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I hate marketing...
by Kenneth Poirier on 07/12/14 06:06:00 pm   Featured Blogs

The following blog post, unless otherwise noted, was written by a member of Gamasutra’s community.
The thoughts and opinions expressed are those of the writer and not Gamasutra or its parent company.

I hate marketing...
Marketing sucks. It's no fun at all. I don't feel creative. I feel like I'm taking a nice piece of prime rib steak and grinding it into chuck and topping the whole thing with nacho cheese.
(Just kidding ... Got to love Bill Hicks!)
Legendary Power (my company) started off by making mods. Our first game was a mod of Wolfenstein 3D called Castle of the Nazi Zombies. It took off with no effort on my part because of the huge built-in fan base around the original Wolfenstein game. As an added bonus it gave us the awesome "Banned in Germany" rubber stamp.
We went on to do other mods, The most popular being a Star Trek mod of Civilization IV. It was around that time I partnered up graphic artist Nathan Fraser who I had been working with in radio broadcasting. After a finishing up a show one night we got to talking about video games and long story short we decided we wanted to work together on creating an original IP/Franchise. This was almost two years ago.
Since then, we have come up with several IPs and prototypes. All of them are lying on the cutting room floor because they all were failures when testing them against "The Market". Fortunately we both have the business sensibility to realize when our cost are going to exceed the returns. So what did we do? We pivoted.
About five months ago, instead of trying to come up with our fantasy game, we decided to look at the market and design the IP around that. The strategy went like this:
  1. Phones First
  2. Make it for everyone. (All ages. No niche markets.)
  3. Casual Play (fun and fast)
With these three rules, we came up with Word Wrecker. It's a fast paced educational title that can be played in short bursts. This game this is straight up built for marketability and yet. It has one major flaw. It is too original!
It is so uniquely separated from everything else in the gaming world it has nothing to latch on to. There is Zero fan base in which to build it off of. Just trying to pull in new likes for the past month has been a disaster. Our goal of 100 likes (not bought but real likes) on Facebook has been a total bomb. We even offered people free early access just for liking the page. I think at the time of writing this we are up 36 likes? That is pretty terrible considering according to our download data there are over 10,000 users of Legendary Power Games software.
I guess if anything this article is a cry for help. What to do next? How do you jump out in the flood of games that is the current market? We know people want this game. The problem is that the people don't know they want this game.

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Javier Degirolmo
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I guess your mistake was making an educational game. That market is extremely crowded and already hogged by big players, and parents won't trust any strangers to their children (so that heavily skews everything in favor of those few big players, even more than usual).

Also that name heavily puts me off. The least thing I want to do is spend time manipulating words =P Just my opinion.

Paul Johnson
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I hope you like your advice blunt...

I do love a good word game so went to check yours out with the full intention of buying it. But when I got to your facebook page, the screenshots I saw put me right off. Frankly it looks amateurish in the extreme.

It's coder art, which says to me that you've not been bothered to get good art, so what other shortcuts have been taken. Now I don't know you or your game and you and it may both be the best thing since sliced bread, but you've lost me as a customer now regardless just because of the display.

Get a proper artist to do a pass on this. It won't take a good one long at all so won't cost the Earth and the payoff should be instant. Let me reiterate that this isn't about specular maps and graphics pimping you might see in a PC game. It's about getting beyond a minimum standard where it looks like the dev cares.

Hope that helps, it's meant to.

Kenneth Poirier
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The game is currently in prototype. We aren't looking to sell anything. It goes into alpha in September. We are only looking for people who want the game for 100% Free for life (never asking for a cent) as long as they start playing it during the Alpha phase (which also costs nothing).

Christian Nutt
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Yeah, but in the mobile market, I think even experienced players who would put up with bad art in a PC download game are going to go "what the hell?" whehn it's a mobile title. It's a different world.

And as far as the casual audience...

