When people begin making a game, they usually hope for the game to find success among other people and become popular. Though there are designers who only design for friends and family or use game design as an outlet, I want to focus on the majority, who hope to someday sell their game and have it played by many. If you know anything about selling, you know that you need to have people talking. The best way to get people to know about your game is to build a community around it or introduce it to existing communities.
Last week was hectic for me, due to the release of Satchel: A Journey Unknown as a print and play. Let’s say we got more than we were expecting, with over 1000 downloads in the first 3 days. As I’ve been focused on promoting our game and building community, I decided that’s what the focus of this blog should be. In the past week I saw a lot of things we did right, but just as many things that we could have done better. Hopefully, you’ll be able to learn something when it comes to promoting your own game and hopefully I’ll remember some of these things for next time.
- Have a mailing list ready as early as possible.
One of our major misses was that we were so excited with watching the amount of downloads go up, that we completely forgot about having a mailing list. By the time we got it up, our traffic had already slowed down. Mailing lists are a great way to remind people about your game, as people tend to forget quickly. Don’t force people into your mailing list, because you want people who will want to later help you out by buying your games, not just people looking for freebies. Making it mandatory to sign up might drive some people away. If they choose to do it by themselves, then you’ve got an audience who is more likely to be genuinely interested in your work. What we decided to do, was just have a sign-up form at the bottom of every page and a small pop-up the first time you visit the site.
- Instead of spamming, find people who are looking for your game
A lot of designers are so excited about their games, that they want to shout it from the rooftops. I’m no exception, but I found that the people who want to listen to my aerial screeching are not the majority. That’s why we have our friend www.boardgamegeek.com . You’ll find people always looking for new games and wanting to be the first to check them out. Make a nice page for your game, upload the rulebook and any other materials you have (videos, reviews, links, etc.) and browse through the geeklists to find people who enjoy games similar to yours. Post your game there and ask for feedback, so you can learn more about how people perceive your game. There are also many Facebook groups which allow you to promote your games, just read the guidelines to make sure you’re not doing anything you’re not supposed to. You can even ask where the right place to post about your game is and surely people will point you to it. The takeaway here is, if there are already communities with similar interests, join them and tell them about yourself. Those communities are there so that people can learn more about others doing the same things. You’re much better off posting there, than somewhere else.
- Ask for feedback!
It’s crucial to get second opinions on what you’re doing. As much as it can sting to have others tell you what you’re doing wrong after all of the effort you’ve put in, it will help you become better. Learning from your mistakes is the only way to become better if you want to keep doing this in the long run. You’ll make mistakes, inside of your game and outside of it, but getting people who are not as attached as yourself to give you a fresh look on the way things look from the outside will surely bring things you’ve never noticed to the surface. So, ask people for their opinions on your artwork, gameplay, promotional strategies and general feedback. You shouldn’t listen to everybody of course, but if most people are perceiving things in ways you don’t want them to, try to find other options. Which brings me to my next point.
- Don’t be afraid to change your strategy
A whole big chunk of making games, similarly to a whole big chunk of making a community lies on the shoulders of trial and error. If things aren’t working the way you’re doing them, change it up. If they’re working even less, change it again. Change until you begin getting better results. Everyone knows people who have been doing the same things for years, yet seem to be in the same place, you don’t want to get stuck like that. If you keep changing, sooner or later, you’ll find your own way to bring people together. Find out why you’re passionate about your game and share that passion with others, passion is contagious.
- Be nice
As a creator, you have the freedom to do whatever you want in your game. When it comes to showing your game to the world though, you better be nice if you want to get anywhere. I’ve heard many stories about people who were great at what they do, but nobody wanted to hire them because they had an attitude problem. Be patient with people, put a smile on your face and make them feel accepted and good in your company. In fact, I think this should be your number one priority. If people find that your game is not for them (which will often be the case), they’ll still be interested in your future work, just because of your attitude.
Building a community isn’t an easy task, but it is very rewarding to be able to bring people together. Luckily, we’re in a hobby which is very open and has great communities already in place. Boardgamers are used to forming their own cliques of people they can play and talk about games with, so getting them involved in your community shouldn’t be too hard. If you’re interested in joining our community, you can do so in our facebook group and by signing up to our mailing list which is just below this post.