Metalhead Software – Super Mega Baseball Mid-Mortem

Scott Drader

Scott Drader

Scott Drader co-founded Metalhead Software, a local game and software development studio in 2009. Last year he came out to give a “pre-mortem” talk about the game that Metalhead had been putting in long hours to finish, Super Mega Baseball (formerly known as Big Fly Baseball).

Now, after the recent release of Super Mega Baseball, Scott is triumphantly returning to give a “mid-mortem” talk, where he will be talking about the stress, exhilaration, and lessons learned in shipping Metalhead’s first title.

 

Pre-mortem Recap

Scott’s talk started with a quick recap of the pre-mortem talk he gave last February. Metalhead Software started as a two person team in Scott’s basement in 2009. While building the game they supported themselves with contract work. At their peak the team was 6-8 people. They’ve showed at PAX and other trade shows, which helped them stay grounded during development. As a small indie studio they kept costs down by using open source technologies. Unfortunately they had some early tech issues which caused them to have to redo a lot of work when they needed to switch technologies. Aside from technical issues, it was challenging to make a baseball game in a city that isn’t hugely into baseball. Other expected challenges were in how to market and test the game.

On with the Mid-mortem!

Super Mega Baseball initially launched in North America on December 16th, 2014, which was a bit of an odd time to ship a sports game. Usually sports games ship around the start of the real life season when people are already excited. It was tough to get press attention right when all the people writing for game sites were leaving for Christmas holidays, but by the time the game launched the holiday rush had mostly died down and they did get decent attention.

The launch date wasn’t a calculated decision; the team was low on cash and sanity and the game needed to ship. Super Mega Baseball was originally intended to ship in the summer.

The game got some very positive press due to being fresh in people’s minds when recaps and game of the year articles were coming out.

Audience Member: Why didn’t your publisher manage press/pr & release date?
Scott: We didn’t have one.

Follow Up Question: Would you work with a publisher next time?
Scott: Depends, there are a lot of pros and cons. There’s costs either way – if you’re not paying a  publisher to take care of this stuff you’re doing it all yourself.

The Pricing Problem 

Pricing is a difficult problem for indie games. Metalhead Software ended up charging $20 for Super Mega Baseball. They didn’t want to undervalue their game but at the same time they wanted as many people as possible to play it. There isn’t enough data yet to know if Metalhead made the right call on price. It will take more launches to really have a good feel for it. 

Audience comment: Instead of lowering the price, bump it up and have awesome videos selling the game. A higher price gives the impression of higher quality, and you need to leave room for sales later. 

To Demo or Not Demo 

Super Mega Baseball did not have a free demo. Having one may have really helped with visibility given the relatively small number of people that had heard of Metalhead or Super Mega Baseball pre-launch. The extra time it takes to get a proper demo together was a factor in deciding not to have one. Upcoming launches are more likely to include a demo or trial.

 Launch

The game was stable and everything generally worked, which was awesome given all the bad press around recent AAA games shipping broken. Friends and family helped a lot with testing, but even with that help they weren’t able to get the test coverage they would’ve liked. Long-term team progression in particular was very lightly tested because it took 40 hours of testing to do a full test cycle. 

MyTeamOverview

At launch they were very worried about bugs – it was keeping the team up at night. Just because the game worked great on four friend’s machines didn’t mean it was going to work just as well for everyone else. 

All of the last minute polish and refining was absolutely necessary. The game could not have been shipped successfully even a week earlier. Most bugs reported by players were known issues that the team had seen in testing and made the agonizing choice not to fix so they would have time for higher priority bugs. 

Reception 

Super Mega Baseball was well received. The team did a lot of research – every mechanic in the game had to be at least as good as mechanics in other baseball games… if not, why should gamers buy it? Because of that attention to detail, the mechanics worked out really well. 

Scott had wanted to cut some features toward the end, but they squeezed them in, which turned out to be the right decision. For example, character customization was very last minute, but they slipped in basic customization and people loved it. Long term team progression worked out well too, even though it went in late and did not have a lot of time to mature. 

