MARKETING YOUR RPG MAKER GAME

A short article on strategies you can use to market your game.

  • Artie
  • 05/21/2013 02:18 PM
  • 2837 views
Marketing Your RPG Maker Game

"Why won't anyone play my game?"

The RPG Making landscape has changed a lot in recent years. For those of you who have been around for a long time, you probably remember when it was enough to just have a finished game. If your game was good then people would play it and leave comments and feedback by the pages. But with the explosion of indie games, improved internet speed and social media, it's not enough to just have a finished game; you also need to know how to market yourself and your games. This is something Volrath and I have had to learn the hard way the last year. Despite having a successful 30+ hour RPG, our newer titles have mostly have gone unnoticed. At first this was really frustrating, but I've taken the lesson to heart and tried to learn ways to expand our fanbase. Here's a few things I have tried.

Contribute to the community. You can't always expect something for nothing. If you aren't contributing to the community then there is a good chance people won't know you are and won't give your game a chance. Take the time to play other members' projects and leave some useful feedback. Offer to do a review exchange. Other members will then be much more likely to play your game too.

Participate in community events. If there is a contest or an event being held that your game qualifies for then choose that as your release date. Even though there will be other games competing for attention, you're much more likely to get spotlighted. Having a deadline is also a great motivator to get things done.

Contact Reviewers and LP'ers. At first I was hesitant to do this. I didn't want to reach out to people to essentially ask them to play our game. I guess I was a little nervous how they would respond. But one day I worked up the nerve and made a blog post asking for feedback. We ended up getting a 1+ hour feedback video and review from a real generous member. So that was awesome.

Now I don't feel so self-conscious about it. You can't just assume people have heard of your game when there are so many other titles out there. Usually they're happy to play your game once you let them know about it. So if you find your game page hasn't gotten any comments or reviews for a a week or two don't feel discouraged. It could just be that people aren't finding your game. If you tell a few notable people about it and they give you some coverage then hopefully with the increased exposure you'll get your players.

Contact indie sites. Just because you're part of the RPG Making community doesn't mean you can't branch out to other indie sites. If you have a great game then it shouldn't matter what editor you used in my opinion. There is a stigma out there against RPG Maker (the RTP in particular), but if you have a unique enough concept then you should be able to attract outside attention. Before you contact a site, you'll want to have a press kit ready so that if they do decide to write about your game they will have resources to link to. Screenshots and a video trailer is a must. Make sure to have an interesting subject like as this is the first thing that the indie site editor will see. Make sure it has your game title and it's not too general. Having something like ": A short and powerful experience" reads better than "Play my new indie game". Keep the email concise and make sure to include a download link to your game.

Take good screenshots/video footage of your game. I'm not going to go too much into this as it could be it's own article, but when marketing your game make sure to have good screenshots and video of your game. You want to take screenshots of unique elements of your game, whether it be a cool looking map or a custom system, so that it will really standout. Video footage of your game is even better. Try to capture video of some of the highlights of your game. I personally use Camtasia to grab game footage and edit it, but there are also free options available like Fraps and Windows Movie Maker. You also might want to try to give it a little personality with self narration.

I hope some of you found this information useful. You can find more resources regarding how to promote your game, including a large list of indie gaming sites to contact, here: http://www.pixelprospector.com/the-big-list-of-indie-game-marketing/

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First impressions can really affect how much attention your project gets. It's probably not a good idea to create a game page until you have enough content to keep your project buzzing.


Good article, Artbane.
Thanks! First impressions definitely are important. I think most viewers will be drawn to video which is why on the Labyrinthine Dreams page I have the trailer featured right at the top of the page. Obviously interesting screenshots are important too. A description of the game that viewers can easily scan is also important. If I see a game page with a huge chunk of text I'm probably not going to read it. Try breaking it off into sections with 3-4 paragraphs tops. I wouldn't underestimate the lack of attention of most viewers (myself included).

And like you said it's also important not to make a game page too early. At least with RMN you require 3 screenshots before the game page can even be approved.
This is pretty valid and useful info. definitely spreading the word on this one.
This is a really good article and it definitely covers the essential DOs and DON'Ts of marketing a new game, though I would like to add my opinion on one aspect of marketing which I think a lot of people tend to underestimate - the importance of a game's title. While first impressions of a game in terms of screenshots, feature lists, videos, reviews, and so on are very important, it is likely that the very first way in which an audience will 'interact' with a game is via its title, either in a list alongside a picture or as a part of a larger forum post title advertising it; when a person is simply browsing through games or forum posts, a catchy title can really make the difference between if that person decides to read up more on the game or to simply glance over it as one in a list of hundreds/thousands.

There are really two things which I think can really make or break the success of a title. The first of these is the use of alliteration and/or assonance - this doesn't matter too much if the title is a single word, but it can be valuable with titles consisting of two or more words. Alliteration is catchy and more blatantly appealing while assonance tends to be a bit less obvious, but can give a title a certain 'ring' which may make people stop and take notice. More than a few famous game series have certainly taken advantage of alliteration, such as Final Fantasy, Mega Man, Ghosts & Goblins/Ghouls, Might & Magic, etc. As for assonance, Nintendo makes frequent use of this tool such as with the various 'eh' sounds in The Legend of Zelda, the 'ih' of Kid Icarus, and the 'oh' of Super Mario Bros. (never the 'uh' of 'brothers').

