New developers’ barriers to entry are lower than ever, so it’s crucial that marketing efforts cut through the noise and find their audience. Here is a collection of tactics I’ve used to make that happen! Please contact me if you have any questions. Enjoy!
Forge: Competitive PvP
Increasing User Engagement:
- Problem: Forge, a multiplayer only PvP game on Steam, was having trouble with player retention
- Solution: Create a competitive scene for Forge so that players had external motivation to keep playing, while attracting new players in the process
- Livestreaming the tournaments kept players coming back so that the world could see their wins
- High quality mics and cameras, as well as community sourced artwork for overlays, creative solutions for manual stat tracking and, of course, a green screen, helped our stream look as professional as possible given our amateur setup and community shoutcasters
- After increasing our quality, I worked with Twitch so that they posted our weekly tournaments on the front page every week
- We were front paged during the StarCraft 2 Dreamhack competition and the LoL World Championships, giving us our second biggest show with over 1200 concurrent viewers (see below, from Twitch)
Promoting New Content:
- Problem: Players were losing interest between patches and new content releases
- Solution: Start building buzz earlier by creating promotional content to hype the patches in community and media
- Created a series of videos that gradually revealed a new characters moves
- Focused on making the videos look professional enough for press and not just good enough for players
- Soliciting help from players made them feel important
- Supplemented video series with contests and other community events
- Video series attracted media attention.
The Fieldrunners Brand
Incentivized Social Media Activities:
- Problem: Not enough Facebook Page “Likes” on the Fieldrunners page and Tweets about Fieldrunners 2.
- Solution: Incentivize social media activity using virtual currency. Screenshot below.
- Over 80k new Likes: Went from 9k to over 90k in the first year
- Rate of new Likes highest after feature launched, but over a year later, we still get over 3k new Likes per month
- Over 250k Tweets were sent from this feature in the first 6 months (that’s about one Tweet per minute)
- As of Sept 2013, we still get one Tweet every 8 minutes on average
- Over 20k people clicked the link to our App Store page in these Tweets, giving us a 6.66% CTR (slightly above the average Twitter CTR of 5.91%)
Messaging Active Users:
- Problem: Active users are the most likely people to engage your brand, but even though we reached out to gamers through social media, our website, forums, the press, push notifications, etc, we were still not able to reach all active players in Fieldrunners 2.
- Solution: Place a “ticker” at the bottom of the world map that displays messages (with hyperlinks) that we can dynamically change without updating the app for each new message.
- While the “ticker” was useful for notifying players about new updates and features, it was also a powerful tool for driving engaged fans to interact with our brand outside of the game.
- Great for cross platform promotions, including sales
- The link to our newsletter sign ups, seen in the image above, received over 31k clicks from Sept 12-27 (roughly 2k clicks per day)
App Store Branding:
- Problem: How can we create a strong presence on the App Store that makes our game look high quality, fun, professional and trustworthy?
- Solution: Analyze our competitors’ branding strategies in the App Store and use that knowledge to make our presence even better.
- Analysis of app icons showed that a blue background with touches of red was the most eye catching color scheme
- I combined the best of what Temple Run, Cut the Rope, Infinity Blade and Plants vs Zombies did to create our App Store description.
- Note the highlighted features and news at the top, clean formatting using prominent title text and bullet lists, and emphasis of exceptional press coverage.
- Including fixes to common bugs as well as contact info will reduce the number of bad user reviews.
- I wanted to prove our worthiness to customers by showing hyper polished examples of the best our game had to offer.
