On Wednesday (04/04/12), I drove down from Manchester to the Launch Conference: ‘Meet the Games Press’ for the rare opportunity to understand what makes the games press tick as well as meeting other indie developers.
Jo Twist (@doctoe), the charming new CEO of UKIE, started the conference off by introducing Will Freeman (Develop Magazine editor – @spadgy_OTA) with his tongue-in-cheek presentation on ‘Avoiding the Press’. With the increase of developers and journalists as well as communication channels, it is a fantastic time for communication with the press provided you make it as easy as possible for them to cover you. With over 200 press releases received a day, being concise and having your details immediately available means your press release has a higher chance of being noticed.
Embracing your ‘indieness’ was another key theme – being personable, having an opinion and meeting journalists directly resonates more than hiding behind a corporate logo and legalese. They are after stories that include a human angle as they tend to be far more interesting.
Next up was the fast-talking Richard Eddy (@rich_eddy) from Codemasters. Although he is responsible for a large company followed by millions, his presentation on ‘Communication X’ was applicable to studios large or small.
The most important point (for me) was nailing the description of your product in 5 words or less and making sure every colleague knows it. Whether talking to the press or even down in the pub via word of mouth, that description ensures the game is remembered easily and encapsulates the game entirely.
Once your description has been settled upon, only begin announcing your product when you are ready – all the screenshots and videos should be in place as well as marketing plan – and track the interest over time. Richard introduced the concept of ‘Communication Towers’ – the building of baseline interest by staging the release of content over time in preparation for the launch. Akin to the Apple app store, generating a lot of buzz in the beginning is crucial due to the amplification effect:
Courtesy of Richard Eddy
Rounding off the presentations was Natalie Griffith (@natlg1971), Head PR/Marketing Guru at Blitz Games, and ‘Storytelling in digital PR’. Revolving around the loss of her iPhone at the SXSW (heart drops!), she presented anecdotes on engaging and communicating with others via Twitter.
During Natalie’s speech, I realised there is an R in PR for a reason – it is all about building relationships. Far too often people focus on simply communicating with the Press rather than realising it is all about these human connections. Talk with people on Twitter rather than simply re-tweeting – engage in stories, communicate and help others. When the time finally comes for your story, there is already an audience willing to share.
With the first round of presentations over, Will, Rich and Natalie were brought together for a Q&A session. Again it was underlined the importance of building relationships and not alienating your audiences. This was no more prevalent in the conference break – press members were interacting with game developers and they exhibited a serious interest in the success of small indies. They were willing to go above and beyond for specific teams all based upon previous relationships.
After the break, a panel of journalists/industry experts were brought together to receive questions from the floor:
- Matt Martin (GamesIndustry.biz – @m_spitz)
- Keith Stuart (The Guardian, and my favourite new site Hookshot Inc – @keefstuart)
- Alex Wiltshire (Edge – @rotational)
- Colin McDonald (Commissioning Editor at Channel 4 – @ScottishColin)
- Keith Andrews (Pocket Gamer.biz – a href=”http://twitter.com/tweeting_keith” target=”_blank”>@tweeting_keith)
The infamous yellow bandana
During the panel they touched on derivative games, and if they don’t know you personally (via twitter or face-to-face), it is likely they won’t cover it and instead focus on more unique takes. The ‘build it and they will come’ philosophy is no longer applicable and reiterates the fact it is these relationships that are the make-or-break of a game (obviously a good game is also essential.)
I was lucky enough to have my question answered regarding e-mailing screenshots – only 2-3 and keep it less than 2MB’s. Put non-watermarked assets on to GamesPress or provide a media pack on your website – make it easy for the press to get. The longer they struggle trying to find information, the more likely they won’t bother.
Finally, it was the one-2-one sessions for me with Keith A., Rich and a completely unscheduled meeting with Natalie – just being able to pick the brains of these industry experts was an incredible experience. If you ever have the opportunity to do so, talk to them – they don’t bite (maybe some do) and are always interested in what your up to.