Psychochild's Blog

A developer's musings on game development and writing.

29 April, 2007

Weekend Design Challenge: Guerrilla Marketing
Filed under: — Psychochild @ 2:38 AM

At the Indie MMO Game Development Conference, Serafina Pechan (developer of Atriarch) gave an interesting presentation on guerrilla marketing. She defined it as “unconventional methods of marketing” and mentioned that it’s usually done on a much lower budget than traditional marketing.

So, this week’s challenge is this: think of some ways to provide guerrilla marketing for an independent game.

My ideas after the jump.

A few overriding thoughts. Remember that guerrilla marketing doesn’t equate to “free marketing”. You sometimes still have to pay for your unconventional marketing. But, it’ll likely be cheaper than trying to produce and air a TV commercial in almost every case. ;)

Also, marketing is important. Despite what some well-known developers claim, you do still need marketing if you don’t have decades of history behind you. The fact is that doing a bit of smart marketing is going to get you more players than doing no marketing at all. You can’t just build it and hope they’ll come, as the movie goes. If you don’t have even a small bit of personal celebrity to throw around, you have to be smart about it.

Okay, so let’s talk real ideas. What can you do?

A good idea is to set up a blog to talk about game development. Include some information about your game, but don’t focus on pimping it exclusively. You have to provide interesting information instead of just meaningless fluff. Matt Mihaly, as referenced in the link above, is able to get people interested in his new game because he is visible in the community. It would be much harder to give information without his blog. Hell, part of the reason I still write this is so that people get to know me as a person and as a developer instead of simply writing me off as that “kooky Meridian 59 guy” when they hear about me.

So, what other ideas do you think can help? Or, what refinements to the blog idea are there? Let’s hear your innovative and low-cost ideas.







7 Comments »

  1. Dang, you took the easy one. Heh.

    Here’s my plan, for what it’s worth…

    Before there is a game to start pumping, start networking, it seems to me. Blogs are just one way to do this, of course. Write editorials or articles for various sites (mmorpg.com, gamersinfo.net, mpogd.com, etc.)

    If you live in an area with significant local population or interest, organizing live events might be another angle for generating future recognition and interest.

    A somewhat controversial and risky option: make a name for yourself in an existing MMO, particularly on the boards. Not to put too fine a point on it, there are more than a few people on the blogroll over there who even made it into the established industry by that very route…

    Once you have a web site, basic screenshots, and so on for your game, get listed at any and all sites that will list games in development. Frankly, I’d want to be pretty far along in the development arena before I did that, but YMMV… I suppose it depends on how quickly you think you can get to market. FWIW, I’d say your web site is your “first impression” opportunity for the people you are courting at this point… spend some time or some money, look professional, Get It Right. If possible, start playing the “forum sub-game” with interested people right then and there.

    Once you have an actual game up and running, at least in beta, one idea might be to generate a couple of web-friendly “casual” games (flash, java, browser-based) and get them out to varous sites, making sure to have a splash page proclaiming “From the developers of (your MMO’s name here)”. Very indirect, but it’s also the kind of thing that can potentially continue to create name recognition over a long period of time with very little time/effort on your part.

    Project Wonderful and similar web marketing services is an avenue that I will explore further when the time comes. That little humor advertisement that Matt Mihaly ran on Broken Toys for a bit re: Eternal Earth comes to mind… I thought it was a pretty inspired idea.

    Sites like Greg Costikyan’s Manifesto Games and similar “portals” are another way to get the client into people’s hands, of course. I suppose that is more along the lines of sales than marketing, tho…

    If you have the slightest bit of artistic talent and a flair for humor, a web comic might be a way to raise awareness of your game over time. That’s a bit out there, perhaps… a web comic can be a fair bit of work in and of itself, after all.

    Well, some ideas at least… nothing all that unusual/notable tho, I guess.

