Good Robot #41: Why Promote Your Game?

By Arvind Raja Yadav
on Feb 2, 2016
Filed under:
Good Robot

Good Robot is almost done, and we are on course to finish the remaining tasks in the next couple of weeks. We’ll release the game in the first week of April, which should give us some breathing room for testing and polish.

However, there is another reason we are launching the game two months after we’re done making it – promotion. This is the part where you email every single Game Journalist / YouTube Personality / Twitch Streamer / Person with a Blog in an illegal-substance-fueled-frenzy and hope they play your game and tell others about it.

You have to cover our game! It has an exploding Frisbee that bounces off walls in it!

You have to cover our game! It has an exploding Frisbee that bounces off walls in it!

“Why do you need to promote your game, Arvind?” I hear my friend Manny Straw exclaim, “If your game is any good, surely you can just put it up on Steam and people who see it will tell their friends about it, and then those friends will tell their friends, and soon you’ll sell a million copies! That’s how Minecraft did it!”

“Minecraft did build its initial momentum via Games Press, Forums and YouTube though”, I answer, “but let’s say you’re right and conduct a thought experiment for a hypothetical game.”

  1. We make a game and put it up on Steam. Our game is so amazing that we decide not to promote it at all.
  2. Every one person out of ten who sees the store page buys it instantly at full price. That is a conversion rate of 10%, which is bonkers. Even if someone likes our game, they could wishlist it, wait for a sale, wait for their paycheck or many other things – but we assume they’ll buy it instantly.
  3. From my experience, we can expect about 50,000 people to visit the Steam page “organically” (i.e. without clicking a link via google or any other site) in the first month after launch. For our game, that means we just sold 5,000 copies!
  4. Let’s assume that every one person out of ten who plays our game loves it so much that they spread the word among their friends (again, this rate is extremely high). We have 500 people who posted about our game on Facebook or Twitter and link the game’s Steam store page.
  5. You don’t need to be a social media expert to tell that this is not going to result in many views on your store page. Let’s be incredibly optimistic and say we got 500 more people to buy our game via this method.
  6. We can continue the process, but each time the numbers will be smaller and smaller.

You see where this is going – relying purely on word of mouth is not a very sound strategy if you want to sell your game.

Adding a laser beam that reflects off walls should help, though.

Adding a laser beam that reflects off walls should help, though.

“Okay, I get it – promoting our game is necessary”, says Manny, “but why can’t we launch our game and then promote it? Our fans can play the game as soon as we’re done with it!”

There are many reasons why that doesn’t work – one being that games media is almost always forward-looking. News about the big upcoming game or the game that just came out is usually more popular. I’m not saying that anyone is to blame – this is just how the world works. A game’s chances of getting attention are much better if the game is new. This is true for all entertainment media, except perhaps Xtreme Archaeology.

On top of that, launch week sales are usually the biggest source of income when releasing your game. That is when people have just seen a glowing review or an enthusiastic forum post and want to see what this hot new game is all about.

Dude, you must check this game out! The plasma mortar is the bomb!

Dude, you must check this game out! The plasma mortar is the bomb!

Before Steam was popular, sales after the first month were usually a trickle compared to launch day. The major reason for the change are Steam Sales™, but small studios like us are still very much dependent on launch day sales. This is because when a Steam sale or daily deal happens, how much you discount your game is far less important than whether or not your game is featured on the front page of Steam. You will sell way more copies on the front page of Steam with a 33% discount than a 75% discount only on your Steam page.

The games that get Daily Deal or Summer/Winter sale slots are almost always the ones that sell the most. A majority of the slots go to the really big games (Fallout, Witcher, Call of Duty etc), and a handful are left for “the best of the rest” – the games that managed to sell well without prominent store placement. Essentially, what I’m saying is that to get to the point where we can expect Steam sales to be a windfall, we have to sell enough units at launch to qualify as a “top seller”.

Will that happen? Stay tuned for updates!

P.S. Please buy Good Robot.

There’s a shotgun for the times you want to kill robot spiders the old fashioned way.

There’s a shotgun for the times you want to kill robot spiders the old fashioned way.


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From the Archives:

  1. Daemian Lucifer says:

    Did you just post this into the past??

  2. Haddron says:

    Some interesting details from one of the developers of Dustforce about Steam sales figures goes into specifics about how daily sales versus steam sales affect overall revenue.

