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5 Sep 2013

The Art of Pitching Your Game to the Media

I have received thousands upon thousands of game-related press releases (and probably more than that) over the years, with the majority of them coming from indie developers handling their own PR and attempting to entice me with providing their game with coverage. Sure, I wish I could have covered every game that arrived in my inbox daily, yet when I’m receiving dozens upon dozens a day, doing so is next to impossible; heck, it’s impossible even with a team of writers at your disposal. Thus, while I have covered many games that I initially learned about via an indie devs’ press release, there are countless games that I have had to simply ignore because I didn’t believe they were worth my attention. Was I wrong? Probably, but that’s the nature of games media for you: too many people want your attention, yet there isn’t enough hours in the day.

So how do you get the attention of the media? It’s easier said than done, but there are a few tricks you can use to increase the chances of your game getting noticed.

 

But before you begin….

 

Know Your Game!

What platform (or platforms as the case may be) will the game be available on, and what is the genre of the game? Is it available only on mobile devices? If so, then do not send a press release to a site that only covers PC games. Is it a puzzle game? Then do not even think about sending it to MMO-only sites, RPG-only sites, etc. See where I’m going? There are many sites around the Web that cover strictly one niche, and while this may seem like a no-brainer, you would be surprised at how many press releases I’ve received that did not apply to what I was covering. I’ve received press releases for electronic toys, devices that turn your smartphone into pepper spray, etc. Sure, they looked cool, but at the end of the day whoever sent me those press releases wasted their time. If you send your press releases to sites that are not covering the niche your game falls under, you’re wasting your time as well.

 

Don’t Aim Solely For the Top

If you think getting your game covered by a mainstream site such as IGN, Gamespot, Joystiq, and so on is going to result in your game selling like hotcakes, think again. The unfortunate truth is the majority of the audience for these mainstream sites are only interested in mainstream games rather than indie titles. Sure, these sites receive tons of hits per day, meaning your game may receive additional exposure that could result in a few extra sales, but don’t expect to become the next Scrooge McDuck just because Kotaku mentioned your game in a post.

Instead, “scatter” your pitches to small sites, blogs, and even YouTube personalities (while keeping in mind if these places cover games like yours). Want to scatter your pitches even further? Attempt to send your press release to an email address that will send it to multiple writers at a site. Nearly every gaming site has an email address designated for tips and news, simply because it makes it easy to communicate with a staff of writers and “assign” a particular game to a writer that they can cover. Plus, sending a press release to an editor they do not want is a great way to have your press release marked as spam, which may result in your game failing to get any type of coverage from that particular site. Long story short: send press releases to appropriate email addresses.

And by sending your press release to these types of email address? You multiply the chances of a particular writer being interested in your game, which increases the chances of your game being covered dramatically. The email addresses gaming sites designate to receive tips and news are usually formatted as the following:

  • tips@everymangamepublication.com
  • news@anygamepublication.com
  • press@weareagamepublication.com

Luckily, there are tools such as Verify Email.org that allow you to verify if an email address exists before attempting to send your press release so you can be assured that when you send your press release, it is actually going to a valid address.

 

But don’t send that press release just yet, because there’s more!

 

Get Their Attention!

When Dead Island was gaining traction a few years ago, the PR specialist responsible for writing and sending press releases for the game was always entertaining. She consistently wrote press releases that were humorous and laid back, yet informative. The genuine excitement she had for the game was felt in each press release (or maybe she was that good at writing press releases), so as a result, I covered nearly every press release she sent our way. Why? Because she made me excited for the game.

That’s really the trick of getting someone’s attention: show your excitement for your game in your writing, all the while being a bit laid back and humorous if you can make it work. However, writing in too laid back of a manner can make you seem unprofessional. Yet you do not want to write in a stiff yet professional manner either, as media professionals do not want to spend the time reading a press release that comes across as bland and dull. It’s a fine line to straddle to say the least.

Also, write an opening “hook” that will interest the reader and place the important talking points near the front of the press release via a bullet list. Instead of writing a few paragraphs only to state that your game is a mobile-only RPG that takes place in an alternate history version of Tokyo where Canada owns Tokyo and everybody is speaking Italian, place that in your bullet list like so:

 

“Believe it or not, an alternative version of Tokyo exists in an alternative cyberpunk universe full of thieves, crooks, billionaires  and beautiful people (many of which may or may not be androids).  Are you brave enough to traverse Tokyo’s underbelly? Then read  the details regarding our next RPG, “Tokyo Undercover:”

  • The year is 2013: Canada owns Tokyo, and the native language is Italian.
  • You star as Carl, a down-and-out cop and ex-wrestler thrown into a conspiracy of epic proportions.
  • Turn-based combat that allows you to strategically plan Carl’s every move. As your skill increases, so too does the difficulty increase in real-time, resulting in players always being challenged.
  • Leveling up allows players to purchase new skills and bonuses such as the “Cyber Body Slam” and “That’s Amore Death.”
  • Uncover Tokyo’s deep, dark truth Winter, 2013 on iOS and Android devices.

 

After reading that small summary, how could anyone not be interested in Tokyo Undercover? Notice what I did in this press release though. I “hooked” the reader with an interesting line that grabs their attention, and from there I summarized everything the reader needs to know about the game in five bullet points rather than five paragraphs. After you attach press kits, screenshots, videos, and let them know if they are interested in a review code you would be more than happy to provide it for them, your press release is golden.

And can someone please make a game like Tokyo Undercover? Now that I think about it, that game sounds awesome.

 

Use Social Media, Mingle

Do not restrict yourself to using solely email. In addition, feel free to share your game to the masses on Facebook, Twitter, and beyond. In a sense, pitch your game to ordinary people. Those in the media pay attention to what is being discussed on social media consistently, meaning if ordinary people are talking about your game, the chances of a publication covering your game increases.

And if there is a gaming event close to your location? Go to it! Print business cards, talk to people, show them a demo if you can; just get your game out there!

 

Last But Not Least – Form Relationships

Certainly with your fans as they will tell you what they like and do not like about your game, but on top of that, media professionals as well. Be gracious to those in the media, because they are the gateway between your game and their audience learning more about your game. Be willing to conduct an interview with them, give away a few copies of your game to their readers via a contest, and more. This industry is truly a, “scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours,” type of industry, so if you can accommodate them in any way, do so (and again, a contest is a great way to “give back” to them and thank them for their coverage). Bottom line: be pleasant and form professional relationships with those in the media.

And guess what? When you’re next game releases, these media professionals are going to be more willing to discuss your next game with their audience. Down the line, you are going to have a more clear-cut idea as to which gaming sites enjoy your games, which ones not so much, and so on. Does pitching your game get easier? No, but you become more skilled at doing so over time.

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