The difficulty mechanic was one of the ways Super Mega Baseball differentiated itself from other games. Instead of a simple easy/medium/hard setting, it has a 1-99 difficulty slider called the Ego System. There are no dramatic changes when the difficulty is changed – some games remove a mechanic entirely in easy mode, for example – instead the Super Mega Baseball smoothly gives you less help as the difficulty goes up. When targeting at bat, at lower difficulties the game gives you more help, at higher difficulties it backs off and you eventually do all of the targeting yourself. Or when fielding, at lower difficulties your fielders run for the ball automatically, at higher difficulties you have to steer them. 

Store Placement 

The game was not featured at launch. The fact the game and company were still fairly unknown at launch didn’t help, but it would have helped to have final store assets and marketing materials ready earlier. 

Reputation is extremely important, and powers your ability to get people excited about your product. Getting your name out tends to be a struggle for indies. Scott recommends a talk from Drinkbox Studios on the subject: Painful PR Lessons Learned on the Way to Guacamelee. The team has as much to learn about launching games as making them.

Art Style 

Super Mega Baseball’s art style was lighthearted and cartoony, which was generally received well. People loved the environments but were mixed on character style. The feedback was everything from “Barf!” to “This is awesome!” For faces in particular it would be interesting to study the psychology of how people respond to different art styles. Art was surprisingly polarizing. 

SwaggerSmash

A certain percentage of the audience is sports fans who want realistic gameplay, and Super Mega Baseball may have alienated them with the art style they chose. On the other hand, they wanted to make a sports game for everyone and the friendly art style probably helped welcome people who didn’t think of themselves as sports gamers. It was hard to say if a more mature art style would have worked out better. 

It can be hard to reach kids with digital downloads on consoles. Given that the younger demographic doesn’t have credit cards, you’re relying on gift cards (or for kids to annoy their parents until they break out their credit card!). 

Sales 

Scott wouldn’t mind being on a beach in Hawaii, but is still in Victoria talking to us. They’re off to a good start given they started out entirely unknown, but they feel they have yet to reach a lot of their potential audience. They deliberately chose a hole in the market: sports games have been dominated by AAA studios for years, there are hardly any casual sports games. 

LadySlugginsThe team did consider licensing real teams, but licensing can be expensive and time consuming. It’s something they would consider for future releases. On the other hand, the creative freedom that going unlicensed allowed was great. Some of the game’s jokes would likely have been cut in a licensed game, and they may not have been able to feature women in the game (which they got a lot of well-deserved kudos for). 

Super Mega Baseball hasn’t shipped in Japan yet because they feel like the game needs to be fully localized. The version shipped in Europe is all in English, but that won’t work in the Japanese market. 

Audience: Would you consider outside financing next time?
Scott: They hope it won’t be necessary going forward but would be open to it. They didn’t try to get outside financing first time because on paper, their inexperienced team was a tough sell, and they didn’t want to waste time going after funding they’d have a hard time getting a good deal on.

Audience: Why release on PSN only?
Scott: They just didn’t have time/resources to develop and test on multiple platforms at once. The team is working hard on porting the game to other platforms right now.

Audience: How hard will it be to move to other platforms?
Scott: Not so bad given the game is based on a cross platform engine (PhyreEngine) and written in C++.

One handy tip from the Super Mega Baseball launch is to tell people which countries the game is launching in! Metalhead forgot to tell people game was not launching in Europe right away and got many many tweets about when the game was going to come out in Europe after the North American launch.

Gaming Press

The relationships Metalhead nurtured beforehand were very helpful. A few people who heard Metalhead’s story from the beginning were really helpful getting the word out.

Personal Experience

It’s very easy to obsess over the game you’re trying to finish and think about nothing else even when you’re trying to take a break. You need to have other things in your life no matter how busy you are – keep up your regular exercise and at least some social activities.

What’s Metalhead doing now?

MH_LogoPorting, marketing, and prepping for upcoming releases (haven’t announced stuff yet though so going to not say too much for now).

