(5 More Tips for) How to Announce a Video Game in 2017

When I arrived in the games industry in 2013 I landed with half a decade’s experience in marketing and absolutely none in video games. Back then practical advice on games marketing for independents was thin on the ground and still is in many ways. However Mike Rose was one of a few games writers who decided to specialise in the area, starting with the burgeoning influencer market and then moving into game dev and now his own publishing label. When he writes or blogs I try to give him a read.

Last week he published a piece called “How to announce a video game in 2017”. I heartily encourage you to read it because it breaks down the absolute core of what your trailer should be saying and why.

That same week I saw two indie studios making crucial but basic errors in their reveals. They were the kind of errors which may seem obvious to someone who’s paid full-time to promote games but easy to make when busy actually making a game.

One such title, for example, announced on a Sunday and only on Twitter (No, it wasn’t Mike Bithell), the other received the kind of seven figure YouTube views we all dream of but forgot to put their Kickstarter link at the end of the trailer (luckily, it looks like they’re still going to make their goal but what a missed opportunity)!

After a couple of tweets on the topic I decided it was high time I stopped judging and started contributing. So without further ado, here’s an aperitif: (5 More Tips For) How to Announce a Video Game in 2017:

1. You’ve got an amazing trailer? Great! Don’t forget some pretty pictures …

What’s the one thing you don’t want to happen when you announce your game? Seeing your coverage feature screenshots from a competitor is probably up there as a worst case scenario right?

Well, I’ve seen it happen.

It occurs because sometimes games have to get announced without any assets, and so news editors do their best to fill the gap. Not only can this confuse readers, it fills google search results for the game in question with incorrect images.

This can be compounded further as hobbyist sites decide to mock up their own box art and logos for fun, and these turn up in articles months later.

My point is you don’t just need a trailer — you need your final logo (though you probably have that in the trailer already) and you need some artwork, whether it’s box art, a screenshot or two, or detailed concept art (if you go for the latter, be honest about this in the filename and press release — don’t try to fool anyone).

Remember this one image may well be one of the most viewed assets attached to your game, so make sure you’re absolutely happy with it!

2. Give people something to do

While I’m still getting over YouTube’s culling of the annotations tool, it’s still important to get all your most important information in the video and in its description. Include Kickstarter pages, Twitter accounts, Twitch channels, YouTube subscription links, whatever you need most.

Don’t forget to give interested viewers something to do — a “call-to-action” or “CTA” as us marketing types are wont to call them. This could be encouraging them to share your news (to boost your reach) or asking them to follow you (to start a long term dialogue). You decide.

My favourite? The wholly unoriginal and even more successful “Sign up for [insert free thing or fun competition]”

And for that you’re going to need to …

3. Have a website and newsletter ready and waiting

Chances are — and this is backed up by almost every game I’ve ever been involved with — the largest search traffic your game will ever experience will either be reviews day or announcement day.

It may seem a bit 2008 to focus time on a static website in the age of Snapchat and Twitter, but they’re still key because they allow you to do a few important things:

  • They give gamers and press a central place to look you up if they hear about you from other sources (hopefully your announcement PR!)
  • You can ask people for their email addresses and send them news and updates later.
  • You can ask for people’s cookies so you can show them banner and social meida ads when your game is out (but make sure they have to opt-in, not opt-out!).
  • You can give people a central place to find links to the stores they prefer to pre-order or buy from, including your own.

If you don’t have a website on announcement day, you’re missing a big opportunity to get the contact details of the very people most interested in your game.

Building a site cheaply and quickly is a topic for another day, but at the very least make sure you cover the basics: pre-order links (if ready), logos, contact details, social network links, an email sign up (preferably with a sweetner) and a press kit.

4. Give your reveal an embargo

We could spend all day reviewing how to write a good press release so instead I’m just going to say this: Give yourself a global embargo and send everything to press 24–36 hours before that time, stressing the embargo at the top of the email (a little bold always helps).

This has multiple benefits.

News editors only have so much time in the day, so any press release that arrives without an embargo has to be written up quickly before the story has come and gone. If they see it late, they might not bother.

Sending with an embargo gives news editors time to write the piece in advance, or clarify points you may have forgotten to include in your press release. It also means you’re less likely to be fighting with more urgent breaking news that might come in. Trust me on this, Nintendo has dropped not one but TWO Nintendo Directs on my own trailer days! Without the embargo, we may have been ignored in the madness.

So what time do you set? As I’m based in the UK I tend to aim for 2–3pm as this means it lands before the afternoon commute in Europe and as America is waking up, but PRs differ on this. As a rule of thumb avoid Fridays-Sundays, think about the sites you want coverage from, their news writers and their timezones.

And if the thought of sending out your baby early to strangers makes you nervous, send it only to press you (or your agency) know personally and then send it out more widely on the embargo time.

I would add though, every professional news editor at major gaming websites will be completely au fait with taking info off the record and under embargo. If they broke them, their career would be short-lived. Make it super clear in your opening paragraph and you’ll be fine!

5. Consolidate your message in forums, comments and social media

This is the tough bit. You’ve put a lot of effort into the reveal and now you’re sitting back nervously watching reactions and coverage flood in. Now is not the time to bask in glory however, you can sleep tomorrow!

Nope, for now you need to keep up momentum and head off any potential dramas by getting out there and interacting with your new community.

Something I learned quickly was to reply to comments straight after a major announcement or trailer. On platforms like YouTube and Facebook, timely and helpful replies from developers often end up as one of the most popular comments. This makes them a great place to add some some extra details that thousands of people might read. These people will then spread this info in other comments sections and forums they visit.

Make sure to thank commenters for kindly words, point them to your website, correct mistaken assumptions and politely counter misinformation before it turns into a load of angry threads.

And don’t be afraid to hide negative or brazenly aggressive comments. Constructive criticism is one thing, but it doesn’t matter how much the trolls moan, it is not a human right to slag off someone’s work and remain as the top comment, souring the rest of the conversation. Save a ban hammer or the report button for toxic or abusive commenters only.

If you’re feeling brave,you can also jump into comments sections on major gaming websites. Again it’s a good way to head off misinformation, but just make sure to make it clear you are a developer from the game — you don’t want to end up screen-capped on reddit somewhere as “that sneaky dev”.

And there we are. I‘m aware I finished on somewhat of a sour note, so all I’ll say is that while reveal day can be stressful and nerve-wracking, it also gives you the kind of boost not many people get to enjoy in their jobs, so take press clippings, screencap nice comments, retweet joyful reactions and take it all in!

If you have any questions or comments, hit me up on @cookie_vonster.