Is a marketing manager/PR firm a good idea for a small indie game?

Discussion in 'Indie Business' started by chubigans, Aug 3, 2011.

  1. chubigans

    chubigans New Member

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    I'm currently making a small indie game for release *hopefully* by October of this year. It's called Neptune Gasoline, and here's a screenshot and a little more info on the game: http://www.vertigogaming.net/blog/

    Basically it's an arcade/manager game that'll be on D2D, Gamersgate and hopefully Impulse and, so help me, Steam. My last game, the Oil Blue, made about $4500 in a year and I'd like to make that amount of money in a much smaller, faster timeframe. And a lot more of it, obviously. :p My goal is to shoot for $10k in gross by the end of the year.

    What I've been reading is how smaller devs have gotten small marketing firms and have raved how they boosted sales, or got their foot in the door to digitally distribute with Steam. I was wondering, is this something I should seriously look into? I know next to nothing about advertising (the Oil Blue had $0 spent on advertising at all) and I can't seem to find any site that offers marketing/PR for small indie devs like myself. How much would something like that cost?
     
  2. Nexic

    Indie Author

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    Marketing firms will just do things that you can easily do yourself, and they will probably want $1000s for it (on top of the cost of the overpriced ads they'll want to take out on your behalf). They don't have any magic powers that will make Steam accept your game. Basically, work out whether or not your time is worth more than they are charging per hour for the service and decide.

    Personally I wouldn't trust a marketing firm. I'd rather do it myself so I can be sure it's right.
     
  3. Digital Entanglement

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    Marketing firms will do things you can do yourself, however "easily" is ridiculously relative. Promoting a new website is probably one of the hardest things you'll do in order to get repeat customers and you really only get one good shot to get your name out there. After launch day, sales tend to slide and eventually tank, which is why pre-orders and launch day sales are so highly touted.

    Marketing companies are widely varied in how effectively they can get your name out there and what they can do for you. Some DO have contacts at Valve and can get your game on Steam. Others will promise 100,000 hits on your website and then set up a random proxy generator to ping your website repeatedly. If they can't give you reports or tell you exactly where your money will be going and take your opinion into it, it's probably not worth it. If you find one willing to show you exactly where and why your finances are going somewhere, then they're probably a good bet.

    It's up to you whether you consider your personal time valuable and what you rate it at. If you have just oodles of free time, consider doing it yourself with some minor help from an expert. I would not suggest going it completely alone, you'll hit the same issues everyone else starts at and could even alienate some of your user base or get banned from Google (yikes). It'll probably cost you $100, if that, for some minor advice if you can't find a forum for it. If you want to go full bore, it could cost you anywhere from $100 to a $1,000 a month or an upfront one time fee.

    Coincidentally, I plan on offering indie devs marketing services in the future, but not for a few months at least. If you want some free advice, let me know, I'd be happy to share. I'll also be happy to preview/review your game, it looks pretty high quality.

    P.S. @Nexic It sounds like you haven't worked with a marketing firm before or have been burned by one. What's your story on that?
     
  4. chubigans

    chubigans New Member

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    Thanks very much for the responses! I'll definitely contact you Digital, thanks again!
     
  5. terin

    Original Member

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    HEY! ... You saying you wouldn't trust me Nexic!? Whadda jerk!

    :D

    I think Nexic is right about one thing: Calculate the value they provide vs. the value of your time. Unfortunately if you have no starting point as to how long these things take or what your time is worth - take the next best thing: Find people you trust that can recommend good things. (Be that just advice on how to market your product or recommendations of marketing pros like myself).

    (PS: I think I am booked for your launch period, so despite my awesomeness, you'll have to find someone else. Unless your game really is super incredibly awesome with cherries on top... I can always make time for that kind of game)
     
  6. Nexic

    Indie Author

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    I've worked with a couple of marketing people in the past and have always felt like it was a total waste of money. I tend to get the similar feedback from other indies I know who've used them.

    At one stage I was chatting with an individual who wanted 50% of my sales and in exchange him (and his team) handling all our marketing needs. They had some pretty good looking credentials so I was interested. Although I was very wary of getting locked into a 50% deal, so instead I suggested we try an affiliate model instead. He reluctantly agreed and started trying to generate traffic. The sum of his efforts turned out to be one reddit post and a crappy ad taken out on a relatively low traffic site. After a year his efforts only generated a few $100. Totally dodged a bullet there as I potentially could of lost millions.

