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★GAME DEV SUPERSTAR SERIES★

100 TIMES I DIDN’T MARKET STARDEW VALLEY AND YOU WON’T BELIEVE WHAT HAPPENED NEXT

 

(Press CTRL F DEMONSTRATION ZONE to skip to the good shit)

All right listen up, this is part one of an ongoing series called Gamedev Superstars, because god help us we need some rock and roll in this industry. This is a series in which I will impart you with my observations, explanations and analysis of game marketing because there isn’t shit out there and I know it. I’m going to use real examples because I want it to make actual sense instead of giving you the metaphorical Jackson Pollock of analogies. That’s me up there, I’m ready to tell you some shit. Are you ready to listen?

LET US BEGIN.

One of the best things to learn as a game developer is how to craft a great marketing narrative. Stories (not features, not specs) are what spread from person to person – they are an authentic way to help players naturally create more marketing for your game than you ever could by talking about what tech you use to build it.

But let’s explain what we mean when we say ‘story’ or ‘narrative’ as game marketers:

A common issue when marketers talk to game designers and developers is that ‘narrative’ may mean very different things to either side. When game creators talk about narrative in games, they are often referring to story, plotlines, characters, narrative arcs and what is actually being told – either visually, tonally or through dialogue in our games.

When marketers talk about narrative, we generally mean a very different thing. We’re talking about the story that sells your game, and communicates the value of the experience. We ask ourselves ‘how are we going to get people on board with this title?’.

To illustrate, here is an example of a strong marketing story:

“Firewatch is a mystery set in the Wyoming wilderness, where your only emotional lifeline is the person on the other end of a handheld radio.

Mystery, an unusual locale, keywords like ‘emotional’ and ‘lifeline’, the low-tech tangible noun of ‘handheld radio’ – these are all terms that blend and breathe into a story that can resonate and become memorable. It’s a strong one-liner that can pass from person to person.

Nail the emotional intrigue first, whether the emotional rewards of your title include ‘romance and heartbreak’, ‘unforgiving, brutal difficulty’ or anywhere inbetween. The Firewatch one-liner is not weighed down by jargon or comparatively emotionless terms such as ‘2D’, ‘isometric’ or similar, flat words. Players don’t love a game for the ingredients –  they love, remember, and talk about the flavour.

Use this mindset to consider and always highlight what the soul of your game is, beyond the parts you’re building. As humans, we want to say interesting things and provide stories and words to our friends, colleagues, loved ones, (and yes, even strangers) – so give them something human and interesting to signal boost. We are all curating our lives, so offer something that we (players) would like to add to the collection and narrative of our day, our twitter feeds, and our coffee chats with friends.

As consumers (players, fans) we rarely resonate with marketing designed for everyone (TV ads, radio spots etc). We have so many other ways in the current day to curate and see ‘stories’ or content that resonate with us, so it’s easier than ever to tune out unless it appeals to something personally important. We don’t all want the same things, and we don’t all want the same games. Hence, the power of highlighting an authentic, remarkable ‘story’ or marketing narrative around your game. Pairing this with an understanding and mindful targeting of players that LOVE what the title offers is the one-two punch for effective game marketing, and the most basic way to describe our passion and approach to working with clients.

Instead of the narrative world within the game, we are looking to craft a narrative outside and beyond the game itself, bridging the space between players and a title.

How can you start this today?

You can utilise the narrative structure normally associated with entertainment to construct a marketing narrative. The goal of the marketing narrative is to help your potential players better understand, and relate to your game.

What the marketing narrative does (aka how it helps to sell your game) is deliver your strategy. The marketing narrative is persuasive, convincing and human, whereas the the marketing strategy is simply a plan on paper with a bunch of usually very dry copy written into it. The marketing narrative is the element that brings a strategy to life, and helps you make decisions on what kinds of marketing activities are the best fit for your title.

Let me give an example:

The narrative of the game Ori and the Blind Forest was the tale of a young orphan destined for heroics. It’s a story of friendship, love and sacrifice, and the hope that exists in us all.