    More recently, have you read about the situation with Arcen Games? He has some interesting things to say about how the Steam store has changed since their ‘discovery update’ (thought it’s kind of a depressing story)

    I look forward to playing Good Robot.

    Good luck!

    • Yep, I’ve read both the articles. The Arcen story is something I can relate to, especially since the Steam release of Will Fight for Food didn’t go as well as Unrest, which released before the discovery update.

      Even with additional factors, in my experience the Steam store after the discovery update seems to have flatted the revenue distribution among small games. Unknown games get more views due to being put in discovery queues, while games on the front page get cycled in shorter intervals (the “Popular New Releases” default tab).

    • Grimwear says:

      Personally the only time I ever went into my discovery queue was for the cards during the Winter Sale. Unfortunately, with a lack of relevant information I can only offer my personal consumers perspective. I read a screw attack article claiming the new discovery queue has doubled page views for games but I’d argue that those initial page views are just people trying out the new system then never going back. It’s too much like the steam greenlight queues where 98% of the stuff you see are things you don’t want or can’t comment on yet. During that Winter sale I just spammed the view next item without even looking at which games were being shown. That means I was an additional views to 30 games a day for two weeks but I never once considered buying them or can even tell you what the name of them are. That’s me being a “view” to 420 games. The queue doesn’t even help me because for the majority of the items I can’t even use the additional options associated with the queue. I don’t follow games because I made that mistake once and kept getting pop ups anytime an event started so it just annoyed me. I also will never click I am not interested because if it’s an early access game maybe once it’s finally finished I will want it. Or who knows maybe a year from now my gaming tastes will change and I will want to try a game I previously discounted. People change. Permanently removing a game from my queue could just harm me in the future so instead I ignore it, I don’t associate with it. At the end of the day doubling page views are great but they mean nothing without actual game sales behind them.

  3. Ingvar says:

    It seems as if “Good Robot” is still on my wishlist, although I suspect it MAY require buying a gamepad-like (I am not really fancying my chances successfully playing that game with arrow keys and a trackpad).

    • Paul Spooner says:

      Oh, yeah! I was wondering about that as well. I’ve only got digital inputs (mouse and keyboard). Is it reasonable to play Good Robot with just that, or do I need a gamepad of some sort?
      Also… Occulus support?

      • The game works with both mouse+keyboard and controller. Mouse offers more accuracy, but controller is more comfortable if you’re used to playing twin stick shooters on consoles.

        • Paul Spooner says:

          So… mouse in one hand, controller in the other?
          Which brings up an interesting point. A lot of these split-control games (move and aim independently) work pretty well with two players, one flying and one shooting. Maybe test against this use case?

        • Lachlan the Mad says:

          I strongly suspect that you’re going to get people making very different builds depending on which input they’re using; on average, people with controllers will probably gravitate towards speed/manoeuvrability builds, while m+kb users will probably go for a tankier layout. Not that that’s a bad thing!

  4. Eric says:

    Congrats on your pending release!

    I have followed Good Robot back since Shamus started writing about it years ago. I’ve always felt it would be awesome for Shamus and the Twenty Sided crew to release a game and now I’m really happy to see that happen. I will be getting the game on launch day for that reason alone.

    In which I pretend to sound like I know what I’m talking about:

    Getting your name and your game out there is extremely difficult. You need a great elevator pitch, a great and distinctive visual look, a good launch window, connections to people of influence who will cover your game…. most journalists and YouTubers have hundreds if not thousands of new game coverage requests every week. Standing out from the pack is daunting.

    One thing that gives you a massive advantage over most is both the Pyrodactyl fanbase as well as the Twenty Sided fanbase. Leveraging that is extremely important and gives you a leg up over most other indies. Social media and dedicated communities of gamers are the lifeblood of smaller developers.

    Likewise, journalists are looking for a story as much as a game to cover, often about the team behind the game. Unrest got a lot of coverage precisely because it was a unique concept (an RPG set in a totally non-Western part of the world, text-focused, non-combat-focused). Good Robot certainly must have its own story to tell, and being “from the team that brought you unrest Unrest” probably also doesn’t hurt.