Takeaways:

  • Everything takes longer than you expect
  • Launching a game is an entirely different ballgame from building a game
  • Reputation is huge and drives your ability to spread the word

Audience: Do you have analytics for your game?
Scott: Probably not as detailed as mobile/social platforms, but the consoles are doing a good job sharing more detailed data with developers.

Audience: If you did it over again, would you lower the price point or spend more on marketing?
Scott: Definitely more marketing spend, hard to say about price.

Thanks again to Scott and the Metalhead team for sharing what they’ve learned about launching a game! We’re really happy to hear that all the hard work and sacrifice was worth it, and it was awesome to see such a polished game come out of an indie studio in our city.

Posted in General

April Main Event featuring Scott Drader from Metalhead Games

Scott Drader inventing new "-mortem" talks so you don't have to.

Scott Drader: inventing new “-mortem” talks so you don’t have to.

Hi everyone! Chris here. I want to take a minute to tell you about our next monthly meet-up at Swans. This month’s feature presenter is Scott Drader. Scott co-founded Metalhead Software, a local game and software development studio, in 2009. Last year he came out to give a “pre-mortem” talk about the game that Metalhead had been putting in long hours to finish, Super Mega Baseball (formerly known as Big Fly Baseball). Now, after the recent release of Super Mega Baseball, Scott is triumphantly returning to give a “mid-mortem” talk, where he will be talking about the stress, exhilaration, and lessons learned in shipping Metalhead’s first title. This will be an event that you won’t want to miss!

After the talk we will be holding the usual open stage and social time. We have a private room with a projector and a ton of space. Show off your current projects; do some play-testing; or just relax and enjoy the awesome local food and craft-brewed beer.

Schedule:

  • 4:30pm: Doors open (room is locked earlier)
  • 5:10pm: Opening announcements by group organizers
  • 5:15pm: Featured presentation
  • 5:45pm: Open stage for show-and-tell, networking and socializing
  • 7:30pm: Venue closes (We are free to move to the main bar if we wish)

See you there!

Details:

Monday, April 6th, 2015

Buckerfields aka The Collard Room – Swans Hotel and Brewpub

506 Pandora Avenue, Victoria, BC

Doors open at 4:30pm

Please RSVP via the Meetup event

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The Main Event featuring Brian Dempsey & the Victoria GGJ team.

Hi folks! Hope your Xmas/Solstice/Hannukah/Festivus hols are chugging along pleasantly! Scott here, with a reminder that 2015 rapidly approaches, and that means our monthly meeting for the January. Our venue, Swan’s, is hosting another event on our usual Monday evening, so please be aware that we are moving the Main Event into the future by 24 hours! The January meetup will be taking place on Tuesday, January 6th.

BryanDempseyThis month’s feature presenter is Bryan Dempsey, whose background and interests include electronics, jazz vocals, rhythm guitar, MIDI music, motion-capture, adult education and 3D simulations. Bryan’s studied multimedia production and programming for Virtual Reality applications at NBCC-Miramichi; co-developed a 3D simulator to teach industrial equipment procedures for ID Group-Montreal; developed a 3D simulator to remotely-control smart-home devices for Horizon Technologies here in Victoria.

Bryan will be demonstrating a 3D Rhythm Guitar Trainer simulation that he’s developed. This simulation is designed to provide a rhythm guitar student with a 3D avatar teacher that can demonstrate how play a sequence of chords on a 3D guitar. Chords and rhythm styles are selected by the user and entered into a lead sheet, and the simulator then uses the chord information and rhythm style rules to play the chord sequence. Bryan will also be speaking about the next steps he’ll be taking into accurate, affordable motion capture for his trainer (using ControlVR) which will…

  • quickly and accurately determine the guitar chord hand shapes for the chord database
  • stream guitar lessons (real-time, 2-way, 3D guitar playing) to/with one or more, on-line guitar students
  • record guitar lessons (or stand-alone performances) with synchronized Mo-Cap, MIDI guitar, and voice data.

There will also be a short talk from Nathan Hessman of the UVic Game Development group. Nathan will be taking on the task of organizing the GGJ this year in partnership with IGDA Victoria.

