure all your PR uses a common voice, especially if multiple people are involved in producing it).
You can see some of this consistency in action over at the Sword & Sworcery website, where they talk about "electric computers" and the soundtrack being available on vinyl & audio cassette and where they label their search box "What do you seek?". It feels like their website came from the same weird world that Sworcery is set in.