Getting the word out about a game is tough. Really tough. Try as you might the world is a full of games with "great ideas." The social reach needed for a successful game launch is a huge hurdle for small teams and maybe more so for hobby or solo developers like myself.
Over the last week or so I've posted and shared a GIF and a video of a low poly waterfall. I created the scene to test particle effects for use in my second game. I spent a little extra time making it look nice as I wanted it to be a real prototype - could I actually make a half decent water fall?
Based on the response, the answer is yes, yes I can make a half decent water fall.
I first posted the waterfall on twitter. As of writing this the tweet has been re-tweeted 18 times and been liked 42 times. This seemly earned me 10-20 new followers and maybe a few more over the next several days as the tweet continued to get some attention. Not bad but not viral.
A post on the low poly reddits earned over 500 up votes. One or two people asked questions and I was able to share more info about the game. My website (this site) also saw a bump of about an extra 100 views. Not bad, but still not viral.
Then 10 days or so later I posted on Imgur, a site I mostly use to share images with online friends. I posted the GIF and saw 60-70 up votes before heading to bed. Nothing too exciting. When I woke up the image had over 1000 votes and was featured somewhere on the front page. Imgur classified it as a "most viral" image - at least for a few minutes.
As I type this post the image has almost 1200 up votes and 290,000 views! Wow.
Those votes and views trigger a dopamine rush, but what did they really do for me? How did they move my game forward?
I'll be honest I wasn't prepared. My game's landing page is pretty basic. I was updating a few bits as all the views and up votes were rolling in. I didn't link the game right away, and probably only the last third of the views had access to more info about my game.
Oops. Maybe a big oops!
So the best that I can tell here's my gains from the imgur post:
- Twitter followers - nothing significant.
- YouTube - 7 or 8 followers
- Newsletter - 28 at last count
- Discord - 8 or 9
- Website - 480 visits and 700 page views
These numbers are small... The Newsletter and Discord were the most exciting as both were essentially at zero before. I had "launched" the Discord server just a few days earlier with zero publicity and the newsletter gets almost no push from me.
While this activity felt good it's not the 1k, 10k or 100k people that I might need to launch a game "successfully," whatever that might mean.
My Take Aways
I'm writing this post as much to share my experience as to organize my thoughts and what I learned in the process. For me this was a break through in the PR department, even if it's small. It helped me understand and get a feel for what success could look like.
The value of a good image is worth so much. Sharing works in progress have their place, but maybe not with the general public. People say share and share often and don't wait until the game is finished to share your work. I think this is largely true, but I also think there is something to be said for taking a little extra time to polish what you are going to share. Just because you're excited doesn't mean that very many other people will be too.
Where's the balance? I'm not sure, but I have a better feel for it now after this experience.
Motion adds so much. I've read this over and over, but I'm not sure I really understood. I also shared an image of my river at the same time as the waterfall. The river has motion but it's much more subtle - it got almost no response! At this point I question sharing much of anything unless there is some form of motion. All of our social feeds are full of static images - some are amazing, but the images that have motion are so much more engaging.
Somehow I need to reproduce this "viral" post over and over! It's scary to think what it would take to get to the social reach needed for a "successful" game....