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12 May 2015

Things Indie Developers Need To Know: The Truth About Hype

A few weeks ago, we discussed the reasons why you need to be realistic when communicating with the press. It was a response to a presentation given by Peter Molyneux recently in which he essentially stated that hyping your game to a ridiculous level was perfectly fine if it meant more people would become interested in your indie game; a tip that has shot Molyneux in the foot for years (and the same will happen you).  Today, I want to go a little deeper into the topic and discuss the best ways to use hype appropriately. It is one of the things indie developers need to know in order to succeed, so without further ado let’s take a look.

Defining hype

Hype has become an ugly word in the last decade, and it is no surprise. Especially in entertainment, we see movies, games, albums, books, and so on that are hyped so much that if we buy into the hype, we will be convinced that what is being hyped is the greatest thing ever. Far too often, entertainment that is ridiculously hyped leaves a bad taste in everyone’s mouths and even angers most people. Thus, people learn to become wary of height that seems too good to be true, causing them to become jaded in the process.

The truth of the matter is that the biggest entertainment companies in the world find that it is easier to throw a bunch of money at an IP, hype it up to no end, and hope that it brings in more money than what the project cost. But this is not the proper way to hype anything! As I stated in the article linked above, hype is nothing more than a tool that you can use to showcase the best (and truthful ) aspects of your game that will get as many people excited as possible. It’s the true definition of hype, and when honed properly, it can work wonders.

The ideal way to hype

For those of you that don’t know, I used to host a show called Game Academy Radio in which I would interview an indie developer every week. Some of them had been in the game for decades while others were developing their very first indie game. The sheer variety of people I talked to was incredible, and I’m happy to say that almost all of them hyped their indie games in a perfect manner.

Many of them only shared concrete ideas that the game was going to have, and they would only share a few ideas that were floating around in their minds if they stated that they were only that: ideas. Thus, they separated reality from ‘potential reality,’ and it ensured that they remained credible if they were quoted in the interview later down the road.

What’s the worst that could happen?

You may be thinking, “is anyone really going to quote me in an interview? What’s the worst that could happen if I bend the truth a bit?” While it may not seem like anything will happen now – and in truth, it probably won’t since your indie game likely won’t be released by the time you do an interview – it going come back and bite you later on. What if your indie game becomes an overnight sensation? You will be in the spotlight, potential players will be searching the Web for more info about your game, and eventually someone is going to come across your interview and report to the Web that you ‘lied.’ The last thing you need is a band of angry people on the Internet polishing their pitchforks and screaming for the masses to boycott your game because you decided to bend the truth.

Now, that seems a little far-fetched – and in the present, you’re right. Yet, we see overnight sensations in the gaming industry all the time, so it isn’t out of the realm of possibility (case in point: Flappy Bird). When hyping, ensure that you only share the facts with the public, and if you feel like the truth isn’t compelling enough?

Wait until you have something substantial to say.

That’s truly the main point of this entire article: hyping should only occur when you have truth to share. If your game is truly interesting and fun to play, you won’t have to overhype it to get the attention of the public. If it isn’t? That’s a problem that overhyping certainly will not fix.

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