Jeff Hangartner – Revealing the Path Less Travelled in Video Game Industry

Jeff HangartnerJeff Hangartner, the founder of the gaming start-up, Bulletproof Outlaws has been a professional developer of games over the last half a decade. Creator of Pixelation, the 1st Pixel Art Forum and also originator of the Pixel tutorials which have been published in the form of a book. Jeff has always been a pioneer of the gaming industry.

CG Today is proud to present Jeff’s exploration as he shares the whole process of creating a start-up right from day 1. With the belief that gaming development is coming back to its original “one programmer in the basement roots” idea, Bulletproof Outlaws is chronicling every step of its start-up process from strategies, to marketing, setting goals and outsourcing, successes and failures. The aim is to help other developers who have ideas but are intimidated by the whole start-up process and are not sure how to go about it.

You can visit his website Bulletproof Outlaws to know more about him or send an email to get connected.

Twitter

Start your Twitter account ahead of time, while you’re still developing your game. Most of your sales are probably going to happen on Day 1, so ideally you want to build up some hype and connections so that on Launch you can get as much exposure as possible and get a nice big clump of buys on Day 1 that get you attention (hopefully from Apple, leading to a Feature, which will lead to more sales!). Twitter is such an instant form of marketing that you can basically watch your news Tweet spread across the Internet as it’s happening, which is pretty cool.

I’m actually super new to Twitter, I only started using it a few months before I started Bulletproof Outlaws, and all the “RT” and “FF” lingo was foreign to me. I’ve got the hang of it now, and here’s what I’ve figured out:

Just Have One Account

Originally I had a personal account, and then created a business account (@BPOutlaws). The problem there was that everyone was Following my personal account by the time I finally made my business one, so to get them to Follow my business account was a chore, especially since for the first bit I was posting the same stuff to both my personal and business account since it was just me working on my business stuff by myself. Ideally the way to do it would be to start a business Twitter first, and then down the road when you have some employees, branch off into a personal Twitter account as well and announce it on your business one. Your business one is the one that’s going to be making you money so if you’re going to have less Followers on one of those two accounts, you want it to be your personal account that has less Followers.

It’s also a lot less work to start with just one account. Maybe other people are better at managing this stuff than I am, but man, I hate having to reply to stuff in 10 different places. And then the people who aren’t viewing your one account don’t see your response so you have to repost it to the other account or just accept that you’ve now got multiple streams of different amounts of information out there and blah blah blah, it’s just super confusing. Consolidate it all into one Twitter account, one Facebook account, and one E-Mail address, all related to your business, and you’ll spend way less time running around.

Go Ahead, Mix Business With Pleasure

Using just one Twitter account also helps you connect with fans on a personal level. Realistically, no one cares about your business account. The general Gamer public isn’t Following you because they’re dying to see “BULLETPROOF OUTLAWS RELEASES ELUSIVE NINJA FOR IOS” in their Twitter feed. They Follow you because they’re hoping to see stuff like “Wired on Redbulls, pulling another all-nighter, but I got the awesome rain effect in! Brain in zombie mode zzzz…” that makes them chuckle or makes them curious, and gives you some personality. By using just one Twitter account, you can mix your business announcements in with your personal stuff and it won’t turn people off because you’re presenting the boring stuff in smaller doses…kind of like how kids hate taking vitamins until you bust them out in Flintstone character form.

Time Your Announcements

Generally your Followers are going to live in or near your time zone. If you’re Tweeting in Japanese, you probably have Japanese Followers. If you’re Tweeting in English, you probably mostly have people from North America. Take into account the time zones of your Follower audience. If I have a big important announcement that’s ready to be Tweeted but I’ve stayed up late working on it so it’s 3am, I know probably 90% of my Followers are sleeping, so I’ll wait to Tweet it till around 8am. I’m in Western Canada, so the people on my side of the country are getting the Tweet at about the time work starts and they first check their Twitter feed for the day, and the people in Eastern Canada are around 2 or 3 hours ahead of me, so they’re getting the Tweet sometime during their boring work morning or just before noon when they can slack off and catch up on Tweeting.

By timing thing this way, I’m maximizing the chance of one of my Tweets catching on and making the rounds throughout the boring workday. If I Tweet at 3am, only a few people will see it, and it’ll be at the bottom of people’s “New Tweets” feed when they DO log in. I’ll still Tweet at 3am, but I’ll Tweet less important stuff.

