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Indie Game Marketing Tricks

Post by
Riad
November 15, 2021
Riad is the product manager of Codecks. He is also the co-founder of indie games company Maschinen-Mensch and still believes that Street Fighter 2 is the most beautiful video game ever created. Coincidentally he also believes that Codecks is the best project management tool for game developers. Apparently he has been creating video games for over 14 years now and considers himself a productivity nerd: scrum, kanban, extreme programming, waterfall, seinfeld. He has tried it all.
Codecks LogoCodecks is a project management tool inspired by collectible card games. Sounds interesting? Check out our homepage for more information.

The Game Production Podcast is our game development podcast, featuring the production and business side of AAA and indie games. How do game developers manage ideas? How do they resolve team conflicts? How to they assess their game market chances? This is the industry podcast for game developers by game developers.

In our fourth episode Riad is talking with Philomena Schwab, the co-founder of Stray Fawn Studio In this is episode we talk about the best tricks for modern indie game marketing. We cover a lot of tools, from kickstarter to reddit and Tiktok.

To see all episodes please visit the Game Production Podcast homepage.

The Wandering Village by Stray Fawn Studio

Make sure to also check out howtomarketagame.com and newsletter.gamediscover.co as mentioned in this episode.

Transcript

00m 40s
Riad

Hello, Philomena.

Philomena
00m 41s

Hey, yo!

00m 43s
Riad

How are you doing?

Philomena
00m 44s

Good, thanks. You too?

00m 46s
Riad

Yeah, I’m fine. Thanks. I’m excited to have this conversation with you because you are the biggest marketing expert that I know. You’re a well-rounded game developer in general, but especially your marketing skills are really impressive. So you are the co-founder of Stray Fawn Studio.

Philomena
01m 04s

Correct.

01m 05s
Riad

And you worked on games like Niche, Nimbatus and the Wandering Village. The Wandering village is still in progress. What stands out to me, particularly about these games is that they all had successful Kickstarter campaigns.

Philomena
01m 20s

They did.

01m 21s
Riad

Can you tell us a bit more about that? Is Kickstarter a important strategy also for your upcoming games. Is a part of your company culture? Or how did you end up going to Kickstarter every time?

Philomena
01m 34s

Well, the first time was out of complete necessity because we didn’t have any funding for the project and we wanted to devote some time to it. So this was one of our only options that we saw at the time. Also, I had a bit of negative publisher experiences back when I was still a student, we made a mobile game, had a publisher for it and unfortunately it flopped really hard. And then I decided that the next project will be self-published. So I will feel that it’s my own fault if it fails. So that was a given, so no publisher money for us. So where would it come from? All of us didn’t have a lot of savings. So, yeah, we tried it and we were quite successful with it the first time , a lot more than we expected, actually we expected to raise 15,000 dollars and ended up with 75,000 and to us that was: ”wow, okay”.

There’s a lot of potential in this platform. Not only that your existing fans can come there and contribute. But also the platform itself has quite the community. And also this community reaches a bit outside of the usual game dev and gaming community. And with projects such as Niche, which is very much inspired by science, we managed to bring some people to the Kickstarter. Scientists or teachers that really wanted this game to be made, but probably not even buy the game once it’s out on steam or something. So Kickstarter has this different audience than a game store usually would have. And we like to include them in the people that support our projects.

For the second project it was very different. For the first one we had already like a community of maybe 200 or 300 pretty dedicated people. And for the second game, we had very little time to prepare and pretty much no existing community. So we tried, if we can use Kickstarter to build up a following on the fly and just give them an incentive to join in.

And we did that with a free demo that we kept promoting on social news platforms mostly, such as 9Gag, imgur and Reddit. And then the people who really liked the demo basically came in through there because they had to sign up for the newsletter to get to the demo. And so we could easily reach them again to tell them about the Kickstarter and the demo also had a Kickstarter pop up in it.

It’s also maybe a good idea to just keep doing this, to see if there is a market for what we’re doing. So if we would just invest all our funds in a game, work on it for three years or so, and then release it and it would flop that at this point, this would still be critical to our studio, if that happened and we would maybe have to close.

