To get answers on my main question and the sub questions I had to do thorough research. First you will see what information I gathered from articles, blogs and videos, then we’ll take a look at the results from my survey and last I will run through the interviews that I’ve done. To quickly jump to the survey or interviews you can click here:
• Articles, Blogs, Panels & Videos •
Gamesparks is a cloud based platform for game developers to help build the server side features of their games. Gamesparks wrote a couple interesting blog posts about marketing your game, user retention and engagement, and the demographics of the average gamer.
Their first blog post that I encountered was Part 1 Game Marketing – Defining your Marketing Strategy which is a series of 7 part blog posts about game marketing.
The first advice they give is to think about how your game is going to be marketed right at the start of development, mainly because there are a couple important decisions you want to make to impact the game design and how successful it will be on the market. They point out it’s important that you make a Marketing strategy and a Marketing plan and keep those separate at the start of development. The strategy will help guide you with the goals you’re trying to fulfill and the plan to tell what exactly you’re going to do. The blog then talks about the difference between self publishing and having a publisher do it for you, but because in our case we self publish, I will be focusing on that. They mention a couple key points to cover in your marketing strategy and I wanted to talk about some that were most important to me and my research.
- GaaP vs. GaaS: Launching your game as a product or as a service? Gamesparks advises you to think of your game as a service when you self publish. This to steadily iterate new releases while building a loyal audience. This also is something that is mentioned in the GDC 2015 Twitch panel that talks about “How Game Developers reach new costumers with Twitch”. You can get valuable feedback early on in development as well as build a community of people that are closely invested since the start. I will talk more about that panel later.
- Target Audience: For Streamline we already have our target audience down, broadcasters and people that watch live streams and like to play with their favorite broadcasters. The blog mentions that game developers need to get better at finding their target audience instead of finding your audience at the end of development. I was personally surprised to hear this because I thought that most companies would have their target audience down from the start.
- Marketing Channels: As an indie developer there is usually not a big budget for big marketing and PR stunts. That’s why they advise you to make use of customer base of other games you have developed as well as use social media and web to promote your games. This to build an audience from the group up to a loyal audience that ranges between all your game titles.
- Measurement: They say that one of the most important things to before you spend a lot of money is to measure and report how much return you get from various channels. Although they do mention that it’s unlikely that there is a single reporting solution, there are certain tools which can help you track everything.
The rest of this blog post focuses itself more about the marketing plan but that isn’t as relevant for my reasearch. They said to post more blog posts that are a following in this series, sadly the ones I wanted to touch base on were Part 4: Advertising and Cross Promotion and Part 6: Social Media Marketing but sadly I couldn’t find those on their blog and I assume they discontinued the blog series.
Marcus Graham and Ernest Lee both working for Twitch did an interesting panel at GDC (Game Developers Conference) in 2015. They talked about how game developers can reach new customers by using Twitch. They talked about a few case studies that I want to go over as well as some advice towards game developers that is really usefull.
I wanted to write down a few of the interesting advice points they mentioned for game developers that I think are important.
- Create own original content to market your game and enhance the communities, usually organized by the Community Manager.
- Think of doing developer streams where you can directly gain feedback from the community by live streaming it, this will help guide development and understand the trends of the game industry.
- If applicable, create tournaments and/or competitions to bring more viewers.
- Think about your long-term strategy to get your users and fans to carry your message.
- Reach new customers by jumping into the Twitch Ecosystem
To say a bit more about the Twitch Ecosystem they showed this picture, which shows all the game categories on Twitch and how they overlap.
Variety streaming which includes most indie games, overlaps with every other game. So even so yes there are a few big leads they still are connected.
A good example that they gave was of a small indie game that was picked up during a break by one of the bigger League of Legend streamers, the indie developer contacted Twitch saying he gained 70k sales in one week. That’s why I feel indie developers shouldn’t be scared and discouraged by the big names.