Another thing to consider is the day of the week. Tweets on a Monday afternoon are probably going to get more attention than Tweets on a Friday evening or Saturday afternoon when people are off doing things for the weekend instead of sitting at their office trapped for 8 hours looking for distractions to kill time with.

Use The Hashtags

I see a lot of random #hashtagging on Twitter, and a lot of people not using them at all. If you’re a dev, throw on #gamedev or #iosdev or #iphone or #indie or any other really common words or phrases that in any way relate to what you’re Tweeting about. I was adding #ninjas and #art on some of my updates. There ARE people who Follow tags out there. Like personally I’m Following #gamedev so when someone Tweets with that tag, it pops up on my Twitter feed. I’ve found a handful of cool new games that way, and picked up a handful of new Followers myself. And if I see something I dig, I’ll Retweet it to help that person out.

If you’re not using any #hashtags, you’re just reaching your direct Following audience, which is good but just not as optimal as it could be. Who knows, you may make a Tweet about music costs, put a #music tag on it, and some composer sees it, digs your game, and offers up their services for cheap. Or you may announce your Angry Birds game with a #birdwatchers tag and tap into a community of people who spread word-of-mouth about your game just because it caught their attention being in some way related to their hobby. This is how Internet memes start…imagine your Tweet catches on as a meme the way All Your Base, Lolcats, or The Starwars Kid did. Sure, it’s a total shot in the dark and not at all likely, but it doesn’t cost anything to throw in a few hashtags just in-case.

It can also help you stumble into communities you didn’t realize existed (like my finding #gamedev), or you may accidentally create a community (as in the case of the totally unexpected but awesome #ims211 explosion).

Bulletproof Outlaws - Elusive Ninja

I tend to tag some of my news with #ElusiveNinja and I have my Twitter set up to notify me whenever it encounters “elusive ninja” in a Tweet. I’ve actually discovered some reviews I didn’t know were out there, eavesdropped and jumped into discussions about my game, etc. this way. Plus Elusive Ninja has a “Tweet your score!” option that Tweets scores out with #ElusiveNinja at the end so if any of those go out, I’ll see them and can congratulate some of them personally, etc.

Join The #IDRTG

It started as a thread in the dev section of Touch Arcade, it’s a big group of a ton of iOS devs. Check out the #IDRTG here! It’s essentially a ton of Indie Devs who all Retweet eachother’s stuff. A lot of them don’t have a ton of Followers, but even the small accounts all add up over time, and it doesn’t cost you any money. Everyone in the group has the intention of helping eachother out because we all know getting initial exposure can be difficult.

Quit Blabbin’ Will Ya?!

Keep your Tweets as short as possible. Shoot for under the 160 char limit by a solid 10 – 20 characters if you can. The reason for this is because if people want to Retweet your Tweet and it’s at 160 characters, they don’t get to stamp their name on it, or they have to post it as a Long Tweet which might not be possible from whatever Twitter service they use, or they have to rewrite or chop out bits of your Tweet to make room. Ideally if you can have a chunk of space for them to attach their own @names to the Tweet, they’re more likely to Retweet it because they’ll get some exposure too if their Retweet or your Tweet is Retweeted (confused yet?).

I actually tend to add #hashtags if I Retweet a Tweet that doesn’t have any on it, because I figure the person doesn’t realize they could throw on #gamedev or #iphone or #freelance or #dinosaurs and get a ton more views of their Tweet.

Use the shortest URLs you can, like those bit.ly ones. But keep in mind you might want to use your company URL just for the name to be noticed. Like if I’m Tweeting a link to a blog entry, I’ll use a bit.ly because it’s a long URL. But sometimes if I know a Tweet will probably catch on or reach a new audience, I want “http://bulletproofoutlaws.com/” stamped in my Tweet so that people see the Bulletproof Outlaws name.

Don’t Be Afraid To Ask

There’s nothing at all wrong with throwing a “PLS RT” at the start of your Tweet. Ideally your Twitter Followers all like you and are Following you because they WANT you to succeed, so this is just an extra little “Hey, I know you guys dig my stuff, but this particular Tweet is important so could you make sure to Retweet it for me to help me out?” request. Plus if your Tweet is Retweeted, you’re bound to run into a handful of kind souls who Retweet it just because they see the “PLS RT”. Save this for the important Tweets though, people probably won’t put up with “PLS RT – Made the best sandwich EVER for lunch, mmmm tomatoes!” for long.



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