Greg Scheel
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The problem with casual users, is they are causal, they don't care. I would rather have a hatebase of players who detest my game and loath it, and take the time to say so, than to go after casual gamers.

Flappy Bird and Darkfall online, two totaly different games, both had good sized groups of people who hated the game and took the time to say so, loudly. They also paid for it, or looked at the ads in the case of Flappy, and some significant number of players love to play those games.

Engagement matters, and casual gamers have very low engagement with the games they play. The emotional intensity of "hard core" players can sustain and grow an audience, it's what keeps them coming back for more.

Garrett Brown
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First, this article is a great first step. In the article, you mentioned only 36 likes. Just checked, and it's now up to 44. So this was at least a great idea, to start.

But I'd like to double up on the above posters comments. Being early, or alpha, or not even ready unfortunately is no longer an excuse to not be a good looking, professional game. Look around at kickstarter campaigns and early access games on steam to see what I mean. It doesn't matter if all you're looking for is a simple "like" on your page, your game has to be presentable at worst (and it has to stick out of the pack at best).

Finally, I love this article in general:

Katy Smith
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I was intrigued by your post and I think you might have an interesting concept, but you make it very hard to get your game into people's hands.

I don't "like" things on Facebook frequently because I don't want a spammy wall. I checked out your FB page and it's pretty sparse. However, the "Dr. worm" video made me smile :). When you go to your web page, there is a downloads tab, yet there is nothing to download. If your goal is to get eyeballs on your game, and you are already planning on giving it away for free, put the game up for download.

Here is some harsh advice based only on your screenshots:
-Don't make it hard for people to play your game. If you want downloads, don't force people to jump through hoops to get the game.
-your art work needs some love. It's functional, but if you are going to compete in mobile, it has to be polished.
-improve your elevator pitch. I know the game has words and worms. What does that mean? Is it like Pop Cap's Bookworm? If so, what does your game do better than that one? What is the player doing in the game? Right now, there is a focus on story but why should I care about that as a player?
-get better screenshots. I don't know if the grid numbers are important for gameplay, but it makes the game look like it's in debug mode.

The last piece of advice I want to give is this: ask yourself if the game is ready for new eyeballs. I know alpha funding is the new hotness, but if your game is really really pre-alpha, it's going to do more harm than good. Casual/puzzle games in particular are not well suited for it. That market is very saturated on mobile and you really have to be the best of the best to survive.

Sorry if this is a little harsh. I definitely want to see little guys succeed :) good luck!

Kenneth Poirier
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Thanks. That was helpful. We don't really want anyone to download anything right now. We are just trying to build interest and ideally get feedback as we want the community to feel like they're part of this game. We won't be doing any regular publishing for up until a year from now.

Basically we're trying to reach out to the indie enthusiasts who really want to see the house being built and share in that excitement right now. So If anyone has some advice on that, I'd be most thankful.

Wes Jurica
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Kenneth, you have to know your audience. If you are looking to attract indie game fans, you need to make an "indie" game.

Usually this means a passion project but, in your post you say that you decided on this type of game, not because it is your fantasy project, but because it is what you thought would have the widest audience.

That type of game is not usually what indie game fans are looking for.

I could be wrong but, casual games don't have a good chance at building a community pre-launch because they target audience is just waiting for something to play on their phone and don't care about how the sausage is made. If King decided to put out pre-release screenshots of Candy Crush, I doubt they would have had much interest. The community for these games is built after release and that is even if you want to call that a community.

David Schweighofer
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I love marketing !

15 years marketing experience and helped several start-ups with Business Plans or Go-to-Market. Always happy to provide some perspective under NDA. Feel free to ask.

Edgar Cebolledo
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Based on your facebook site, it honestly doesn't look appealing, the screenshots don't make it clear what is the game about, I had to browse the timeline just to find a video of how it plays.

