How to write an effective press release: a complete game developer’s guide
The release date of your game is coming up. Everything is ready. You send out the press release and…
Know the feeling? Everyone does. Although the press release is one of the most important promotional tools, it is still often neglected by game developers.
The truth is, however, that writing one does not necessarily have to be hard or tiresome. Press releases are written based on a certain scheme. If you master it, you will be able to reach journalists more easily, increasing the chances of information about your game getting published.
Before you send out the press release…
It’s not just about the content of your press release — what’s equally important is how you write it. Here’s a couple basic rules you need to follow:
- No spelling or punctuation errors
Always use language responsibly! Remember: you are addressing people who write for a living and consider the correct use of language extremely important. An absolute minimum is running your press release through a word processor and correcting all underlined words (some processors also catch basic punctuation errors). A text with errors in it will go straight to the trash!
- Write in third person
Your task as a marketer is to make the journalist’s work as easy as possible. The amount of materials editors receive can be overwhelming, which is why it is common practice to publish entire press releases without editing them — a practice far from praiseworthy, but a practice nonetheless. Therefore, in order to make the editor’s task easier, write as if you were writing a press article yourself. Most importantly, never write “we developed X” or “our game X” — instead, write “Y developed X” and “X by Y”.
- Unformatted text
Once again: make the journalist’s life easier! Don’t make them retype information from PDF files, don’t use HTML tags in the text (sic), don’t use italics, bolding or underlining. The editor’s going to format the text the way they want to anyway (if they want to at all). A practice that’s still widely used (and quite effective) is sending the press release as a formatted Word document and… a .txt file. The latter is free from any kind of formatting and therefore the easiest to publish with no additional work.
The core elements of a good press release
The headline and subheadline should briefly and concisely explain what the press release is about. This is not the place for flowery metaphors or understatements. The best headline is a simple one — the subheadline can expand upon it in a slightly more fancy way. An unwritten rule is that they should not exceed 18 words combined.
- Headline: “X announces Y”
- Subheadline: “Take on the role of an alien hunter in the latest mobile game”
2. First paragraph (lead)
This is the most crucial element of your press release. Remember, most journalists (and readers) will stop reading after the first paragraph! In professional jargon, it is called the lead, as it summarises and leads the entire text. It absolutely needs to answer the following questions: what, who, where, when, why, and with what result? It should also engage the reader enough for them to keep reading. The lead is where you put all the most important information, which you will expand upon step by step in the remainder of the text.
“On 23 October, Poland-based Example Games will release Generic Game for the PlayStation 4. The unique combination of a puzzle platformer and an action game will throw players into a world of pirates and pandas.”
Should you include the city, date and year in a press release?
A press release written “by the book” begins with the place and date it was written, e.g. “Warsaw, 25 January”. If you want, you can include this element in the lead, though personally, I don’t think it’s necessary on the Internet. The choice is yours.
3. Description of the game
The most important part of your press release. If you’ve already prepared a description of your game for stores, you can condense it into one short paragraph. Remember the following:
- What’s interesting for you as a developer doesn’t necessarily have to be interesting for a gamer. Look at your product from the user’s point of view: what do you think is the most interesting? What would convince you to buy the game? Use the language of benefits.
- Emotions sell. Stir up feelings of fear, amusement or curiosity (e.g. by surrounding the storyline in an air of mystery).
- Find your game’s unique selling point (USP) and focus on it — this applies to the entire marketing campaign. Think of the most important thing your game does particularly well: maybe it has amazing graphics, an immersive story or unique gameplay mechanics? This one special feature should be the central point of the description. It will be the thing setting you apart from the competition.
- Use simple language: short sentences, simple words. Don’t go over the top with adjectives, especially ones traditionally associated with sales (“best”, “unique”, “one of a kind”).
Quotes are an optional, but desirable element. A team member’s comment will give the press release an air of an article and make it more trustworthy. It can come from the head of the project or a game designer — anyone who is able to say a couple words about your game and what makes it special. Don’t forget to include the person’s name and position! Quotes don’t have to aim for objectivity. They should, however, supplement information from the text rather than simply repeat it.
5. Technical details
Devote the final paragraphs to technical details, especially if it’s the first press release regarding the game. Include the system requirements (if it’s a PC game) or platforms (in the case of mobile and console games). Make sure to keep the paragraph concise and reader-friendly.
6. Call to action!
A press release is supposed to help you sell the game to users. The most basic method used in such texts is ending them with a call to action, which encourages users to act or check the information provided in the text. It is a good idea to sum up the text with a couple sentences about when the game or app will be released and where to find out more about it. Instead of linking to the main page, it is best to link to a particular page where users can find the desired information without unnecessary clicking. If the link is too long and complicated, use a URL shortener, such as bit.ly. The link may then look like this: bit.ly/GameTitle..
“The incredible adventure in the world of pirates and pandas will be available next week on the PlayStation 4 at a price of $20. Find out more at http://bit.ly/GenericGame”
7. A couple words about the studio
The boilerplate is a separate paragraph (UNDER the press release itself) containing the basic information about your studio. The main text is all about your game, not your studio — try to limit information about the latter in your press release to a minimum. The boilerplate is obligatory, even for an unknown developer. Be sure to include a link to your website or social media channels.
8. Extra materials
Accompany the press release with extra materials, such as a couple screenshots, some concept art, a trailer (preferably uploaded to YouTube) or other promotional materials. Warning! If you’ve got a lot of materials, it would be best to put them on some kind of server (e.g. Dropbox or Google Drive). Don’t clog the editor’s mailbox with a ton of files! They’ll never forgive you. ;) If your game looks attractive, it’s an interesting idea to embed a small GIF in the body of the e-mail — it will catch the editor’s eye immediately after opening the message.
Professional press releases always end with press contact info: the contact data of the person who knows the subject best. Ideally, it should be someone from the PR department, but if there’s nobody in your studio who deals with promotion, it can be the CEO or the head of the project. It is important to remember, however, that the designated person should be able to find some time for the editors who want to find out more.