The Twitch Eco system gives a pretty clear overview of some broadcaster types if we look to which games they stream. As seen, some broadcasters stick mainly with one game as is clearly visible for World of Tanks and Dota. So this already helps with the sub question “What types of broadcasters are there?” al though there are still a couple other types which I mainly have seen during my years on Twitch as well as working at Proletariat.
Now I would like to dive into the case studies that they presented of game developers that worked with Twitch each with their own unique approach and ways of using Twitch all leading to success story. These are just a few examples of successful use of broadcasters for game promotions thus answering my sub question about success stories.
Roblox started off as a unkown game that was similar to Minecraft a game which was very high on the most played games on Twitch, you must think it might be impossible to measure up to such a popular game but Roblox did it. They offered broadcasters money and in game content. They quickly went from 0 broadcasters to having 2170 monthly broadcasters which caused constant engagement. They also live streamed a big part of their development which created a direct feedback line between developer and consumer. Besides streaming themselves and having paid broadcasters stream for them they enabled their community to stream by offering advice on how to get started.
Warframe had a different way of using Twitch to promote their game. They would only put out content during big releases to keep a mystery which created a big hype which gained them around 10k – 20k concurent viewers during their live streams. By being open with their community regarding what they were developing they were able to create excitement that resonated through all of gaming. I think this is a great way of using Twitch although this method won’t work if you don’t have a large player base to back up the hype already, so it’s not a good fit for small (indie) developers.
H1Z1 announced their game on Twitch instead of going the traditional marketing route. They directly saw which broadcasters were interested which made it easy to target them for game promotion. They also did weekly updates on their personal channel that were extremely community driven. One of the biggest reasons H1Z1 does really well on Twitch is because there was already a huge view base for other survival games like DayZ and Arma. A lot of broadcasters switched from those games to H1Z1.
A really short but informative video that I found from a company called Scaling Retail talked about a few tips for working with bloggers and influences. Although this video is more focused on Instagram I think the following points she mentions are also applicable for game developers that want to work with broadcasters.
- Target the right audience (else it’s a waste of their and you time)
- Check engagement, big follower numbers don’t always have the biggest engages.
- Network, ask influences if they know other influences that would be a good fit for your game/brand
Hardware developer Intel created a guide for Game Developers to start broadcasting on Twitch and why it’s such a valuable thing to do. They give 5 pointers on how to get started and maintain a stream as a game developer.
- Point 1: Personality
Establish an image, have something your viewers/players can relate to that brings your community to your game and company.
- Point 2: Content
See your broadcast as a commercial about your game. You could add a reward system to your broadcast which gives free game keys of your game in trade for them paying attention to your stream.
- Point 3: Schedule
Have a schedule, that way the viewers know where and when to find you.
- Point 4: Presence
Decide what style you’re going for with your broadcast. Have matching graphics, animations and sounds.
- Point 5: Cause
Why would you put time in broadcasting while you could spend time on other parts of development? A few good examples they give in the video are: Building a community even before the game launches, gain direct feedback from viewers even in early development and the viewers/gamers will feel more involved with your game.
Intel seems to talk about a lot of the same points as Twitch does themselves during their GDC panel seen in the 360 scan above on why broadcasting on Twitch as a game developer can be valuable. Especially the most relate able would be the Roblox example in which they live streamed most of their development which build a huge community for their game and went from unknown game competing with big players like Minecraft into a successful game that had a wide exposure on Twitch.
Michael Crox a Marketing Director for Crows Crows Crows talks about Marketing Fundamentals for new developers. He points out that a marketing is extremely complex, at the start he shows a couple examples of game developers that don’t take marketing serious. One of the examples was: “I don’t need marketing, a great game will sell itself.”
He mentions that you can easily see if a game is doing well based on reviews, but for marketing there isn’t a way to track if things are working or not working which leads to failures.
He explains about the Conversion System, which should help to get you in the right mindset to get things together so you know how to solve problems with correct metrics.
Each dot in the Conversion System stands for something, I will be taking a look at those here:
- $: Cost, this can be Time, Money, Labor or Moral.
- Views: Curated views (press), Adverts (views you paid for) & Community
- Engagement rate: % of view count who cares about your game.