Also there are a lot of other words/letters game in the app store, and yours is not unique(based on screenshots and a small video, it may be unique but you are not showing that), so why would people want to be part of a community of just another words game?.

Casual players are probably not going to be interested in being part of a community of a game that doesn't exist, and hardcore gamers are probably not interested in the game, so who's left?.

So my advice is to focus on a target group, and design for them, with all the pros/cons of them, "casuals" don't care about your game if its not even out, even if its for free(there are tons of free games available now), and "hardcore" gamers will not care too much about a words game for cellphones.

Paul Mason
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I think you have the wrong idea of how casual games work. People (including me) download games that catch their eye and want immediate gratification. If anything stands in the way of immediately playing and having fun then the game gets one or two plays, and is probably uninstalled.

There's just no way that you're going to get much interest in an "alpha" - people go to the app store, look at the screenshots and ratings and decide if they want the game or not. Being "free" isn't much of a driver anymore and the programmer art is a big negative. As other people have said, get professional artwork done. I understand that you don't want to commit to artwork at the alpha stage, but rather don't make it available until you have something more polished.

Another problem with releasing an alpha is other game developers may think you have a very good idea or concept, and have a release version out before you know it and beat you to the post. Rather keep your ideas to yourself until you can show them off in the best light (unless you have big studio resources to protect yourself).

My 2c.

Greg Scheel
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"Free" is not an incentive, it's a market segment.

Catalin Marcu
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The first thing to accept in today's gaming landscape, especially on mobile, is that the main currency isn't money anymore, but time.

There are way too many decent to awesome games, available for free. Even if they are demos, lite versions or the hated freemiums, they are free and users have a ton to enjoy. Simply download 10 new games every day, play the first x levels and move on. In a year's time, not only you haven't exhausted the games, but there are significantly more for you to enjoy for free than when you started.

So it's not really about money - users will start paying when they start to care about something, but that's a different story. But what we as users don't have enough of is time. I couldn't care less about paying a dollar for something I like, but I'm really picky regarding what I use my time for. Users don't play random games because they are free, they play them because in a way or another they are drawn to something from the game. Be it graphics, music, story, gameplay or some other aspect that stands out for them.

Long story short, why would anyone take their time to find your game, like your page, look at your website if there is nothing to peak their interest? You may possibly have the best game ever invented, but it definitely isn't that now. And until you have something that can spark some interest in someone, any attention you cry for will work only in your detriment. I really want your game to succeed. I want everyone's game to succeed, I want to see inspired people creating little gems that we all can enjoy. But to actually write an article saying that you hate marketing just for the sake of getting some attention to a pre-alpha build really doesn't do you any good.

Cheer up, buckle up and take the right steps. If you don't know them, read a lot. Eventually, it will work, but not by cutting corners! All the best of luck!

Serge Versille
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Marketing is about knowing your audience. So if you want marketing advice, don't start a piece with the title "I hate marketing..", before stating "Marketing sucks" as your first sentence. What this tells me is that you don't know the first thing about marketing, and don't want to. So why should I bother giving you any advice?

But you did write an article to ask for help, so maybe you might actually be looking for advice despite how you open it all. So here's mine: try to put yourself in the shoes of the people you're reaching out to, and craft your message accordingly. In your case, this means don't go reaching out to the public when what you've got to show is at best a prototype you'd show fellow game devs. Go reaching out to the public when you have something that might actually appeal to them (if you don't know what that might be, do more market research - it's not as fun as balancing gameplay or testing out new ideas, but it's just as necessary).

Terry Matthes
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Your art is killing your game's first impression. It's the level of a junior high student and it makes me and the others around me feel the rest of the game will be the same level. Very few people are going to download and play your game to find out if that's the case.

I would fix up the art and then find some relevant online forums to talk about your game in.