    Comment by Craig Huber — 29 April, 2007 @ 5:41 AM

  2. This is an easy one that is often overlooked and yet comes so naturally to you developer-types. *grins*

    Make a cult of personality. Players will follow it.

    You just have to decide exactly what that personality is and how much of a cult following you want. And be sure it fits the style of the game you’re making. As mentioned above, play other games (note that this word is plural) – use a pseudonym there and get that personality known.

    Then do the interviews with that personality and pseudonym. That’s the thing about cults, they know where their leader is at all times.

    Comment by Ophelea — 29 April, 2007 @ 6:32 AM

  3. Actually, what I said was that you don’t need a dedicated marketing person if you’re making indie MMORPGs. I’ve run an indie MMORPG company for 10 years (with double digit growth every single year) without any dedicated marketing help whatsoever and there is not a single dollar allocated in Earth Eternal’s budget for a dedicated marketer. I believe Puzzle Pirates also launched without bringing on any dedicated marketing help. That’s not to say it can’t help (it surely can) but I feel pretty confident in saying it’s not a requirement for success.

    –matt

    Comment by Matt Mihaly — 29 April, 2007 @ 4:50 PM

  4. I never said you needed a dedicated person; in my original post I recommended that people contract a PR person and that the business person may be able to pick up some marketing/PR duties. Your post that I link to says, “A marketing person is nice but I don’t think you really need one.” This statement makes it sound like you thought that one didn’t need any marketing expertise at all.

    Also, remember that most people starting an independent company aren’t as business savvy as you or I are. Most aren’t going to have the connections, experience, or knowledge to do effective marketing or PR on their own. You are the exception, Matt, not the rule. So, for most people I think spending some additional money on PR or marketing is going to lead to more success than heaping those duties on top of the already massive workload of the biz/lead designer/big cheese/etc. guy.

    I believe Puzzle Pirates also launched without bringing on any dedicated marketing help.

    Actually, they did. Ophelea, the poster above, helped them on contract. They had quite a bit of advertising with some quite smart banner ads back in the day.

    But, this brings me back to the topic of this challenge: You can’t just expect to splash out money in traditional marketing and expect to get big results. Unfortunately, banner ads are getting to be more like “traditional marketing” these days the whole Web 2.0 thing is driving up ad prices. So, developers need to look at more non-traditional ways of getting their message out there.

    I’d love to hear some of your suggestions, Matt. For example, how are you encouraging word-of-mouth beyond postings on your blog? This is a powerful form of advertising, but you know that one does have to put in some effort. What are you doing on your low budget to get the word out and not drive your development prices up?

    Comment by Psychochild — 29 April, 2007 @ 6:14 PM

  5. One could maybe try and use YouTube… posting video blogs and some fly overs of the world.

    Comment by Boon — 2 May, 2007 @ 10:57 PM

  6. Two quick comments.

    First, on the subtopic of using someone other than the developer for marketing, this is a matter of resource management. Even if the developer is a talented and experienced marketer, is this the best use of his or her time? The more you know, the better you can manage someone else to do the work and free yourself for the work that only you can do.

    Second, if you think of games (MMO et al.) as a subset of entertainment, then you can expand your reach to your potential customers through the other types of entertainment that they use. Boon mentions YouTube. This is just one of the many places that generate viral and word of mouth marketing.

    Comment by Harrison Rose — 3 May, 2007 @ 10:09 AM

  7. Actially there simple thin some people doing.
    Make a web page not directly connected to your game, but with link to your game.
    Now go to other simular game boards, your target people. If you put link to your game it probably will be delited, but link to your personal web page would not.

    So, now if you can put some informative and interesting cooment on this board, it is posible some people will go to your web side.
    If you page has some reletionship to the game in discussion probability is higher.

    Just do not be blatant about your game, It is other game board.

    I remember on of self help dating guidees guy were doing it. He went to some gemeral teens dating board and spend resonable advice and had link to his buisness.

    Comment by Alexei — 4 May, 2007 @ 8:17 AM

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