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.

Press Release

Do an occasional Google search for key phrases from your Press Release, just to see where they end up. And write a bunch of Press Releases…as long as you’re writing and submitting them yourself to free distribution services, you’re not spending money, so go for it. You never know which of your Press Releases is going to catch someone’s eye and land you mention on a website.

Press Kit

Update this if it needs it. Like if you put out an update with some new art in-game, throw some of that, or some screenshots of it, into your Press Kit.

Blogging

Do it regularly. We ALL slip at this, so don’t beat yourself up if you miss a few updates. As a way to keep myself accountable I tried updating daily for over 100 days, but I still had points where I missed a few days and had to play catch-up posting 4 or 5 updates on one day. You don’t need to do huge epic updates, it’s more just to let people know you’re still plugging away. I’m being a little hypocritical on this because as I write this I haven’t updated my blog in like 2+ weeks. It’s because I’m just focusing on writing these marketing articles and there’s not really anything to write about aside from “wrote more stuff today”. Soon as I finish this it’ll be back to regular updates, though I probably won’t shoot for daily this time.

Bulletproof Outlaws - Elusive Ninja

Digg, Tweet, etc. your posts if you do something “article”-ish. You never know what’s going to pique someone’s interest. I had a post that was about making rain effects and someone posted it to Hackernews and it happened to start a little discussion on there that got me a ton of website traffic and a handful of regular Followers. If it hadn’t been submitted, they’d never have seen it.

Be sure to allows comments and feedback on your site. For the first while (LONG while) you’re not going to get more than a comment or two here and there with most of your posts having 0 comments, but over time that’ll build up. Be sure to respond to the people who DO comment, because if they took the time to comment on your post, they’re probably going to be someone who’s going to follow your progress pretty closely and you’ll likely be hearing from them again. This is that “making new friends” thing I talked about, don’t be shy!

Contests

Run these whenever you get some downtime and can manage them. There’s nothing wrong with running the same contest over and over (like a weekly high score contest). Over time you’ll come up with new ideas for prizes or challenges and can slip those in there. And if you’re about to Launch a new game, what’s a good idea to boost attention for that game and your old games? Hold a contest for one of your older games where the prize is a Promo Code for your new game!

As I type this, The Behemoth just Tweeted that for every download of their free Pink Knight character in Castle Crashers, they’ll donate $1 to the Keep A Breast Foundation to help fight breast cancer. Not only is that totally admirable and awesome of them as genuinely good people, it’s also going to bring their game a bunch of attention. The Behemoth is really a prime gameDev company to study for marketing and community building.

Merchandising

If you decide to make some merchandise, which again you can do for free with something like a CafePress store, throw together new designs every now and then. This kind of stuff is good for giving out as contest rewards.

Another thing to consider is holding contests to have other people design merchandise. Like a wallpaper design contest or a T-Shirt design contest. There are some phenomenal artists out there who love doing that kind of thing, just as a chance to show off their skills or to kill some downtime.

App Store Description

Update this whenever you add new features in updates, and add short but positive quotes from new reviews you find. Be sure to include what site the quote came from, because the bigger name the site, the better. A movie review quote that ends in “– Roger Ebert” holds more weight than one that ends in “– My Mom” haha

RESOURCES

AppFigures – This service is great. It’s $5/month, but totally worth paying for. You get a ton of data, charts, you can check out all your reviews in all the different App Stores, etc. And you can have it E-Mail you every morning to let you know what your sales were the day before.

Flurry – Throw this in your game to keep track of stats, from playtime and frequency of play to custom events. Like I have an event flag trigger every time someone visits the Get More Games section so I can tell how many people use that button.

AppMetrics (iPhone) – I was using a free App called AppStat Lite to check my Flurry stats on the go, but just switched to AppMetrics the other day. It’s also free and also loads your Flurry stats, so through the day you can check out how many New Users you have and stuff…it’s not the same as actual sales (since the mass amounts of piracy going on screws with the stats), but it gives you something to look at haha

bit.ly – I made an account at bit.ly so I could customize the URLs I shorten. So instead of bit.ly/aBCdeF my Elusive Ninja trailer can be found at bit.ly/elusiveninja_trailer which looks more pro.

Google Analytics – Much like everyone else in the universe, I use this to keep track of hits on my blog. Remember back when people’s websites had little “number of visitors” counters at the bottom of their sites to keep track of that? ahh, I’m gettin’ old.

Analytic (iPhone) – I use this free App to check my site hits on my iPhone when I’m on the go.

Paypal – I’m not a huge fan of using Paypal because it takes a while to deposit money into it, but all the banner advertising and microjob and freelance sites seem to require using Paypal. I found out that now you can click a “Don’t have a PayPal account? Pay with your debit or credit card as a PayPal guest” option at the bottom of the Paypal login you get redirected to and just pay directly with your credit card instead of having to have funds in your Paypal account. Much more convenient!

OpenOffice – It’s free and awesome. I’m writing this doc in it, and I use it for all my spreadsheet stuff to keep track of my marketing costs and results and all that. I’ve been stressing keeping track of all this stuff, so now’s the time for you to get familiar with a spreadsheet program!

CONCLUSION

Thus ends our look at game related marketing and maintenance. This stuff can be pretty time consuming when you’re doing everything by yourself. Ideally down the road I’d like to hire someone to do a lot of this stuff for me. I think a full-time “Marketing Guy” is a good investment once you have the money for it because while this is time consuming it’s all very important. As soon as you let your web presence die off, people start to move on. You can make a comeback, but it’s a lot easier to just pop in now and then and maintain things, and it helps build and keep a loyal community which is vital as an Indie developer these days! …until you pop out a massive hit game and make it big at which point you can then just randomly vanish whenever you want and become a hermit making random appearances here and there and still ending up on the front page of every news site. :)

Next up is Article IV – Psychology. Before I get into the Optimal Marketing Plan of Article V, I want to sidetrack and talk about the psychological side of being an Indie Developer spending money on marketing because I think it’s important to have a strong internal mindset as well as an outer plan to follow. You’ll be pushing large amounts of money around, watching your stats rise and fall, dealing with App Store piracy…there’s a lot that will blindside you if you aren’t prepared for it so I’m hoping the Psychology article will help Indies handle that stuff in a healthy, productive way!

Email: Jeff Hangartner | Web: iPhone Game - Elusive Ninja: The Shadowy Thief



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