Saad Khoudmi
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I’m sorry to say that, but one should complain about marketing, only if he feels that he’s failing to market a decent product. That’s not the case with your game.
To put it sharply, everything about it seems repulsive, the game art, the name or the theme. The only thing we can’t assess about the game is the actual gameplay. But nothing about the whole game convinces me to go bother with liking a Facebook page with the hope of getting it for free.

Everyone is actually saying the same, so let me share some impression I had about the creation process of your game, maybe it can help, if not for this game, for the other ones to come then (hopefully).

You actually said that, first you tried to create your own IP, but then failed to do so for a bunch of time before going to analyse the market and come up with a project that can have a wide audience. Unfortunately a big majority of the game industry is trying to do exactly the same, from the big ones to the small ones, even less fortunate is that only teams with a strong capacity to create decent looking products and market them expensively are actually able of succeeding with such a strategy.

Try to find a good idea, not for the sake of making a game, but because you need something to say through games. People juste wanting to make games without real crafting abilities are just clouding the market.
You’re doing just that, while afterward complaining about this kind behaviour.

Jonathan Bergeron
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A few things:

1. You stated you want a game that's target audience is "all ages, no niche markets". No one is going to make a product that successfully targets everyone. Who is your game exactly for? This raises serious red flags about your game's design, because you should know who you're targeting with your game. Educational and casual does not get at the heart of your target audience for the game. An education game for 5 year olds versus 25 year olds will have very different design considerations and constraints.

2. Like everyone else said, get an artist. Find someone who matches the style you're looking for on deviant art and contract some work from them.

3. "The idea is too original"- is it? There's nothing out there to compare it to? That's a bold statement, and one that is very flawed. Look at other games that are similar and see what audiences they attracted. Unless you have completely broken the mold with an all new experience, which is extremely unlikely, there will always be other games that will be similar in some fashion.

4. Your Facebook page has no information about the game that I can tell. What platform is it on? Is it out? Can I play it with friends? The Even if you provide some idea about you're game, or a vision, that's better than just the 1 or 2 sentences I saw when I looked it up. Not too many people are going to like something they know little to nothing about, so your description needs more substance.

Hope all of this wasn't too harsh, and best of luck!

Kenneth Poirier
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Unfortunately they keep changing the format of facebook. Even pinning something to the top only last about a week before it gets pushed down. I wish I could make the facebook page look exactly how I wanted, but It is more of a newsfeed than anything.

Jonathan Bergeron
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Right, but your about section is incredibly sparse. Look up pages for Diablo, Dustforce, and other games you admire. The about section has a bit more content about the game; some even have mission statements to expand upon the game. The point is, do some research and develop how you want to present your game to the public. If a company was going to fully find you working on your game, they just needed that passionate 30 second elevator pitch, what would you tell them? Figure that out, and you've got a start on how to start defining your game to the public.

Sean Mann
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Hi Kenneth.
Most of these comments are spot on. The art is your first and only impression.
All I can tell about the game from the art is that it is a word game with a worm and a guy with a bomb.
The art style is pretty low quality for the characters. You may be better off putting up pencil sketches.
Or make an infographic more about what the game is. We did this with Wordspionage. It showed the board, our "characters", and a bullet list of game features.
That said, we also developed a word game and marketing for it is really tough.
We did not do any early access type things because people interested in early access tend to be more in the hardcore gamer demographic. Our demographic is casual mobile gamers.
We've received lots of favorable professional (unpaid) reviews from a variety of sites. We've spent a fair amount on traditional mobile marketing (AdMob, Facebook, etc). We've tried many methods of word of mouth marketing. Basically a word game is a hard sell.
Another point I'd like to make is that when you start offering thing like early access you have to be ready to give folks a download link. Most people will not take the time to say "yes I'm interested" and then still be interested a month later. You need to get them while the impulse is fresh.
To see some of our efforts (not that they're a great model) check out our FB page
Feel free to connect with me through Facebook and we can share experiences more.
Best of luck!

Kenneth Poirier
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Thank you!