The marketing narrative for the game Ori and the Blind Forest is powerful, strengthened by the developer story (also part of the marketing narrative!): a group of ex-AAA developers that came together, inspired by Studio Ghibli, creating a beautiful and heartfelt indie platformer.

Most journalists will deprioritise new indie titles with no pedigree behind them in favor of something that has clout so of course it’s a good idea to put who you are front and centre if you are someone. And, if you aren’t then you find the most unique and unusual things about your game and place them front and centre of your marketing narrative.

Once you have the marketing narrative for your game  you can write your key messages for each audience, I’m about to give an example below so hold on to your bananas.

Using a marketing narrative you can easily design the specific tasks and assets you’ll need to execute. This method makes it much easier to decide what you need to create and who you want to send it to.

The words we use are incredibly important, a single word or phrase has the power to conjure up mental imagery in our minds and that’s why strategically picking the correct (and unique!) keywords to use to describe your game is very important. In marketing we call this framing.

The marketing narrative itself isn’t something you send out to the press. It’s an internally agreed upon angle that will be reflected in all of the marketing assets and copy that you create.

There are four main audiences you’ll be talking to when you are developing and launching your game.

  • Media
  • Players
  • Influencers
  • Industry

Each of these will need a slightly different message a different approach that will be based on what each of these segments finds interesting about your game.

 

YOU ARE NOW ENTERING THE DEMONSTRATION ZONE.

ANY AND ALL OF THE BELOW ADVICE MUST BE SWALLOWED AND DESTROYED AT THE END OF READING IT.

 

Using the example of Stardew Valley let me show you how I would break down the different messages used to get the most benefit out of these audiences.

DISCLAIMER: All of the below is 100% made up. It’s simply what I would do if I was marketing a game like Stardew Valley. I have no real knowledge of anything Eric Barone did to market Stardew 🙂

MEDIA

Stardew Valley took one guy four years to craft and it’s the best love letter to Harvest Moon ever made.

Why is this  the message?

The media are looking for an angle

  • The fact that Eric Barone meticulously and lovingly crafted Stardew Valley over four years is itself a lovely story, one easy for the media to pick up.
  • Harvest Moon is a popular title and lot’s of fans are sure to be excited about the idea of a new title to get stuck into

How does this translate into marketing actions and assets?

  • Your press release will talk about Eric and the development process, it will include the story of why he loves harvest moon, it will talk about what content is in Stardew Valley
  • You’ll include assets that show a picture of Eric, screenshots of the game that show the diversity of environments and similarities to Harvest Moon such as outside your farm house, the mines, beach front, inside a shop etc. http://stardewvalley.net/media/

What the result might be:

STREAMERS

 Stardew Valley is love letter to Harvest Moon with multiple plots and surprises. You can craft, explore, fall in love and survive in Stardew Valley.

  • Streamers want to know that the game will be interesting for their players to watch.  A game full of surprises and survival makes for good viewing
  • Streamers will immediately know whether this title is for them because it’s being compared with Harvest Moon
  • Harvest Moon has a large fan base and streamers can easily identify that this game already has an audience.

How does this translate into marketing actions and assets?

  • Create trailers and screenshots that showcase, finding something surprising! Discovering a new area, narrowly escaping the mines.
  • Create a tiny slice of the game that contains the most streamable content for video creators
  • Create funny gifs showing people breaking up, obsessing, giving them a gift etc.
  • Send out these materials in a pitch to video content creators who love these types of games.

What the result might be:

CONSUMERS

 You’ve inherited your grandfather’s old farm plot in Stardew Valley. Armed with hand-me-down tools and a few coins, you set out to begin your new life. Can you learn to live off the land and turn these overgrown fields into a thriving home?

  • Players are sold on the story of the game so tell them the story.
  • Players love to explore, be challenged and feel like they can have control or impact in the world

How does this translate into marketing actions and assets?

  • Create multiple trailers that reveal different elements of the game.
  • Create gifs and images that showcase the world
  • Make tweets and key art that emphasise the story
  • Create IRL events that bring the story into the real world
  • Attend trade shows and show people those specific sections of game

What the result might be:

INDUSTRY

 Stardew Valley creator, Eric Barone. spent four years developing solo to make his mark on the farm sim genre.

