Please help me with tips on promotion of my game

edited October 2012 in Story Games
Hi. I seem to be miserably failing at a) attracting eyeballs to my site and b) turning hits into sales.

Does anyone have any tips or resources for how to promote your indie game?

I have made a couple of announcements to a couple of sites including SG,, therpgsite.
I have asked for a couple of sites to review my game
I have one podcast type of interview coming up

cheers, any help appreciated!


  • edited October 2012
    Well, I'm not sure how active you are in those communities, but when someone just drops by to announce their game and they're not involved in the particular forum, people tend to ignore it because it's no one they know. Just something I've noticed before and it might explain the lack of response???

    I know like everyone in the world is making a kickstarter, but from what I've seen it can generate a lot of interest in a game. Everyone who buys in feels a sense of shared creation, and they tend to talk about it. Have you thought about kickstarting? Is 'kickstarting' what they call it? I dunno, but have you thought about it?
  • I am active in the forums in cycles. Last couple of months I have been busy with tons of stuff and doing the actual work of getting the game out, so no time for forum surfing. It does seem that networking is an important part of reaching some critical mass of visibility.

    In retrospect I should have tried a kickstart for a number of reasons, but its a bit late now - its published! But funny to think that a Kickstarter where you pays your money in the hope of seeing a product eventually would be better received than paying your money to receive the product immediately. I tend to think a Kickstarter would end up failing for the same reasons the game itself is failing.
  • edited October 2012

    I think you've done plenty of forum promotion. I think this is the fourth (?) thread I've seen about Ingenero in the past couple weeks, with three (?) of them authored by yourself. If I recall correctly, some of those threads contributed value to a discussion, and others felt like more basic linking-out promotion.

    I can only speak for myself, but: Ingenero is on my radar. I know that it exists. I have read some stuff about it, and reached an unfounded-but-valid conclusion as a consumer: "This seems neat enough, but it's not something I need." That's common: most games fall into that category for me.

    At some point, you made the strong choice to differentiate from other universal systems by saying it "creates drama similar to Game of Thrones" (or something like that; I'm too lazy to look it up). I think that's a strong move, because saying "it can do anything" doesn't actually create buy-in for games, whereas a tailored experience does. So: continue doing this - marketing the specific experiences your game can offer.

    So, you've done promotion, you've engaged in conversations about your game, and you've made it clear what tailored experiences your game can offer. Good. I think that continuing to post more threads about Ingenero and to prompt sales-pitch-y review threads from others may be counter-productive. It can feel like spam and like leeching.

    So, what next? Some things that work for some people: run your game at lots of conventions, enthusiastically engage any people who report having played your game, donate copies of your game to reviewers, wait patiently, refocus your goal away from "market success" and toward "having fun at your own table." These aren't mutually-exclusive things. You can try doing any or all of them.

    It's also possible that, and I say this with solemnity and compassion, this might not be the game that people are interested in. I've had designs that I loved that others didn't. The thing to do then is probably: continue to feel proud of your publishing endeavor, treat yourself to a fancy dinner as self-accolade, and have a critical think about whether you're still feeling excited about game design. And if you are, then fuck the haters, get to work on some more designs.
  • If you're not connected it takes time to reach an audience. It took two or three years before my game While the World Ends started gaining momentum and seeing actual play reports online and so on. (And now everyone's saying 'Why didn't anyone tell me about this game sooner?', but I suppose that's the way these things work.)
  • I would try to get a few people to actually play it an post play reports and talk about it. Real people who been playing the game and reviews it is more interesting then a game maker who post a link.
  • Thanks guys.

    @Mcdaldno its extremely hard to resist the urge to spam when you have invested such an amount of time in something and then watch a promotional post sink down the page and disappear with hardy a ripple. I know I shouldnt, but its hard, nevertheless.

    If anyone is willing to publish a review/actual play, good bad or indifferent, let me know and I will shoot a copy. Or a website that does such.
  • Hmm I think you could:

    1) Give out some copies to reviewers to get some reviews out there
    2) Put up some AP reports
    3) Run some games at conventions
    4) Try to get on some podcasts to talk about it

    As for who does reviews I would check out some popular gaming blogs, youtube guys, etc. Sorry, I'm don't know enough to be more specific.
  • Indie+ on Google+ posted a circle of RPG Bloggers yesterday, that could be a good starting place I suppose.
  • I've just looked at your user page here and there is nothing linking me to any of your games. I'd be happy to look at the games you've done but I'm aware we are now in a world where everyone and their cat is designing games. There are some great games out there that seem to go under everyone's radar and some incredibly over-rated stuff.

