The best - and worst - ways to pitch media for game discovery?
A great conversation with Kate Gray, as part of our new podcast.
[The GameDiscoverCo game discovery newsletter is written by ‘how people find your game’ expert & company founder Simon Carless, and is a regular look at how people discover and buy video games in the 2020s.]
Welcome to the midweek, keen GameDiscoverCo readers. There’s much going on this week - and as you’ll see below, we have a new media format to enjoy our analysis in. It’s called ‘audio’ - I’m wondering if any of you have heard of it?
Final reminder: 36 hours left to get 30% off the first year of GameDiscoverCo Plus , which comes with a whole heap of stuff. For the VR-curious, we’re adding weekly Meta Quest charts in this Friday’s Plus-exclusive newsletter & data back-end. It joins the existing, exclusively compiled Steam, EGS and console rundowns. (Yay?)
Introducing the Tales From GameDiscoveryLand podcast!
We’ve had many people asking for some kind of audio companion for our newsletters, and - well - that’s happening, starting right now.
We’re delighted to announce the ‘Tales From GameDiscoveryLand’ podcast, available via our official podcast page, and also via Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher and Pocket Casts. (If you need it, here’s our podcast RSS feed.)
Presented by myself, this limited series podcast - available every 2 weeks - features conversations with smart people in the video game industry on how games get discovered and played. We’ll be running highlights of each podcast in the newsletter.
In the first episode, I talk to Kate Gray - a veteran writer for sites like NintendoLife, Kotaku, and RockPaperShotgun - about what the media expects from game creators, how to attract media attention, and most importantly, the things NOT to do when approaching the press.
We’re not sure how long we’re running Season 1 for. But we have at least four episodes recorded with some super-interesting guests, and are planning more. So stay tuned..
How you should - and shouldn’t - pitch your game to media?
We’re also doing full written podcast transcripts for Tales From GameDiscoveryLand. But we won’t be emailing them directly to you - we’ve heard we already put enough words in your inbox every week, haha. (The first transcript is available here.)
So, let’s go through some of Kate’s ‘please do this’ tips, when you’re emailing the media/press or giving them assets:
Be catchy and to-the-point: “What you have to bear in mind is that press gets a lot of emails every day, and you are going to have to grab their attention very quickly and very efficiently… please, short subject lines. I don't have a lot of time for reading, and you will do both of us a favor if you keep it short.”
Have an informal - but not too informal - tone: “Presumably, if you're a game dev, you also like games. We already have something in common! So just approach the press as if you're trying to tell somebody about your really cool thing that you're making. Don't be overly, like “Oh my God, check out my sick game, here's a bunch of swear words, we’re friends” - because that's really off-putting.”
You could use simple/easy comparisons as a touchpoint for your game: “So personally, I think if somebody comes to me with a pitch that is ‘this game is X meets Y’, I am happy to take that and write about that. Because that is a better way of understanding what a game is like than just calling it… a narrative adventure. That's a ‘nothing’ description, that tells you it's got a story and a story, useless.”
Provide key art - ideally layered - and with an option to remove the logo: “If you give me the key art and you include the logo, what is going to happen is that I will crop it. I don't have enough time to Photoshop out a logo, and it probably wouldn't be that easy. So I'm then cropping, you know, a good, maybe, half of what's in that key art… And why would you want someone to do that to your beautiful key art?”
And now let’s move on to Kate’s views of some of the, uhh, less great things you can do when emailing the press, when trying to expand discovery for your game:
Don’t fit too much in the email subject line: “My number one thing that you should not do… is a really boring subject line. You would not believe how many people send out emails with a 30-word subject line so I can't even see the whole thing - I'd have to have a super wide monitor, I can't read that.”
Don’t pretend to love the writer’s output if you don’t: “You can address a journalist as a fan. You can say “hey, I really love your work!”, as long as it's true. People keep [pitching me with] “I really love your work, I read…” and then it's the name of literally the last thing I wrote. That's not even subtle, you've just Googled me. We're not stupid, We can tell if you're not actually a fan.”
Don’t send out non-newsworthy announces which clutter inboxes: “Sometimes people will say ‘our game is on Kickstarter.’ And that used to be a good hook when Kickstarter was new. It's not anymore - same with ‘our game is on sale’. Unless it's like a ludicrous sale, like, it's gone down to one cent, I'm not going to write about it.”
Please spellcheck and sanity check your emails: “We're all writers in the press, we're all very anal about spelling and grammar… [but] I've gotten so many press emails where they misspelled the name of the game. [I think] “Oh, no, okay?” - because it just shows that you didn't care enough. Like, this is your big project, this is your moment - and you didn't care enough to check that it was spelled right?”
As Kate says, in this age of mass emailing, it’s important to think of the media you’re contacting as, well, real humans: “I think it boils down to being respectful of people's time. The press - it is our job to open emails and write about them all day. But that doesn't mean that you can just send me emails that are basically filler. I'm not a robot, I don't just turn press releases into news.”
There’s a lot more detail in the full podcast/transcript - including views on phone and in-person press briefings, whether ‘human stories’ are a good pitching angle, discussion of Kate’s work in community management & game narrative, and lots more.
Obligatory ‘TikTok is good’ threads, deconstructed
Landfall Games’ head of community Hanna Fogelberg posted an excellent thread about the company’s experiences on TikTok, where in a year, “we’ve made 500+ videos, gotten 14+ million likes and 860K+ followers.” That’s… pretty, pretty good!