  • The industry is interested in innovation on a genre
  • The industry wants to learn from developers that are passionate and excel in their area

How does this translate into marketing actions and assets?

  • Create Dev blogs about the development process
  • Write articles about your process
  • Speak at conferences like GDC etc about your game

What the result might be:

Good marketing tells a story about what the consumer notices, or will notice about a title. Games marketing succeeds when enough people inclined to like the emotional rewards of your game come together, in a way that allows us to reach them cost effectively. This is often through email marketing (eg. awesome piece by Will Pugh here), strategic and well-positioned Kickstarter campaigns (like Sunless Skies), effective community management (personality-driven Twitter accounts like @Crunchyroll).

Good game marketing is all about creating good content mates. Use your melon hearts and make something cool.

THE NEXT ARTICLE WILL BE AN IN DEPTH LOOK AT NIGHT IN THE WOODS MEDIA COVERAGE. STAY TUNED.

GOTY Lumi List

The Lumi team are thankful for an incredible year of games. From mobile, indie PC to blockbuster AAA releases, 2016 had a stunning collection of game releases. It’s tough to pick some favourites, but we’re sharing our top choices to help your Christmas shopping quests and holiday gaming sessions!

We work with amazing developers, but our GOTY lists will include games we haven’t touched professionally.

Did we miss something amazing? Tweet us at @gameconsulting so we can check it out. 🙂

Lauren’s picks:

 

  • Firewatch (PC, PS4, XBox One)
  • Ladykiller in a Bind (PC)
  • Able Black (iOS)
  • Reigns (iOS)
  • The Witcher 3 (PS4)
  • Fire Emblem: Fates (3DS)

Honourable mentions: Viridi, Oxenfree, Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney – Spirit of Justice, Pokemon Moon

Katie’s picks:

 

  • Slime Ranchers (PC)
  • Stardew Valley (PC, PS4)
  • Overcooked (PS4)
  • The Witness (PC)
  • Reigns (iOS)

 

  • Accounting VR (Vive)

Honourable mentions: Oxenfree, Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney – Spirit of Justice, Jackbox Party Pack 4, Inside

Meg’s picks:

 

  • Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End (PS4)
  • World of Warcraft – Legion expansion (PC)
  • Hearthstone: One Night in Karazhan expansion (iOS)

Honourable mentions: Deus Ex Go, Worms W.M.D

Reflections on Melbourne International Games Week 2017

It was a Sunday afternoon in late February 2016 and we were showing Doug Wilson, creator of JS Joust, around the city of Melbourne. We were staring at the popping colours of Melbourne’s graffiti lanes and talking about the energy in the air. Doug was thinking of moving here, he said there was something about the Australian development scene that got him excited about games here. He told us it felt like other game development hubs used to feel. Scenes that went on to produce some of the world’s best independent games, like Sweden, Denmark and Johannesburg. There was an energetic momentum on the Aussie indie front.

He decided to move here.

The community spirit of the Australian games development industry isn’t what you’d normally see, it goes beyond love for the games we make and into loving the people we work around. The typical habits of trade secrecy in technique, design and ideas are no longer the accelerant for success in The Land Down Under. In fact, it’s the opposite. We’ve banded together and shared our ideas, expertise and creativity to help each other be the best we can be. Because while we may still be small, we’re growing in numbers every day.

The Aussie development scene has gone through a huge transformation in the last decade. The world felt the ramifications of the Global Financial Crisis of 2008 but the scene here was vastly changed by American studios pulling the plug on Australian based development. These changes have seen many individuals and studios rise above the clouds, especially in the world of mobile gaming. Australian titles such as Crossy Road and Bonza exploded not just here, but internationally, bringing those ever-elusive Dollarydoo’s to our industry and economy, renewing those aspirations of creativity.

The industry here has changed because it’s had to in order to succeed. As always adversity and limitation are creativity’s best friend.

Without a legacy of AAA companies, our growth has been predominantly independent development since 2008. We’ve haven’t had the luxury of having larger companies to absorb up our graduates or allow our experienced developers to climb a ladder. We’ve had to rethink the way we operate.