So we decided to adapt a stepped development strategy, we call it. We have an idea that we work on for a maximum of a year or so. And then we release a Kickstarter campaign. And then we work on it for maybe another year or a maximum a year and a half or so and then we launch into early access. And from there on out the game has to finance itself. If it doesn’t do that, then we would just finish it up with everything that we promised and that would be it. And if it keeps going well during early access, we can work on it as long as we want. As long as it’s profitable, maybe start a side project.

We also did one additional step - actually always - already after like a few months of really having worked on the project, we start to share pictures or maybe even a small video on social media to see if there is an initial response to that. And I think with this approach we faired quite well so far and it’s very well possible that we will continue to do it like this.

05m 22s
Riad

Already so many interesting points in there. Are you also not using any publisher on the followup games? You mentioned your first game, not having a publisher. Also your followup titles didn’t have a publisher?

Philomena
05m 34s

Yes. The second game had a Chinese publisher, but not a global publisher. And the third game will definitely not have a global publisher at this point anymore since we already managed to build up quite the wishlists ourselves. But for Asia, we’re currently looking if we want to work with a Chinese or Korean or Japanese, or maybe all three.

05m 54s
Riad

So when we go right into the first step of game development, and you mentioned you are using this gated development process where you test games step-by-step. Does that mean you had multiple projects in development before you decided on which one to pursue further or is there always one that worked out right away?

Philomena
06m 17s

So far, it’s always been that one worked out right away.

I think with the newest project, with the Wandering Village, we just have a very good pitch and a good visual style. So it worked very well on social media. The other two games weren’t as viral. Nimbabtus was pretty well worked pretty well too, but on completely different platforms than Niche it.

So for every game you need to test around a little bit and where the sweet spot is. So the Wandering Village has been a side project for already three years, but we only worked on it like one day a week coming up with the concept and making a few prototypes for it. And then once we really started working on it, full-time with the studio after three months or something, we started sharing information about it. And if nobody would have cared, we would have been very scared to, to advance to the next steps, to do a Kickstarter for it.

07m 11s
Riad

Yeah, I can imagine. So one decision might be to cancel a game that doesn’t get any feedback or that doesn’t show public appeal, but there’s also the less drastic option to adapt it and change it based on the feedback, right? That’s another big opportunity and advantage of releasing marketing material early on.

Are there things where you could say the response of the people also directed the game a bit?

Philomena
07m 43s

Yeah, there’s one very specific point that changed. So the giant creature in the new game was originally made of flesh and blood. And so when you wanted to plant something, you were basically digging open the skin and putting it into the skin and people found it gross. So I personally have found it was cool, but a lot of people were like ”No, I don’t want to do that”.

And we’re like ”Okay we’re going to see if we can reconcept the creature into something less gross.”. And now it’s made out of earth. There’s still gross things you can do because it still has organs but at least you don’t see that kind of stuff in the first 10 minutes of the game.

08m 25s
Riad

I see. Yeah, it’s interesting, how such seemingly simple decisions early on in the project can totally define your project later on and shut out certain set of people just based on a decision that you were not fully aware of, even that it could be problematic ?

Philomena
08m 45s

Absolutely. I thought it was cool and everybody would think it’s cool, but no.

08m 51s
Riad

So before we leave Kickstarter as a topic, if other indie developers ask you about Kickstarter, do you wholesomly recommend them going to Kickstarter or are there certain projects that fit better or not? And other certain things that you tell people to watch out for?

Philomena
09m 11s

There’s definitely projects that fit better or worse, but I think it also has to do just with general appeal. So if your game can’t get 10,000 or 15,000 on Kickstarter with the pitch and the visuals that it has, chances are also pretty low that it will do well, if you would release it like this, right.

Maybe it has the greatest gameplay and then 10 people play it and they tell all their friends, and then you have this word of mouth snowball going on, but chances are not too good. In my opinion, I usually recommend doing Kickstarter. I think the only thing that is bad about it is if you have a game and you’re looking for a publisher and then you fail the Kickstarter, can maybe make your publisher negotiations harder.

Other than that, you can always relaunch a Kickstarter. If your Kickstarter fails, other than maybe the slide publisher disadvantage, what’s the problem? So maybe only your pride that you have a failed Kickstarter, but nobody has seen it. If it failed, nobody knows about it. You can still release your game on Steam.

