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开发者谈2019年独立游戏营销趋势以及相关的规则建议

发布时间:2019-01-23 09:03:02 Tags:,

开发者谈2019年独立游戏营销趋势以及相关的规则建议

原作者:Lewis Denby 译者:Willow Wu

(Lewis Denby是独立游戏营销&PR公司Game If You Are的主管,The Indie Game Website网站发行人。做过游戏新闻编辑,有时会参与游戏开发。)

从许多方面来说,2018在独立游戏圈看来是非同凡响的一年,《奥伯拉·丁的回归》《墨西哥英雄大混战2》以及GRIS这样的游戏吸引了大批玩家。但是对不少独立游戏开发者来说,2018年也是非常具有挑战性的一年 ,因为他们发现要从众多游戏中脱颖而出愈发困难了。

我的中介工作室Game If You Are在这一年与大概20个独立游戏工作达成合作,策划了50多个公关和营销活动。我们发现了一些趋势,在这2018年结束和新年到来之际,我认为你应该多了解一下。

1.第一印象尤为重要

在以前,独立开发者们还能够依靠有趣的游戏机制以及“玩法胜过画面”的心态在行业中生存(前提是你真的能解释清楚这个游戏特殊在哪里)。但随着市场变得越来越拥挤,游戏的第一印象变得无比重要。

这不仅仅是因为竞争激烈程度大幅提升了,还有就是游戏影视化的现象越来越普遍,所以展示内容能够立即抓住人们的眼球(而且不需要阅读任何文字)就成了一件非常重要的事。

Kingdom Rush Frontiers(from polygon)

Kingdom Rush Frontiers(from polygon)

在2018年年初,一位Gamespot编辑告诉我他玩了我们客户的两个游戏,觉得都挺好玩的,但是他只会推广其中一个游戏,因为它的截图看上去比较吸引人。随着时间的推移,这种内容选择的方式只会变得更加根深蒂固。

同时,编辑们每天会收到来自独立开发者的几十甚至上百份游戏推荐,他们通常只能匆匆浏览一遍邮件。从我们目前的邮件数据中可以看出,新闻和推广邮件中点击率最高的链接就是写着“观看预告片”的那个,所以你的视频一定要尽其所能地做得引人瞩目——首先你就得确保游戏本身在影音方面很吸引人,对玩家来说这就是最直观的东西。

2.让独立游戏新闻登上名站?别想了

独立开发者选择和PR公司合作的常见原因之一就是他们想让自己的游戏出现在规模最大、用户最多的游戏网站上。开发者们经常会觉得他们的游戏有独特的吸引点,能够成功突围,获得更多用户的关注。

那我告诉你一个坏消息吧:名站的编辑们完全不认同你的看法。

主流的游戏名站,比如IGN、Gamespot和Kotaku都在抱怨独立游戏新闻一直在轰炸他们的网站,甚至引起了用户的不满——不管这些游戏看起来有多好。人们来这些网站是想看看最近有什么3A游戏新闻,结果却看到各种独立游戏消息,他们觉得这么做很浪费,这些位置本可以用于他们所关心的那些游戏。

由此看来,你完全没有必要去追求在一个用户不会对独立游戏感兴趣的大型网站上刊登新闻。2019年,我们建议独立开发者们将目标放在那些聚焦于特定领域/平台、或者是对独立游戏比较友好的网站。他们的用户数量可能相对较少,但是这些人会更乐于接受你的推荐。

3.Discord的崛起&社区的重要性

不管你信不信,2015发行的聊天软件Discord是直到去年才在独立游戏社区中里流行起来,尤其在营销方面发挥了很大作用。

我们可以解释这个现象。当商店、平台拥有者和主流网站逐渐减少独立游戏的曝光度,拥有一个强大而忠诚的社区就成为了一个关键事项。而Discord正是能够帮助开发者建立社区的完美平台。

这个为玩家设计的软件提供了文字、语音两种聊天方式,还拥有不少高级功能,能够让人们更加轻松地管理玩家社区。2018年,我们所看到的最成功的独立游戏往往都是很注重建立、发展扎实的用户基础,到游戏发行的那一周,他们就能帮助开发者们将游戏扩散出去。

建立社区是很耗时间的,这就是为什么我强烈建议你将这一点跟下文的第8点连起来看。

4.独立开发者喜欢做平台游戏……但是现在没多少人在玩了

也许是因为开发难度相对较低,也许是因为80一代独立开发者的怀旧情结,也许是因为《茶杯头》这样的游戏获得了巨大成功,无论原因是什么,独立开发者们在2018年依然扎堆在平台游戏之中。