We have a private room with a projector and a ton of space. Show off your current projects; do some play-testing; or just relax and enjoy the awesome local food and craft-brewed beer.

Schedule:

  • 4:30pm: Doors open (room is locked earlier)
  • 5:10pm: Opening announcements by group organizers
  • 5:15pm: Featured presentation
  • 5:45pm: Open stage for show-and-tell, networking and socializing
  • 7:30pm: Venue closes (We are free to move to the main bar if we wish)

See you there!

Details:

Tuesday, January 6th (Please note: this is not our regular meet-up night, but Swans is hosting another event on Monday)

Buckerfields aka The Collard Room – Swans Hotel and Brewpub

506 Pandora Avenue, Victoria, BC

Doors open at 4:30pm

Please RSVP via the Meetup event

Posted in Events, Meetings, Presentations | Tagged , , ,

LevelUp-IGDA Xmas Party… with Boardgames

Hello! Scott Jones here. Yes, I’m new. Hi. Chris has brought me on to help out a bit and I am completely chuffed to have as one of my first duties the announcement of our Christmas Party. I mean, that’s as fantastic a way to introduce myself as any! “Hello! There’s a party! I’m inviting you! You should totally come.”

YES. CHRISTMAS.

It’s coming. You think you can stop it? You can’t. Better grinches have tried, man. (There’s a documentary about it.) And, really, why would you? So, whether you enjoy a mild celebratory season of family reconnection and quiet reflection upon the passing year … or jingle-balls-out Saturnalian madness with fellow revelers, there is surely a place in your nog-soaked heart for that enjoyed-year-round activity that nevertheless takes on an extra sheen of awesome during the holidays… BOARD GAMES.

To that end, please join us for exactly that on Monday 1 December at Victoria’s only all-boardgames-alla-time cafe and Santa Approved Fun Zone*: the Interactivity Boardgame Cafe on Yates. We’ve reserved the back half of the cafe from 7pm til close: that’s an available 35 seats, so please RSVP at the Meetup Event (linked below) and should your plans change, do let us know in good time. Yes, there will be snacks provided, and you can of course wet your wassailin’ whistle by purchasing beverages from our gracious host. And it’s an all-ages event, so bring ankle-biters if you’ve got some to bring!

the Pertinent Deets

Monday, December 1

Interactivity Boardgames Cafe
in beautiful downtown YYJ
723 Yates Street (corner block of Yates & Douglas)

Doors open at 7:00pm and we can stay until closing

Please RSVP via the Meetup event: LevelUp-IGDA Non-Denominational Holiday Extravaganza

*NOTE: we know that Krampusnacht is a mere 5 days away from this party and of course that’s super-exciting for a lot of us, BUT we’ve been informed that the Cafe is in fact a Krampus-Free Zone during this week, sadly. (Yes, it’s a little discriminatory, but whaddaya gonna do?) So, please leave your willow switches and rough burlap sacks full of sinful children at home. Thank you and Happy Holidays! (Sorry, Krampus! Next year, dude!)

Krampus-5-675x400

Posted in Events, Meetings | Tagged , , , ,

October Monthly Meeting featuring Graham Stark from LoadingReadyRun

We're not here to judge.

Remember, we’re not here to judge.

This is a reminder of our monthly meeting for October taking place on Monday, October 6th. This month’s feature guest is Graham Stark from LoadingReadyRun!

Graham is the co-founder of LoadingReadyRun, one of the internet’s longest running and most beloved video content foundries. He has worked as a producer, director, writer and editor for clients including Penny Arcade, Cards Against Humanity, Wizards of the Coast and The Escapist. On top of all that, Graham is also one of the organizers of Desert Bus for Hope, one of the most successful online charity fundraisers in the world. In the two to three minutes of spare time he has a day, he enjoys sleeping, video games and his cats. He can be found on Twitter at @Graham_LRR and on Twitch. He’ll be joining us for a fireside chat and discussing his projects, the importance of public engagement and how to manage a businesses’ social profile, along with much fun and frivolity!

Also, we’re hoping that all you folks who made games at this year’s OrcaJam will bring them along to share with the rest of the group, especially those poor saps who weren’t able to make it to the game jam themselves.