And I don’t think anybody outside of your small game developer circle will even know you have a failed Kickstarter campaign. And what I think is really good also for new developers about Kickstarter is that you have a whole month of time try out your marketing approach with nothing really at stake .

So you can try all kinds of angles compared to when your game is actually launching on Steam or whatever platform and you have to please the algorithm, which will decide how many copies you will sell over lifetime. I think the challenge of releasing a game and hitting really hitting the spot for these three launch days or something is way harder than running a Kickstarter, where you have a whole month so it’s a good playground to test, if you have to the right approach.

11m 07s
Riad

I recently had a conversation with Thomas from Kingdom. And he also had a failed Kickstarter project and it still became a huge success. So that’s definitely possible. I think one big concern that people have about Kickstarter is the amount of effort . Especially for a small indie team that can potentially consume your whole development team.

How is it working for you? How do you manage that effort?

Philomena
11m 34s

Yeah, I think usually it takes up to one or two months of preparation time for almost a whole team. And then another month of running the Kickstarter. But in my opinion, as long as the Kickstarter finances itself essentially, it can be worth it. Just the added benefit you get from wishlists also, this is a whole month that you’re putting into marketing, so you have a lot of wishlist, hopefully. And the additional benefit of having a community build-up early on that will support you.

12m 06s
Riad

It’s interesting, how you approach Kickstarter in that, getting the money for development is a big part of it, of course, but it’s only one factor next to the added visibility, the ability to have this playground for testing, marketing, the ability to build up your audience and so on. So all of these are big factors, I guess.

Philomena
12m 28s

Don’t do too many physical rewards because those will keep you busy for months and months after the Kickstarter has ended. Also what we did for the first time now with the Wandering Village is running Facebook ads. So far the first two Kickstarters that we did were completely zero budget, and now we had a bit of money that we could spend. I think we spent 20,000 or so, and we got 40,000 or some or even more out of it and we have continued to try and run Facebook ads after this, but we never had such good results even close to when we had the Kickstarter with the return of investment.

So I think just Kickstarter projects and having a nice agency that can run ads for them is a very good combination, if you have a bit of money.

13m 17s
Riad

So do they understand correctly? You put 20,000 in and you got kind of in Backer’s value, you got 40,000 out.

Philomena
13m 24s

Yeah, pretty much. I wrote a detailed article about each of our Kickstarter campaigns and in the newer one, you see how much we got out of it and which services we used. So maybe we can post the link.

13m 36s
Riad

Yeah, I will put it into the show notes. Yeah, that’s super impressive. And then based on your advice, I assume you also had physical rewards for people.

Philomena
13m 48s

Yeah, we do it every time. And then we say, we’re never going to do it again. And then we do it again, cause it’s just too much fun to have little figurines or key chains or plushies for your games. It’s just too much fun too to design them and have them, but they are a lot of work.

14m 06s
Riad

Basically we designed them so we can also have them ourselves, right?

Philomena
14m 10s

Exactly!

14m 11s
Riad

Did you do the fulfillment, then in-house just yourself putting up these packages and sending them out, or that you use a service for that?

Philomena
14m 21s

Still working on it. So I have one friend, she makes all the figurines by hand and then ships them out. This time we only have some t-shirts and some science sketches. So it’s a very limited amount. For the t-shirts we ordered them right at the service and give them the address, so it’s shipped there directly. So I’m hopefully not touching any boxes, we will see.

14m 46s
Riad

So you mentioned already a couple of marketing channels that I find interesting. One of them is your newsletter. How does the newsletter tie into your demo again and into the Kickstarter campaign?

Philomena
14m 59s

So for the second game, when you wanted to download the free demo, which we heavily advertised everywhere, essentially you needed to sign up for the newsletter. And with this approach, we gathered 50,000 newsletter subscribers within the Kickstarter month, and then another 50,000 down the road for Nimbatus, which has been a very good tool to advertise sales and so on.

And we’re currently doing a cleanup of how many people are actually opening those emails and so on and moving it to another service. And in the end, I think only like 20,000 people or so are actually looking at the emails sometimes, but I think it’s still a pretty good number.