    Having contacts won't get you on Steam if your game isn't what they want. If you do have what they want, then you'll probably get on there anyway. Only any help if your game is on the borderline for acceptance.

    I really don't like these type of scare tactics. You'd have to screw up really badly with black hat SEO to get banned from google. If you're even looking up those type of methods then you're probably aware of the risks associated already. And I'm really not sure how you can alienate your users with marketing.

    Please try to make sure your own site has some traffic before you start doing that. Doesn't look so hot when a marketing guru's site is ranked 8 million on Alexa.
     
    #6 Nexic, Aug 3, 2011
    Last edited: Aug 3, 2011
  7. Jack Norton

    Indie Author

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    Besides, SEO is losing rapidly importance in favor of social bookmarking/sharing, and for that you need true fans and not "cheats" (like buying links/buying likes on facebook that don't work). I never got so many offer for SEO as in recent days... crisis anyone? ;)
     
  8. RichHW

    RichHW New Member

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    We hired a pr/marketing firm a while back (Reverb). Unfortunately it didn't go well - a complete lack of any marketing ideas from their end and lacklustre pr at best - for example, the coverage reports they would send us about half or more of the links were to sites that just collect news from gamepress!

    We could have done far batter ourselves (and have done since) and really it was wasted money and a negative experience.
     
  9. Jack Norton

    Indie Author

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    Honestly I think if you use the money a PR/marketing firm asks to improve your game or even just in banner ads you'll always get a better ROI...
     
  10. Digital Entanglement

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    Some vague stories about "worked with a couple marketing people" and "similar feedback" does not a convincing story make. Nor does working with someone who wanted 50% of your profits. Continuing to talk to such a person is lunacy unless you were perhaps new at the time and offering to pay him in profit share as opposed to actual money that you can spend. I wouldn't be shocked if someone didn't work too hard promoting something they weren't really getting paid to promote, nor at the methods they used considering the percentage split they proposed.

    Nothing you've stated tells the OP why marketing doesn't work, it just tells them to watch out for people who do marketing wrong, which is exactly what I stated (see paragraph 2). Arguing for the sake of arguing?

    Having someone who has worked with getting a game onto Steam before is LEAGUES better than someone who has not. You don't just get an invite, you have to petition the company and go through a vetting process which takes weeks. Indie publishers don't get magic invites so no you won't "get on there anyway". The work to get onto Steam is not endlessly difficult, but having someone else manage it for you sure as heck helps so you can develop.

    And I don't like condescending exaggeration, guess we've both got some feelings on the matter. You do have to screw up to get banned from google, but there are varying levels of such, like not being able to use their ad service to getting blacklisted. If you are new to basic SEO, and just use basic tactics learned from the top hits on google, you have a moderate chance of screwing up. Quite a few sites on the subject will tell you to do things which are either outdated or will get you a warning email. You don't have to "look them up" (black methods), they come up in almost any seo optimization search and they are mixed in with good methods. As for alienation, I was speaking about spam, or the methods some people use to catch email addresses for newsletters, such as popups on load.

    I started this particular website less than a month ago and began basic advertising 2 weeks ago (I haven't even done an adsense campaign yet). I do it as a side job and offered to review his game, not SEO work since I didn't call myself a guru nor do I feel I have the skills to do so at this point. I'm not sure why you feel inclined to attack me with such a low blow, I don't think we're even competing services unlike the other guy (who runs a competing site) who did so on my first post here. But hey, free world and all, you can call me a dick in as many or few words as you like, that's your choice.

    If I had known I'd receive such a scathing review for offering some free advice, I would have written a more succinct post detailing exact steps to take for the developer and then compare that amount of time and money with the money they would pay to a marketer to do that same job. Much like I suggested in the first line of my post. In fact....

    Indie game marketing

    Reasons to go with a marketer:
    - Lack of time to spend learning SEO and completing advertising promotions
    - You possess a reasonable budget to do so
    - The cost benefit ratio means you would be losing money by spending time on SEO rather than developing
    - You have partners who can help out
    - Networking benefits of larger SEO companies who already have experience and can get your foot in the door

    Why NOT to go with a marketer:
    - You have enough free time to persue SEO and advertising on your own
    - Small or non-existent budget
    - You can do basic SEO, such as google ads without much experience
    - You already have an existing fan base who can help you out
    - Your game is popular already and you just need a small push
    - Don't want to risk capital on marketers you don't have experience with

    @Nexic: If you'd like, we can further discuss how badly my site ranks in Alexa in PMs, I don't think it's relevant to the OP's post.
     
