[The GameDiscoverCo game discovery newsletter is written by ‘how people find your game’ expert & GameDiscoverCo founder Simon Carless, and is a regular look at how people discover and buy video games in the 2020s.]
Look, folks, games are a visual medium. So it shouldn’t be surprising that for many (but not all) games, YouTubers and Twitch streamers can be a vital discovery tool.
I’ve been doing some (minor!) advising to Luke Schneider of Radiangames as he preps his ‘destroy ‘em up’ Instruments Of Destruction, for example. And he’s already seeing the positive effects of giving early alphas to streamers such as the 975k subscriber Raptor (see below).
But what are best practices for video game discovery and streamers? For me, it’s not solely about using large automated services to request or send out keys (though that can be helpful too!), and the ecosystem is actually surprisingly large and complex.
When we talked about this on the GameDiscoverCo Plus Discord recently, there was some very useful insight from Adam Lieb of Gamesight, whose company actually has an influencer discovery database (but is keen to note that his advice is completely platform-independent - which it is!) So here’s a brief chat with Adam on best practices:
What's the best approach to targeting streamers with free keys that you've seen? (Should it be a multi-pronged approach?)
The best approach is multi-faceted. Creators receive multiple emails each day and often don’t have time to review every free game offer. While it’s a nice gesture, if there’s not a paid opportunity tied to it, it tends to be overlooked.
There are a few things that can help increase awareness and interest for free keys that every developer should consider.
- Community managers or official social accounts: The biggest problem with free keys is often the lack of awareness. For several creators, their business email is managed by an agency or a talent manager. That means a creator may not ever even see the offer. To combat this, developers and community managers should be making resources like free key programs and partnerships available using platforms like Twitter.
- Targeted outreach: For acceptance it is critical to ensure that you are reaching out to creators who traditionally enjoy games like the one we are advertising. Firing a generic email to the top 50 streamers is unlikely to yield any results.
- Being intentional: Who are your creators? Do they represent the community you want to have playing your game? What does the body of your email look like? What information does it share about your game? Does it explain why you chose this person to preview your game? Authenticity and transparency goes a long way. No one just wants to be another address off a mass email list.
Is it good enough to just search by specific games that streamers have played, or are there other factors?
An important metric to pair with games streamers have played is viewership percent change based on game/genre. If a streamer has played a game similar to yours, but half her audience tuned out when she turned it on, she is likely not a great fit for your game as she knows (or should know) it is going to cost her half of her audience.
On the other hand, if you find a creator who has built a community of viewers who love games in your genre and they receive steady or growing viewership when they stream those games, that is likely to be a great match.
When we look at performance (sales driven by individual creators) the number one metric that matters is what percent of that creator’s audience watches games like your game. The audience is what really matters. A creator may absolutely love your game but if his audience isn’t a fan of the genre it won’t convert into revenue. Focus on target audiences within your game genre if you care about driving sales.
How personalized do you think you should get with pitches to streamers? (Are too generic emails a turn-off?)
This depends on how much streamers see themselves benefitting from the sponsorships. If you’re asking influencers to make content about your game for free, you’ll have better success with personalized pitches that emphasize other benefits they’ll receive from the partnership (such as increased channel visibility playing highly-anticipated games before they’re released, or free access to a game that aligns with the tastes of their audience).
Brand matters a lot here as well. If the creator has heard of your game (make sure to include this in the subject line of any outreach), studio, or publisher the odds that they’ll keep reading increase dramatically.
(As an exception, small content creators getting paid a fair, flat rate for sponsored videos don’t mind generic emails in the initial stages of outreach.)
If you're thinking of paying streamers to stream your game, do you use a similar quality sorting methodology, or are there other things to bear in mind?
Target the audience, not the creator. At the end of the day you are paying to get your game in front of those audiences, not just to have a creator play your game. The number one stat we look at is “percentage of audience in target” where we look at what other games a creator’s audience engages with and whether or not those are competitive/similar games. Spray and pray platforms can’t provide you with that insight.
Ignore vanity metrics (followers, subscribers, total views) and focus on what actually matters:
- How influential is this creator in the creator community for my game genre?
- How loyal is this creator’s audience to this creator versus how loyal are they to that creator’s primary game?
- What is the anticipated viewership drop off for my game?
- What is the game concentration for this creator (are they ‘variety’, or focused on just one game)?
Finally, prioritize diversity of creators. You don’t have just one type of player who will play your game, so you shouldn’t have just one type of content creator being sponsored either.
What are the biggest misunderstandings around how devs interact with streamers, especially for larger games?
There are misconceptions that developers don’t listen or care about streamer/player input. We have found the opposite to be true, in the majority of cases. Sometimes a few bad apples spoil the bunch. Most developers care deeply about what creators think, if they’re having fun, and how they can continue to improve their game.
Many times, a healthy streamer community facilitates a healthy game community. Depending on the type of game, a good amount of the consumer population often equates game health with Twitch or YouTube stream numbers, especially for multiplayer games.
As such, it’s generally in a developer’s best interest to invest in their creator community. There’s an importance for developers to maintain cordial relations with their top creators in order to maintain a healthy overall game population.
This includes two-way communication, understanding, and transparency from both sides. We can see many instances where developers are quick to rectify game issues that are raised by larger creators, showcasing a healthy respect for both their streamer and in-game communities.
[We’re GameDiscoverCo, a new agency based around one simple issue: how do players find, buy and enjoy your premium PC or console game? You can subscribe to GameDiscoverCo Plus to get access to exclusive newsletters, interactive daily rankings of every unreleased Steam game, and lots more besides.]