15m 43s
Riad

Super impressive still. I think we stole the idea of having to sign up to a newsletter to access the demo from you.

Philomena
15m 51s

That’s fine. I stole it from Landfall games.

15m 54s
Riad

Excellent. So, yeah, we’re all learning and sharing.

Philomena
15m 58s

Right.

16m 00s
Riad

In terms of email service for a newsletter. Do you have a recommendation because they can be quite expensive, right? As you gained such a big newsletter list.

Philomena
16m 10s

Yeah. So we used MailChimp all this time now because we bought credits for $5,000 or something. Well, I don’t know, three years ago. And so we have been churning through these credits and now we’re almost running out. And for a time, it seemed that they would not offer credits anymore, but you had to pay per subscriber.

That’s when we decided to switch to Sandy and now apparently they’re offering credits again, but it’s too late. We’re already in the process of moving away now. So we’re going to see how that will go. Maybe we will come crawling back.

16m 47s
Riad

…asking for forgiveness. We set up our own email system. We’re using this open source software Mautic and sending emails through AWS, and if you do that can be pretty cheap. For us sending a newsletter to a couple thousand people is costs us as low as one Euro or something.

Philomena
17m 10s

Yeah, Amazon web services, you mean?

Right. That’s also what is connected to Sandy.

17m 16s
Riad

Nice. So regarding the newsletter, I assume you have a company newsletter, and then you use that also for follow-up games, right?

Philomena
17m 26s

We used to have separate game newsletters, which also made it pretty hard to maintain. We are just today, I wrote the email to everybody that we’re switching to a studio newsletter. So yeah, I think that’s a better idea. Especially if you move away from one project and there’s not many updates anymore there, you can’t really keep people entertained.

So let’s hope they will. We ask them if they will move with us to the new service and to the studio newsletter.

17m 57s
Riad

I think that’s a good approach. Especially as you gain more and more followers, you can bring them along with the journey and usually a company has kind of a handwriting in the games. So the chance that people like the next game, there’s a good probability for that.

Philomena
18m 13s

Yeah, I agree.

18m 16s
Riad

So in terms of other marketing channels, I know you’re also big on Reddit or at least you used to be what’s the current state. What do you think about using Reddit for game marketing?

Philomena
18m 32s

It’s a very double-edged sword. So as Reddit says be a Redditor with a company and not a company with a Reddit account, and they are really, really serious about this. So if they have the slightest impression you are misusing their site you’re going to get blocked. And so at the beginning, I was more a company with a Reddit account, and now I’m trying to be more like a Redditor with a company.

So I really started posting more personal things and it’s quite a bit of a time investment, but then sometimes we have posts that hit really huge, couple of 10,000 upvotes and you always feel them in the wishlists. So currently we’re a bit of a hiatus, but once we approach the release, definitely going to have some more Reddit posts happening.

So I tried to only use Reddit when we’re in a phase where we really need the push and otherwise, trying to play the low ball. Just post some of my balcony, gardening pictures.

19m 38s
Riad

Yeah, you don’t want to kind of waste the fuel on our less important stuff basically.

Philomena
19m 45s

Exactly.

19m 46s
Riad

And when you post there, is it with your personal account or is it with a branded account from the company?

Philomena
19m 52s

I don’t even think you should try to post with a branded account from anything there. No company with Reddit accounts, so it’s always from my personal account. It’s also a bit scary because this is already my fourth account all the other ones have either been banned or shadow banned, even though I was sticking to all the rules. I gave some shout-outs to friends and people called me a paid PR agency. And there was pretty big shitstorm going on there and I’m like, ”I’m out of this account. I’m never coming back, starting a new one right away”. So yeah, they that can be quite unfair.

I think the moderators are sometimes very random and you have to be prepared that all your work for your account is useless if you’re blacklisted and you have to start from zero again, but all in all, I still think it’s worth it.

20m 46s
Riad

Yeah it can be tricky. I can see that. How do you identify good subreddits to post at? I mean there are the big ones. It seems appealing to post there because it will gain the biggest reach. What’s your approach?