Kee-Won Hong
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Hi Kenneth - I recently wrote an article on Gamasutra that provided some thoughts about how you can create a loyal and engaged fan base through inspiration - (I'm no expert, but you might find some useful ideas there).

I would also recommend some people smarter than me - Simon Sineks book (Start With Why) and Gary Vaynerchucks guide to social media (Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook) have been very useful to my endeavors.

Kenneth Poirier
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I will check that all out! Thanks.

Kenneth Poirier
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Thank you all for the comments! It's been a great help! We're going to change up our strategy now. I'll update with another article when we're done! Again Thank you!

Koen Deetman
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Hiya Kenneth,

I think most of the guys (and girl Hi Katy!) commenting here gave you a lot of great advice. You should definitely take the time to read some of these links!

I would also highly recommend to watch this presentation by Ben Kuchera
You can find it here ->

Short example of myself:
Before I started to create a game and build-up my independent game studio I was already making plans to market & promote my game, in short I made a roadmap.

Because I already knew how to make games, I only had to educate myself to become a business & marketing machine :)

I know you are creating an educational game and not an indie game, but the following link would help you a lot nonetheless!

Oh and I agree with everyone here, you got to lose the programmer art :)

I wish you the best!

Felipe Budinich
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"Make it for everyone. (All ages. No niche markets.)"

No market segmentation is worse than wrong market segmentation. If you try to cater to everyone, you end up catering to no one.

It's way better to have a clear target, and *then* if you find success with that target, you can try to open up to new targets. (or if you fail miserably with that target, you know it's time to move to a new target)

Ben Newbon
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This really is the first rule of games design - Kenneth, sorry to say it but I think you seriously need to go back to the drawing board with this.

Josh Fairhurst
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Mobile games are a crap shoot, plain and simple. A game doesn't have to be good to succeed, and a good game is just as likely to fail to sell as a bad game.

One thing I noticed is that you made the mistake of building a game not because it was what you wanted to make, but because it appeared to tick all the boxes on the successful mobile game checklist. Most mobile developers whom have had success will tell you they really didn't set out to create a hit or think anything would become of their game. They just made what they wanted to make, of course they hoped it would be a hit, but they didn't build it specifically to be a hit. Most games that are built to be hits will die a fast death because of how crowded and over saturated the market is with other games that were built in the same mindset. Without the marketing budget of a big publisher, you're going to have trouble stirring up sales. The best that could happen is you throw it out there and it virally catches on (like Flappy Bird, but once again that wasn't specifically built to be a hit).

If you haven't launched yet, to stand any chance of success you'll need to get featured by Apple and Google. Featuring is pretty much the only way a game without a marketing budget can succeed on mobile.

I've recently made the decision to stop mobile development at my company outside of updating old titles and contract work. The market is too crowded and with the increasing democratization of game development technology, it certainly isn't going to stop growing any time soon. I'm not willing to risk my money on mobile any more.

Oscar Barda
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I am going to be brutally honest here: the game looks really really bad.
I think that's your main problem, right here: if I saw the game on any platform I would not give it a second. I know it's unfair and believe me I would like to tell you that marketing it is really the cause but… No.

Meshach Rojas
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I say the artwork is the problem. People look at icons and screenshots before reading descriptions of games. The artwork needs to be more attractive and modern. Right now it just looks old and like there was no actual artist involved, maybe just a friend who did it for free/cheap.

Do some research and look at other successful games in a similar category.

Also this part:

1. Phones First
2. Make it for everyone. (All ages. No niche markets.)
3. Casual Play (fun and fast)

Do not try to please everyone, you kinda have to pick a category or niche. By making it a learning game you are picking young kids. Hardcore gamers, people into fighters, shooters, racers, etc. are most likely not going to care about your game. So right there the artwork needs to be colorful, bright, bubbly, etc. No one starts big, ebay started only selling Pez dispensers and NOW it sells everything.