Platforms Are People Too: The Importance of Finding Your Champion

CZ Note: This is a great talk because it covers one of my favorite topics: small actions that can make a big distance on the outcome of your game. Read this carefully as a list of todos.

This is how most platforms are organized from a personnel standpoint. For example the XBOX team will have all these roles

  • Promotional Teams
    • Store team
    • Marketing
    • PR Social
    • Events (The folks who attend events like gdc, at PAX etc)
  • Content teams
    • 3rd Party
    • Dev relations
    • Product evaluation
    • Account management

CZ NOTE: This part was kind of like the Law and Order intro. “In the game publishing industry there are two separate bu equally important groups: The promotional teams and the content teams. This talk is about their stories DUN DUN”

The promotional team is in charge of figuring out what to feature on the store page, so they go to the Content team to find out what to promote.

Also the Events team asks the Content team before a big promotions.

Here is what motivates a person on the content team:

  • #1 Players
  • #2 Developers 
  • #3 Myself
  • #4 Platform – the playstation bottom line (he didn’t care as much)

You don’t have to be an official partner with a platform (like a game that is sponsored by Sony) to benefit of this relationship:

  • A champion can still be with all those things. 
  • Take any money that a partner gives you (even if small) that is the first step and they will be your champion if they give you money
Look at the 4th row with all 3 checkmarks. If you pitch to SONY, Nintendo, and Microsoft they probably wont give you platform support.

Thesis of this slide: If you put the game out everywhere then nobody was going to support it. Be strategic.

There are 3 steps to building a relationship with a partner team

Step 1: Making the “right” game

The types of games platforms get excited about

  • Something new (journey, gone home, papers please) 
  • Best of its genre (Axiom verge, dead cells, hyper light drifter, super meat boy)

Note that all of these games have great art.

Quote from Zach Gage “Make a game to play now to participate in a conversation. There is a zeitgeist about them”

(CZ NOTE: I don’t believe in this. Look at all these games that nobody hears about.) – Games with a lot of success just don’t necessarily have zeitgeist. Look at stuff like Trailer Park Boys, Ultimate General, Miscreated. All popular games with very little zeitgeist.

If your game is hard for you to describe, it will be hard for your champion too.

A good example of an easy to describe game: Salt and sanctuary (by ska studios) “Its dark souls in 2d.” Note X + Y actually works out

Why didn’t Tacoma sell well? – you could never tell what the experience was when you were watching the trailer. Same problem with Where the water tastes like wine

Step #2 Be available and make yourself known.

  • Make yourself findable – go to events. 
  • Talk at events
  • Talk to everyone (because sometimes a PR person will show it to a content person)

Other developers can be champions for you. So collaborate with someone awesome who has great connections.

Go where developers are going:

  • JW Marriott lobby is a great place  to do a lot of marketing.
  • Even better than an event – go visit the platforms office – it is always great. They are willing to take a break from their day job just to have lunch with something – it is a good excuse for them. Just notify them when they are in town so that they can prepare for you. It will also make the demo more clear in their mind. 
  • Be very persistent – Dev relations folks get 100s of email so be very persistent.
  •  Don’t send an email blast to everyone in the company. They don’t like that.
  • Contact them on twitter.

Step #3 arm your champion

  • Send thoughtful demos – steam keys are best
  • Build on their hardware
  • Controller support – do it in your demo – it was hard to extrapolate if your controller works
  • Do a youtube link – send a private link so you can see if they opened it.

Research their platform and give then what they need 

  • Be aware of 1st party similarities (CZ NOTE: don’t make a Platformer if Mario is coming out soon)
  • Be familiar with their storefront (Some folks didn’t know how it worked
  • Consider the companies priorities – like they have a new peripheral and they want games for it.
  • Know the platform’s tastes
  • Your personal story can be as important as your game
  • Say why YOU are making this game?
  • Specific pitch is better than a Flexible game idea 
  • Breakdown your budget for them
  • You should pitch the game you want because then It will get funded based on vision not if it is just trying to tell the platform what they want to hear.

Consider shared goals. Match the company who matches your game

  • Nintendo has platformers 
  • XBOX has shooters and racing games
  • Playstation with 3rd person adventures

Keep champion updated.

  • Defer to what the champion tells you to do on the launch. They know more than you do
  • Go above and beyond for your champion. Example: The Axiom verge guy sent a gift basket to the folks at Sony after they launched. Also Guacamele dev team credited the developer – they like that stuff. 

Case study: Octodad

  • First showed it to Nick at GDC 2011 then it was kinda ugly
  • Then they showed it again at PAX and it looked good
  • So Nick sent them a dev kit.
  • Then Nick featured it on the main stage.
  • Playstation made them a costume to walk around at the event.
  • They sold over $2Million units. 
  • Despite the fact that they never won an award and then had mediocre meteoritic. 

Publishers you could pitch to:

Champions who are the press:

  • Press like to lurk – if you post to #gamedev they are watching. If they are aware of it they will pitch
  • There are some press lists on twitter. Look at @janDavidHasel he assembled a giant list called “Game Press” that has press people
  • Another list is run by @OWtlier #indieGameDev News/Media

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