The result is that Australian development has become the vanguard for independent collaboration. Successful co-working spacesThe Arcade, Level One, All Day Breakfast, among othershave popped up creating spaces where although the companies and developers are separate, they grow together. Our arts developers are flourishing too, with and without government funding we’re seeing developers and creators push the envelope of interactive and game experiences. From escape experiences such as Shang Lun’s Earthrise which takes you on a journey through space in an authentic theatrical mindscape to Bar SK creating video game galleries and providing space for experiments to run wild. There’s even exhibitions like Contours, run by Chad Toprak which celebrate the diversity of game and play creation in Australia. You should check out both of these places if you haven’t already. You’ll get an experience like no other.

 

There is a groundswell of game talent in Australia and it’s not taking the traditional passage. Melbourne International Games Week is a way of putting all of the exciting things on a platter and serving it. The week actually comprising of 10 days is a curated collection of events for game makers, players and enthusiasts as well as families and passers-by. Events range from conferences to trade shows and public entertainment events. This year, over 60,000 game enthusiasts participated in key events across the city in game conferences and consumer shows including Game Connect Asia Pacific, Unite Melbourne, PAX Australia, the Women in Games Lunch, the Australian Game Developers’ Awards, Games: A Family Affair, Game Changer: VR Festival, live games from Pop Up Playground and urban exploration augmented reality app, Wayfinder, She_Makes Games, Contours and the Education in Games Summit.

We have passion here, overwhelmingly untainted by the politics and restrictions that AAA culture instils. We’re a little bit freer from market expectation and this is allowing us to try new things.

A game where your hands are guns, providing political commentary on America’s gun laws, a showcase about edible games and a mass market hits being created from internet cultural commentary. Rules of game making are being broken.

Events like PAX Australia and Game Connect Asia Pacific draw their own domestic and international crowds, including special guests and speakers brought over by the event holders and sponsors. But some come purely for the experience of being in Australia. This is a draw card for events held here – despite being so far away, we’re not only a work trip but a cultural experience. We’re underselling the experience of making games in Australia, being Australian. Let’s face it – we know how to have a hell of a good time. Even so, making an annual trip across the oceans is both tiring and mighty expensive, especially if it’s for just one event that may or may not be commercially viable. This is one of the many reasons behind the encompassing idea of Melbourne International Games Week; coordinating with each of the individual events to bring consumers, developers, publishers and media together for a festival-like experience, a feast of events that celebrate gaming. The perfect reason to come over for an Australian getaway. You add value to coming a long way by curating an irresistible, unmissable series of events that all happen in one week. That’s something you can’t get in many other places.

Since we are so small as a market it is important that we give international media and developers enough reason to come here. Something they can get nowhere else. That’s the thought behind tying our major games events into one week. We’re far, away, expensive and small, but we pack a big punch.

Why Melbourne, though? Why not Sydney, or Brisbane, or Perth?

Well predominantly, funding. Melbourne has incredible support from the government, particularly Creative Victoria and Film Victoria. Creative Victoria is fully responsible for the genesis of Melbourne International Games Week and all the incredible coordination and effort that goes towards working with all the individual groups and stakeholders therein.  It’s not just funding, as a result of continued support for the Arts, not just games, Melbourne is home to 47% of development making it a convenient location for almost half of the games industry to attend the week. It’s also an international hub for flights from New Zealand, our lovely neighbours. The culture here is thriving too, Melbourne drives its own reputation for being an artists city and games are not holding back here either.

Melbourne International Games Week is one of many answers to our island reality. We can create a key networking and business festival here in Australia and provide a central location, in the same way, Cologne, Singapore, Johannesburg and San Francisco serve Europe, Asia, Africa and the US. We are creating a pacific opportunity.

We were delighted to have the opportunity to work with Creative Victoria to make MIGW something more, to pour our hearts and souls into promoting a week that was for every type of developer and consumer. It was incredibly important to us to represent the wide variety of games being made here.

The buildup of excitement and anticipation was overwhelming; from the moment we started getting messages from friends who were coming to town to the local friends we hadn’t seen in awhile, the fun we would have, the ice creams we would eat.