  11. Digital Entanglement

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    Very true.

    When you start working with a budget over $1000 (for marketing specifically) then you can start thinking about hiring out.
     
  12. kraz007

    kraz007 New Member

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    Honestly, I don't think you can get a decent Marketing/PR firm on this scale. Even meeting with one costs (them and you) at least a thousand. How do I know? Closely worked with Hill & Knowlton in the past (google them).
     
  13. Nexic

    Indie Author

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    Yes, I guess I should have typed out a wall-O-text explaining my entire dealings with them in minute detail.

    Huh? When did I say marketing doesn't work?

    I know it does, and that was the entire point of my post. To warn him about marketing people/firms. If people with credentials up to their armpits can do so badly at it, what should he expect from somebody with none?

    Geee really? You DONT get an invite? You mean you have to send them some emails? Damn, that's way to much work for a poor little indie like me. I'd better pay someone to 'manage that process' for me.

    I just find it irritating that somebody who admits to having zero experience in the field thinks they can just appear out of nowhere and start offering marketing services. Maybe you'll learn a bit in the next few months, but certainly not enough to start charging us for help. Do you think we're really that desperate?
     
    #13 Nexic, Aug 4, 2011
    Last edited: Aug 4, 2011
  14. DaveGilbert

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    I've had two PR consultants. One was horrible - he came up with a bunch of half-assed marketing schemes and his "press contacts" consisted of banging together a press release and sending it to gamepress.com. He also referred to Blackwell as "Blackwood" for months - even in the press release! He didn't last long. :)

    I then found a lady who used to do PR work for Telltale before going freelance. Since I make point-and-click adventure games, she seemed almost tailor-made to sell my stuff. I hooked up with her and she's been an absolute godsend. I know I'm really lucky to find someone who is uniquely suited to my own little niche, but if you can find someone similar I'd say go for it.
     
  15. Digital Entanglement

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    From what I've read, a lot of SEO these days is about content, flexing the title of "search engine optimization" to really mean "product optimization". Without updated contents and regular fans, you're right, it's definitely an uphill battle. Social networking goes a reasonable way, but more a means to an end, to have a product easily in a place of social activity to get the people that want to see your game. A tool in the toolbox so to speak :)

    (I <3 analogies)
     
  16. Turgoz

    Turgoz New Member

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    If I may chime in, one of the more important things a person in the role you are describing is to be able to help position your product for you. Finding out who your customer is, where they go when they decide to purchase games, etc...

    A second thing that a PR/Marketing person can do is have ongoing relationships with people who can get the word out or help you distribute more widely. Obviously those relationships are harder to quantify.

    At the end, someone has to get the word out and I recommend that it is someone with a vested interest in your game. The best advocate for how awesome your game is should be yourself. There are a lot of competing titles out there and getting your game noticed by customers can mean staying/going full time indie or working somewhere else.
     
  17. terin

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    Hey I feel totally ignored on this flame war :(

    No fair.

    I got 8 years doing this stuff now... can you believe it? 8 years and very few unhappy customers... maybe even zero.

    Sometimes marketing / biz dev works :)

    Lastly: My experience has shown actually having an existing relationship with Steam does increase odds of getting products onto the platform. Due to NDA I can't talk much about it beyond that though with specific examples. Doesn't mean I could shovel a totally crap product onto the platform, but I have noticed a definite upswing in Steam Acceptance since the first product made it on there.

    That said I do believe what Nexic said is true: You can do it all yourself too. It's just a measure of effectiveness + timeliness vs. money, again.

    AND I believe that Nexic would hire me if he needed the help (and I had the time).
     
  18. Jack Norton

    Indie Author

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    Yes I saw the "game you mentioned to me several months ago by email" was on Steam recently, nice job. I didn't pursue you anymore, because honestly I didn't think Planet Stronghold was the right game for steam audience anyway.
     
  19. terin

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    :D Just one of many man, one of many. I agree thought PS would have had a tough time making it.
     
  20. Jack Norton

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    Yes, probably because of too many texts, though I'm doing a sequel now to fix some mistakes to reach a broader public. Also, differently from most people, I'm not so eager to be on Steam to be honest :D
     

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