- Creating “fake” screen shots allowed me to emphasize key parts of our game while saving time
- All towers and FX are from in-engine, but all enemies were Photoshopped in using their sprite files
- Photoshopping in highlights and shadows helps guide the viewers eyes through the scene
- Tell a story: Giving our screen shots a clear beginning, middle and end made them feel more dynamic while making them more readable to users
- High quality borders make screenshots more immersive and professional looking
- I used text call outs to add additional messaging to each screen shot
- Make your screen shot so legible that you don’t need to describe the action with text (most games fall into this trap)
- Instead, use text to show potential customers that your game is popular, professional, fun and something they need to buy in order to not be left behind
- Creating “fake” screen shots allowed me to emphasize key parts of our game while saving time
Creating a High Impact Trailer:
Fieldrunners 2 might be considered a little game that comes in a mobile package, but the brand’s dedicated fan following and astonishing sales numbers shows just how big this title really is. I wanted the trailer for Fieldrunners 2 to reflect this – it had to feel huge. It had to be emotional and exciting. It had to highlight the Disney quality artwork while showing off engaging, new game mechanics. It had to suck in gamers unfamiliar with the Fieldrunners brand while capturing the hearts of fans of the original game.
Work on this trailer started with gameplay footage and expanded out from there. I’d been messing around with our game engine for a few months while making our screenshots, so I had a good handle of how to set up a compelling scene that conveys a clear story [NOTE: Capturing actual in-game footage can be much too time consuming – it’s exponentially quicker to just set up the scene you want in the engine editor]. I previously set up four, well thought out scenes for our screen shots and wanted to expand those into 10 second video clips. Telling a story is even more important when working with videos, but the nature of observing moving objects – you can see enemies entering the level, you get a good sense of the path their taking and how they move through the level. Zooms and cuts were used to highlight different important elements and exciting parts (ie enemy deaths).
Tying the gameplay footage together was a bit of a challenge. Going from scene to scene felt very chaotic without some kind of transitional piece. To remedy this, I captured a short clip of the world map, and added pans and zooms in After Effects to give viewers a sense of moving from one level to the next. Of course, text slates were overlayed on these clips of the world map to call out different things about the game that would make consumers want to buy it (no focus on explaining the gameplay clips since they mostly spoke for themselves).
The final piece of the puzzle was getting animated intro and outro scenes. I wanted something with a lot of impact that would really hook people on the trailer enough to watch more than the first five seconds. Most of our artwork was made up of layered 2D illustrations, so I started looking around for trailers where people used subtle animations on similar 2D images. The trailer for Magic: Duels of the Planeswalkers 2012 by spacejunk media was a great example of the types of animations I needed. I got in touch with the great team over at spacejunk and tasked them with animating our title screen for the intro and our loading screen for the outro. The results were perfect, so I had them assemble the whole video to help us nail the pacing, and add in the soundtrack to one of the later levels in Fieldrunners 2 to pull everything together. As you can see, they did a great job!
Promoting iPad Exclusive Towers:
I began teasing the launch of Fieldrunners 2 HD for iPad a few days before it was available in the App Store. One of the new features we’d added were five new towers, and I wanted to the teasers to focus on them. The problem was that we needed promo images and the 3D models we used for the towers just weren’t up to our standards for images we could use to promote a product. The models were all very rough and unpolished – fine for a mobile game where they appear very tiny, but not usable as promotional assets.
The solution came in the form of an interesting tactic I’d seen friends at Owlchemy Labs use when promoting their new game, Jack Lumber, before it had launched. In order to prevent pre-release screenshots being mistaken for final screen shots (in-game imagery can dramatically change between pre-release and launch), they used Instagram to take pictures of their game on a handheld device, and then applied lots of corny filters to make it look unofficial. I decided to see if I could use this process to make our own 3D models more interesting.
I had our concept artist, Jim Degruttola, mock up a real world scene with one of our towers and then apply some corny Instagram-style filters. The results were very promising, so Jim worked his magic with the other towers, placing them in scenes that looked very realistic thanks to filters, sun glare, and other effects that gave the impression of an aged photograph. The final concept was that our in-game weapons researchers (which we call Suba Labs) were sending us top secret photographs that showed their new weapons in action.
So, on the Tuesday before launch, I sent an email to the press labelled TOP SECRET, which outlined the advances in weapons technology the scientists in the world of Fieldrunners had made since the iPhone version came out. I wrote a quick blurb about each weapon, mimicking the sort of tone one would take when receiving top secret military pictures, and both media and fans loved the approach.