Jeff 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.
Sending Promo Codes
As I mentioned in the Promo Codes section, don’t send Promo Codes unless the Reviewer asks for them or you’re risking just throwing them away and they’re a limited resource. And keep in mind that even if you DO send Promo Codes to someone who requests them, that doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll review your game (I lost a few that way). I even had a little bait ‘n switch where someone requested some Promo Codes, then after I sent them they gave their “Cool thanks, so have you considered purchasing ad space on our site…?” where they didn’t flat out SAY “if you want this review to happen, buy some ad space” but that was the feeling I was left with from that interaction. The lesson here is just to go in understanding that you’re not going to get as many reviews as you might hope for, thus my warning to be frugal with your Promo Codes instead of throwing them around all willy-nilly.
Skip The Personalized E-Mails
This next part might sound kind of bitter, but I swear it’s not meant to be haha Basically when you’re new, and you have no contacts in the Press at all, and don’t know much about marketing services or have money to spend, you’re going to probably default to thinking “I’ll just E-Mail a bunch of the sites that come up when I Google for iPhone game reviews, and I’ll find out the name of the Editors and write a really personalized E-Mail that shows I’ve read their stuff and include my Press Kit and a Promo Code and offer to help in any way to make this review happen, etc.”
Don’t waste your time! I heard back from maybe 2 or 3 sites out of personally E-Mailing a solid 30 of them, and have read similar if not worse stats from other Developers. I spent a long time writing and sending out those E-Mails and it’s no beef against the Reviewer…they can’t respond to all their E-Mails because they get so many every day and a lot of games get lost in the shuffle or aren’t good enough or high-profile enough to warrant doing a review. Hell, they might just not like my game and not want to bother doing up a bad review, and that’s cool too. It’s totally understandable, but knowing this, consider that if you’re going to get the same amount of response from a cut & pasted E-Mail that you will from a customized one, you might as well cut & paste and use the saved time for something more productive.
Down the road you’ll know more people in the Press and have more of a presence, and personalized E-Mails, especially to Reviewers who’ve reviewed your other games, will be worth the extra effort because your name and reputation will hold more weight. Imagine a random new Developer E-Mailing Hideo Kojima saying he likes Metal Gear Solid…then imagine Hideo Kojima E-Mailing a random new Developer saying he likes their game. Which person is going to be more excited at getting the personalized E-Mail?
Different Sites, Different Forms
So you’ve decided to do all these E-Mails yourself, and you’re going to save time by just cutting & pasting a form E-Mail to all the sites. Super! Except you start looking for E-Mail addresses and find some sites have forms to fill out instead of E-Mail addresses. And one site’s form is structured in Such And Such A Way, while another site’s form is structured in Some Other Way. Suddenly what you thought would be a half hour of shooting out E-Mails has turned into a few days worth of filling out various forms and following different submission guidelines.
This can be a huge pain in the butt and even after a week of doing this you’ll probably only have submitted to under 100 sites. So how can we make this more efficient?
Review Request Submission Services
I found a few services that, for a fee, will send out your review request to a bunch of different review sites. The one that sounded the best to me was iSpreadNews. It’s got pretty low prices compared to other sites, and you can customize what exactly you want them to do. Also their response time and customer service were great. I suggest reading their FAQ because they make some good points in there, especially in the “Do you have plans to expand to the US as part of your submission services?” section. Their submission system is also pretty awesome. I discovered them after I had already E-Mailed a bunch of sites by hand, and found that their features like the “1000 char version of your description”, “100 char version of your description”, etc. forms addressed the common differences I ran into when I was submitting by hand.
I went with the $149 “Western Europe” package (303 sites in 9 languages). I felt like I didn’t need “All” because I’m angry at China for pirating my game. haha, no, just kidding. But I figure the 5 review sites in Arabic and the 1 Icelandic site, etc. were probably okay to leave out to save a few bucks since I don’t imagine there’s a huge market of iPhone Gamers in some of these places. The top places are in the “Western Europe” package and that jives with the “number of users” stats research I had to do for my business course back before I started Bulletproof Outlaws. I submitted my request on July 6th, and I attribute the not-instant-decline of my sales after July 6th to this…plus over the next week I was receiving E-Mails from review sites (around 10 total) asking for Promo Codes and such when before that I wasn’t getting any so I know they did actually send out E-Mails. I just wish I had found this service sooner.
I look at it like whether I submitted through the service or whether I submitted by hand, I’d probably get about the same amount of review requests out of it…and I’d rather drop some money and then not have to worry about it anymore and focus on other stuff (like other marketing or designing my next game) than spend a week+ of my time and sanity doing it all by hand. Plus I figure a professional service that focuses on doing this has better contacts and relationships with the sites they’re contacting than I do at this point. Like if I were a Reviewer I’d probably pay more attention to a review request submitted by a professional service than by firstname.lastname@example.org haha