This post-mortem was originally posted on the P.A.M.E.L.A. Development blog here.
The whys and hows of P.A.M.E.L.A.'s Greenlight journey
After a crazy week-and-a-half of possitive feedback, refreshing tabs, and all other sorts of crazyness, P.A.M.E.L.A. has been Greenlit! In the spirit of mind-sharing with the community, I’ve done a post-mortem look back on the Greenlight process.
I’ll try to break down how we approached it, and what I think were the most important points. As you probably already know, Greenlight is fairly black-box in a lot of ways, so I won’t pretend to understand all of its ins and outs! In terms of the actual length of time it takes to get Greenlit, it seems to be somewhat random; Valve doesn’t seem to have a specific rhyme or reason behind the timing on batches anymore, so don’t overthink that aspect too much.
You can check out our (now Greenlit) page here!
Statistics! Everyone loves those right?
First of all, let’s start with some stats: we were at the #1 spot after our first 48 hours, and were Greenlit in 10 days after submission. Our Yes / No votes were 88% / 9%, with 3% Ask Me Later.
For those who love pie:
With that out of the way, I’ll get into breaking down what I think are the main points that helped us make a splash on Greenlight. I’ll try to keep everything quite generic so the information can be applied to all kinds of projects, not specifically a survival-horror-fps!
The first thing I will say, because I’ll be referencing this a lot…
1:Use the Google Analytics ID for in depth-analytics!
While Greenlight does provide some basic stats and analytics, you’re able to use Google Analytics to view much more detailed statistics on your Greenlight page. This won’t get you more votes directly, but you’ll have access to a whole ton of extra info as to where your traffic is coming from. I would highly recommend setting this up before you launch your campaign, it is extremely valuable to know where users are coming from, and what they’re doing once they arrive.
Here’s how to set up the integration:
If you’re not familiar with Google Analytics, there are a bunch of quick start tutorials online, and it’s quite easy to set up. You just need a Google Account to tie it to, and a few hours of clicking around to figure it all out.
On another Analytics related note, check out this cool site we found recently, it’s basically a public database of Greenlight game rankings, votecounts, etc. We only found out about it at the very end of our campaign, but it could be helpful in seeing how your game is stacking up.
2: Put a lot of thought into your branding image (icon)
This point is all about your first impression to someone browsing Greenlight. Ultimately someone will have 3 entry points to your Greenlight page:
- Browsing by icons in the Most Recent list, or the Voting Queue,
- Clicking next after voting on a previous item, or
- Direct links to your page
According to our Google Analytics which you can see below, a majority of our traffic came from Direct, which by my understanding refers to clicks happening within Steam. Referrals also included a few thousand clicks from within Steam, again I’m assuming these fall into one of the the top 2 categories.
It’s a bit hard to see exactly here, but “Within Steam” clicks accounted for about 12,000, with social/external links/Google search accounting for the remaining 5,000. It’s hard to say for sure, but I’d guess that of those 12,000 in Steam clicks, probably 3/4 of them came from clicks on the icon. I’d love to have some more analytics concerning this, but for now a guess will have to do.
Anyways, that’s a long way of saying that clicks on our icon probably accounted for a good 50% of our total views. This is a huge number obviously, and a lackluster icon could have seriously diminished this number.
So how did we go about designing our icon?
The first thing we did was browse Greenlight, and picked the most eye-catching icon from each page of entries. We found that quite often, the page was full of busy, highly animated logos that tried to cram a lot of information into a small space. In some ways this makes sense; you want to convey as much info as possible into your first impression.
However, we found ourselves gravitating more to the simple, bold icons which were often just a stylized logo on a classy background of some sort. Of course this was just our impression, but in light of this little experiment, we ended up taking a similar approach in designing our icon.
What we ended up with was this; a slightly glitchy, contrasty logo which features our logo prominently, with some moody, mildly colorful background. This combination of tonal contrast, along with color contrast, came together nicely to be fairly dramatic.
I’d highly suggest making mock ups, i.e. Photoshopping your proposed icon into a typical Greenlight thumbnail view, to see if your icon makes an impression when looking at a page full of icons.
3: Include lots of media to convey quantity of content
Now that you’ve gotten someone to click your shiny new icon, making sure they have some quality content to go through is super important. The most important thing here is probably the first video you have slotted, which will be what everyone sees first. However, when we were discussing this in the studio before posting our page, one thing that came up was that some people like to quickly click through screenshots first before they commit to watching a full video. So you definitely want to make sure that all of the media you have available is high quality, and consistent (avoid screens from different development stages, that’s what dev blogs are for).
We uploaded a TON of screenshots; most were taken directly from the trailer, so in a sense, they weren’t all presenting “new” information on top of the trailer, they were simply providing another avenue for users to browse our content. I would suggest having as many screenshots as possible up to 20 or so, unless you’d be showing unfinished content or adding unnecessary padding to reach this number. If you can only go with 6 great screens, that’s better than dumping 25 mediocre screens any day of the week. If you can inspire someone’s imagination, they can extrapolate what other awesome content may exist in your game.
And of course, lead with your strongest screens. You can see 3.5-4.5 screens at on the landing page, depending on how many videos you’ve posted, so make sure those ones are particularly great.
4: Create a thorough description with image headers
Now that you’ve hooked them with your shiny images and videos, it’s time to offer up some nice meaty text and info about your game. Now, this is going to vary heavily between games, but in general, having catchy image headers is almost always a nice touch. We started with a nice general introductory paragraph, getting the most important and basic info out of the way first. Then we followed up with a bullet point key gameplay features, before moving into more detailed paragraphs elaborating further. Going from general to specific helps because users can get a taste without having to read through huge chunks of text.
5: Time up your Greenlight launch with another exciting “thing”
This part requires a bit of pre-planning (doesn’t everything in game development?), but can be very helpful in boosting your traffic from outside sources. For example, in our case we revealed our new trailer (see below!) at the same time our Greenlight page went live, which meant that all of the media presence from the trailer was a big contributor to our total traffic. As I said earlier, social and external sources accounted for about a third of our total traffic, so this definitely made a huge impact in our case.
Since you don’t HAVE to rush creating your Greenlight page at a specific time, I would recommend waiting until a point at which you can post/announce something pretty major, preferably in video form because those are great for sharing. Timing up with a specific event might also be a good strategy; really, anything that will get you noticed outside of Greenlight can only help your case. I also gave a presentation at Unite Boston about P.A.M.E.L.A. during this same time frame, so this may have also helped improve visibility in the game development community.
5.5: Work with a PR company to distribute press releases
I’d call this last step a bonus, if you can justify it. For our announcement trailer back at GDC, we were doing all of the legwork ourselves, sending cold emails all over the place to see what would stick. This does take up quite a bit of time; even if you’re doing it yourself, you need to remember that your time is money! We did end up getting a fair degree of exposure, getting articles on Polygon, Kotaku, and Rock Paper Shotgun among others, but it didn’t necessarily have as much planning behind it as it could have.
This time around, we worked with Plan of Attack, a PR agency who helped prepare and distribute a press release to spread the word about the trailer and Greenlight. It ended up working very well, giving us a nice boost of traffic and visibility across the world. If you’re looking to work with a PR firm for your game, I’d definitely suggest shopping around to see who might be a good fit in terms of past work, localization, and of course personality. Communication is really important, and it’s crucial to make sure that the message going out reflects what your game and studio is all about.
Anyway, that’s it for this week’s brain dump. Hope there was some helpful info in there, and of course feel free to ask any questions that come to mind, I love talking about this stuff!