Insightful Bytes: Interfacing With The Press

I’d like to talk a bit about things you can do to get your game better seen and distributed around the press cycle. While my case is a bit unique, I feel these tips can help anyone who is working on game reach the press in a new and more positive light. As you may know, I get all of my games submitted to me through this form right here. I designed this form to make it easier for me to present to my viewers information that will be of help to them. Here are the fields in the form, what they do for me and why they are important to get right:

Game Name

NEVER underestimate the power of a snappy name. Your game’s name is how everyone will identify it, and if it doesn’t sound fun, engaging or clever it’s not going to help you. In addition, try to keep your name as easily pronounceable as possible, no one can talk about your game if they don’t know how to say it!

Company or Dev Name

Ideally, all of your games should be under some sort of brand. Most of the time you’ll want to have a company name, but alot of times I end up with submissions where the developer simply goes by their forum handle. This can be a major point of professionalism and can immediately turn people away from your game. Would you rather play a game made by a company like “Thunderclap Games” (random name) or by some guy named “Thunderthighs5213”? If you don’t have a studio name, there’s no time like the present to start thinking of one, it’s a MUST!

Contact Email

This one’s a bit of a special case, as usually you’ll be the one emailing other people. If you can afford it however, you should consider investing in a private email address, or at least making a separate GMail. It’s so nice having your work/hobby life and your real life separate, and this is just one extra step to help that.

Game Link/Key

Usually for press you’ll want to ensure they have access to some sort of “dev build”. You can always toss them a public demo, but if it’s something anyone has access to, there’s a good chance press may pass it up. Why would a popular personality waste their time on a public demo when they have exclusive access to something else? Press is always looking for exclusives, so always try to offer one! If you are giving out Steam Keys or specific Developer Kits, MAKE THAT INFORMATION KNOWN IMMEDIATELY. Put it in the email subject that there is a Steam Key inside the email, do not keep this information hidden!

Build Version

It’s always a good idea to let the media you submit your game to know EXACTLY what state your game is in. If it’s an alpha, do not be afraid to say so, tip-toeing around that can cause players to think they are playing a final product, and that could spell doom if an unfinished product is portrayed in such a light. Be it alpha, beta, v0.00001, prototype or whatever, make it perfectly clear to whomever you’re presenting it to what they’re in for.

Promotional Materials

This is the BIG one, and I could be here all day talking about it. I cannot stress enough how important it is to have an easily accessible press kit filled with promotional material. Many of the games I play are in very early stages, so I am pretty lenient on this, but as soon as it is possible, you NEED to get a press kit started and keep it updated. For anyone new to the presskit game, I cannot sing the praises highly enough for presskit(). This little free module has saved me so many manhours in collecting materials for my work. But then there’s the question of just what to put into your presskit. Here is what I believe to be the absolute most important things to submit from top to bottom:

  • Transparent Eye Catching Logo (Access to a transparent logo is CRUCIAL for all press. They need it to make thumbnails among other things.)
  • Trailer/Gameplay Video (Downloadable versions and not just YouTube versions are super helpful for video creators)
  • In Game Screenshots
  • Email Address
  • Feature Bulletpoints
  • Detailed Game Summary
  • Social Links (Twitter, Facebook, Etc…)
  • Company History
  • Known Bugs

Again, I’m a bit of a rare case here as I tend to deal with buggy dev builds, but it’s still a great idea to let the press know of any potential pitfalls in press builds you may send out.

Feature Bulletpoints

This one is more of a catchall. It’s important to press to a degree, but it’s VERY important to consumers. There are TONS of people out who’s decision on playing your game hinges on your ability to hook them immediatly. Bulletpoints are your game’s elevator pitch, they need to be unique, concise and attention grabbing. DO NOT make paragraph long bulletpoints, those will not be attention grabbing, just boring. Conversely, don’t be too short or vague. The following are bullet points that were legitimately sent to me in the past from various games:

  • Bad Bullet Points:
    • Coop
    • platformer
    • puzzle
    • Challenge!
    • Score system with achievements.
    • Stuff (Yes, I’m serious, “Stuff” was a feature bulletpoint)
  • Good Bullet Points:
    • Poker-esque card-based combat mechanic.
    • Immersive gameplay inspired by Flashback and Another World.
    • A wealth of spells to collect.
    • Shoot, dodge and reflect enemy fire through 9 levels to get to the boss.
    • No frustrating class-based gear limitations.
    • Dozens of brain busting puzzles, with more being added all the time

Notes

There’s no real harm after getting the bulletpoints, features and such out of the way in engaging the content creator in extra information about the game or your company. If you have a humanizing story about your company and the way it was founded, don’t lay it on too thick, but feel free to disclose such information, some of the time press may choose to build on that in their story.

Webpage

Make yourself a company website AS SOON AS YOU CAN. Websites are an amazing linkback resource and you might be amazed how often having one can come in handy. Just by getting one, you can get your own personalized email linked to it, much like mine. This can increases your perceived professionalism 10x.

IndieDB

Really not important to mention to most people, this one’s a special case for me.

Twitter

Twitter has become SUPER important in the gamedev scene, especially amongst indies. It’s a great way for you to get in touch with your audience, and vice versa. You can also post mini-devlogs and screenshots which can easily net you new viewers. Some handy hashtags to know are #indiedev, #indiedevhour, #screenshotsaturday and #gamedev. Make absolutely sure you include your Twitter in your signature on both forums and emails, it is a super convenient way for people you are getting in touch with to follow you!

Steam Greenlight

If you are running a Steam Greenlight campaign, you need to get a link to that EVERYWHERE! Anywhere could be a potential area to find that one person who is willing to share your campaign to the millions of people who can get it seen. Greenlight campaigns, as well as game marketing in general is a game of luck and numbers, so do whatever you can to increase that number. The more your game is linked, the higher the chance it will be seen, it’s that simple.

Keys or Giveaways

While I never REQUIRE such things, giving a couple of extra keys and giveaways to the press is never a bad idea. They may be just the people to get your game into the right hands for circulation. Do not think of giveaways as a lost sale, but rather a chance to reach a new person who otherwise would never have seen your game. For all you know that new player may introduce the game to their friends, and so on and so forth. Word of mouth is a powerful thing!


And that covers this week’s basic lecture on interfacing with the press through my own personal experience. Again, every person is different, and this is by no means a catch-all situation, but hopefully it will help you better understand things from the other side and maybe even get your game seen more by some new people. If you have any questions or comments on the subject, be sure to leave them below!

Read More