We have a private room with a projector and a ton of space. Show off your current projects; do some play-testing; or just relax and enjoy the awesome local food and craft-brewed beer.

Schedule:

  • 4:30 pm: Doors open (room is locked earlier)
  • 5:10 pm: Opening announcements by group organizers
  • 5:15 pm: Featured presentation
  • 6:00 pm: Open stage for show-and-tell, networking and socializing
  • 7:30 pm: Venue closes (We are free to move to the main bar if we wish)

See you there!

Details:

Monday, October 6th

The Collard Room – Swans Hotel and Brewpub

506 Pandora Avenue, Victoria, BC

Doors open at 4:30pm

Please RSVP via the Meetup event: The Main Event

Posted in Meetings, Presentations | Tagged , , , , , , , , ,

Dylan’s Excellent IGDA E3 Scholarship Adventure

[Editor: This is a guest post from IGDA Victoria volunteer and UVic student Dylan Gedig who went to E3 in Los Angeles this past June as one of the winners of the IGDA E3 Scholarship. Way to go, Dylan!]

The IGDA E3 Scholarship trip was one of the coolest trips I have ever taken in my life, and certainly the most relevant to my career. I would highly recommend the IGDA Scholarship program to any students that want to get into the game industry. The application process was simple, and it was a great way to get involved with the IGDA on a more global scale.

For me, E3 started on Saturday, when I arrived in LA and got to meet some of the other scholars at the condo we would be sharing for a week. It was great having a group of like-minded people to hang out and travel to and from events with, and made the rest of the week that much better.

The event officially kicked off on Monday, where we had a lunch meeting with the scholars and the IGDA members that organized the event. We took care of official business and got to know everyone we would be spending the week with, all while watching the E3 press releases. That night we had the chance to attend an LA Video Game Supper Club event, which is a quarterly event organized by members of the LA game industry, for industry members to meet up in a casual environment. It was an excellent opportunity to meet everyone who was in LA for E3 and chatting over the course of a dinner was very enjoyable.E3-Titanfall

The next day we had a Q&A period with Justin Berenbaum, who has worked in the publishing side of the industry for many years. He had some great advice for the scholars, particularly about the specific things a publisher looks for when being approached with a game. His main advice for us was to finish several projects while we were in school, as the main thing he looks at as a publisher is previous completed projects. He also recommended to keep track of time and budget commitments for a game, saying that it looks good to have proof that you can stick to a budget, be it money or time. One quote that stuck with me particularly was “The hardest thing to do in this industry is finish a project.”

E3 Sign

After the Q&A, we were free to roam the show floor and check out whatever we wanted. I took this opportunity to meet my mentor, Alex Seropian, for the first time. He introduced me to some of his other team members and industry friends, and offered me advice on various things in the game industry, answering every question I thought to ask. We talked mainly about the differences between working at big companies and small, and what it takes to start your own studio. Alex provided an interesting point of view, saying that to start and run a studio took a wide range of skills and interests. He recommended that if someone just wanted to program then they should go work for a larger company where they would be able to program for 8 hours a day and leave the other responsibilities to other people.

EVOLVE

After parting ways with Alex, there were several booth tours on the show floor that had been set up for us. The first was the Disney tour, where we were taken around and got to play the new games that they were showing off. Afterwards was the Bungie booth tour. This one was especially neat because we were allowed on the show floor after hours, and got to hang around with the Bungie team for quite a while. It was an awesome opportunity to talk about specific aspects of the game and the techniques they used to create them. After that, most of the Scholars decided to attend one of the Pocket Gamer mixers, which was another great chance to chat with people in a casual setting.

Video Game History Museum

We started Wednesday with a series of tours, going from Sony to the Video Game History Museum to Oculus to Ubisoft. We got to see a bunch of cool stuff and had very helpful people showing us around at each booth. My favourite moment from these tours was getting to talk to the lead level designer of Far Cry 4, and discussing how to apply level design practices to an open world environment. He stressed that for Far Cry 3 and Far Cry 4 he put a lot of importance on making the side quests and collectibles tie in very closely with the game world and the story. This was to prevent it from being too jarring moving from the main story to side quests and back, and for maintaining a consistent atmosphere.
After the series of tours, we all VGHM-Pacmanheaded to the IGDA mixer, which was great for meeting people from around the world, and it was fun to meet IGDA members beyond our local Victoria chapter.