The events within MIGW are so much more than consumer or taxable networking and education events. They are an opportunity to flourish and be part of the very real cultural movement of games.

Many years from now our participation in driving video games forward as the foremost creative medium of our time will be remembered as a vital segment of art and interactive history. The intersection between the technical and the creative in game creation is unrivalled by any other field and the presence of those hearts and minds at MIGW is sure to facilitate great things to come.

From playing board games and drooling over new hardware, to picking up so many Streetpasses you’re afraid your 3DS might explode; these examples are but a wafer-thin taste of what’s on offer. It’s the people you meet along the way and the new connections you make with one another, personal, professional and everything in between. The lovely surprise you get when you see friends you didn’t expect. The banter pouring out of everyone’s mouths over the semi-disturbingly ingested volume of beer. Oh, and the giant pretzels from Munich Brauhaus. That’s important.

We’re looking forward to next year and feeling optimistic that we live in one of the greatest eras of game development as an industry of commercial and creative growth.

Photo Credit:

Izzy Gramp

@shrubbette 

In a room that looks like someone gave a steampunk makeover to an attic, the inaugural TasJam is underway.

For a small yet scrappy community, the inaugural Tasmanian Game Jam (TasJam) tickets sold out quickly. As I write this, we have around 35 devs in this room in Hobart, all busying themselves with the monumental task of creating a game in roughly 32 hours. In Launceston are another 20, and a team of 5 more in Burnie.

TasJam is a statewide game jam event, held simultaneously in Hobart, Launceston, and Burnie, and was organised by the Tasmanian Game Development Society.

Game Jams (in case you’ve never been to one) are a short span of time where developers of all different disciplines get together and make a game, usually in 24 to 48 hours.

The TasJam Hobart competition is kicking off on the third floor of The Typewriter Factory, a coworking space usually housing tech startups. Teams were formed with almost no extra help needed, mostly thanks to the excellent organisers Jason Imms, Eloise Ducky and James Riggell.

Lauren, Myself and Kamina Vincent from Tin Man Games have spent the morning walking around, talking to each team about what their project ideas were , how they hope to achieve them and encouraging them to think outside the box.

At about the 30% mark we dialed in to the Launceston and Burnie teams and chatted with all the other teams about their progress so far.

Day 1:

The main early stage issues we are seeing consistently popping up at these stages are as follows:

  1. Overscoping
  2. Not enough originality/unique angles
  3. Not being able to describe the game succinctly

Peripheral issues as the day wears on:

4. Eating too much sugar and then crashing

5. Not drinking enough water

6. Not taking a break.

5:18pm – The Light is starting to dim in our busy little Typewriter Factory. We’re watching the devs start to bed down and get into the nitty gritty details. Coders figuring out networking, artists making models and sound designers mapping out their assets.

Day 2:

We had a fantastic, yet tired #TasJam Day 2 experience – and so did the developers! It was a wild time trying to get to playtest everything and give as much feedback and encouragement as we could. All the judges, mentors and organisers loved seeing the projects come together, and the whole Tasmanian gamedev community were largely upbeat, positive and excited to participate.

Some truly innovative and thought-provoking projects have been born this weekend, and we were very happy to be a small part of this great event.

Want to check out some awesome Tasmanian games? Check out the game jam results on the TasJam itch.io page!

Thank you again for inviting Lumi Consulting as a sponsor for the event, and we can’t wait to get into judging soon. 🙂

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WhatIf_logo2

I don’t know what I was expecting GO423 to stand for but it appears there are many mysteries behind the bespoke symposium.

Truna, the head of the Brisbane IGDA opened the conference by telling us that GO423 had originally got its name as part of a joke that the event was the foreplay to Freeplay, the numbers possibly being a pun on this, 423. I also heard it referred to as Game On 423.

Regardless, GO423 was a really excellent Symposium held in Brisbane, Australia.

As hard as it was for Lumi to leave the delightful crisp winter, peppered with rain and wind for a state rather more filled with sunshine, we managed, somehow, to get there.

The Symposium itself was really excellent. Held in The Cube at Queensland University of Technology (QUT), the first day comprised a number of panels with games devs from around Australia mostly contemplating the future of games and what we hope for and will work towards in the next 5 years.