    One player's Holy text is another's lining for the hamster cage.
  • edited October 2012
    Stefoid, first of all, please don't take any of my comments as negative criticism of your approach.

    Ok so, echoing many of the other users' replies:
    1. Be regularly active on the forums. I hear what you're saying about not having time to forum-surf because you're spending that time actually making your game. I have the same problem, but I accept that if I were to just jump into a forum with a post about my game before I'd contributed in any meaningful way to the debates I would get pretty short shrift from folks. In fact that's precisely what I did do on this and a couple of other forums; I've learnt from this error, which is principally one of etiquette- it's like turning up to a party and expecting to be warmly welcomed even though you don't know the host or any of the other guests- and now make sure I introduce myself first, comment in a few threads that I have an interest in and so on, and only then- i.e. when folks have got to know me a bit- do I start talking about my game.
    2. Get people interested in your game by involving them in the design process, asking for help and advice with the mechanics, artwork and game world etc.- again, something I failed to do at first. This does two things: it gives people that all-important buy-in, and it helps you along the way because even if the people reading your posts aren’t interested in the type of game you’re offering, they will generally have useful ideas about how to achieve various design objectives.
    3. Remember that not all, perhaps hardly any, of your market will necessarily be active forum users so schlepping round cons is a must- you’ll get all the benefits of the above, plus people will actually be playing your game; if they like it they’ll tell all their friends about it and this means there’s a solid foundation for when you eventually publish.
    4. Make a youtube video, or better still try to persuade existing podcasts to do this for you by recording a play- I know you said you’ve done this already but it’s really a question of numbers- the more the better.
    5. Have a polished and professional-looking website. You don’t have to shell out vast sums of £/$ for this nowadays, but don’t make the mistake of thinking that if you just knock something together it’ll be ok. One of the reasons I haven’t got my own website up and running yet is that I want to work on the content and appearance until I’m happy that it looks reasonably appealing. A lot of designers nowadays make do with a blog (I’m currently in the process of setting one up myself), which I would say is a convenient short-term fix but you still need to think about a website long-term, with buy now buttons linking to payment sites most people trust, clear information about your game and all the prices (you’ll ideally need to make both print and e-pub versions available), and a well-presented reviews and comments section. And links to websites like this one.
    6. Be patient. Don’t panic if you don’t get many hits at first- give it time, bearing in mind that folks won’t necessarily make a purchasing decision immediately they hear about a game; moreover the decision won’t be made on seeing your site alone.

    Hope that helps. As I said above, none of it implies criticism of your approach so far, and a good deal of it is based on my own learning curve. Finally, remember that even the big names of today had to start somewhere, and every designer has been in the position you’re in now.

    Good luck dude! I wish you every success, and I look forward to seeing Ingenero on the shelves (even if it’s not my own personal pint of warm beer ;)).
  • I've just looked at your user page here and there is nothing linking me to any of your games.
    Hmm, how do you link games from the new SG profiles? I had pretty links to all my games in the old profile. But here I haven't managed to figure out how to do it.
  • edited October 2012
    People are much more likely to pay attention to:

    ...someone they've met in person. So find ways to meet people in person and play games with them.

    ...someone who contributes positively to a community they are part of. So make good stuff and share it.

    ...someone who helps others and contributes to their success. So help people.

    ...someone who doesn't relentlessly self-promote. So don't relentlessly self-promote.

    If you aren't doing some combination of those things a lot of people are just going to tune you out.

  • It's taken ~2 years for any game I've released for free to see regular play. Happened with both Geiger Counter and Metrofinal. Sometimes, you just have to be patient. If you're selling a game that no one's heard of, it might take even longer, due to the higher barrier of access, unless it has a super gripping and compelling concept that makes people want to buy it. But there's many other things you're competing with.

    The other thing is definitely: run your game for as many different people as you can, at local meetups, at conventions, over the internet, etc. If people have positive experiences they will play your game with other folks, gradually expanding your audience. I am very unlikely to find time to run a game that I'm only vaguely interested in, but I will sit down to play a new game of almost anything, just for a novel experience and to learn more about people and their designs.
  • Dropkick a dingo on main street. Though in a more serious manner, get out of the Indie group to pitch your game. I reckon what you made would do really well for first timers/initiates to clan RPGs and it should be shown. Drop a few books off to local gathering holes that aren't typical for our ilk. I would select a school or two, some game stores, whoever will accept it, really.