- Conversion rate: % of the engagement rate that turn into some kind of value.
- $: Value returned (only counts if captured), sales on merch, cookies from your community, any kind of response.
He explains how you can use the conversion system to measure all these points as followed:
- $: Write your costs down, if that be in a notebook, checkbook or Excel sheet.
- Views: Twitter, Facebook, Youtube analytics this shows you how many people do with it your content. SEMRush, Alexa shows how much activity goes into a website.
- Engagement rate: Google Analytics, Google Webmaster Tools and Clicky will measure how many people go to your page and how they use your website.
- Conversion rate: Mailing list is the best way capture data, it’s cheap and easy to maintain easily to engage value even early in development.
- $: To measure returned value you can use the Cohort Analysis (example: mail users > mails opened). The more filters people pass through the more they value you.
In the case of Crox his system he looks at how developers calculate costs, monitor their social media and the views, but I think this system can also be applied to broadcasters. A game developer can also use this system to calculate costs related to broadcasters and measure their engagement. You can link the costs in the Conversion System to the costs of not paying sponsored broadcasters but also for your own stream equipment if you were to stream development yourself. Views can be seen while broadcasters live stream your game as well as your own views during your own broadcasts. Engagement rate can be analyzed with the inbuilt Twitch stat tools. His system is a more beginning and end assessment of the process whereas my system can come in and fill in the middle. These middle steps would be related to finding the right broadcasters and using broadcasters to then improve the views and engagement rate for the developer’s game. The system should also prevent extra costs that would be made during the cost stage in case of sponsoring a broadcaster that isn’t fit for the game which could lead into lost money that didn’t return into value.
Besides the Conversion System I wanted to find a little more information on existing marketing systems to answer my sub question. I found this article by John Jantsch about solving the most frustrating parts of marketing. He says that marketing itself is just a system and operated as such it’s not different from other systems to run a business. It creates control it, it guides, creates process and generates accountability with a way to measure this. He mentions that for some the concept for a marketing system seems uncreative and boring but he sees the system as something like this Save YourSelf Time Energy and Money. In his past years of work he worked with a lot of small business owners that would listen that marketing isn’t that complicated but more the way that small business owners think about it.
He created a brief description of some of the elements that relate to me for a marketing system:
- Strategy before tactics
Strategy must come before tactics. Until you can narrow down your ideal clients and create some business it’s important to have a good strategy.
- Build your Marketing Hourglass
View your business and discover how you will move your ideal prospects down the path of know, like, trust, try, buy, repeat and refer.
- Become a publishing engine
Create a content plan with specific objectives in mind. Don’t make too much content but make sure to make the right content.
- Build a total online and offline presence
Make sure you view your online and offline presence as one intergrated whole.
Chris McQuinn from Drinkbox Studios did a very interesting panel, instead of explaining how things have to be done, he talked about their failures and lessons they have learned over the course of 5 years of game development. I feel this panel is very valuable because of making mistakes you know exactly what you do wrong which then leads into better advice than just people saying how things should be done. He starts of saying that when describing the media he didn’t only refer to websites and companies but also broadcasters which is obviously helpful for my research.
I will explain which mistakes he has made followed by the improvements or solutions that helped them create success for later titles. For each failure point there is a matching improvement point going from top to bottom. I have the failures leading on to release that all take place from their office separated to the failures and improvements that have to do with expositions and conventions.
Failures & Improvements leading on to release
- During the release of their first game “About a Blob” they send out a fuzzy discription of their game to the media, this resulted in the media having no idea what the game is about and they were not sure what content they could create with this.
- For their first game they asked the media if they want to receive a review code and for the people that actually requested one, only sent those out 1 day before release while they should’ve been available earlier. They also weren’t sure which of these media needed NA codes or EU codes.
- While sending out reviewcodes for their second game they didn’t keep in mind the embargo that was needed because the game released before the Vita (the handheld it can be played on) was released.
