Do you sometimes look at a person you just met and think “I don’t know what it is about them, but I like them”?
It can be anything – the way they talk, act, move, look, eat, smell, dress, paint themselves, paint their nails, wear their shirts, say words, smile. It is not something quantifiable, something that you can assign a number to. It is a deeply ingrained feeling at the subconscious level. This first meeting, either you like it or you don’t like it. And in those three or four seconds, you make a decision. Either go deeper and see who they are, or you let them be and probably never come back to them.
People have the same judgment on your game and your studio. The way you appear to them will be reflected in their attitude towards you. In other words, impressions form perceptions.
That first meeting with someone new, either you like it or you don’t like it … People have the same judgment on your game and your studio
Do you want your game to be viewed more positively in those first few seconds? You do? In that case, follow me and I’ll show you some marketing tips to make your game more popular. For the next few minutes, I’ll be your stylist, your blacksmith, your personal trainer, your tailor, and your psychologist too. Food and wine? Well, this is something that you will have to organize yourself.
These next tips are my bits of wisdom, pet peeves, and gear crushers that I’ve collected over the years. Am I right or am I wrong? Well, it’s up to you to decide. But I hope they will stir your brain cells and get some ideas across.
Don’t say your game is “beautiful”
Never call your game “beautiful”. Let others come to this conclusion. When describing your game, avoid this word like the plague.
Think of it this way: If you were browsing Tinder and someone described themselves as “beautiful” no matter what they looked like, what would you think of them? You would probably think that they are conceited, maybe a little put together themselves, and you might even think to yourself, “You know what, you are not. this beautiful, I have seen better. So why would your game be any different? Why shouldn’t gamers feel the same about your “beautiful” game?
Your graphics can be “hand drawn”, “futuristic”, “cell-shaded”, “Dali inspired”, “oil painting type”. Your game world can be “sandy”, “dark”, “radiant with the sun”, “a place where optimism shines, however dark the world around you is”. But don’t say the game, the world, or the graphics are “beautiful”.
Let people come to that conclusion themselves by looking at the screens and / or the gameplay. It means so much more to judge something so beautiful for yourself than to be told it’s the object itself.
Other words to avoid include “fun”. Hope your playing is fun, however fun you define. I mean, what else would I buy a game for? The same is true with “unique” – because your game is the only game in the world in its own category, unlike all other games which are all the same … You will be taken more seriously without these words in your copy and vocabulary.
People relate to names, not descriptors
As soon as we know someone’s name, we treat them differently. They become someone we know. A stranger you can ignore, give him a cold shoulder. But as soon as you find out that the stranger’s name is Jim, well, you can’t easily ignore him anymore. You need to at least nod to Jim, wave your hand, maybe even shake his hand. Perhaps…
Ditto for your video game. In your Steam copy, interviews, social media, descriptions, news, anything that reaches gamers eyes or ears, use names. Names of characters, heroes, towns, cities, the world, places, shops, restaurants … People refer to names, not descriptors. “Welcome to Pinegrove” sounds warmer and more familiar than “Welcome to our city”. Everything that makes it personal trains you. It’s how we feel that we know someone a little more.
Your game can be hand drawn, futuristic, cel-shaded, Dali-inspired, oil-paint-like, gritty, dark, glowing with the sun. But never say it’s “beautiful”.
Bonus point: If you’re working on a story-based game, where storytelling takes center stage, this is essential. Your potential customers play narrative games for a reason. Help them get lost in your world and your story before they even play. They’ll be more inclined to take that final step, buy your game, and complete the story you’ve built.
Make the player the central character of the words you use
When you describe what the player is going to do in your copy or in your voiceovers, make the player the central character.
Here is an example of how it works: “As a player, you will play as a reincarnated ninja assassin who has the power to control shadows.” Not bad, but let’s make you the hero. Now read this: “You are a reincarnated ninja assassin who has the power to control shadows.”
What phrase makes you feel “closer” to the product? Which one makes you feel the most in the gaming world? Words can make the distance between the player and the game longer or shorter. Like objects in your rearview mirror.
It’s better when others talk about you
It might seem a bit obvious, but it’s more believable when others are talking about you rather than telling you how awesome you are. Now I’m sure the first thing that comes to your mind is “Okay, genius, so how do I get people to talk about me?” Well that’s a whole different set of articles and stuff, but what I’ll say is this: there are a lot of good partners who can mention your game. Firsts, Thirds, Press, Influencers , manufacturers, other studios, they might be more than happy to mention your work.
Keep in mind that not all mentions are the same. One of my old favorite sayings is the famous line of Marshal McLuhan “The medium is the message”. Not all messages, or the ways in which those messages are reached, are created equal. Showing a Facebook ad about you doesn’t have the same weight as someone else talking positively about you. So contact as many partners as possible. All of this helps to create a positive perception of your product.
Get a good copy full of sound clips
I’ve heard that many gamers don’t read your Steam description. And you know what, that could be true. But do you know who is reading your Steam pages and press kits? The press, YouTubers and streamers do it. And that’s where the catchy, stuffy slogans come in.
Let’s take an example. Same game (Inkulinati), different pitch lines. What is the best?
Inkulinati is a turn-based strategy that takes place on pages of medieval manuscripts in which unique creatures fight for victory. Set in a fun and beautiful world, you will fight by drawing various creatures to become the ultimate champion.
Inkulinati is an ink-based strategy straight out of medieval manuscripts, where a rabbit’s butt can be deadlier than a dog’s sword. Become a living ink master, build your own bestiary, defeat medieval superstars, and collect perks to unleash hidden powers.
Personally, number two is a winner. There are so many slogans here that are worth repeating. Medieval superstars, ink based, rabbit buttocks against dog sword. In fact, they’re so good that several YouTubers, reporters, and streamers have used them in their materials. So while players might not read your words, other media channels / outputs might. And the more eye-catching they are, the more memorable they will be for their audience. So make your words sticky.
No update means a dead project
I’ll be honest with you. I love Steam. Not just as a store, but to be a social platform. I like to keep the Steam community engaged with my game news that I publish. The other benefit of posting news regularly is that it makes your Steam Store page active and enjoyable. If you post any news, a new “RECENT EVENTS & ANNOUNCEMENTS” category will appear on the front of your store page.
A regularly updated Steam Store sends a message that the game is progressing well, that the developer is communicative and responsive, and most importantly, that the project is not dead.
This is really important if you are in the early access phase. Seeing an Early Access game with the last post posted a few months ago doesn’t build trust. Keep your Steam news regular (there is so much you can cover here, both before and after release). Not only will you look great, but thanks to the fact that Steam is more like a social network, you will also reach more people.
Bonus tip for all social media: If you’re posting through Hootsuite or FB Manager, don’t use Insta / Twitter hashtags on Facebook. It just screams copy and paste. #gamedev #businesstips # thisdoesn’tbelongheresoitlookswierd
Hope some of these tips will help you improve the look of your game and build a better self-perception. Because no matter what your free-spirited friends say, sometimes it’s good to worry about what people will think of you. At least when you are trying to sell yourself or your product.
Michal Napora is a video game distributor and owner of the 32-33 Marketing Agency. His in-game credits include Dying Light, The Sinking City, Aragami, Sherlock Holmes: The Devil’s Daughter, and more. If you need any marketing help or advice, you can reach him on LinkedIn.