    Also, you could wrap your product with the scenarios made for the game. MANY, MANY, MANY games have a generic system with a setting, so keep your omnibus of the generic system plus the settings and really focus a setting that just so happens to use the system. People love a story, not hard numbers that tell them why your choice is better. I learned that about 2 months ago and it changed my approach for my own efforts.
  • Stefoid, I'm really sorry. I've just googled your game, I didn't realise you'd already published. D'oh! So, forget everything I said and follow Alex_Swingle's advice. Step outside the indie game world, and approach unis and game shops etc.
  • Another note, increasingly true:

    How you comport yourself online in general will influence whether people buy your stuff.

    If you get into unrighteous yelling matches, that will live on in some people's memories, and it'll have an effect on the light they view your future endeavors in. If someone calls you out (for saying something racist, for being a jerk, for design flaws, w/e), your response will have an effect. If you argue or dismiss, then in the future I will remember that and it'll be a point of dissuasion from investing in your stuff. If you respond constructively and demonstrate that you're listening, it'll be a point of persuasion toward investing in your stuff.

    If you be silly and creative in the [Make Stuff!] threads, and you are thoughtful and engaged in [Story Games] and [Play Advice] threads, and you respond to criticism respectfully (at least most of the time), and you challenge yourself to be a bastion of thoughtfulness, and you don't shill your stuff at every corner... it'll both make you friends and build a supportive audience for your design work.

    By being a good person, you become a bankable name, and that's a factor in how you sell stuff in small communities/markets.

    That's a slightly uncomfortable thing to say, because it can be paraphrased as "people buy your stuff based on you, not on your stuff." But it's true to some degree. For example: I've had the good fortune of having my games widely promoted/shared in social networks, and most of those shares have included sentences highlighting my personal character. Now, I've comported myself poorly online before, and still do so today in some instances. But I try to follow the advice I am giving in this post, and people notice that, and that's an influencing factor in their choice to buy & support my games. (feeling self-conscious about using myself as example, but w/e.)
  • Indie+ on Google+ posted a circle of RPG Bloggers yesterday, that could be a good starting place I suppose.
    Wilhelm, I've just noticed this post. G+ does seem to be gaining in popularity. Do you, or does anyone on this forum, have any direct experience of either promoting a game or even running internet games on it?

  • Does anyone have any tips or resources for how to promote your indie game?
    The things that make the difference in my experience are i) reviews, preferably by enthusiastic players of your game rather than some dude you sent a PDF to, and ii) general enthusiasm/actual play threads started by other people.

    Both of these things come ultimately from people who already like your game. Who are your playtesters? Who did your art, editing, and layout? Who has been waiting patiently for it to come out? Try to encourage those people to talk about your game on the forums and blogs that they frequent. Not spamming or shilling for you, just showing their honest enthusiasm for it.

  • edited October 2012
    People are much more likely to pay attention to:


    ...someone who helps others and contributes to their success. So help people.

    This. And not just because it will help you sell your game, hypothetically, hopefully, someday.

    It will also give you a reason not to despair, even when your game is being ignored, because you can say, "Hey, my game hasn't gotten there yet, but this other game that has a bit of me in it has."

    At least that is how I feel whenever a game I've played, and enjoyed, and supported, including Ingenero, has made a significant step forward.
    Though in a more serious manner, get out of the Indie group to pitch your game.
    And this. Dwelling too much in one small, insular community--one filled primarily with people who may not recognize your innovations or who may share different design goals--can be soul-crushing. Particularly if it leads you to believe that you need to play personality politics in order to sell your game. Don't let a community--particularly a tiny one--remake you. Find some people who you do have something in common with, people who are receptive, even if they don't have name recognition or published games or successful kickstarters, and reach out to them personally.

    Start to build your own community. It'll take a long fucking time, and won't help you move units today, but it will be psychologically better for you, and creatively better for the world of RPGs.
  • I didn't know what game you were talking about until this discussion really got started. I actually checked out Ingenero a while back and found it really interesting. I'll tell you why I didn't end up buying it because it seems like you want honesty. It's something that a few other people mentioned: the fact that it's a generic system. I think most people already have a go-to generic system with a lot of published support at this point. What interests me are games with rulesets specifically tailored for what they do, and I think this is a really common opinion in the indie gamer world.

    If you're willing to reboot your launch (and I don't see why you wouldn't be), you could try this: take your best setting, the one that you love above the others and fits the tightest with the rules set (there's gotta be a favorite, right?), and tweak Ingenero to wrap around it and it alone. Call it an Ingenero game, that's the name of your system, but make this game a unique vision of the system that really nails the setting, even if it means that it doesn't quite fit another scenario/setting that you've got.