但是有一个问题——我们的The Indie Game Website通过调查发现平台游戏是最受独立开发者们喜爱的类型,但玩家却持完全相反的态度。事实上,大部分在Steam上发行的平台游戏都无人问津。

在某种程度上可能是因为这个类型的游戏堆积如山。若真是如此,这就形成了一个恶性循环,越多糟糕的平台游戏出现就越少人会对新游戏抱有美好的期待。说服人们去玩你精心制作的平台游戏会变得比以往任何时候都更加困难。除此之外,庞大的平台游戏数量也会造成供过于求的状况。关注的人数减少,媒体们就没有兴趣推广这类游戏。

事实是,每个类似《茶杯头》游戏的脚底下都埋藏着上百个不为人知的高质量平台游戏。2019年你还要不要冒险做这类游戏,认真考虑下吧。

5.2018年由Switch掀起的热潮

去年的这个时候,“独立游戏瞄准任天堂Switch平台”这样的新闻还是值得报道的。我的天啊,这是多久以前的事了。

忽略独立游戏圈这么长一段时间之后,任天堂趁着新一代旗舰主机Switch发售的时机突然打起了独立游戏友好牌。结果就是大批独立游戏工作室为了这个一体机重新整合游戏,导致Switch游戏的供求比发生了大改变。

尽管2017年有很多独立游戏团队都在Switch平台收获了硕果,但在2018年有越来越多的工作室说他们的成绩非常不理想,即使他们的PR工作做得很好、曝光率也足够。就跟Steam和App Store平台一样,游戏数量多起来了,你就很难让玩家在茫茫之中注意到你的游戏,让他们掏钱更是难上加难。

但是,我们发现,相比起那些关注所有类型游戏或者是聚焦PC游戏的网站来说,针对任天堂游戏的媒体平台还是比较愿意推广独立游戏的。但是这种情况在2019年可能会变化,也可能会有更多游戏移植到Switch上。只有时间能给出答案。

6.Steam一家独大的局面开始动摇

这可以算是不可避免的一件事吧,业内的讨论已经持续好几年了,而2018年我们终于看到了裂痕。Valve在2017年提高了Steam的开放程度,允许所有开发者们直接在平台发行游戏(只要他们不违反那些越来越专横的条款和规定),然而从2018年的游戏平均销量来看,数据呈现的是下滑状态。

再来就是10月,Steam平台开发者针对游戏的曝光率问题对算法做出了改动,但是代码中的bug导致了新独立游戏的曝光度大幅下降,不同游戏之间形成了巨大的销量和收益差距。最终Valve承认了这个问题,并声称已经修复了,但是开发者们的却遭受了不可挽回的流量损失。一名Valve的代表暗示有些变化是“能够帮助一部分游戏,但同时也会对其它游戏造成伤害。”

这条新闻就是个惨痛的教训:指望受惠于单个超级大平台并不是明智、可持续的商业计划,他们在任何时候做出的新决策都可能对你造成致命打击。但是随着Itch.io的兴起,以及Epic宣布推出分成规则更有利于开发者的新商店,我们相信独立游戏开发者在明年这个时候有更多经销平台选择。

7.常态式促销何时停止?

长久以来,人们一直将独立游戏就和捆绑包文化联系在一起,2018年更是如此。这一年Steam又加入了农历新年促销季,所以平台现在有四个主要促销季和一大堆小规模的促销活动。于是,越来越多的公司为那些因价格而观望的玩家推出了优惠捆绑包。

这样一来,开发者们要面临的问题就很复杂了。玩家现在知道什么时候是促销季,什么时候会有捆绑包,开发者们因为折扣而产生的压力也越来越大。这种常态化现象就导致很多玩家就干脆等到打折时再入手,因为他们知道顶多在等几个月就是了。

所以,开发者选择在促销季前后几个星期发行游戏会对下载量产生不小的负面影响。促销季的增加意味着游戏公司的最佳发行时机减少,他们只能集中在某个较短的时间段内发行,由此一来突围难度就增加了。

最后就得出了一个非常矛盾的结论。现在人们要比以往任何时候都更加关注游戏发售时间。但同样地,可能也没有必要花那么多心思去挑选游戏发售时间,因为这是一种两头难的状况——选对时机,你就得和一大堆产品竞争;选不对时间,游戏销量成问题。归根结底,好游戏+好营销即使是在促销季也能争得一席之位,而差游戏+差营销不管在哪天发售都不会获得成功。

