Our game BFF or Die recently got Greenlit after a week. We’re a small team of three without any investor/publisher support so it felt like a great result for us. This article will mention our approach both in Greenlight and more widely. It may be useful if you’re an indie dev also making games primarily funded by the currency of your own graft and you’re thinking about Greenlight.
Greenlight is one more bit of public promotion we have done so far. Our general approach has been:
Test and show at public events
Make observations and gather feedback
This seems to be working well. Based on player/youtuber reactions we’re pretty sure we have an engaging game that has it’s own ‘feel’. What we don’t know is if anyone will actually buy it. We’ll just have to finish development, release and find out at some point..!
First, an overview of the results just before being Greenlit, at which point new visitors to the page cannot vote.
Page views: 2,171
Yes votes: 779 (55%)
No votes: 602 (42%)
‘Ask me later’ votes: 43 (3%)
Rank: 79% of the way to the top 100
(The stats page Valve give you show a graph of your votes trajectory compared to the current top 100 game so we could see we were on track to surpassing that)
Almost all the traffic came in the first 3-4 days and then it dried up. I updated the trailer and the page after a couple days to address a comment showing that we had not communicated the depth of game mechanics clearly enough. Since being approved we’ve been getting a bit more traffic to the page and at the time of writing the stats are:
Page views: 3,693
Yes votes: 813 (56%)
No votes: 606 (41%)
‘Ask me later’ votes: 43 (3%)
The yes/no split seems roughly consistent with what I have heard from other devs. Perhaps if the modified page and trailer had been there from the start the ratio would have been a bit better, but nevermind.
Pre Launch Assessment
Before launching on Greenlight I spoke to some dev friends who had recently been Greenlit in a relatively short space of time. The impression I got was that the majority of traffic would be internal. Having external traffic from game sites would be great but not a pass or fail factor.
Rather than needing an extensive marketing campaign (we don’t have a budget for that anyway), I thought we should be ok with a nice icon, a nice trailer and telling anyone who already knows/likes the game that we were on Greenlight. We’ve been developing BFF or Die for two years and taken it to a fair amount of local and national (in the UK) public gaming and dev events. We’re lucky to have a bunch of friends and peeps we’ve met on our travels who are happy to support us and help us push the game forward closer to release.
Fuck it, Let’s Just Do it
We had been discussing Greenlight for quite a while and had planned to make a nice animated trailer, thinking we should have something that stands out rather than just show gameplay footage.
One of the challenges with BFF or Die is communicating why it’s fun to people who have not played it. Devising a suitable trailer was not easy. At events people typically play in 2, 3 or 4 player mode and quickly get how needing each other for survival combined with the real time strategy element, procedural maps and vulnerable characters makes for an exciting, novel and funny game experience with an unusually strong feeling of camaraderie.
Things had been dragging on and still we didn’t have a trailer. One of my facebook friends, who I met when he played the game at Radius Festival 2014, told me about the PC Gamer Weekender which I hadn’t heard about (cheers Karl!). I applied for us to be part of the indie section and they said...yes! I was getting frustrated with our lack of progress so suggested we make a simple quick trailer and upload to Greenlight in time for the event. Then we could ask people who played and enjoyed it to vote for us. So... after a week of trying different things, getting feedback from dev friends and not getting much sleep we had something to show. We all have day jobs so like many, finding dev time can be challenging. External deadlines for events and competitions have always been how we’ve pushed the game forwards.
Main Marketing/PR Activities That We Did Try
- Asked visitors and other devs who enjoyed playing at the PC Gamer Weekender to vote for us on the spot if possible and and gave them a slip of paper with the shortlink url too. (Thanks to @richgizmo for making a shortlink for us as we had no internet connection!)
- Privately asked dev friends on facebook and twitter to vote for us and/or share the post. I’ve been active in the London game dev community for a few years and met many friendly peeps who have played the game and given feedback and suggestions. It’s very cool that indie devs are often happy to help each other. 'London Indies' as some of us call it is a great community and the feedback I've received over the years about my games has been a big part of my game design education.
- Posted in the Reddit local multiplayer games forum.
- Tweeted a fair amount although tried not to be too spammy. Also tweeted a couple influential people I don’t know that well but who have played/seen BFF and seemed to like it. One example being Raph Koster who played an early version at Wikimania 2014 in London. He had been positive about it (after highlighting the many things wrong with the visual feedback or lack of it) saying something along the lines of ‘You’ve done the hard part of making engaging multiplayer gameplay, now just fix the rest’. So I thought I’d mention it to him as he seemed nice, and indeed he tweeted about it for us :)
- Mentioned it to some of the Youtubers who made vids of BFF and made sure the makers of the clips in the trailer were cool with it before going live.
- Emailed a modest list of people who had played at previous events. Although around 600-800 people have played it at events by now we didn’t start collecting emails until a few events ago. Mistake! Should have done it from day 1. Now I use a spreadsheet on google docs and keep it on my tablet for events.
- Wrote a press release and sent to PR site Gamespress.
- Emailed a few game journalists to let them know about the Greenlight page.
- Added a Greenlight link on our itch.io page.
More Marketing We Had Planned But Got Greenlit Before We Did It. Which is Nice Because I Was Thinking “Oh Shit, Traffic Has Dried Up and We Haven’t Been Approved Yet. Shit Shit Shit”. So We Did This Stuff After That.
- Update our thread on the Tig forums.
- Update our thread on the RPS forums.
- Update our page on Indie DB.
- Update our page on Game Jolt.
- Release a new version of the demo with a bug fix for the control pads on Windows on itch, indiedb and gamejolt.
We probably woried about Greenlight for too long before actually doing it which lead to some 'wasted' time. Having a short deadline to make a trailer turned out to be a good thing. Of course we'll try and make a better one for whatever future promotion we do but this one turned out to be good enough for it's purpose.
From talking to other devs before we launched, having our own positive experience and then noticing more indies I know being Greenlit in a short time period, it seems Greenlight is working quite well these days. In the past I’d heard stories of some games taking months/years to pass but Valve seems to have improved their system of checking/approving games regularly.
One point to note is that all the other devs I am thinking of in that evaluation have been promoting their games publically throughout development by taking it to events and posting stuff online. One dev friend suggested Valve staff who monitor Greenlight are inclined to view a dev as more “serious” if they are making these efforts to publicise their games.
Feel free to tweet me should you so desire. My username is @HoneyTribeStu. 'Cos HoneyTribeStudios wouldn’t fit, HoneyTribeStud did but I thought I’d go for the family friendly version instead. Mistake! :D