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.
Here’s Article III, which covers the poop-load of work involved in creating Press Kits, distributing Press Releases, etc…stuff that we often don’t think will take long, but then it ends up taking an entire day or week of mind-numbing work. It also covers maintaining everything we’ve talked about so far and keeping up a web presence. I switched my website host to Site5.com and it looks like everything has switched over fully, so hopefully that 500 Error shouldn’t be coming up anymore. Let me know if you guys have any trouble viewing the blog! Anyway, on to the article:
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:
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.
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.
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.
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 III – Game Related & Maintenance
You need a website for your game, obviously. The good news is it doesn’t have to be anything epic. These days a lot of game Developers simply have WordPress blogs with a page for their game, or a simple one-page website for their game. Make sure there’s a link to your game’s App Store page in an obvious location on your site. Use the little “Available On The App Store” image Apple gives you, people recognize that quickly. Have some screenshots up, your trailer, some marketing blurb, and a link to a Press Kit for people who want to do articles or reviews of your game.
Pay a few bucks to register a domain name like http://www.thegame.com/ that redirects to your game’s website so that you can seem all professional and awesome and people take you more seriously when you link your stuff.
App Store Description
There are a bunch of sites that offer the service of writing an App Store description for your game, but there are also a bunch of sites that offer tips on what you should put in your App Store description. Spend a couple hours Googling for tips and writing your own App Store description up and save yourself the fee someone else would charge. Most of them tend to follow a common structure:
- Catchy first two lines (when the user first loads the game’s App Store page in iTunes, only the first few lines of the description are shown till the user clicks a button to show the rest)
- Quick description or summary of the concept, plot, objective, etc. (exciting marketing blurb)
- Quotes from reviews or awards received (people want what other people approve of)
- More in-depth feature list (more detail on what makes your game unique)
- Contact info (the game’s website, Twitter link, FAQ link, etc.)
My App Store description for Elusive Ninja strays a bit from this and I have like no sales, so don’t use Elusive Ninja‘s description as a guide haha I’m messing around testing different stuff out with this project to see what I can and can’t get away with and where I can break out of the standard formula, but it’s probably at the cost of some sales…so like the saying goes “do as I say, not as I do”. :)
App Store Screenshots
You get 5 screenshots, so use ‘em all up. Originally I was going to just post raw screenshots, but Derek of Ravenous Games whipped up a template to use to make my screenshots look more fancy. I dug the look of it, so I decided to run with it. My Press Kit still has a bunch of raw screenshots for reviews and such, but your App Store screenshots should catch people’s eye. Normally I’m not a big fan of the “tiny screenshot within a screenshot” thing because I want to see the game’s art clearly before I buy it, but I figured the art in Elusive Ninja is large enough that everything is still clear even with the raw screenshot shrunk down a bit. I don’t know if this is a good move or not, people might like plain raw screenshots more, but I like the look of the fancy ones so I’m going with them for now.
Something to keep in mind is that some Reviewers just grab the screenshots for their Reviews off the App Store and might not want to use fancy ones with marketing text on them. Or they might not be ABLE to use them, because if they have marketing blurbs on them and they’re in a review it may look like the Reviewers are the ones that said “Epic Ninja Action!” and such…so understandably they’d probably rather have raw screenshots they can use and stamp their website’s logos or caption text on. So if you’re doing fancy screenshots, make sure you have a link to your Press Kit with raw screenshots in your App Store description.