在以后的博客文章中我们会谈到更多与这一主题相关的内容。

8.独立开发者在早期缺乏营销意识(那些非常成功的游戏也是如此)

这一段我们就单刀直入了,因为这个问题是独立游戏圈的老毛病了(但奇怪的是我们很难证明)。独立开发者们啊,你们应该早点思考游戏的营销问题。这也是很多独立游戏失败的主要原因。

尽管在游戏大会以及网上不断有专业人士提醒开发者们要在早期设计、制作阶段就将营销计划视为项目非常重要的一部分,尽管现实中真的每个成功游戏开发者都说他们在营销方面投入了非常多的时间,我们还是经常能收到开发者的邮件说他们的游戏两周之后就要发行了,所以他们要开始考虑相关的营销事项。到了这个阶段,说实话没有人能真的帮助你了。

为什么?第一,营销是需要时间的。你肯定不会跟开发者说要我想要你两周之内做出一个完整的游戏,那么你为什么会认为营销人士能在这么短的时间内奇迹般地成功呢?

还有一个更根本的问题。很多人都听过这样的建议:一旦你的游戏有内容可以展示了就要开始思考营销计划了,但是在我们看来,这也算太晚了。因为营销计划的起点就是决定你要做什么样的产品,目标用户是谁,在此基础上你要如何规划整个项目。

市场营销就是要了解消费者的行为方式。去了解人们的需求、购买习惯以及忌讳。这涉及到心理学,它帮助你思考什么样的游戏才能在电子商店中吸引不同类型的用户。问自己“如果我是X类型的用户,现在有什么样产品能让我感兴趣》?”诚实回答这个问题,然后设计一个满足这些需求和期待的产品。

重点并不是“把产品卖出去”。现实并不是有一辆专门负责营销的火车会等你,到游戏发行了火车就载着它到处宣传,你就等着源源不断的收入。重点是从一开始你就得确保这个项目在商业方面是可行的,然后持续调整、优化,及时跟上观众不断变化的需求。

我们认为,大家的问题在于很容易将“营销”和“促销”混为一谈。把游戏卖出去是一个结果,促销是把人们推向购买的边缘。就像是拿一根萝卜吊在他们的面前,然后再拿开一小段距离,如此反复直到他们猛扑上来。

而营销,是项目初期就应该有的,要思考人们为什么会喜欢萝卜。大萝卜和小萝卜哪个比较受欢迎?人们喜欢比较苦的还是比较甜的?我们有让大家来品尝吗?让他们分享想法?我们家的萝卜相比其他竞争者的萝卜如何?卖红萝卜是最好的选择吗?紫萝卜和白萝卜有没有市场?现在的人还会买萝卜吗?把未来两年的时间花在这些菜头上是否值得呢?

倘若人们都不爱吃萝卜了,就算把萝卜吊在他们眼前也只会惹人生气。所以,好好做营销功课,好好研究你的菜头。

本文由游戏邦编译,转载请注明来源,或咨询微信zhengjintiao

Lewis Denby is the director of indie game marketing and PR agency Game If You Are and publisher of The Indie Game Website. Occasional gamedev. Recovering games journalist.

In many ways, 2018 has been a phenomenal year for indie games – with the likes of Return of the Obra Dinn, Guacamelee 2 and today’s GRIS rightly enthralling players. But it’s also been a very challenging year for a large number of indie developers, who have increasingly found it difficult to stand out from the crowd.

This year at my micro-agency, Game If You Are, we’ve worked with around 20 different indie studios on more than 50 individual PR and marketing campaigns, and we’ve spotted some trends we think you should be aware of as we wrap up 2018 and head into the New Year.

1. First impressions count more than ever

Once upon a time, indie developers could get by with some intriguing mechanics and a “gameplay over graphics” mentality, if they could accurately describe what made the experience special. But as the market has become more crowded, first impressions have begun to count more than ever.

Not only is the competition so much more fierce, but a shift toward audiovisual media has made it increasingly important to be able to show something that grabs people’s attention right away – without the need to read a single word.

At the start of the year, a Gamespot editor told me he’d played two of our clients’ games and enjoyed them both equally, but was going to cover one and not the other, simply because one looked great in a screenshot and the other didn’t. And this approach to content selection has only become more ingrained as the year has gone on.

