Marketing for Indies: an excessively long Link List

On October 22, 2010, in Marketing, Mobile Business, by Steffen Itterheim

I’ve been asked to write something about Marketing & PR a lot of times and repeatedly. It seems to be a topic that’s often sought after and mostly misunderstood.

Sometimes, it’s deceivingly complex, as in “How to get my App featured by Apple on the App Store?”. Who the f*ck knows? If you do, be sure to tell everyone about it!

But when you dig deeper, you learn more about the whole “process” and things become a little clearer. I hear you can get lucky if you know the right people at Apple’s PR or App Store department. At least that’s what I was told personally by someone who does PR and knows someone at Apple personally. Ok, not an option for most of us. I also hear that Apple scans certain websites when looking for App Store features, and for games the #1 site to get reviewed by which in turn might lead to an Apple feature is touchArcade. What else, right?

But getting a review on touchArcade is a different matter altogether. From game industry experience, I can tell one thing that almost guarantees to get your game reviewed/featured: it should be looking awesome! And not just the game, you need a trailer that packs a punch or two, one that’s hilarious or one that’s simply exciting and really wets your appetite. Not easy to do, but well worth the money if you can outsource it to someone who knows how to do it well. And if your game doesn’t have the looks, or can’t have them, it must be uniquely interesting. Combine the two, and you got yourself a winner. That ought to be easy, right?

Well, yes and no. If you know what you’re doing, it can be easy. And it certainly feels easy in such a case. After all, all the work to set yourself up for success has already been done. But if you don’t happen to be working with world-class artists, programmers, designers – what do you do? You can pour everything you have in being creatively unique. To my mind, that’s one of the reasons why the Indie space has become so successful. It’s not just that being unique and innovative is what the developers want their games to be, it’s actually helping them a lot to get coverage in the first place – it’s even a necessity, and a way to success!

The excessively long Marketing Link List

But back on topic, I actually just wanted to share a link list with you. It’s called:

The Big List Of Indie Marketing And Business Tips

Here’s the index … as you can see, it contains a lot more than just links about marketing alone:

  1. Marketing
  2. Press Release Sites
  3. Business
  4. Piracy
  5. Interviews
  6. Game Revenue And Sales
  7. Advertising
  8. E-Mail Marketing
  9. Jobs
  10. Indie Funding
  11. Merchandise
  12. E-Commerce Payment Processors

And one link you should not miss: a free eBook about Videogame Marketing & PR!

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Back from the devs

On October 5, 2010, in Announcements, by Steffen Itterheim

I’m back from Macoun, and it was nice meeting you all! Well, actually since that conference was just a 90 minute ride away, so I wasn’t really gone, except mentally. I spent a lot of time last week to prepare my presentation (in german), and fighting a cold. The subject was a game component system that I wrote on top of cocos2d, to encapsulate most of the cocos2d CCNode stuff and allowing me to focus on writing re-usable gameplay components. The system works but it’s not production tested. Still it’s proven very promising from my initial tests and opens some interesting opportunities, for example the re-use of components is a huge timesaver, and you can totally get rid of any class hierarchy and remain flexible throughout development. Due to writing the book and other things I hadn’t had the time to develop it as much as I wanted to. I’ll release it eventually but for the moment, I have a different focus.

For one, I’m late with the Game Center chapter due to the Macoun conference preparations, an upcoming wedding and an apartment renovation of the soon-to-be-wed as their wedding gift. So I’ll try to cram writing both the Game Center chapter and the final chapter in this week, before turning my attention to updating the Line-Drawing Starterkit and Xcode project. I did not intend to support non-beta versions of cocos2d, but given how long the recent betas last and how many developers actually use the latest beta (probably due to HD support) and how significant the breaking changes are this time, I’m going to update the starterkit and Xcode project with HD support while keeping the old project for those who would rather use the stable 0.99.4 version of cocos2d. Once that’s done, it’ll be mid of October and another project, only partly concerning cocos2d, kicks in full speed. No time to lose.

Speaking of the Starterkit, September went by and I made 10 sales, without advertising it or anything, so those numbers are at the lower end of the “potential sales” spectrum. That’s a sum (over $1,500) that I can live with. Well, actually, that’s a sum that I can live off of. On a related matter, I recently found a page detailling the traffic stats of the cocos2d-iphone.org website. If those stats are correct, the unique visits are over ten times that of my site. Now, frankly speaking, every time I get those little facts and stats from here and there over the past couple months, and then added up the numbers, compared them with mine, applied reasonably pessimistic estimations and caution, I do wonder: why the hell isn’t cocos2d run like a business?

If you ask me, with those traffic stats and a reasonable conversion rate of 0.1% per unique visitor (mine is over 0.2%), one could easily pay 3 people to develop cocos2d, test it, write documentation, moderate the forum, and in general adding more business value. Which in turn grows the business, speeds up the development of the engine, tools and by-products and will make everyone benefit from that. I don’t get it. Because at this point, it’s either going to be that, or a slow decline to a niche product over the next couple years due to the increasingly strong competition from other iOS engines. Especially those that offer cross-platform support, since that’s what contractors are asking for, or even demanding, more and more.

Anyhow, for my part, I decided that now would be a good time to start doing the Indie thing full-time, still accepting contract work but I’m able to be a lot pickier about it. I have a goal set out for myself, and it’s not a simple one. I’ve always enjoyed most to help my colleagues, to fix their problems, to support them and in general, to help them achieve excellence. I know, that sounds like something you’d find in EA’s job matrix – and in fact, you do. Helping others achieve excellence, throughout my professional career, that’s what I’ve been doing and enjoying the most. Now I find myself doing that for cocos2d developers, enjoying it and being able to support myself in the process. Well, I think I’ll have to thank you, my dear readers, for that. :)

As a thank you back, I’ve started working on a bigger project about 3 months ago that will be useful and helpful to many indie game developers, regardless of the engine you may be using. Hence it deserves its own website and a cool name (darn, that is hard!). I’m looking forward to really getting into high gear with it after I’ve submitted the remaining book chapters. Stay tuned.

About App Store whiners, again …

On June 9, 2010, in Mobile Business, by Steffen Itterheim

WOS Blog has a post online which really sums up well how i look at the App Store:

“Don’t believe anyone who whines that it’s hard to make money with a really good game on the App Store, viewers. They’re either lying, or imbeciles, or both.”

It’s called How not to do it and covers some basis of why certain Apps succeed while others fall by the wayside. Sometimes it’s a matter of beating someone to the market, other times to learn from other’s mistakes, but mostly to price your Apps fairly.

A while ago i read about Indie game developers who eventually thought it would be a good idea to spend 3-6 months on their next game, to sell the App by means of quality and content. While there are chances that this will work and even reward you greatly money-wise, it also increases your risks by several factors. You’re going down the same path that leads to similar problems of the AAA game developers, albeit on a much smaller scale. It’s a hit-driven business. If you did moderately well on your 1-2 month games, and then you do a 3-6 month game, your chances of making it a success get slimmer and slimmer. It does help to understand the market and marketing but even that won’t help you if the game doesn’t vibe with players.

So, would you rather have a less than 50% chance of making it (relatively) big, or a 100% chance of doing moderately well?

Of course, if you can keep running the 100% part of your business you should really consider making the bet. But if you have no money to spare you should stick with moderately well and instead keep pumping out moderately well doing games. Make 8 of those over the year and you got yourself a respectable business nonetheless.

I wonder what happened to those Indies and their “big project”? Hmmm …

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