5 Indie PR Tips from Wolfire

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March 28th, 2009

Well, GDC is finally over. The biggest highlight for us was probably when Ron Carmel from 2dboy gave a lecture on Everything you always wanted to know about going indie but were afraid to ask and gave us a shout out about how we have been drumming up publicity for Overgrowth (here are Ron's slides). The guy who yelled "we love you Ron!" from the audience was John, by the way.

Ron is one of our role models and we are honored by the mention. I thought it would be an appropriate time to finish up this post on PR tips, so we can hopefully share some of our limited experience with other indie devs. We are by no means an authority on the subject, but this is what we've learned in the past few months.

Overt Ops Commando

Before I even begin the list, I want to say that the most important thing is to be agile and creative. None of us knew anything about this sort of thing, but we were able to learn quickly from our observations.

1. Don't count on other sites to cover you
Our original plan was to send out press releases to virtually every video game website, magazine, podcast, etc. in the world in regular intervals. I thought we would ride giant waves of press all the way to our big launch. The truth is that news sites have way bigger fish to fry and generally don't even respond to the unsolicited emails from the new guy. To date, aside from a few mentions on indie game blogs, we have had very limited coverage by gaming sites.

We hope that this will change as Overgrowth gets more and more developed. Also, at GDC, John managed to talk to a lot of video game journalists which might help in the future. However, don't worry, we quickly found new ways to get publicity.

2. "Social" sites like ModDB and Facebook are king
Alright, so no one from video game news sites are covering you? What now? Well, you might have heard the "Web 2.0" keyword thrown around a bit. Apparently there's something to the hype. Basically, if your game is cool, people will share it amongst themselves and totally bypass the big, centralized news sites.

One of our awesome fans, Silverfish, made a ModDB page for Overgrowth. Our page is almost always one of the top 10 most popular pages on the site. It's been known to get up to #1 or #2 every once in a while, dethroning Half Life and Half Life 2 as the most active page. You can be ignored by a single editor at a gaming news site, but if your game is actually cool, democratic sites will give you the spotlight.

Also, at this point, our Overgrowth Facebook page gets more traffic than our real Overgrowth page, which makes me sad because we worked so hard on our main page, while throwing the FB page together in less than an hour.

3. Video is easy and important
We found that videos are a really great way to show people the game. It takes us about an hour to produce a video and then we can syndicate them out to our YouTube channel, GameTrailers, Facebook, etc. where they will rack up tens of thousands of views per video.

With HD video it's almost like you're in the game yourself. Just remember do not use Vimeo!

4. Keep making high quality, original content
Digg, Reddit, and a number of other 'sharing' sites, are the great equalizer. If you make something cool, you no longer need a giant newspaper to announce it to the world. Just ask Cliffski from Positech Games when his "open question to pirates" article got spread around the world.

We try to keep the blog updated every day with news and cool stuff that we make to help keep the fans informed and just keep our website interesting. For example, David made a design tour of World of Goo, as a fun weekend project. It's a bit humbling, but that video was picked up by so many sites, so fast, that it has created a spike in our Google Analytics that made all of our previous traffic illegible.

5. Don't give up
We were really excited by the popularity the World of Goo video received and thought we had finally found something that worked totally by accident. However, David's second video on Knytt Stories was largely ignored.

On the other hand, one day we were struggling to come up with something to write about for the blog and at the last minute, I whipped up a post called Why you should support Mac OS X and Linux. To my surprise, this post was on fire and was blown up on Digg, Reddit, Slashdot, Ars Technica, etc. and drove so much traffic to Wolfire that when you look at our traffic graph, it blows away even our World of Goo video.

The internet is fickle, so don't be sad when you work really hard on something and no one sees it. If you make enough cool stuff, some portion of it will catch on.

We're still learning, so please share any wisdom you might have with us. We have a lot more tips, so if there is interest, I could make a second post like this.