We discussed this briefly in the GameDiscoverCo Plus Discord, and somebody made the good point that - look, Landfall already makes some of the most meme-like, goofy, funny virally successful games out there. (Like TABS, Stick Fight: The Game, and now April Fool’s ‘horse drifting’ shooter Knightfall, haha.)
So is it really fair to look at their TikTok success in isolation, given the amazing source material they have for the account? To which I’d say - I see plenty of indication that Landfall ‘gets’ TikTok in the same way they ‘get’ meme-y games. It’s not JUST the games, in this case - but the ethos permeates. Here were my top takeaways:
Be regular in posting schedule: “One of the key reasons I think we’ve grown on the platform is our consistency in posting. We initially posted about three times a day when starting out and then moved to the much more sustainable once a day (I know once a day sounds wild).”
Each TikTok could be ‘golden ticket’, but if it doesn’t work, keep truckin’: “TikTok is a bit like a lottery and the more tickets you put in the more likely you are to win, and just like the lottery, it’s been important for me not to be discouraged when I lose.”
Try and play up informality and goofiness: “I think that not making scripted and super polished videos makes the content all the more relatable to your community so it’s a win-win!”
You don’t have to be a TikTok native to get somewhere: “One thing I hear a lot from studios is “We don’t understand the trends/memes”. And even if I think it’s great to know the language of the platform you don’t need to do spicy memes or dances to be successful.”
Although Hanna mentions that most TikToks were made in 30 minutes, I also spotted some that I thought took longer - like this reply about when Landfall’s ‘running fast’ game Haste is coming. (But then I discovered it’s a re-use of an existing video? Clever!)
Of course, some of Landfall’s TikToks go deep into ‘using trending soundtracks and Landfall-y visuals’ weirdness in deeply entertaining ways - what is this? What even is it? *hides*. But that’s to be expected from this team.
To show that you don’t need ‘cursed images’ to do great on TikTok, the Hell Is Others devs have a Twitter thread we’ll break into midway through to quote them on their TikTok account results since Feb: “We made more than 1 million views, 134k likes, and 18k profile visits. But people wishlist a videogame from TikTok? ABSOLUTELY YES.” Look:
And as Enrico from Strelka Games explains: “Before starting posting on TikTok, we had an average of 7 wishlists per day. After starting posting consistently (4-5 posts per week) posts on TikTok, the rates drastically increased to an average of 32 wishlists per day! March has been the best month with 1385 wishlists!”
So look - TikTok’s where you should be spending more of your time. And Twitter (the ‘before TikTok’ side above) is where you should cut back. In our view. (But look, we have data!)
The game discovery news round-up..
And we’re here, it’s the bit close to the end - the bit where we find all the helpful links to video game platform & discovery stuff and throw it at you. Let’s do that bit now:
Just shouting out now the grand total is here: Epic (with some help from Xbox) raised $144 million via Fortnite revenue. It’s all benefiting “humanitarian relief efforts for people affected by the war in Ukraine.” That is so far above and beyond - Tim Sweeney and colleagues, our hat is off to you.
Let’s talk about the most talked about games on Twitter in 2021: Genshin Impact’s at #1, followed by Wordle, Japanese idol-training game Ensemble Stars (!), Apex Legends, and Final Fantasy, with Elden Ring also making it into the Top 10 at #7. And Minecraft’s still in the Top 10, too - talk about evergreen.
‘The rise of the Indian video game market’ has been a much-discussed topic in the last 20 years, often followed up by, uhm, not much. However, this excellent longform piece on the Indian game biz points out $1.8 billion in revenue in 2021 - mainly in mobile - and that “gaming is growing faster than any other media sector in the country, including streaming video.” So yep - even though the amounts spent per player are small, there’s clearly momentum now.
Among Us’ Victoria Tran has a new blog post out, talking about how the team communicated the (potentially controversial!) Cosmicubes update to their fanbase. And it is - as you would expect - fantastic. It focuses in part on the ADKAR Model, “an acronym for the five activities an individual needs in order for a change to be successful.” Methodologies FTW, folks.
Look, more festivals and showcases to enter: the Game Devs Of Color Expo is looking for submissions for a Steam event, a ‘Direct’, interviews and grants. And on the Japanese side of things there’s Tokyo Game Show’s Sense Of Wonder Night/Indie ‘Selected Exhibits’, as well as Bitsummit’s X-Roads.
If we’d seen this before, we forgot about it: the Steam Review Explorer from Josh Hills does a bunch of fun analysis of particular games’ Steam reviews: “Search, visualise and download Steam reviews using this free data analysis tool.”
An interesting tidbit here from the Psychology Of Games blog about how ‘not stopping’ can really increase retention in games: “Guardians [Of The Galaxy] just smoothly moves you from one chapter to the other and immediately has you doing things, listening to conversations, and making progress. There’s never a “level complete” screen with statistics as there is with many other games.”
Microlinks: wanted to shout out the London Games Festival for doing easy cloud streaming of key LGF games; Thatgamecompany’s Jenova Chen talks how Sky monetizes non-conventionally for a F2P game; Axie Infinity’s industrial scale of ‘managers’ and ‘scholars’ does keep raising ethical issues for play to earn games, right?
Finally, we love ‘data that goes back many years’, even if it’s maybe a bit retail-centric. So was delighted to see the UK’s top-selling game brands by revenue, thanks to GfK. Just imagining how long it must have taken to put this one together:
[We’re GameDiscoverCo, an agency based around one simple issue: how do players find, buy and enjoy your premium PC or console game? We run the newsletter you’re reading, and provide consulting services for publishers, funds, and other smart game industry folks.]