Listening to Morgan Jaffit, Megan Summers and Nicole Stark in particular, was inspiring.

The great thing about a Symposium like this and about events held in the games industry in general, is that it’s a great forum for sharing ideas and knowledge. Few other industries have forums where we can all sit around and discuss what is important to us going forward, what our passions and dreams are and how to achieve them.

GO423 provided a great insight into the mistakes and mishaps of former AAA studios and the benefits that they can bring going forward for indies. There were dreams of bringing back larger studios and publishers, hopes for what could happen with VR and the desire to create a thriving and sustainable games economy.

The second day was filled with workshops and the indie games room where we got to see a number of current projects being showcased. There were several stand outs, Project Columbus, showcased by newly formed Brisbane Studio, Prideful Sloth, Lupinball and The Eyes of Era, a first person mystery point and click. We were also really excited to see the progress of Ninja Pizza Girl and get a first look at a fellow Arcadian’s game, Fur Brawl, by Melbourne based studio Lampshade Games.

On our last day we went and visited our friends at Defiant Development, where I was allowed to hold the coveted Defiant swords and was baffled by the sheer number of rubber chickens in the office. The Defiant team are gorgeous and as talented as everyone says they are. Defiant Artist, Nick Smith let us look through one of his sketch books and it was AMAZING.

We ended the weekend by visiting the newly acquired, top secret superbase of the Prettygreat offices. I can’t reveal its location but I can tell you I felt like a super spy visiting it. Let me tell you, they are a talented team. Not only do they make games, they also make amazingly crafted tables, laser cut signs and they  showed me a tiny arcade machine they made from scratch. Luke generously bestowed upon us a bottle opener that they hand made! Lauren was excited that they watch Food Wars as well.

Anyway. Peace out, stay rad and look out for us in your city sometime soon. 🙂

– Katie Stegs.

 

This week Lumi visited AVCon for the first time, AVCon had been highly recommended to us by several of our lovely friends so we decided to take a trip. We were really excited about some of the great talent happening over there so it was definitely an excellent chance to meet some of the teams behind the games we’ve been admiring.

AVCon is the leading pop culture and videogame expo in Adelaide, with over 18,000 attendees over two days, this year from July 17th to the 19th. Famous for an amazing Indie Room full of Australian games and a dazzling array of cosplayers, we definitely recommend this friendly event if you’re ever in the area. We were so impressed by the sheer numbers and quality of the cosplayers there. If that was you, wow! Amazing, great job guys!

Prior to the event itself, the amazing Emilia Chignola invited us to a fantastic Women in Games cocktail networking event before AVCon. Both local and interstate ladies wowed us with what they’re working on, and the Adelaide AIE campus looks great. Thank you Emilia!

Katie and I really enjoyed seeing a huge collection of indie games during our time at AVCon, and the friendly developers showing them. Some of my top picks include Mallow Drops, Hacknet, Catnips, Objects in Space, Caffeine, Hands Off and Crabitron. With a real treasure trove of games showcased, there was truly something for everyone. Applause for the coordinators for the ambitious, excellent collection.

Taking it back a couple of years (or decades), we loved spending time in the Retro Games collection as well. Katie played Super Mario 2 gloriously reliving long childhood car trips and I zoned out in Bubble Bobble until I smashed a new high score. It’s was a really relaxing, well-curated collection of titles and consoles of yesteryear, all kindly shared by their owners. We also saw a few titles that we’d never tried before. For Katie, who was never allowed consoles as a child, it was literally like being told she could have all the candy in the shop.

We were also really impressed by the very large and talented AVCon artist alley – there were so many colourful, cute and intriguing crafts and art pieces. The selling areas across the whole event were always really popular, and my purchase of the weekend was finally tracking down a copy of the Dead of Winter boardgame. After being recommended the hard-to-find title for ages back home, I was super lucky to track down the last copy they had!

Thank you so much to the Adelaide gamedev scene for welcoming us, showing us around and sharing the love for games that makes this community so lovely!

We will certainly find our way back sometime. Until then, it’s time for us to pamper our Radelaide friends when they next come across to our neck of the woods!

– Lauren