4 min read

The Viral Formula

How do you get your game in front of more eyes? Build a referral and viral strategy.

Originally posted on

Believe it or not, people actually enjoy finding new and interesting things and sharing them with their friends. The challenge is really about giving your community and user base something worth sharing with their friends. I constantly find Indie Games churning out interviews or press releases, which are great, but not specifically meant for your intended audience. 

Here’s my bad flowchart to try and give you an idea visually of what I’m saying.

Viral recipe

If you have an audience that is already interested in what you’re doing, that is yourcommunity audience. You’re obviously going to interact and communicate with them very differently then someone who has never seen your game before - non community audience. Anyone who is apart of your target demographic is apart of your total audience. The goal here is to understand how to propel viral content so they feel like sharing.

Creating material that is meant to be shared with large audiences is an art form. The material has to be easy enough to interpret (even if you’ve had little or no exposure to the game) but interesting enough for someone to consider it worth their time to engage with.



Looking back to when StarCraft was a major competitive e-sport, they started a robust campaign for their expansion title The Heart of the Swarm. Users were flooded with a variety of media types to cater to different types of users.

- New gameplay mechanics/units were demonstrated with videos for competitive and hardcore gamers to see what they could expect

- Graphic art (like below) was shared with the connected community for those very excited about the existing franchise to spread their excitement.

- Cinematic trailers were funded to create buzz about the expanded universe of the game.

All of these assets were meant to ensure a non community member was left with the question “Is that a game? A movie?” They have questions they likely want to answer and will dig deeper to answer them. This is what you want a non community member’s reaction to be. What about those already excited about the game? These assets released regularly will continue to engage their attention and even encourage them to share with their friends to share the excitement.

Viral Marketing

I really want to stress that press releases and community management are very strong components of your marketing with important functions. I don’t want to undermine these functions and create a “trump” card of marketing. Any time you have specific groups of demographics in your target market, a form of communication specifically crafted for them will generally work better than a “one size fits all” mode.Community management and press & interviews should be your marketing staples with viral assets being the icing on the cake.

It’s really about creating a wide spread of content that all types of people can get excited about. I’ve seen it happen time and time again where a small indie studio puts out a small trailer about their game, with game play footage, and the gaming community loses their mind! April 2013 I spoke with the team at The Forest who put out a small trailer (see video below) that went viral. Within days, they had over 200k users on Steam pledging they would buy it upon release. So what can you take away from this discussion and do for yourself?


Build a Media Tool Kit

Inside any good game release (big or small) is a studio releasing a ton of content to the community on what will make the game worth playing. It’s important to not only use the right media format but to use the right media format for a specific piece of content that you’re releasing.

Screen Shots

These should not only highlight the graphics, but the atmosphere and mood your game is set in. The important lesson I’ve learned with screenshots is that quality > quantity. Putting out 2 dozen screen shots of basic gameplay footage leaves nothing to the imagination. Give a taste, but not the whole bite.

Game Play Videos

My eyes bleed when I see random gameplay footage that has been linked together. You need to communicate a story, a driven narrative, in your video. Again, I’m going to reference The Forest for their amazing job of putting together an engaging gameplay video that creates short story in just a minute and a half.

Concept Art

How is this different from Screenshots? Concepts art explain the story/theme/setting of a game (qualitative components) whereas screenshots describe the mechanics of a game(quantitative). Both are important, and appeal to different sets of people.


Are you putting together a media kit? Are you starting to advertise your new title? Feel free to reach out to me for a brain storm session!

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