Philomena
21m 00s

So, if you want to have a really big post, that has a really big effect, you can only post in the big ones, because. It needs to be able to get to r/all. That is where the big traffic is. If you don’t make it out of the subreddit, even if it’s a bigger one, it can be good, can be maybe a couple maybe a hundred, maybe 200 wishlists in a bigger subreddit, but if you want to hit it big, then you need a big subreddit and you need a lot of upvotes to make it to r/all.

I think we have done it three times and it’s always very, very good. So we keep trying to do that. We also sometimes post in smaller subreddits, but then you have to keep in mind the self-promotion ratio of your account that is required for some subreddits. So when I make a post in a smaller subreddit, I have to do nine other posts in order to do a one in a big one again. I don’t post in smaller ones too often. My team mates sometimes do. They have their specific sub reddits where they go post.

22m 03s
Riad

Is there a specific tone that you use for the reddit title? In my impression, a lot of more personal relatable stories are more popular on any platform, but especially also on Reddit.

Philomena
22m 18s

Agreed, they have to see that you’re a human being that worked hard to get to this point. So they will appreciate you, or that you did something really wholesome. They also appreciate that a lot. Lately we’ve been into Tiktok.

22m 33s
Riad

Yeah.

Philomena
22m 34s

So we started to take talk two months ago and it already has more followers than our Twitter account has after five years. So I recommend you get into Tik Tok now. Every post feels like a lottery ticket because sometimes it just hits big with the algorithm and then it keeps producing new followers, over weeks sometimes. Oh, 200 new followers. Why? Oh, my post that did very well two weeks ago, got another 50,000 views.

So like every every post you got there might hit it big and might bring in hundreds of followers and it’s not they have to be the best and most amazing viral posts in my opinion - on Twitter, it’s a little bit like this - but it just feels very random, which posts gets a lot of views. Some of our better ones have got pretty much nothing and some pretty stupid ones gotten 10 thousands.

Observing other people who started tiktok at around the same time as we did, maybe a month or two longer, and pretty much everybody is at a couple thousand followers now, which is completely different from when you try Twitter.

23m 47s
Riad

I’m a big believer in Tiktok I think it’s a very powerful platform. Every platform tends to get saturated, because people discover they use it a lot and there’s so much competition there that it’s hard to stand out and Tiktok feels like there’s still enough opportunity there to have a easier life than on other platforms.

Philomena
24m 08s

Just two years ago or a year ago, I really liked posting on imgur and nowadays it’s gotten a lot more competitive, so I rather make another Tiktok.

24m 19s
Riad

I heard about the decline of imgur. Is it overcrowded, particularly with games you feel, or is it generally hard to trend on there?

Philomena
24m 28s

I’m not sure what exactly the problem is. It could also be a change in what is counted as upvotes or how different things are shown. I haven’t really been very active anymore. I just saw everybody else struggling and Tiktok it is.

24m 49s
Riad

Okay, before we go deeper into Tiktok one last question about Reddit, have you experimented with Reddit ads as well. That seems to be a new avenue there.

Philomena
25m 01s

Yes. Quite a bit. And so far, we haven’t been able to match the results from Facebook ads. You can’t really target, as much on Reddit. I think the costs are similar or even sometimes a bit cheaper, depends on where exactly you run the ad, but you can only select a specific subreddit or have a very limited amount of settings, nothing close to when you make a lookalike audience with an existing audience that you have on Facebook, where it’s very, very targeted, right.

25m 35s
Riad

Well, let’s talk a bit more about Tiktok. How much time do you invest into Tiktok?

Philomena
25m 44s

So we actually hired somebody to run our Tiktok and if she’s not busy with an event, so just last week she had an event, she posts every two days or so, because it really feels right now there is there’s traffic and we don’t know for how much longer. And we’re just going to get as many lottery tickets as we can. I’m actually sad that we started so late.

I considered starting already a year ago, but we had no time that we could invest in it. And now we finally managed to hire somebody to do it. And I’m very happy that at least, even if we’re a bit late, that we can play the Tiktok game now.

26m 27s
Riad

I’ve been seeing Tiktok explode and I anticipated that there would be a big opportunity, but still, I didn’t really use that chance to go deep into it. And I think it’s very smart to hire a person for that.

