This is the second in a series of articles I will be writing. Whether you agree or disagree with my views I thank you for taking the time to read it.


 

I have been on many game development forums over the years. Mixed in with the discussions on the technical and artistic sides of game development there are discussions on testing and marketing games.

Based on these discussions, it is clear that many people believe every gamer should like their game. They use (or seem to want to take) a shot gun approach to marketing their game. Basically telling everyone everywhere about it. Some even paste links to their game all over the Internet. Their primary metric is just a number generally the number of people on a Facebook page, subscribers to a YouTube channel or followers on Twitter.

Another trend I’ve seen is people throwing their games out asking for general play-testing and feedback… from anybody.

So, in this article I want to briefly share my own views on these things.

 

If 100 Is Good Then 1,000 is Great, Right?

We (humans) get pretty wrapped up in metrics. And we are often influenced by “more” thinking it has to be better than “less”. The problem is this is most certainly not always true.

For many years I built websites and made a decent amount of money from the Internet. I tested many different marketing techniques and learned a lot of things generally the hard way.

Based on my own experience I feel it is safe to say it is not the quantity it is the quality that matters. By this I simply mean many of the Indie developers who are struggling to get awareness for their games are probably focusing on the wrong things.

They may see a popular YouTube channel or Twitter account based on the number of subscribers or followers. So they try to get the owner of those accounts to cover their games. Nothing wrong with this. Makes sense, right? You have to get the word out about your game.

There are just a couple of problems with focusing on “bigger” numbers.

 

Are Those Numbers Empty Or Do They Truly Represent A Real Person?

The first issue is we really have no way of knowing if the number associated with the subscribers and followers are actually real. There are many services where a person can buy YouTube subscribers and Twitter followers just as you can buy website traffic and YouTube video views.

In fact, I could start a new YouTube channel tonight and within a week have 5,000 subscribers. I could do this even if I never post a link in a forum or tell anyone about my channel. Well, okay, I would need to tell the person I am ordering YouTube subscribers from about my channel but that is it. In a month I could go from 0 to probably 100,000 subscribers simply by ordering subscribers from multiple places offering such services.

So I could get a decent number of people fairly quickly. However, the important thing is are they actually real people? Are they bots? Are they just bogus accounts? Are they a mix of fake and real? What is the percentage?

So, this is the first problem with simply looking at the numbers and going off of it.

The second issue is that even if they are real people I have no idea if they really have any interest in the content of my YouTube channel. Maybe they were offered some kind of incentive to sign up. Perhaps “for a chance to win… whatever… subscribe now!” and so they subscribed to my channel and really it wouldn’t matter if my channel was focusing on mad cow disease or fitness programs or whatever. It wouldn’t matter what it was because they never had any interest in the actual content and are actually subscribing for another reason entirely.

Alright, that is the first thing I wanted to cover. Just throwing some light on the idea of bigger numbers being better.

Now, let’s get into the nitty gritty.

 

Which Would You Prefer…
100 People Who Like Playing Games Like Yours Hear About Your Game Or 1,000 Random People Hear About Your Game?

I think there are many people who think well if 1,000 people see my game there is a great chance that 100 of them will be people who love playing games exactly like mine! Or they think if 1,000 people see my game at least enough of them will know another person who loves playing games exactly like mine and when they tell them I will get them as fans and potential customers!

It might seem logical but in practice it probably will not hold true. You see those 1,000 random people may have a large number of people who actually hate games like yours. Worst case is they will talk smack about your game, leave negative comments and reviews. A better case is even if they know someone who would like your game they simply won’t tell them about it. And the best case is they may tell someone or possibly they may just like your game.

There simply is no way to know what you will end up with from random people. In marketing terms these are known as untargeted people. And this simply means they are not in your target market. They are not part of your target audience.

I would greatly prefer to have 100 people see my game who all like exactly the kind of game I made over having 1,000 random people who may or may not like my game at all and maybe even hate this kind of game.

And I would prefer 10 people who are raving fans of games like mine over 100 who just like games like mine. Why? Because these kind of people who are so passionate about their games are very likely to become my customers and they are very likely to spread the word and tell others about my game. Basically, they will promote my game for me and they will do it for free!

 

Okay, So Which Gamers Matter When You Are Building A Game?

I have talked about the marketing side up to this point. The kind of people who are most important to generate buzz about your game. And also the most likely to become future customers.

Now, let’s talk about testing and getting feedback. I think you probably already know the answer to this.

Is it better to have 100 random people test your game and provide feedback or to have 10 people who enjoy games like yours to test your game and provide feedback?

Ding! Ding! Yes! You are absolutely correct. In my experience it will be far more valuable to go with the 10 people in this example. They are your target audience. And while the other group may provide some good generic feedback it will be slanted toward their own preferences. This means you may have people who love FPS games suggesting you add some shooting to your puzzle game. Or maybe you will have some casual puzzle gamers suggesting you remove the guns from your FPS and instead focus on pushing crates around to unlock doors and such.

These suggestions may well be worth considering but the point is they are coming from people who probably won’t buy your game anyway. And if you do take these suggestions and implement them you may end up turning off the people in your real target audience. Well, at the least the target audience you had when you started. Once you start trying to cater to the suggestions of everyone then you really no longer have a target audience. Everyone cannot be your target audience for your game!

So… if you ask me which gamers matter the most when you are building your game I will say only those in your target audience. These are the people you should listen to. These are the suggestions you should take seriously.

When you are marketing your game your focus should be only on promoting your game to these people in your target audience. It doesn’t matter how big of a number some opportunity shows (YT subscribers, Twitter followers, etc) unless they represent your target audience.

Now all of this was basically just common sense, right? Yep! 🙂