    Think about how many games do this! So many games. If you've got a system wrapped tightly around a premise I am way more likely to buy it, regardless of what that premise is. The games that have excited me the most over the past few months are probably Durance, Our Last Best Hope, and Dungeon World (itself a hack of another system). These games have nothing in common with one another, except that they emulate their genre really well. I can think of a million-and-one ways to hack them apart and make them do other genres or playsets, and that's part of the fun. That's what sells me, at least!

    (p.s. If you do this, I gotta say that personally I think Nights of the Crusades looks cool; it's something I don't think I've ever seen before.)
  • @Scrape I agree. This is why I have 5 scenarios (100 pages) included with the core rules (70 pages). Any why Ive tagged the game as 'play like a HBO series' because that is its niche - situations featuring a tight cast of characters where the focus is as much on the interaction between the characters as it is on the events surrounding them. The Bogeymen scenario is probably the strongest in that regard.

    So its more like a generic theme than a specific theme. I dont know how to promote that other than how I have.

    Probably it just requires a combination of writing talent and inspiration that hits a spot with a particular scenario and drags the system along for the ride.
  • Gotcha. Maybe you should play up that aspect more, then. I thought it was a universal system, not a focused genre thing, that's pretty important. What exactly does "like an HBO series" mean to you? I've never watched one, I'll confess, so I don't know what exactly the game does well. Can you explain the genre in terms that a dude without HBO can understand? Maybe you gotta broaden the pitch.
  • @Scrape Ill re-edit the website front page, cheers
  • I'd consider signing up with project wonderful and advertising on the 'play this thing' ad square they have, for a solid week. Basically if the ads there for long enough, people who keep coming back keep seeing it, which increases their curiosity points. It just needs to be up for quite some time. I've had that happen to me - the ads been there long enough that curiosity pips me. With project wonderful you can also put up ads for free here and there by finding them with their search engine - only downside is you have to enter the ads manually.

    I'd also suggest writing on a blog about the book every week day or such. Take a small section and give some designer perspective. The constant posts will slowly grow your blog traffic.

    Remember Gygax did alot of wargaming prior to D&D - as you say, that is alot of networking already done.

    Other than that, my inner cynic says it's trends - some of the people who sell alot of books, if no one knew about them then they would sell alot less or none.

    Anyway, alot of people might say you shouldn't do this or you shouldn't do that in advertising, but in the end they don't do anything towards helping you so don't listen to them too much (the only reason to listen a little is in case they actually get actively obstructive in your pursuit of selling the product - which makes them pretty nasty).

    Everyone seems to have rules for good behaviour, but they don't seem to have rules for how rice gets to your dinner plate.

  • Anyway, alot of people might say you shouldn't do this or you shouldn't do that in advertising, but in the end they don't do anything towards helping you so don't listen to them too much (the only reason to listen a little is in case they actually get actively obstructive in your pursuit of selling the product - which makes them pretty nasty).

    Everyone seems to have rules for good behaviour, but they don't seem to have rules for how rice gets to your dinner plate.

    Oh, and I had an awesome conversation with Kyle Simons last night for the podcast, and one potentially valuable recommendation came out of it is to try reaching out, personally, to other, more established designers whose work you admire. They might be willing to help you in ways that you didn't anticipate. Sometimes people who seem to be ignoring you are actually just too busy to respond to threads on Story Games or, and might be very willing to offer help on a one-on-one basis once you approach them.
  • You need to run this game in person and online. Use Google Hangouts for online game play, but try to go to local cons, meetups, etc and run it there.

    Almost all the cases of "larger than small indie internet success" came from the posting of enthusiastic supporters of the game. The enthusiastic supporters weren't just friends/connections, they were friends or strangers that they actually physically ran the game for.

    So your next steps should be less squeezing marketing out of the internet-stone, and actually getting out there to run the game, in person if possible or online (G+ etc) if not.

