So you've spent the last two years making the perfect game, have a distribution deal all lined up and have preorders all set to make your game a success, that means you got everything handled right?
Not exactly, as there is one often overlooked area that may not seem that big of a deal, yet it can hurt you when you least expect it and that's having a good website. For today's post we're going to examine some elements that any developer should have that should be standard in today's market.
Why do you need a site?
Thanks to digital distribution, many developers get an easy to update store page that has everything a consumer needs to be able to buy their game. And that makes it easy to assume that you won't need a game site or if you do have one, that you can ignore updating it in favor of a store page.
However there are several reasons why you not just need a game site but a good one. First is simply for information purposes: Someone has heard about your game from a friend of a friend and wants to find out more information about it or you as a developer. This is vitally important as many journalists will look to your company site to set up interviews if you haven't hired a PR company to handle those matters.
While a store page is great for selling a game, it doesn't provide a lot of space to talk in depth about you or your game. Having a game site alleviates that issue and lets you have as much room as you want to tell someone about your game.
Next is that while digital stores are popular, there are still gamers out there who prefer buying direct from a developer and avoiding dealing with DRM. While this market may not be as big as the people on a service like Steam, having a standalone option (if applicable) will avoid segregating that audience.
Talking about how to design a website and the costs that go with it is too big of a topic for this post, but we can talk about some elements that a good site has.
What your Site Needs:
Many AAA and AA developers have both a company site and unique sites dedicated to each of their games/series. This is great for companies with a lot of money and titles to show off but for Indie developers on the other hand, a unified game and company site is enough.
As we mentioned above, your site should have information about who you are, what your game/games are about and contact information as a bare minimum. Do not hide your contact information at the bottom of your page in fine print, journalists who want to contact you for interviews don't want to play "Where's Waldo" just to send you an email.
There should also be links to buy your game obviously. You should have links to any stores that sell your game and if you have a standalone version, there should be a link for that as well. If you need help setting up payment options for your site, third party companies can help you on that front. One other small thing you need to be aware of when selling games direct from your site, if stores are running sales on your game, you should update your site to reflect the current lowest price.
You don't want someone to think that you are trying to trick people into spending more money and if your game is on sale, there's a good chance people will go to your site to check out your game anyway.
"You don't want someone to think that you are trying to trick people into spending more money..."
This is absolutely critical. You want your site to look like it was put together by professionals who know what they're doing and are interested in long-terms survival. To this end, it might also be worth investing in having an HTTPS version of your site, if possible, especially if people are able to buy direct from it -- Tom Murray: Tech Director for Melty Games
Another important detail if you go with standalone versions of your game is to also have a place for patches where people can download them from.
One option to consider is having a forum. Forums allow users to talk about your game and help build a community of fans. It also gives easy access for people to report bugs and other issues with your game. If you are already on Steam and have access to a forum page, a second forum might not be necessary.
But if you are trying to build your game company and have multiple games under your belt, a forum is a good next step to help foster your fan base. Some popular options for developers looking for forum software would be Vbulletin or XenForo, but examining forum software is another topic too big for this post.
Next we have information that's important for growing your company site: News/blog updates and screenshots and videos. These last features aren't as important as the ones already mentioned, but they can help round out your website and make it feature complete.
Last but not least is one detail that is a no brainer but needs to be mentioned: Your site should not have ads on it, period. Ads can devalue a website and as a developer your main source of profit should be from your games, not from ads all over your site.
With everyone trying to make a name for themselves and their title, it's important to have a well designed website as a foundation for your company. No one should have to hunt down information about your game and whether it's the first or last thing you do before releasing your game, you need to have a good website.
(Reprinted from the Xsolla Blog)