Philomena
26m 43s

Do you have a company Tiktok now?

26m 45s
Riad

No, we don’t. I have my personal account where I sometimes post Curious Expedition related stuff, but, I haven’t succeeded at going viral yet.

Philomena
26m 56s

How many posts did you make already?

26m 59s
Riad

Maybe three, not many.

Philomena
27m 01s

Buy some more lottery tickets. One thing that I heard is it actually makes a very big difference where you are. So if you post from Germany or Switzerland, then it would maybe be a better idea to post in German because the algorithm targets our countries. I think that’s a bit stupid.

So now we hired our guy that is doing our Facebook ads, Andrew from Ranagain marketing, I can really recommend working with him if you want to test out running ads. And he will help us and post our posts from his location in America. We can see if that makes any difference. That’s due next week.

I think the guys from pixel maniacs, did you see what they are doing?

27m 46s
Riad

I had a conversation with them also with Ben Lochmann on the podcast. And he said a similar thing about the location being important. Even where you post from, I don’t know how they recognize where you are exactly, but they seem to be pretty smart about detecting the

Philomena
28m 02s

Yes. Yeah, Pixel Maniacs is the perfect reference there. So go listen to that podcast as well.

28m 11s
Riad

Well, maybe you can add some tips for Tiktok. Is there any particular type of content that you feel works better than other content or is it truly kind of random?

Philomena
28m 21s

I’ve really seen everything from just in-game captures to in-game captures with voiceovers to just your face to a mix with your face and the video. I think every format can work as long as you use some Tiktok features. I think their algorithm likes that.

28m 44s
Riad

Interesting. What would be a Tiktok feature? A filter, for example?

Philomena
28m 49s

Yeah. Filter or if you put some stickers . All the kinds of stuff you can do to edit your video in the Tiktok app, I think.

28m 56s
Riad

You don’t even have to use your own voice. You can even do these voice overs. And those also seem to be pretty popular.

Philomena
29m 03s

Yeah, totally.

29m 07s
Riad

And again, I perceive Tiktok or videos posts - I don’t know what the short form is for a single Tiktok - I perceive them to be particularly powerful if it tells a personal story or something that’s relatable. For example, a game developer that talks about how much fun they had during development or also about their struggle during the development. These very personal insights .

Philomena
29m 30s

Agreed. We’re currently also trying to set up a pipeline where we can repost the Tiktok onto YouTube shorts and into Instagram reels. So we can use Tiktok, as the main posting thing, but also get some additional traffic on the other platforms.

29m 48s
Riad

And then you reuse them in the way that you don’t have to take the Tiktok branding on the video, I assume, because that’s what I see a lot on Instagram reels.

Philomena
29m 57s

That would be the idea. Yes.

30m 00s
Riad

There are so many channels. We also saw, you mentioned 9Gag. Is that still something you are doing ?

Philomena
30m 07s

Yeah, we try, but we only manage to get into hot once. And this was our biggest post, even bigger than the Reddit posts, even though you cannot even put a link in there, people are still manually looking up your game and it has such a gigantic reach. They have become quite a bit more strict about ads.

So if too many people are like ”Nope, this is an ad”, then moderators are going to come and remove your posts. I’ve also seen a very big one from Grime lately that the game was released lately and some other ones. So it’s definitely still possible, but it’s pretty hard to get into hot so you can try, but yeah, if you don’t have time for anything, then maybe just repost whatever you post on other channels and don’t try to make a separate post for it because chances that it will hit are very small. But actually I have to say I’ve been very, very lazy with social media this whole year. Do you want to hear what, what I was up to this year, other than social media?

31m 17s
Riad

Please tell us.

Philomena
31m 18s

So pretty much all my marketing time this year was spent on event management, because there are so many opportunities right now.

You don’t have to fly around the world. You can just sign up for showcases and awards. Everything is online. I stalked Steam for the past three years and made a list of things that I think will get a featuring. And then this year I just kept stalking them all and applied everywhere so much. And we got into so many showcases and whatnot that my team actually told me, ” Okay, stop you are not allowed to sign us up for any more of these”.