Meanwhile, editors are receiving dozens if not hundreds of pitches a day from indie developers, and often only have time to skim-read these emails. We know from our email data that by far the most-clicked link from our press releases and mailshots is the one that says ‘Watch the trailer’, so it’s vital to make yours as striking as it can be – and that starts with ensuring the game itself has an audiovisual appeal that’s clearly communicable in video.

2. Indie news on the biggest sites? Forget it

A common reason that indie developers give for working with a PR agency is because they want to see their game appear on the biggest and most widely read games sites. Developers often feel that their game has a unique hook, which makes it stand out from the crowd and appeal to a wider audience.

Here’s some bad news for you: the editors of the biggest sites all disagree.

We’re hearing more than ever from major outlets like IGN, Gamespot and Kotaku that indie game news almost always bombs on their sites – and in fact, even leads to discontent among their audience – regardless of how good the game looks. Their readers head there to find out the latest on big triple-A blockbusters, and see indie content as a wasted article that could have been used for a game they already care about.

The upshot of this, of course, is that there’s no point chasing for coverage on a site whose audience is never going to be interested. In 2019, we recommend that indies focus their attention on more specialised websites – platform-specific or indie-friendly outlets, whose audience may be a little smaller, but is likely to be much more receptive to what you have to say.

3. The rise of Discord & the importance of community

Believe it or not, Discord initially launched in early 2015 – but it’s over the past 12 months that it’s really risen to prevalence in the indie game community, particularly when used for marketing purposes.

This makes sense. As storefronts, platform holders, and major outlets provide less organic visibility to indie games, the importance of having a strong and engaged community becomes higher. And Discord provides the perfect platform on which to build that community.

Designed with gamers in mind, Discord provides both text and voice chat with a range of smart functionality that makes it easier than ever to manage the communities you build. Time and time again in 2018, we’ve seen that the most successful indie games are those that placed an emphasis on building and nurturing a strong fan base who, come release week, were ready and mobilised to help spread the word.

Community-building takes time, though, which is why it’s vital to read this point in conjunction with #8 on the list!

4. Indies love making platformers… but no one’s playing them

Perhaps it’s the relative ease of development; perhaps it’s nostalgia borne of a generation of indie developers who grew up in the ’80s; perhaps it’s the rip-roaring success of games like Cuphead. Whatever the reason, indie developers have continued to flock to the platformer genre in 2018.

But there’s a problem. As our sister publication The Indie Game Website discovered in an investigation this year, the platformer is the most popular genre for indie developers, but it’s among the least popular genre with players. In fact, most indie platformers released on Steam have barely any players at all.

This may in part be down to a mountain of shovelware released in the genre, but if that’s the case, it’s a vicious circle that makes it more difficult than ever to convince people to play your lovingly crafted platform game. The more bad platformers are released, the less people trust a new entry into the genre. Meanwhile, the sheer number of platformers means demand falls relative to supply – so fewer people care and, as such, the media is less likely to be interested in coverage.

The fact is that, for every Cuphead, there are hundreds of genuinely good platformers that barely anyone has heard of. Think long and hard about venturing into this genre in 2019.

5. The great Switch rush of 2018

This time last year, ‘indie game heads to Nintendo Switch’ was still a story worth reporting. My goodness, how long ago that seems.

After a long history of ignoring the humble indie developer, Nintendo turned the tides with the Switch and has re-branded itself as the indie-friendly platform-holder. The result has been vast swathes of indie studios repackaging their game for the hybrid handheld – dramatically altering the supply:demand ratio.

Whereas last year many indies enjoyed huge success on the Switch, this year more and more studios have reported disappointing Switch launches, even if their PR and overall visibility were very good. As with Steam and the App Store, when there are so many games launching, it can be difficult to stand out from the crowd, and even more difficult to convince players to invest in yet another game.

That said, Nintendo platform-specific outlets are still largely more receptive to covering your indie game than generalist or PC-focused websites, we’ve found. But that may all change as we head into 2019, and even more games make the transition to Switch. Only time will tell.

6. The Steam bubble is beginning to burst

This one was kind of inevitable, it being something that’s been spoken of for several years already, but 2018 was the year in which the Steam bubble finally properly burst. After Valve’s opening up of the platform in 2017, allowing any developer to publish its games there (as long as they didn’t fall foul of a set of increasingly arbitrary rules and regulations), 2018 saw yet another fall in the average sales figures per game. And then came October.

