My position at Failbetter Games (Sunless Sea, Fallen London, Dragon Age: The Last Court) is my first job in games. I've worked in communications and marketing for big brands in the UK since 2007. These thoughts are based on getting to know this industry over the last year:
1. Indie games studios need good marketers
No matter how brilliant your game is: if no-one has heard of it, no-one will buy it. Marketing is an essential but hidden craft.
It’s ok not to know How To Do Marketing. I know it gives a lot of small developers the collywobbles. If you’re a one-man or small team, you’re already likely to be gathering skills all over the shop, with marketing lurking at the end of a long list. Go and find an authentic and enthusiastic person who Gets Games and has marketing experience, and bring them in as early as you can.
Marketers who game: go to a games conference and make some friends! There are so many opportunities. And it’s REALLY FUN.
2. Community is everything
In indie games, your community is everything. The gaming community at large cares more about games than any other community I’ve worked in cares about anything. Their ratings, recommendations, reviews, feedback, fanart, streams and videos are worth their weight in gold. Investing in your community is crucial to your future.
3. Community is hard
It takes fortitude to mediate between a development team and their community. Communities are bigger than you, they have a longer memory than you, and often they know more about what you’ve made than you do.
Don’t take feedback personally. Try and take yourself out of the equation, and think about what they’re really saying. It doesn’t matter how many times you hear the same piece of feedback or in what kind of language people give it to you, keep looking for the insight which will improve your game.
4. Failure is great
Failbetter is not just a clever name. We accept failure as something that happens despite planning and best efforts. If you’re okay with making mistakes, you’ll take more chances! The hard part is failing better the next time: own your mistakes, develop your resilience, and make the next thing. This counts for marketing ideas just as much as it does for games.
5. That feeling is called Crunch, and it isn’t ok
The games industry isn’t alone in having crunch periods. The bone-dry exhaustion borne of working over your hours every day is often the norm in comms work: it never ends, unless your employer supports you to put boundaries on it.
We are protected against crunch in every department at Failbetter, from the top of the company down to the freshest intern. It encourages all of us to be honest about our workload, and for a comms person, it helps me educate on what’s achievable when you’re legit working 37 hours a week and then going home to play Yoshi’s Woolly World with your wife (another 37-hour-a-week commitment).