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.

Here’s Article II – Traditional Marketing, which covers more of the stuff that actually costs money. Article’s III, IV, and V are fully written, I’m just editing them and adding in pictures to break up the giant wall of text haha This weekend I’m going to take a look at the HD version of Elusive Ninja and see if I can iron out the little graphical glitches in it, and do up my Touch Arcade banner ads so I can get those out of the way! Articles III, IV, and V should go up next week sometime so stay tuned! I’m in the process of moving my website to a new host but it’s takin’ forever, so my site might still occasionally be down, sorry! Should all be fixed soon (I hope!!). :) Anyway, on to the article:

INTRO

Hi, my name is Jeff Hangartner! Recently I started a small Indie game studio called Bulletproof Outlaws. I’m an artist working from home and outsourcing the programming, music, etc. I’ve just finished my first iPhone game – Elusive Ninja: The Shadowy Thief (the App Store link is here). It was officially released on June 6th, 2011. I’ve jumped into the wonderful world of marketing and I’m approaching it from a bunch of different angles and trying various marketing avenues out. I’m fortunate enough (and planned ahead strategically enough) to have some money to spend experimenting with marketing and I figure by sharing what I’ve learned, these marketing articles can help other small Indie Developers who can’t afford to waste money heading down dead-ends and trying experiments that might not pay off.

There are 5 marketing articles:

ARTICLE I – Social Marketing

Using word-of-mouth marketing via Twitter, blogging, forum threads, etc. to build awareness for your game, and a realistic look at the pros and cons of price drops and using microjob services.

ARTICLE II – Traditional Advertising

An in-depth look into the sketchy side of the industry that people don’t seem to talk about like buying downloads, paying for reviews, etc. Also covering traditional expensive marketing like banner ads and marketing agencies and ad services like AdMob.

ARTICLE III – Game Related & Maintenance

What to put in a Press Kit, using Press Releases, creating screenshots and trailers, etc. Plus how to efficiently maintain everything we’ve talked about so far.

ARTICLE IV – Psychology

How to survive the internal side of marketing as an Indie Developer and dealing with the stress of spending your money, watching sales figures rise and fall, making big decisions, handling critics and pushy marketers, and a big blunt look at how rampant iPhone App piracy is.

ARTICLE V – Optimal Marketing Plan

A summary of everything, condensed down into 36 steps from Pre-Launch to Launch Day to Post-Launch, that I feel make up an Optimal Marketing Plan for an Indie Dev with little to no money who needs to make sure every dollar spent counts.

ARTICLE II – Traditional Advertising

ADVERTISING

Promo Codes

I learned a lotta’ lessons with Promo Codes, lemme tell ya! When your game is approved for the App Store you get 50 Promo Codes to give out. Each time you update the game, you get 50 more Promo Codes. You can’t get more than 50, so once you run out, you’re out. Unfortunately I didn’t do a lot of research on how to use them so I was handing them out like candy at a parade and wasted them. So in hopes of saving you from the same pitfalls, here are some tips:

Press, Not Friends

This is the main advice people give with regards to Promo Codes. Don’t use them to give your friends and family free copies of your game…of all people THEY should be the ones who WANT to give you their dollar or two to support you. Give Promo Codes to the Press. Review sites get a ton of games to review and generally aren’t going to pay to download them all. You want to be able to basically say “Hey, I’ll be happy to give you a free copy of my game so you can review it!” to make it as easy as possible for them to give you a review. You might also want to use some of them in Promo Code give-aways as rewards for contests, or to have popular sites Tweet the Codes out, or to give them out in the Touch Arcade forums, etc.

Don’t Jump The Gun

When you’re new, you might think “I’d better send a Promo Code with my initial E-Mail to a Reviewer because I’m lucky to get their attention for even a second, I want to make things as easy as possible because they probably won’t bother E-Mailing me back to request a Code and then wait for me to send them one, they have so many other games they could be reviewing who probably sent Promo Codes right away”. This is a quick way to lose a bunch of Promo Codes or have them end up in a void where you have no idea if they’re being redeemed or not.

Instead throw a note in the E-Mail saying Promo Codes are available upon request or however you want to word it. Most E-Mails you send out to Reviewers will get zero response so if you’re attaching Promo Codes right away they’re just sitting in someone’s Inbox going unused. I’ve found that the Reviewers that want to review your game will contact you back and request Codes. Some places even warn on their Contact Page “Please don’t send us Promo Codes in your contact E-Mail, we’ll request them if we want them”. I’m pretty sure a solid 30 of my Promo Codes expired unused because I had the mentality described above.



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