And way too many devs forget
While the majority of your time as an independent maker of video games will be spent actually making games, there is another, more nebulous side of self-employment that many not deep in the embrace of corporate masters seem to struggle with. And by that I mean marketing and PR.
Obviously, a good game is your first line of promotion. But having that good game speaking in a void won’t do you any good either. Leigh Alexander recently wrote an excellent piece on PR for indie devs that goes into more detail, but I wanted to talk specifically about one part of that puzzle that my foray into Kickstarter promotion has shown me sometimes needs a lot of work. Specifically, the website.
“How hard can it be to slap together a website,” you might well ask. Not very, to be totally honest. It’s the making it not look like it was “slapped together,” i.e. making it looks like we should take you seriously, that these 5 tips are meant to tackle.
1. Own Your DomainThere is nothing wrong with choosing a free, hosted site as the primary site for your game/company. Blogger and WordPress are both great options with their own sets of pros and cons, but they are certainly sufficient for most indie dev needs. However, we don’t need to know exactly how cheap you are. Both Blogger and WordPress will let you use your own domain with a free, hosted site. Domains are cheap, with many sites letting you reserve a domain for $10 or less. Shop around, find the right domain and then claim it. It’s a simple step, but it honestly does wonders for making your site look professional. It also makes it easy to find and can get you out of a jam later if your game takes off and you have to deal with cyber-squatters or copyright issues.
2. Make It Easy to NavigateThis tip actually encompasses a few different things, but again they are simple things that will make everyone’s life easier in the long run. Journalists are notoriously
3. Screenshots, Screenshots, ScreenshotsBelieve it or not, this is probably going to be the number one reason journalists will come to your site. We all know that journalism has moved online and online articles get more hits if they have an image attached. It’s just a fact. Try to choose a variety of images that show different aspects of the game. Watermark them. And try to have at least two different resolution sizes available for each image. You might even want to consider packaging some images, a logo or two, and a press release together in a zip file to make things as convenient as possible. Just keep bandwidth and download times in mind when choosing file sizes. Full size might show your game in all its glory, but if it’s too big to download efficiently, you might be doing yourself a disservice. If your game isn’t complete enough to have screenshots, make a logo image or concept art available. If you don’t even have that, it might be too early to worry about the website. Just sayin’.
4. Keep E-Com In MindWith this one I’m thinking specifically about those of you setting up your site to support a Kickstarter campaign. Good job in setting up a site to send people to when they want more info about you and your game. However, if you are planning on letting supporters download the game from your site, or allow pre-orders on the site after your campaign has finished, you’re going to need to look at the fine print of your hosting agreement. For example, free sites on WordPress.com are not allowed to be used for eCommerce purposes. Self-hosted WordPress.org based sites are free of these restrictions and transferring your site between WP.com & WP.org is virtually painless, but have a clear idea of what you’ll need your website to do from the outset to keep webdev time, money, and effort to the minimum. You want to be putting your time and money into your game, not monkeying around redesigning a website.
5. K.I.S.S.Keep. It. Simple. (Stupid). Depending on what type of game you are making, you might be tempted to make your site into a literal extension of your game. Which could work, as long as you keep the above tips in mind. Attempting to craft some sort arty-farty “experience” where everything is hidden in mouse-overs is, frankly, wasting everyone’s time. But, if you have the time and the inclination, I’m not going to stop you. Just make sure you have an easy to navigate site as well. A good rule of thumb is to think of your website as a sort of interactive brochure for your game/company that is hosted on the internet. It’s okay if it’s “traditional looking.” Leave the innovation for your game.
I guess that’s it for now. The only other thing I would suggest is to not be afraid to get personal. Dev blogs are a great way to build a fan base and connect with the people who will be buying your game. How personal and how regular you are with it is up to you.