(Or my game’s Greenlight Post-Mortem. I hear it’s what they’re called?)
Wow! Just wow! I still can’t believe that Idle Civilization got Greenlit. It’s such a great feeling to see that your work is shaping up, that it’s appreciated and maturing. Okay, so this doesn’t mean that the game is a best seller overnight or that it sold anything on Steam (since it just got Greenlit), but that doesn’t matter all that much at this point. It’s passed the scrutiny of the community and that means the world to me.
So what is it like being on Greenlight?
Well, let’s talk about it.
First of all, it’s quite the unique experience and, you might’ve read this before, but the first thing in any such campaign is: be prepared.
Now this means more than just be prepared with marketing. It means be prepared emotionally. Like the super awesome Rami Ismail says (or rather, asks) in one of his talks: are you ready for your game to get negative feedback? Are you ready to read all sort of bad, negative comments, people telling you it sucks, your game has no potential, are you ready for bad reviews? You better be ready because not everyone will like your game, no matter what it is and especially if it’s your first project you should expect to get bad reviews. I’m not saying you will not get good reviews, you probably will, but you will almost certainly incur some sort of negative feedback, unconstructive criticism and the likes. And we human beings have this awful knack of dwelling on the bad things. So if you get 100 good reviews and 1 bad review, we tend to hang on the bad one more than the good one (it’s a well-documented psychological fact). So be prepared for that and don’t let it make you give up.
Second thing: Does anyone know of your game or is this the first time the public sees it?
If the answer is the latter, then you should delay until people have already had some contact with your game. That means you should have a good, working prototype of your game. I’m totally not against early access (I plan to use it too), but releasing a ultra-mega-pre-alpha on Greenlight is just a little more than trying to sell an idea and ideas without execution are worthless. So don’t. Have a working game (doesn’t have to be finished/polished, but ideally it is) and get it in front of people before putting it on Greenlight.
Now this bit is important: get it in front of your target audience. A lot of people rely on promoting their games in places where other developers hang out. Which is fine, but how interested are you usually in playing other devs games? I for one know I only play around 10-20% of the games I see promoted daily and I’m in a lot of dev groups. And, while a lot of fellow developers voted for my game on Greenlight, I don’t think the number represented more than 5% of votes – not to be scoffed at, but this shouldn’t be your main way of promoting.
No, what you need to do is get your game in front of potential gamers, in front of your target audience (if you have one). My game was/is published on a big gaming portal for free and it has been there for months while I was developing it (that also came with pluses and minuses as you can see in my previous article – Read here ) and I posted about it on reddit and kept an indiedb page. Looking at the analytics afterwards, I noticed that most of my traffic came from reddit.
So grab the attention of your followers while you’re developing – I had a rather well followed facebook page by my standards – close to 1000 likes – that’s not much by other developers’ standards, but it was for me, so I could always post updates there and get people involved. I did not have a strong Twitter presence. Actually, I’m still learning about Twitter so don’t be like me. Twitter is the place to be for game developers so be there, build yourself a presence and an audience and remember not to be one-sided: Don’t just talk about your game, talk about everything.
Third thing: Why is your audience so important? Because you only get THREE DAYS. Okay, that sounds more dramatic than it is. But you only get three days of free exposure while your game is in the recent submissions list. That’s when you’ll get the bulk of your organic traffic from Steam itself. After that, your game will fade into obscurity and you will have to drive traffic to the page yourself. So think about that and think how you’ll approach it. I didn’t post everywhere simultaneously from the first day really. I wrote about it on facebook and in a few groups in the first day, posted about it in reddit the following day, wrote a couple of articles the third day, so on and so forth. I’m not saying that’s the way to do it, I don’t know what the way to do it is, that is just how I did it. That way, while traffic dropped after the first three days, as is natural, I could still get a couple of hundred views on the page each day after that.
Fourth thing: This should have been a little higher up, but – how does your page look like? Well your page is your pitch really and your video is what’ll probably decide if people are interested or not. I’m not an expert with that, by far I’m not, so I just did my best with what I knew. I’m not an expert video maker and my game doesn’t have shiny cutscenes or flashy animations, so it was really important to me to highlight the core gameplay features without any bling. I recommend the same to all: make your main trailer short and to the point. Thirty seconds to one minute should be enough. If you want to add additional trailers that highlight other things, go right ahead, but its your main trailer that makes or breaks you. Most Steam users don’t even bother reading the description if the trailer didn’t grab their attention so that is by far the most important thing in your presentation.
Fifth thing: Be honest! Be honest in what you write in the game description. Be honest about what your game is and isn’t. If your game is LIKE another game in some idea and mechanics, be sure to mention if it’s NOT like that game in other crucial things. People project a lot, people get hyped and expect and over-expect. While it’s good to really make your game stand out, don’t over-state, don’t over-promise.
Sixth thing: Never give up!
Good luck and see you on the other side of Greenlight. Once Idle Civ is released I’ll be back to share with you further data about it.