We actually have to make a game. And so I’m currently on event break. I’ve only allowed to submit to events where none of my team members have to do anything. So things where you have to submit a trailer the Escapist showcase or the mixed showcase are a no no, no for me. And it sucks because there’s so many opportunities going on still and a lot of them are still getting featured.

So if I were you and I had a trailer that hasn’t been shown, I would definitely apply to all of these fancy events.

32m 34s
Riad

And apply there with the same trailer basically.

Philomena
32m 37s

Yeah. Just when you have something that hasn’t really been shown, apply there. If you have a new trailer now, maybe before you post just post it on YouTube, sign up for those, because a game reveal and a new trailer have the highest chance to actually get you in there. I also try to apply with a developer interview. But there’s also some cool smaller things. There was just a roguelike sale going on on Steam, and I had no idea about it and I’m very sad. So now I immediately wrote them a message and ask if I can still join and they said ”no”.

Sometimes this works and I just signed up for the newsletter now, so that I will definitely not miss it next year. The Tiny Teams event that was on steam is also something that smaller teams should absolutely all have had applied for. For example, we participated in PAX east, I think, and PAX Australia. With our games and it usually costs a couple hundred dollars and it always brings us, at least a couple hundred, usually 2,000 or 3000 wishlishts. And we’re now at 170,000 wishlists I would say a hundred thousand wishlists are from events.

E3 was by far the biggest one with 40,000 or something. So that’s crazy. That’s a level that we never were able to reach before. And I think this time also, we were only able to reach it because it was remote. Otherwise we probably wouldn’t have attended and got this slot.

34m 06s
Riad

True. Yeah, because going on the real event trip, it’s very exhausting. So using these situation to your benefit is smart, and I think especially if you do a Steam related event, the attribution is pretty easy because you can directly tell this wishlist came from this event and that’s much harder, I assume when you go viral on Tiktok or 9Gag as you mentioned.

Philomena
34m 34s

Yeah. especially if you have multiple things going on at the same time. So put your energy into event marketing, go for it. As long as we still can do it, or hopefully they will keep hybrid formats and we can keep doing this for a long time.

34m 50s
Riad

Agreed. And I noticed you had a particularly special Steam event built around Swiss games. How involved were you in this event and do you know anything about how it came together?

Philomena
35m 06s

Yep. I organized it. I noticed that Steam was giving people beta access to this new sales tool. And I was , I’m going to get Beta Access got Beta access and I’m like ”Could we maybe do a Swiss game sale?”. Now I already have to beta tool. And I know how it works. And I asked five other bigger Swiss studios, if they would participate in that I told Steam these studios already said yes.

And if you have Farming Simulator, you have steam and after they approved it, we try to reach every single Swiss developer out there who has a Steam game and just added them in different tiers. And for many of them, it was the most wishlists they ever got from anything. So that was very cool.

And it also had a very good connection event on the Swiss community because we had to join a Discord so we could coordinate with each other. Yeah, I think every country should do it. And a lot of countries have been doing it recently, so that’s good.

36m 08s
Riad

And not just countries, also even collectives.

Philomena
36m 11s

We also had another nature game sale two months ago. So that was the second one we had another one, two years ago that.

We curated with the people from our old nature collective. It’s usually a very good idea to grab a couple of developers with a s hared theme, and if you can even attach it to a special day, like World Environment Day or something Steam is usually, I think, pretty open to hearing your pitches.

36m 38s
Riad

Nice. Yeah, that’s some really good insights. And is this using the beta sales tool that you mentioned. Is that related to that?

Philomena
36m 46s

Yeah, exactly. So all the sales are made with this tool. I’m not sure if it’s still in beta. That was one and a half years ago. So I think I was maybe one of the first people who signed up for that and tried it out, which I think got has the opportunity in the first place, because Switzerland is not the biggest country.

So that was cool. I think nowadays, if you’re just contact Steam, usually I think you can get access to the tool.

37m 15s
Riad

I think we’ve touched on a lot of different channels. I think there was a lot of takeaways and inspiration for people. Let’s talk about the one last social channel which is kind of a old classic, but maybe has gotten a bit less exciting. That is Twitter. Do you feel Twitter is still relevant? Everybody should have a Twitter account as a game developer or what are your thoughts?

