Hello, I am Alex and I am working with game developers helping them promote their games. It is not every day you work with a VR title, especially now, when initial VR hype has almost gone. Not that gone, especially after the new Valve product announcement, but you all know what I mean.
Previously I got an experience working with VR story-driven bow-simulator called SACRALITH: The Archer’s Tale, so I didn’t wish to lose an opportunity to work with another VR title.
The game Galactic Ranger VR comes from DGMA-studio, which is an international Russia-Honk Kong association of digital artists and producers. What is more important, DGMA does self-publishing for developed titles, so Galactic Ranger VR is one of them.
The initial idea of the game comes from the pitch of home-based arcade machines. Even more, home-based arcade cabinets. Remember those Amiga 3000 based bulked structures, that come out of early 90-ties?
So you have got the idea then. A wave FPS game with colourful graphic, trigger happy shooting and it is all as if you got such an Arcade cabinet just at your very own room.
The campaign. What was right and what went wrong.
What went wrong
When I was planning campaign I realised there was an ultra-tight schedule, but to be honest, I assumed we could slightly delay the release date for a couple of weeks. That is the common practice when you have some initial results from your PR campaign; additional time could simply fulfil those plans. And your campaign will actually use its full potential. Turns out it would be impossible to delay the release, so after an initial announcement of the release I got some sixteen working days opportunity window. Needless to say, that was over ultra-super-tight timing to realise PR or marketing campaign. But there was very little I could do, so I got to rid of some media alerts (remember, they won’t do much anyway), as well as the release date announced.
I would recommend securing a flexible date for release, so you may move it as you see it fits the outgoing campaign. You may always change the Steam date and do another press release like ‘Sorry guys, we have to move release date just to do some more polishing for your convenience’, which, in fact, not that bad, and almost certainly will make the game even more anticipated.
So sixteen days campaign is not an achievement, but rather timing I would not recommend working with. Do not try it at home, at least, please.
Turn your plan into reality by doing the right things
I did realise from my previous experience that VR game promotion is somewhat different than “regular” Steam release. There is a specific VR game everything – game reception, press, specific influencer, bloggers etc. – so you have to consider that carefully as you do plan your campaign. Something will work, others won’t do so you have to be aware of that.
Usually, I do media alert at press release cooking and send it on specific days to some press-release aggregator like Gamespress (very nice guys, by the way, love their job). But this will fail in a case of VR game, again, because of you not pitching a Half-Life VR title.
Take your time and carefully read all articles of rival games, for the last couple of years, write down all those game journalist names. Then try to actually communicate with them, pitching your game. This is really when Twitter comes to your aid. Then repeat this step, instead of simply sending out billions of emails containing your story. In my case, I mean press release.
Doing so you will secure a list of publications, but you will also get interested journalists, which is more essential. Remember, those are not just pixels behind your screen (okay, let’s presume you really cannot meet them in person, as you live in another country). But they are rather really enthusiasts of what they doing, so if you interest them they will really happy to write about your game. Do not be afraid to write DM with Twitter or using Facebook: that may be the very right advise to follow.
I got a list of articles slightly after an actual press release, but, in return, I got about 15 coverage with very specific VR media, and about 50 in total, so I was really pleased with overall results.
Influencers – the bad…
The very second thing you want for your campaign is actually Youtube and/or Twitch creators who will show how good your game it to potential customers. You want to source a huge list of creators, the bigger the better, who play specific titles; in my case that was a blogger who likes playing VR games. I mean, include as many creators as you can, not that 1M subscribers only. Chances that big creator will do a review of your game are not that big. Opt instead for middle and small-sized audience creators, you may take with big numbers.
Well, having a look at a sheet of Youtube creators/bloggers which comes with 200+ rows, I must admit that this is quite stressful doing a promotion with zero budget. This is where exactly the money comes to the point. It is a good idea to have some solid budget for your video-promotion campaign.
The usual budget rate you may consider for spending is $10-15,000 USD. This is the amount you may be asked total per campaign, directly for or in the form of agency, the creator working with. So having a zero budget will greatly reduce a chance for collaboration with a creator who has, for example, 1M subscribers on its channel. Especially when you are on a tight schedule before the game is released.
This is the downside of Steam marketing: you want all your effort concentrated before the release. The target is to accumulate as many followers as possible. And the more you arrange Youtube video and Twitch content, the more impressions you will get. You may even get featured on top of Steam pages. So, the more traffic goes to Steam, the more followers you will get eventually, and the budget is your best friend.
After having a sheet of Youtube/Twitch creators with 200 entries I concluded that this list will take all my remaining time to communicate in the usual manner. Then I came to a lovely idea I need to speed things up a bit. That how I came to Keymailer service.
I would strongly recommend using one, especially with an option to find content creators. This will greatly improve overall effectiveness. But then again, even if you suggest and submit your Steam code with Keymayler, do not be a lazy one. Give it like 2-3 days and poke every content creator manually, by finding their email on Youtube. Contact them, make sure they redeemed your key and ask if everything is okay.
In return, you will be given a lot of information and initial feedback on how one liked your game or totally not. And therefore you will get a sheet of expected videos.
Creators not only doing (or not) a review of your game or simply play it, but they also can use you in return to promote its own media. This is Win-Win for both parties, so I do urge you not hesitate to ask if someone wants to get Steam code for your game. You will get a lot of offering to make a giveaway, so just spread as many keys as you can. Usually, you will be asked for no more than 10 keys, and 50 is something absolutely extraordinary.
If you did your homework right making a sheet of Youtubers, most of your contacts should be the real content creators; the persons who actually run their own channel, blog or any other kind of media. But not just those key-hunters. Yes, be aware of those who will hunt for your keys and sell them eventually, but you may always check who is requesting and if it is worth to give him or her a key.
To summarise, ensure that you have paid a lot of attention to which influencers you work with. Not only you will have some pre-release videos – hopefully! – flooding Youtube but people will have an opportunity to check your game out by actually spreading info about that game, which is great!
My campaign ended up with ~15 Youtube videos and two Twitch streams, with 3 giveaways via VR site’s social media. Which was pretty okay I believe, considering the zero budget I deal with.
Next month on ‘Around the VR World in 16 Days’ – working with Steam, Setting up your page, analyze and fine-tune your page, Steam optimisation tricks, game production “How to”s and life after the initial release.
Alex began as a writer and then as an associate editor for IT hardcover paper magazines, followed by a Senior Editor position at Game World Navigator (Moscow, Russia) 1998 - 2000. Having worked as a journalist Alex always dreamed of being a developer, and his journey began when he joined the Revolt Games team, releasing 6 games in 4 years, all for PC. Alex then worked at GLU Mobile, where he developed his English skills, and later moved to My.com to help launch the ambitious Skyforge. Following his time climbing the corporate ladder at large scale development studios, Alex is now working with indie game developers helping them with gaming press PR and marketing.