VGHM-Atari


On Thursday we had a Bethesda booth tour, where we got to play their upcoming new games. The team that was there to run the booth was incredibly friendly and very excited about the scholars program. They were awesome about discussing design decisions with the games and providing gameplay tips while we played. For the rest of the day we had free rein to check out whatever we wanted. I took this time to talk to the Star Citizen team, check out the Civilization: Beyond Earth Demo, and catch a Witcher 3 presentation. Near the show floor close time we were all summoned back to the IGDA booth, where we were to meet with Chris Jurney, who had worked with SuperGiant Games on both Bastion and Transistor. He talked to us candidly about how he got into the industry and about the different AI work and research he had done. One of the interesting parts of our talk was Chris was about how small the industry is, and how you can become one of the leading experts in a field if you dedicate yourself to it for a few years.

E3-Hallway

Friday brought studio tour day, starting with a trip to EALA. There we met devs from several different fields, who had prepared talks and took numerous questions. They demonstrated some of the tech they were working on, which was awesome seeing things both in and out of my field. After they gave us free rein in the EA store, we were on our way to Insomniac. While there, we had a round table discussion with several members of the Insomniac team. We had conversations about portfolios, engine architecture, project management, narrative design, and more.

Then it was time to return the van and say goodbye to the Scholars. By the end of the week, I had asked every question I could possibly think of. I had so many thoughtful conversations with so many people, that I was ready to just digest and think about everything. Some of the main topics that came up again and again were the fact that the industry is very small, and that working on and finishing side projects is incredibly important, especially for students.The event gave me a clear path forward and helped me get into the game development community at large. It was definitely life-changing, and I’m so glad I was given this opportunity.

I want to end this post with a thank you to all of the IGDA members who made this incredible experience possible, especially Luke Dicken and Molly Proffitt. It was an amazing week and I appreciate all the time and effort that went into making it everything it turned out to be.

Posted in Events, General | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , ,

Fundamental Game Launch Marketing with Clive Gorman

At LevelUp’s last Main Event meetup on June 2nd 2014, Clive Gorman came to talk to us about marketing for start-ups. Clive is a very experienced multi-disciplined video-games marketing and product management professional with more than 17 years working in the technology and video-games industry. He is currently the product marketing manager responsible for marketing strategy, implementation and product management at TinyMob Games.

Based on Clive’s talk, we’ve compiled these handy tips to assist with marketing your own games both before and after launch.

Core Metrics

The core metrics for any release are:

  • Acquisition – how many users are you acquiring  and how quickly?
  • Retention – how long do those users stick around?
  • Monetization – how much money are you making per user?

To achieve your goals in each of those metrics, research is key. Know your audience, know your competitors. Appeal to your audience and differentiate your game & company from your competitors. There are many free sources of data that can help you out, for example NewZoo and Quora.

The next step is to apply your research to your branding.

Branding

  • Discovery and differentiation – how do people find out about you, and what makes you different?
  • Brand interrogation – ask yourself the tough questions about your brand – does it express what you want it to?
  • Positioning – where does your company fit?
  • Vision, mission, values – how does your brand show these off?
  • Logo and identity – your logo needs to fit with what your brand is trying to express
  • Sound – an often underrated part of branding
  • Personality – all the parts of your brand need to express a coherent personality.

Part of what your branding needs to do is give journalists a reason to talk about your game.

App Store

  • Test your game name and icon. These need to grab attention as soon as you see them in the app store.
  • Crowd-source options for metric based optimization, include AdMob and CrowdPicker.
  • Optimize text length for a very small space. App Store description shown ‘above the fold’ is very short, you need to use it effectively.
  • Have screenshots with a consumer proposition.
  • First screenshot is key feature – on the iPhone you only see one by default so it *must* be good.

