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12 Mar 2015

How To Market Your Indie Studio: The Press

All this week, we’ve been detailing the best ways to market your indie studio – from the groundfloor to the release of your first game. Today, we’re discussing everything that you need to know about the press. We’ve written about contacting the press a ton here at Game Academy. If you’ve missed our past posts on the press, take a look at these below before proceeding:

The Art of Pitching Your Game to the Media
Tips For Writing Compelling Email Subject Lines
Creating a Digital Press Kit For Your Indie Game
Creating a Physical Press Kit For Your Indie Game (for those interested)
Writing a Press Release With Pizazz

Instead of repeating everything we’ve said before, we’re going to focus on a few important items many indie developers fail to consider when contacting the press. Do these things below (in addition to the tips in the posts above) and everything will fall into place.

How not to approach the press

I’ve reviewed indie games for years (not so much anymore, but occasionally I will), so I regularly receive emails from indie developers asking for a review. Sometimes I reply, sometimes I don’t: honestly, the more eye-catching the subject line of their email, the most likely I am to reply. Recently, a developer asked me about reviewing their indie game and didn’t include any details about the game except a name; they just asked if I would review it.

I had to ask them: “why do you think I would want to review your indie game when you haven’t told me anything about it?” I thought maybe that would entice them to provide additional information about the game, but no such luck. They told me about how it would be a great benefit to them and how I would be doing them a favor. So I had to ask again: “why should I review your game instead of the other requests I receive regularly?”

Their answer? Basically a copy-and-paste answer from their previous one. I didn’t respond, thinking they’d probably give up, but again, no such luck. They emailed almost every day for a week, asking me if I was going to review their game; coming across as desperate in every message.

Guys and gals, this is not the way to approach the press – but you’ve already figured that out by now!

The main idea behind this entire story falls on one keyword: desperation. If you appear desperate in your pitch, the press isn’t going to cover your indie game. To them (and they’re right to think this), an indie developer that’s desperate for a review means other publications have no interest. Publications are in business to make money. An indie develop that’s desperate for a review doesn’t exactly sound like profits to me. Be confident in your pitch, and chances are you will get at least a few positive replies.

The press is just another tool

Many indie developers feel as if their entire success falls on how much coverage their indie game receives. In fact, that is their marketing plan! This is a recipe for disaster. The press is nothing more than another marketing tool for you to use; write that down and hang it on your wall if you must. The quicker you figure this out, the more realistic you will be in your approach to the press.

Write unique pitches – never copy and paste

That’s pretty much it. I know it can be tiring if you are pitching to dozens of publications, but it’s important that you appeal to the culture of each publication. Read the latest articles and features before pitching your indie game to a publication and write in the tone they typically use. For example, a publication with a lighthearted tone will be more willing to cover your indie game if your pitch is witty and lighthearted.

Be honest and realistic

Too many indie developers believe that pitching = exaggerating the truth. I’ve read so many pitches from indie developers that use buzzwords such as ‘revolutionary’ and ‘game-changing.’ Look, if your indie game is any of those things, you won’t have to tell me: I’ll already be able to tell it via the information and resources you include in your pitch. The press is going to see right through that, and they’re going to assume that your indie game isn’t anything special and move onto something else.

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