- They learned they have to talk about what the strongest and most unique points about the game are which gives the media an interesting story which then ends up for the viewers and readers to be more interested in the game. (Clear focused on point, compared to a fuzzy description of the game) For their second game they only said “We got a cheap game for Vita (new at the time)“. Eventually for later game releases the description was interesting and gave something the media something to work with.
- For their next game they made sure that the media got review codes 7 days before release on both NA and EU accounts without asking if they wanted one.
- They made sure they had a clear embargo for their third game on when the media could review it, while still sending out codes 7 days before release.
Failures & Improvements related to expositions and conventions
- For their first game during PAX 2011 they only contacted the media 2 days before the expo started, they didn’t think about media schedules already being full. They also didn’t offer enough information about the game itself and even forgot the booth number. This resulted in an empty booth during the expo.
- They weren’t allowed to show the Vita for their game because it wasn’t released yet, so they showed their game behind a closed curtain at their booth where nobody could see it.
- For their second game they still contacted the media only 2 days prior to the event.
- For their second game they did however send out the booth number and enough information about the game with interesting screenshots that interested the media. Even though there weren’t many, people did come by this time.
- They were allowed to show the vita at their booth normally during the launch of their second game.
- During the launch of their third game they notified the media 2 weeks prior to the expo with enough description about the game and the booth. This seemed to be a sweet spot for contacting media. Their schedules were not full yet and they knew everything about the game to interest them in coming by. They also had a private station which was a special part of the booth only for the media, this means the media didn’t have to wait for a demo station to be free.
Another important thing he talked about was working with PR firms, they help to sell your game but you will gain more than you lose in costs. They know their job and they already have contacts with the media. In this overview you can see what they think they did better compared to the PR firm. The arrows show that they could add more legitimacy to their press releases that they wrote themselves and the contact list that they gained from the PR firm became also their contact list.
I was searching YouTube for some videos about working with broadcasters and came across this video of a game developer who is watching a broadcaster review his Steam Greenlight Game. The game should be focused on broadcasters and is even called TopCaster, the game is filled with memes (jokes) and other twitch related stuff. This however didn’t go as planned, at first the chat seemed somewhat excited and interested in the game but the broadcaster starts off with a face palm. He then begins criticizing the game and game development. He points out he just blindly used Google images while the developer in all caps says there is not a single stolen asset in the game. The video then shows an example of stolen image on the second spot of Google image search. The developer gets really upset and starts typing a bunch of reasons about why things are in the game or when thing shouldn’t be in the game.
This is a very good example of picking the wrong broadcaster that doesn’t understand this game but even more the developer made a huge mistake by being very unprofessional by getting so emotional invested and upset.
• Survey •
I have created a survey which I sent to partnered broadcasters and non partnered broadcasters on Twitch. My aim was to get 50 of each filled in to get enough results.
First you can see the results of the Non Partner Survey which was done by 63 people. I spread the survey on Twitter where I have a big following of all sorts of smaller and bigger broadcasters.
Next you can see the results of the Partner Survey which was done by 52 people. I went to Twitter to get in contact with most partners but I also sent them a private message to remind them to fill in the survey because their schedules would be busy and they would forget.BroadcasterBehaviorResults-Partners
After I took both surveys I wrote an summary analysis with both answers combined in one document. This should help create a good overview when working on improving broadcaster contact.BroadcasterBehavior-Summary
Most of my sub questions were answered by doing the survey. I gave broadcasters the option to tell them about their preferred platforms to use when being contacted in which as can be seen business email is most preferred with twitter being second.
If we look at what the behavioral pattern of broadcasters is a couple things are important. Broadcasters prefer to have overall short and professional contact, mainly for the bigger broadcasters, with smaller broadcasters you can be a bit more close as a game developer though. No broadcaster likes email blasts since they want some personal contact and not to be seen like a number. Broadcasters are social and you will see them doing most of their networking at game conventions, that’s why this is the perfect time for game developers to get them to their booths, show their game and hand out business cards. Because you’re both in the same area and not emailing back and forth you can also directly see which broadcasters actually show interest in your game, there is no use bugging a broadcaster that never showed any interest in your game if they told you so at a convention. Playing something new and different is welcomed by most broadcasters and they are not afraid to lose a couple of viewers if they were to switch to a different game, it is however mainly partnered broadcasters that worry a little more about losing games when playing something outside of their regular game types.
