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GDC China: Hello Games' Duncan On 'Incredibly Boring', Vital Biz Side Of Indie

Talking at the Indie Games Summit at GDC China on Monday, Hello Games' Grant Duncan discussed why the allegedly "incredibly boring" marketing and PR functions were tremendously important to Joe Danger's success.
Talking at the Indie Games Summit at GDC China on Monday, Hello Games' Grant Duncan went through the reality of getting PSN hit Joe Danger to market, noting that fulfilling publisher-type functions like marketing and PR might seem like that they are "actually incredibly boring compared to making games", but it's something that indies absolutely have to embrace. They shopped around their polished motorcycle stunt title around multiple publishers, many of whom were keen to either minorly or majorly change it before they picked it up. However, the publishers eventually all turned them down, and the four-man UK team realized that they needed to keep true to their style and self-publish on PlayStation 3. But many of the press and marketing functions were alien to the team, despite the fact they'd worked in the game industry on the developer side. So they took a grassroots approach that is increasingly common to indies. Along the way, Hello Games learned some swift lessons on what actually worked in the space. One thing that Duncan particularly recommended was finding as many public venues to demonstrate your game as possible. By getting out there and showcasing their title in public in places like Eurogamer Expo and the Independent Games Festival, "you get the absolute brutal reality of whether your game is fun or not". Even if it's painful to start with, watching people enjoy (or not enjoy!) your game is a vital part of understanding whether it will be successful or not, and you can market the game at the same time to individuals and attending press members, in a much more personal, genuine way compared to expensive magazine advertisements or similar. Duncan added in relation to getting the game's profile out there: "The marketing was the thing we were most worried about". He mused that, as espoused by publishers, marketing is "a bit of a dark art", and the Joe Danger team didn't have any contacts. But by sending out hundreds of emails individually, and eventually reaching press influencers such as Rock Paper Shotgun's Kieron Gillen, the Joe Danger team found that a thoughtful, personalized approach to PR direct from the developers did pay dividends in the end. And by the time the game received enthusiastic reviews, the title had taken on a life of its own.

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