Website

  • Needs to be responsive on mobile – lots of traffic comes in that way
  • Talk about features in-depth – for example, TinyMob uses the website to explain their Warbands feature in-depth
  • Optimize loading times – don’t frustrate potential users
  • Gifs! Use sparingly but use them if motion will help explain a concept
  • Have a press page with assets – don’t make busy journalists hunt for these
  • Search engine optimization
  • If you can, hire an expert
  • Use your keywords in your website copy in a narrative way

PR

  • Do press-releases/announcements for milestones in your project – beginning of project, alpha, beta, full release, etc.
  • Focus on key media – If your game is a Pocket Gamer style game, don’t go to Engadget for coverage.
  • Use Twitter to generate leads – get to know people on Twitter in an organic way long before you have something to sell them. Then when you have a game to tell them about, you already have a relationship that gives them a reason to care about your game.
  • Leverage new media: YouTube, Twitch
  • Direct submission or games PR news-wire – many websites let you submit news directly.
  • Games Press – you can use the service for free but with no guarantee of getting on the page, or for around £90 a month (depending on this size of your company and the number of assets you want to submit) you can add your assets directly to their site and have a link to them in the daily digest email
  • Create a press kit – use Dropbox or Google Drive

Social media

  • Use Hootsuite or similar service to schedule tweets, g+ posts, Facebook posts.
  • Tweet every 20 minutes or so at most.
  • No more than 3 Facebook posts a day.
  • Images work better than text or video.
  • Use hash-tags to help people discover you – if you’re tweeting about Clash of Clans, use their hash-tag!
  • Blog on tumblr too

Email

  • Free marketing – MailChimp is free for up to 2000 subscribers.
  • Great way to build a community.
  • Monetizes really well – if someone has bothered to give you their email address, they’re really interested in your game.

Pricing

F2P vs premium

  • For small projects, premium is probably better. Many journalists and publications are turned off by free-to-play. Have a small upfront cost and potentially some DLC later.

Merchandising

  • Virtual product still needs to be appealing even it’s not a physical product. Think about how you’d present your game or service as if it were in a store.

Sales and promotions

  • More value for same price does better than discounts
  • Tie sales to your game’s theme – for example, tell players the trade caravans arrived early instead of a bland ‘bonus 50 widgets’ message.

Q & A

Q: Are trade shows worth it?

A: They can be pricey, be careful about how many you go to and how much you spend to get there.

Q: Do gifs or embedded YouTube videos perform better on a website?

A: Haven’t analyzed that, but it is hard to get views on your own video. If possible, get on a YouTube show that’s already popular.

Q: Is there anything similar to NewZoo that you recommend?

A: Google caches lots of research studies and papers, Gamasutra can also be helpful. Take any ARPDAU (average revenue per daily active user) and ARPPU (average revenue per paying user) numbers you find online and in news stories with a grain of salt. Clive has never worked for a company that gave away that data.

Q: What should you budget for marketing?

A: At EA, marketing was about 12% of the total production cost for a small project. You should really set aside 25%, but you need to spend that in a very targeted way to be efficient.

Q: How can you advertise a game for kids?

A: Can’t track people who are under 13 – you can advertise to them ‘above the line’ with things like online banner ads or TV media, but you can’t collect data on children for ‘below the line’ marketing such as emails. Try to partner with educational game publications. Kids TV is a great Trojan horse to get around restrictions on advertising to kids. Kids Google a lot – parents will say not to click a banner so they’ll Google it instead.

Q: Should we suck it up and spend 20% of our time doing our own marketing or just pay a reputable firm?

A: I wouldn’t recommend spending unless you have investors or significant revenue coming in. A lot of the time you can manage campaigns using automation.

Q: What are your thoughts on Vine?

A: Vine is a great way to limit how much you show if you’re early in development. TinyMob used it to show off their Warpath feature. Instagram videos may be too long depending on how much you have to show.

Thanks again to Clive for coming to speak with us. If you have any followup questions, Clive can be reached at contactme@clivegorman.com.

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