Then we still have the sub question left “What drives broadcasters to play/broadcast your game?“ if we look at the survey but also the interviews that I done down below you’ll see that what is most important is that first and foremost they enjoy the game, if it’s a game that they don’t genuinely like it’s not going to be as entertaining to watch. You can also clearly see this in the example of the developer choosing the wrong broadcaster to review their game in the video above the survey section. Make sure to know your broadcasters as a game developer and try to use community managers and network to get to know broadcasters and send them a key of your game and see how they react to it. Obviously not everyone will enjoy your game but don’t be afraid to look at broadcasters big or small because every form of exposure can help your game to get out there.
• Interviews •
After getting in the results of the surveys I wanted to know a bit more from some people that filled in the survey. I managed to do an interview with 4 broadcasters. I will explain a bit per video of what answers they gave in the survey that made me want to know more.
Radders is a partnered broadcaster on Twitch and she had a few things to say related to sending out game keys and staying in contact with broadcasters that can’t make it to conventions.
“Be personable and approachable, but don’t treat every broadcaster like your best buddy. It feels forced and fake sometimes. I don’t recommend throwing keys at everyone going but definitely contact those and be open to giving keys to people who are interested in broadcasting your content. Only send a key if I express interest in the game, I don’t like feeling like I’m wasting a game copy if I haven’t expressed interest yet. Conventions are a great place to get to meet streamers, but don’t forget about those who cannot afford conventions. Social media can be just as great as conventions for communication.”
TheRedVipre is a non partnered broadcaster on Twitch and he mentiones that it’s important that the community finds broadcasters that are a good fit.
“Work with community managers or broadcaster that are pillars within the Twitch community. These managers or broadcasters can help identify the streamers with both the quality and style to fit the game’s genre and feel. IME this often gets overlooked for a simple numbers based choice, and often results in sub-par advertising by the streamer due to it being a bad fit style or knowledge wise.”
KamikazeKitten is a partnered broadcaster on Twitch, she talks about failures especially of game developers S2 Games and Turbine. Her interview was not only from a broadcasters perspective but also as a player of their games.
“I think some devs can really underestimate how big an impact streamers have on the promotion and success of a game, specifically indie games. I’ve seen entire game dev departments die because of poorly managed communities and bad interaction with their biggest supporters. S2 Games, Turbine, and other moderately sized game development companies have had entire failures after mismanaging their community engagement and promotions. Not only is it bad for the company, but it’s heartbreaking for the fans. I also think some game companies (specifically the ones I mentioned, as well) have a distorted expectation of how game successes work and happen. Yes, you have big and little titles who launch to great acclaim and success, but you also have those games with the slow burn, that gain ground over time, and I think those are a seriously underestimated market, especially when you start talking about micro transactions and profit potentials.”
RaqibMarvelous is a partnered broadcaster on Twitch although he hasn’t been streaming as much, currently he is seen more like an influencer and he works with different game developers.
“It really depends on a per-person basis. Clearly large scale developers like Nintendo and Square can get away with blind contacting individuals for business, but I personally would never entertain the request of an indie developer unless I have had a pre-existing relationship with them. In most situations, unless it is a triple A developer, I really don’t care to deal with indie developers. Your first message to me should not be a solicitation to check out your game. I won’t do it. Don’t ever expect free advertisement. Allocate your budgets accordingly. In most situations, you will be paying significantly more for advertisement than actual development. It is a harsh reality, but unless you are producing Triple A quality titles, traffic will not just magically appear.”
How to create a successful system that can be used by multiple game studios to engage with broadcasters?
- What are examples of marketing systems?
- What types of broadcasters are there?
- Which social media platforms do these broadcasters use and what are the best ones to reach them?
- What is the behavioral pattern of broadcasters?
- What are successful examples of the use of broadcasters for game promotions?
- What drives broadcasters to play/broadcast your game?