In October, Steam’s developers changed how the platform’s discovery algorithm worked. But a bug in the code led to a dramatic drop-off in how much visibility newly released indie games received on the platform. As a result, hundreds of developers reported a cliff-edge in their sales and revenue. Eventually Valve admitted to the bug and claimed it was fixed, but developers have reported a permanent drop-off in their Steam traffic, and a Valve representative hinted that some intentional, permanent changes may “help some games but harm others.”

The news was a harsh reminder that being beholden to a single behemothic platform, which can change the way it works at any moment, is perhaps not the wisest or more sustainable business plan. But with the gradual rise of Itch.io, and Epic’s announcement of a new store with a more favourable revenue share, we’re hopeful that indie developers will have more choice of viable distribution platforms by this time next year.

7. When is a sale not a sale? When it never ends

Indie games have long been intrinsically linked with a sale-and-bundle culture. Still, in 2018, it has seemed truer than ever. With the introduction of the Steam Lunar Sale this year, the platform now has four major seasonal sales, with a variety of other, smaller sales scattered around. And more companies than ever before are offering bundle packages to players hungry for low-price games.

This presents a variety of problems for developers. Gamers increasingly know exactly when to expect sales and bundles to land, and developers are under increasing pressure to offer their games at discounted rates. This normalisation of price-cutting has led to many gamers choosing to simply wait for the next time a game is on offer, safe in the knowledge that it’s unlikely to be any more than a few months down the line.

Launching games within a couple of weeks either side of a sale can lead to significantly reduced download figures. But that leaves increasingly few windows available for studios, and leads to a concentration of releases around shorter periods of time – making it even harder to cut through the noise.

The result is a weird dichotomy. It’s more important than ever before to be aware of the games distribution calendar. But equally, it’s perhaps less important than before to stick to certain prescribed windows – because you’re damned if you do, and damned if you don’t. Ultimately, great games with great marketing can do well even in sale season, while bad games with bad marketing will fail regardless of when they’re released.

We’ll have more on how to release games in today’s sale-and-bundle culture in a future blog post.

8. Indies still don’t think about marketing early enough… even though the ones that do enjoy the most success

We’re going to be really blunt about this one, because it’s something that is repeated constantly in indie gaming circles, and yet seems to be weirdly difficult to make stick. Indies: you are thinking about marketing way too late. And this is a key reason why so many indie games fail.

Despite ongoing reminders from experts at conferences and on the web, pleas to make marketing planning a key part of your early design and production process, and despite the fact that literally all of the successful game developers say they invested long periods of time into marketing, we still regularly receive emails from developers who tell us they are releasing their game in two weeks and are therefore starting to think about marketing. And at that stage, there is almost nothing anyone can meaningfully do to help you.

Why? Well, for one, marketing takes time. You wouldn’t go to a developer and ask them to make an entire game in two weeks, so why would you go to a marketer and expect them to somehow magically succeed?

There’s a more fundamental problem, though. It’s common to hear advice that says ‘start thinking about marketing as soon as you have something to show’, but to our mind, even that is too late. That’s because the process of marketing begins with deciding what product you’re going to be making, who you’re making it for, and what that means about the way you should organise your entire project.

Marketing is about understanding consumer behaviour. It’s about learning people’s desires, pet peeves, and purchasing habits. It’s about psychology; about figuring out what makes a game stand out to different types of people on a digital store shelf. It’s about saying “if I were x type of person, what would really interest me right now?” – about answering that question honestly – and then designing a product to satisfy those desires and expectations.

This isn’t about ‘selling out’. It’s not about cashing in on a hype train that may have stalled by the time you’re ready to launch. It’s about ensuring, right from the start, that you’re embarking on a project that is commercially viable – then continually refining and optimising what you’re doing to keep pace with the rapidly-shifting nature of the gaming audience.

The problem, we think, is that it’s easy to conflate ‘marketing’ with ‘sales’. Selling a game is something that happens at the end: when you have a product that is ready for people to buy. Sales is about tipping people over the edge into a purchase. It’s about dangling the carrot in front of their face and moving it, just a little, until they’re ready to pounce.

Marketing, though, takes place from the start, and it’s about what people like about carrots. Are big carrots popular, or smaller ones? Do people like sweeter ones or bitter ones? Have we got people to taste our carrots and let us know what they think, and how they stack up against our competitor’s carrots? Does our carrot need to be orange, or is there a new market for purple or white varieties? Are people even buying carrots at all these days? Might it be worth investing the next two years of your lives into beetroot, instead?

If it turns out that nobody eats carrots any more, then dangling one in front of people’s faces is just going to annoy them. Do marketing. Investigate beetroot.(source:gamasutra.com


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