Philomena
37m 43s

I think Twitter is very, very useful for networking with other game developers. So pretty much everybody has one and a lot of people have their DMS open and I feel that I’m getting more responses from Twitter, direct messages than from emails. And we are also still, as a studio we’re updating Twitter.

We have a couple thousand followers that want to hear from us. But even with some pretty big semi-viral posts, we haven’t gotten that many new followers. So I’m not really sure if Twitter is in order to stay, in order to find new fans that are gamers and not game developers, I’m not sure if it’s the number one tool. I would invest my energy in currently.

38m 29s
Riad

Last question: are there certain resources that you would recommend somebody to check out if they are interested in this whole topic of game marketing and how to get more insights?

Philomena
38m 41s

So there are two guys it’s Simon and Chris you’ve probably heard of them. Both of them run a pretty cool newsletter where they do analytics and just general marketing observations. Simon also has a paid newsletter, that I subscribe to that. I always find it very interesting. They have a tool that, tries to predict how successful a game will be on Steam when it launches.

They also analyze Switch charts, which is also interesting for us. Other than that, I just hang out on Twitter, see there’s Twitter again. And sometimes I come across some very interesting threads of other game marketing people where I find some cool infos.

39m 28s
Riad

Yeah, I will link the newsletters, you mentioned in the show notes. One is called, ”How to market a game.com” by Chris Zukowski and the other one is Game Discover which is the newsletter by Simon. Super interesting insights and I’m also signed up to his paid newsletter.

Philomena
39m 47s

See see!

39m 48s
Riad

Worth it.

Philomena
39m 50s

And another thing is just observing what other people are doing so you can stalk other people on SteamDB, where you can track their follower number. I actually built a tool. So our tool developer build tool for me where I can say, okay, I want to stalk this and this and this and this and this game.

And if they get more than this and this and this amount of followers, from one day to the next, it sends me a mail then I can go ask. So I’m going to definitely stalk you also. And then you will receive emails from me when you get a lot of wishlists, because I will know.

40m 29s
Riad

Well, I hope I hope you reach out to us. You have reason to reach out. That’s a good sign.

Philomena
40m 34s

That was pretty easy. It’s just a simple crawler. I think it took him a day or something or two days to set it up.

40m 42s
Riad

I feel the Steam ecosystem in terms of analytics, it’s pretty interesting. I have a blog post on the codecks.io page, and there are really a lot of websites that aggregate data from Steam. So that’s definitely should be something that everybody does as part of the game development job is to dig into those analytics and use the numbers that are out there to analyze: What’s a good price point. What are successful genres? What are successful or interesting territories and so on.

Philomena
41m 19s

Yeah, because it’s really true in my opinion, that the game you make, will just have such a huge impact of how easy your marketing will be. I just saw it now with the Wandering Village compared to our other games, I feel like the marketing is doing itself. I’m just assisting a little bit. And when I had to really put in a lot of effort and make a lot of posts with our previous games, the Wandering Village takes one and it’s more successful than 10 posts of the previous games or something.

If you can really find the game that you like and want to make. But it’s also something that people are actually interested in. Your life’s going to be so much easier if you’re trying to make a living of being a game developer.

42m 06s
Riad

And it’s also more fulfilling, more motivating to work on such a game, right? I that’s something I noticed about all of your games is that they have a really nice hook and really readable. I guess Niche, was probably the most challenging in terms of explaining what the gameplay is, but the setting itself and the hook of it, I felt was super understandable and approachable and that’s something I feel is an area that a lot of game developers struggle with. Making a game that’s kind of easy to explain why people should care about.

Philomena
42m 49s

Yeah. Either. You make something that is better than everything else. You are, you are inspired by, or you make something new that people can understand why they should absolutely play it.

43m 01s
Riad

Agreed, cool. That’s all I have.

Philomena
43m 05s

Perfect.

43m 07s
Riad

Thanks a lot. Those were a lot of interesting insights, I think a lot of inspiration there and homework for people to take away. So thank you so much for being so open and opening up your, your knowledge for all of us to benefit.

Philomena
43m 23s

Sure. Always.

43m 26s
Riad

Goodbye.

Philomena
43m 27s

Thank you. See you soon.

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