Not sure if you know, but I have a Discord server. I have been so excited to see people asking really good questions and posting really good answers over there.

If you are not over there yet, come on in. Here is a link to my Discord.

Side note, this is the same Discord I use for fans of my games. So please tread lightly in the “general” channel. I just don’t want to scare off the muggles who are just there because they play my games. I have a special channel just for game dev and marketing. Please keep your questions/comments/links there.

This week’s stories come from my interactions with the community.

Story 1: Talk to your potential audience 

The other day Discord member Tbjbu2 was asking for advice on their Steam page short description. Those of us in the marketing channel gave some general advice on how to tighten up the text but really we were not experts in their game’s genre: City Building.

In my GDC talk on copywriting I had a whole section about how you have to go pull a Jane Goodall and study your audience in their environment.

So I told them to go be an anthropologist and ask the people at r/basebuildinggames. And they did! Here is the post.

And it worked! The post was written well and was not a thinly-veiled self-promotion post. The title was “Looking For Feedback On My Store Page.” Notice that they didn’t put the title of their game. It got a total of 45 comments (many from Tbjbu2) but this is so valuable. 

Read some of this feedback:

“Is it crafting, an idle, 4x, more puzzle based? There are plenty of mechanics but they exist across multiple genres.”

“That’s much better! I can tell immediately that it’s a city builder focused on resource management and war.“

“I don’t understand what your game really is. Is it focused on crafting, city building, production management, colony management? I can’t even really tell if it’s multiplayer or single player.”

Know your sub-sub-sub genre. 

I especially love that last comment because that poster really expressed the various sub-genre “kinks” associated with city/base building games.

As a developer and marketer it is vital that you understand what those fault lines are and that you are able to use the right terms so that fans know what type of game you have. The distinctions between “colony management” vs “production management” are sub-sub-sub genres. It is just like those sub-sub-sub romance genres that I was talking about right here in my Steam talk.

If you are selling romance, you gotta know the tropes and symbology so you don’t accidentally have a reverse-harem-reader buy your reverse-harem-shifter-romance. If you are selling strategy games, you gotta know the tropes. I am going to show that book cover again because I am never going to pass up an opportunity to show off “Nailing studs.”

For those of you playing along at home. This is pure reverse harem (obvious because of the lack of woodland creatures)

I give Tbjbu2 so much credit for posting their short description up for consideration. It’s really hard to open yourself up for critique like they did in that reddit post. The advice the redditors gave was blunt and kinda hard to take. But guess what? It is super clarifying. I would rather take the pain now than ignore it and launch a game and it not sell because I didn’t understand the subtle genre conventions that I should have.

90% of marketers do not do this kind of in depth market research where they actually talk to their target audience. Just taking a couple of hours to do what Tbjbu2 did will put you in a much more competitive position. GO TALK TO YOUR AUDIENCE.

Story 2: Making graphs go up.

If you remember, last week I wrote about how the developers of Imagine Earth swapped out their capsule image and their sales lept 20x.

Well last week I got an email from the developer of the game “Migrate” .

Check out the Steam page for Migrate.

After reading my column they decided to update their capsule and immediately saw a 4x jump in traffic to their store page. Unfortunately, that didn’t last very long. The numbers dropped but still was about 40% higher than it was before the change. Here is the graph.

The red arrow indicates when he made the change. You can also see the before and after images of the capsule. 

Lessons to take away from this:

  1. Your capsule art is super important because it is the first thing of your game that people will see on Steam. Pay for good quality art. If you can’t afford it, keep reworking on the capsule until you find something that people like. 
  2. The developer said that although traffic to his page increased, it did not mean more wishlists or sales. I think this indicates that their page or game art could be improved more. You know the funnel, every time you optimize one level of the funnel it will reveal another blockage further down the funnel. You just gotta keep optimizing the whole funnel.
  3. That one immediate spike is weird. I wonder if the Steam algorithms do a little mini visibility round if you change your store page. This could be a useful tactic. Let me know if you see something similar in your own testing.
  4. Reading my blog actually helps! I love hearing these stories and seeing that people are actually trying my wacky ideas and having them actually improve your marketing. If you try anything and it works (or doesn’t) please let me know. 

Just try it!

What I like about both of these stories are that they embody the experimental nature of marketing. I get a lot of questions from folks that are essentially… “should I try A or should I try B?” my answer is almost always “I don’t know, it is different for every game and every audience, try option A and record what happens, then try option B and record what happens. Then do the one that worked better” 

Also I love how both of the developers just took action. They didn’t think and think and read and ponder and watch another GDC talk. No, they just got up and took action and then saw what worked. 

Talk to you next week. Stay safe.

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