The other aspect of a good title which I would like to bring up is the important of keywords and this is definitely the trickier of the two as it's best to use words which hint at what your game is about without sounding overly generic or redundant (ex: Legend of the Legendary Heroes) while also giving your game a sense of uniqueness or exoticism without being completely incomprehensible (ex: Xexyz). Words such as 'Legend' 'Quest' or 'Adventure' are almost always great for RPG's as they imply travel and 'legend' especially is good for fantasy settings as it implies the past. Likewise, such words are best avoided if your game has a small scope (ex: it takes place in a single town) and 'legend' rarely works with modern or futuristic settings. Since the appearance of a familiar word in some part of the title will have given potential players an idea of what to expect as to the setting and/or scope of the game, another word should be where the 'hook' of the title lies, something to draw people in out of curiosity.

To reuse a more or less perfect example, 'The Legend of Zelda' first tells people that it is likely a fantasy setting with an epic scope through 'Legend' and then hooks people in with 'Zelda' as Zelda is a fairly uncommon, exotic-sounding name and people will become curious as to who this person is, what is so legendary about them, what role they play in the game, etc. Furthermore, common words can be combined into a single hybrid word or used together in an unfamiliar way to attract an audience (ex: Donkey Kong, StarTropic, Breath of Fire). Two great examples of RPG Maker games with good titles would be Artbane and Volrath's own Master of the Wind and last year's Star Stealing Prince; the former combines common keywords in a way which will make people curious (wind is an element, it likely implies magic, a master must be a person with control over the wind, but just what does it mean for one to be a 'master' of an element?) while the latter using alliteration between 'star stealing' and blends the common with the exotic ('prince' implies a fantasy setting, 'star' usually implies planetary travel or science fiction , but 'star stealing' raiss the questions of how and why someone would steal stars).

While word of mouth and good marketing can rapidly increase a game's popularity, I think it is worth it to spend at least a half hour, preferably longer, simply on coming up with a good title to help catch that initial audience.
I appreciate the principle of this article, and while nice I would have loved more thorough insights. It is still a mystery to me how some games manage to transcend the boundaries of the community (think To the Moon, Yume Nikki or the Aldorlea games) while not necessarily being the most extraordinary productions nor employing means obviously disdained by more obscure games.

As for the title, it IS hugely important and would warrant an article in itself, if only to bring people to stop using the Universal Pattern:

The Noun of Noun(s)

In lists of games, I have been attracted to titles like I Miss the Sunrise or To The Moon precisely because they avoid this (as well as second-rate offenders "The Adjective Noun" and "Name and the Adjective Noun: Substantified Verb").

It covers 99.9% of the fantasy and a large part of the SF genre in all media. It is impossible to know which book belongs to which series - is A Clash of Kings between the Lord of the Rings and the Sword of Shannara or a prequel of the Well of Ascension and the Runes of the Earth ?
But I figure there are still people out there who bother to look at games called The Legend of something: Chronicles, so if someone really intends to advertise a game as totally generic (without having the guts to call it Generica), that is the most efficient way.

Grand opinions aside, could you (ArtBane) tell us more about your expercience with contacting indie sites and promoting your games there (and more generally outside of the RM world) ?
I find the comments to this gamasutra article rather interesting.
I'll add my two pieces into this discussion. One thing that especially gets me as a rpgmaker games player interested is mapping - if you use regular tileset I usually skim over it. Actually, my main method of finding out good games is(as superficial as it sounds) judging the game's mapping from screenshots; if it is good the game has to be at least worth my time. Funny enough, it is very good way of deciding whether I'd like the game, but to make sure I check the reviews after that. If there is more than 3 and half stars I consider downloading it.
One more thing. If the project image on the search page looks somehow boring or just something that the game's creator hasn't spent much thought on it is an instant turnoff. :(
Now, I hope this ramble didn't sound too high and mighty, it's just my two pieces here.
Thanks for all the great comments so far. I'm glad people are adding to the discussion.

@Seeric Your comment about the importance of the game title is amazing. Since it is usually the first thing people will see - especially if it is a reviewer browsing emails and just reading the subject line - you do want to make sure it draws people in. You have some great examples of how to use alliteration and assonance properly. Setting up expectations with keywords is important to, but remember that sometimes that can work against you. With one of our more recent titles, X-Noir, we set up expectations for people that are fans of classic film noirs even though our game is more of a neo-noir. There were a lot of people telling us how our game didn't meet their expectations for a noir which became frustrating.

author=Hasvers
could you (ArtBane) tell us more about your expercience with contacting indie sites and promoting your games there (and more generally outside of the RM world) ?


Sure I can go into that a little more. I've been contacting indie sites off of a big list I found on that link in my post. Every time I contact an indie site I keep track of their press info (email, name, twitter, etc.) so I remember who I contacted already and to also have them on record if I want to contact them again in the future.

So far I haven't had too much success. Of the 30 sites I've emailed I'd say about 3 got back to me and 2 did articles on the game. Based off my analytics, I haven't gotten much traffic from those sites either. But it's definitely worth the time. Once you get your game featured on a big site like Kotaku or RPS then usually other sites will pick it up too and your traffic will explode. So far I've had more luck with smaller blogs that are usually run by 1 or a few people.

@Xanedis Those things you mentioned are definitely important - especially for getting your game noticed on RMN. With the article I kind of assumed you already had a good looking game and wanted to focus more on general marketing outside of just this community.

Once again thanks for the awesome comments guys/gals!
As an addendum, I've been having some success on reddit. Most of my traffic comes from the links I've been posting in subreddits that focus on indie/free games. I haven't seen too many other RM games up there so it might be something worth trying. Just make sure you follow proper "reddiquette" and try not to spam too many places. You should try to contribute as well and vote/leave comments on other links to up your reddit karma.
Very good read, along with Seerics post haha.
I'll keep all of this in mind.
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