  • Building off of Andy's point, Indie+ is happening again very soon. Maybe you could run a hangout game of Ingenero then.
  • Yep, totally I should try running this thing for others. Its hard because of time commitments and aussie time shift, but theoretically possible!
  • Cheers, Callan , I hadnt seen PTT before - loosk like a nice site to visit.
  • Stefoid, is there a shop in Melbourne where I can buy a copy? (I live in Geelong)

    :) Snake_Eyes
  • edited October 2012
    I've been thinking about this a lot since I finished Bad Family. Today I re-read two posts by Seth Godin and they suddenly seemed full of wisdom:

    No-one ever bought anything on an elevator:
    "If your elevator pitch is a hyper-compressed two-minute overview of your hopes, dreams and the thing you've been building for the last three years, you're doing everyone a disservice. I'll never be able to see the future through your eyes this quickly, and worse, if you've told me what I need to know to be able to easily say no, I'll say no.

    The best elevator pitch doesn't pitch your project. It pitches the meeting about your project. The best elevator pitch is true, stunning, brief and it leaves the listener eager (no, desperate) to hear the rest of it. ... "I quit my job as an Emmy-winning actress to do this because..." or "Our company is profitable and has grown 10% per week, every week, since July," or "The King of Spain called me last week about the new project we just launched."

    More conversations and fewer announcements."
    The Acute Heptagram of Impact:
    "Your project's success is going to be influenced in large measure by the reputation of the people who join in and the organization that brings it forward. That's nothing you can completely change in a day, but it's something that will change (like it or not) every day.

    None of this matters if you and your team don't persist, and your persistence will largely be driven by the desire you have to succeed, which of course is relentlessly undermined by the fear we all wrestle with every day.

    These seven elements: Strategy, Tactics, Execution, Reputation, Persistence, Desire and Fear, make up the seven points of the acute heptagram of impact. If your project isn't working, it's almost certainly because one or more of these elements aren't right. And in my experience, it's all of them. We generally pick the easiest and safest one to work on (probably tactics) without taking a deep breath and understanding where the real problem is."
  • @Steve_Hickey, youve inspired me to change my website opening paragraphs.
  • Just a passing note that being confrontational, at some level or some other, wins you eyeballs on the Internet. That doesn't mean that I actually recommend being an Internet villain or troll, mind you, but it does mean that — while most of my game-buying habits are based on already knowing the designer (either because of their previous works or because I've been having lots of friendly interaction, and preferably face-to-face interaction, with them) — I do tend to pay more attention to game designs which are pitched as a challenge to established paradigms of game design, or as covering new and uncharted territory. "Attention" may of course translate either to sales or to non-sales, depending on other factors, but is still a prerequisite. I my case, usually it translates to a sale when I'm persuaded that your game is going to fit into my short-term play schedule, which is of course a hugely subjective measure; sometimes I'm not able to know that from promotional materials (in which case, no sale), which also implies I'm much more likely to buy a game I've already been able to play or read before buying it.
  • This thread has been a huge eye-opener for me. As such, I'm not able to contribute a lot besides saying: @stefoid I know how you feel! And now I'm gonna check out Ingenero, so I know what everyone's talking about. ;)

  • Stefoid, I think the rewrite of your site's front page is great: it's short and it made me want to click on some other links to find out more. I have some ideas about how to rephrase how you talk about your system (on the link), but I don't want to derail this thread. Whisper me if you're interested.
  • Hey @Steve_Hickey , are you advocating a 'tease' type of approach? Like, if I make 3 ambit (but interesting and attention-grabbing claims), are you suggesting that I dont try to back these up, but rather just leave it hanging as an enticement for people to buy the game and see for themselves?
  • When I look at what Seth suggested:
    "I quit my job as an Emmy-winning actress to do this because..." or "Our company is profitable and has grown 10% per week, every week, since July," or "The King of Spain called me last week about the new project we just launched."
    ... I see things that establish credibility (Emmy-winning actress launches webseries; the King of Spain is on board), intrigue me (the King of Spain called you) or establish successes. Things that get me to read more and find out why what this person is claiming is true.

    (For a reader, that's probably the equivalent of starting a conversation.)

    Your blurb on the Ingenero site's front page is short and easily to digest, and made me want to click on some links to find out how it creates emotionally charged drama.

    So, the front page was you starting the conversation. Me getting intrigued and clicking on the link was how I responded. Maybe whatever link I click on next should have the material I need to answer my questions ... and maybe suggest some ways the conversation could go next (but not much else). Using the conversation analogy, that means you're not monologuing at me - you're giving me a chance to engage.

    It's the thing I click on next, that's where you back up your claims.

    At a higher level, though, the conversation really refers to the ongoing process of doing everything everyone's mentioned above: form connections, find your audience, actually play it, etc, etc.

    Also: to promote another couple of Seth Godin posts that have always seemed relevant to me:
    Advice for Authors (2005)
    Advice for Authors (2006)
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