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.

The Absurdity Of It All

I’d just like to take a second to point out how silly this all is because what I’m describing isn’t even paying for reviews…it’s PAYING for the chance TO PAY for reviews haha Pretty absurd concept when you think about it, but that’s where the industry is at right now and all we can really do is figure out the best way to work efficiently within this absurd system.

Building Relationships

Bulletproof Outlaws - Elusive Ninja

It’s important to build relationships with Reviewers and the Press in general. I’ll talk about how to do this more in Article V – Psychology, but I think that the personalized E-Mails are more beneficial down the road when you have a little publicity and a game or two under your belt and you’ve had a few conversations with various Reviewers and Editors. Those relationships will also start to build themselves naturally over time and as you gain experience and your name becomes more well-known. But at the start when you don’t have any relationships at all, you might as well use these distribution services because nobody knows you from a hole in the wall anyway and isn’t expecting more.

Think of it like the feeling you’d get receiving a generic company-wide Christmas card from the boss of a company you just started working at VS down the road when you’ve been to the boss’ house for dinner a few times and the next year he sends you a personalized Christmas card. You didn’t really expect a personalized one the first year, but it’d seem cold if you got a generic one after you two built more of a relationship.

Tracking Reviews

I got these tactics from a marketing document by Mike Amerson of WET Productions (Developer of My Virtual Girlfriend and My Virtual Boyfriend). I set up a Google Alert for “elusive ninja” and “bulletproof outlaws”. If a new review goes up, Google will shoot me an E-Mail saying “hey, there’s some new sites with these keywords you specified on them, check it out” and I can see when I get a new review or mention of my stuff. This has been pretty cool because I get to keep tabs on how wide word-of-mouth is spreading, and I can go to these sites and thank the Reviewers for checking out my game and answer comments and questions. It’s great for building up relationships.

Another tactic is to set up Google Alerts for games similar to your game. If you make a game about fishing, and you know there are a few other fishing games out there, you might want to set Alerts for the titles of those games because sometimes the sites that reviewed those games will be interested in yours since it’s similar. You may see another fishing game reviewed on some fishing enthusiast website you didn’t know existed but has a bit following, and the Alert brings it to your attention so you can E-Mail them and send them your game to check out. If you’re too lazy to set up Alerts, you can just do Google searches every week and just specify to search by “Past Week” or “Past 24 Hours” etc.

Bookmarking Reviews

I bookmark all the reviews I get. It makes grabbing quotes and links a lot faster than having to Google them out every time. I use the quotes on my App Store blurb and if I made another trailer I’d use them in that. It also gives me quick access to a list of people I might want to contact directly if I came out with an Update or sequel for the game…or if they dig Bulletproof Outlaws in general, I’d contact them directly to let them know about my next project or send them exclusive content.

Marketing Agencies

I covered this a bit in the Reviews section, but there are a number of services out there to handle some of the common marketing needs a game Developer has. Some of them are pretty cryptic as to what exactly they offer and use a bunch of buzz-words and don’t list what exactly their prices are…they’ll “create a holistic target-specific synergistic marketing plan customized to your needs”. Hell if I know what that’s supposed to mean! I didn’t bother contacting any of these companies because I like efficient straight-to-the-point sites.

A site like ComboApp is more up my alley. This lists flat-out a bunch of different services they offer, describes in detail what you can expect for a result, and lists the price. I dig this setup as a Developer…I’d love to have a customized synergistic marketing plan and all, but the reality is I have X amount of dollars, so tell me flat out what can I get for that?

Going through some of the services in their list that I’ve found are commonly offered by marketing agencies, here are the things I take into consideration just glancing at the descriptions and comparing prices and experiences with other similar services:

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