    • Henson says:

      Well, that’s a bit of a risky situation too, as I see it. If you sell this story as Shamus’ personal project, as ‘a game built in the basement of a long-time blogger, a labor of love’, then you risk diminishing the efforts of the Pyrodactyl team, which could jeopardize their future projects. But if you sell it as ‘the New Pyrodactyl Project’, you risk giving the company an unclear public image; I mean, what is the connective tissue between ‘Unrest’ and ‘Good Robot’? What kind of developer is Pyrodactyl?

      Of course, I’m getting ahead of myself, and the team should obviously be focused on making this project a success before anything else. But I do wonder how Pyrodactyl plans to define itself for the future.

  5. silver Harloe says:

    So – hopefully this question helps promotion by having a great answer: What makes Good Robot worth buying when there’s zillions of free wasd+mouse shooters? Sure 99% of them are crap, but while I don’t remember specific titles, I do remember having fun in the genre before without paying a cent.
    Mind you: you don’t need to answer to kind of person who is on this forum reading this question. We want to buy it to support Shamus. You need to answer to people who don’t have any idea who you are – to whom this looks like a game they’ve played before and before and before, and to whom it’s mayyyybe $5 if the mechanics break out of the mold or there’s some good features on top of the shooting.

    • Lachlan the Mad says:

      So I’m pretty sure that Shamus wrote a bit of code back in his DM of the Rings days to push any comment which began with “First post” two hours down the list. Looks like it still exists, and it applies to comments from blog contributors :)

  6. Bruno M. Torres says:

    This video by Total Biscuit about getting reviewed by youtubers has some pretty good insights on self-promotion.

  7. KingJosh says:

    Couple quick questions:

    Do you know/can you announce the price? (MSRP, not any launch sales you may have.) the Steam page doesn’t list it.

    Will Good Robot have an, um, easy mode? Asking for a friend, of course.

    • It will be $9.99 – launch discount means you can buy it on day 1 at 8.99 or whereabouts.

      We don’t have traditional difficulty levels in Good Robot – the first couple of levels are on the easy side, and the challenge ramps up from there. Your friend will be fine, it’s a “easy to pick up, hard to master” kind of game!

      • KingJosh says:

        Thanks! Shoot-em-ups aren’t really my style of game, but the RPG-style leveling and equipment sounds pretty cool! As does supporting Shamus and Pyrodactly.

      • somebodys_kid says:

        Cool. I’ll be getting a copy for me, and a copy for each of my three brothers.

      • Alan says:

        Do 10% sales really cause a measurable boost? Even for a AAA, $60 game, it’s small enough that it doesn’t seem meaningfully different to me from full price. Is it that any sale will cause a boost?

        • Robyrt says:

          Yes – because Steam has a default tab for discounted items, a discount of 10% gets you featured on 2 lists in that all-important first week of release.

          Psychologically, it also helps people look on your game favorably to think they’re getting a discount for getting on on the ground floor, instead of being pressured to buy a $30 season pass.

          • Alan says:

            Thanks! Getting onto the discount list seems like it would justify the decision all by itself. I didn’t think of it as it’s not how I use the Steam store. (The crime of UI designers everywhere: thinking how they use something is how everyone uses it. :-) )

        • Falterfire says:

          Speaking as one gamer-type-person – Sometimes a launch discount will push me towards buying if I was on the fence, where if there wasn’t a discount I might just throw it on my wishlist and wait, especially since indie games generally go to sale within a month or two anyways and I just dislike paying full price for games on Steam because I so rarely have to.

      • Dragmire says:

        Do you get to choose to change the price for different regions or is that something Steam does automatically?

        • Valve suggests prices in different regions based on the base price. I can set custom prices per region, but this is one area I’m happy to let them decide based on their experience of running Steam.

          • Simplex says:

            $9.99 is exactly €8.99 so can we expect such price in Europe?

            • Richard says:

              You’re forgetting about VAT.
              At the modal 20-22% VAT, that looks like £9 or €11 (rounded up).

              I believe VAT on online sales now depends on the country where you are, not the country Steam nominates as where it is – but might be wrong. Intercountry VAT is seriously confusing!

              US prices are generally aren’t quoted including sales taxes, and last I checked, (most?) US online retailers don’t have to collect sales taxes due to interstate trading laws or something.

      • Mistwraithe says:

        I am curious about the decision to not have difficulty levels. I was planning on getting the game, just to support Shamus, but the last time I played a game like this would have been Wizball on the Commodore 64 well over 20 years ago so I fully expect to be fairly crap. Yet I would still like to be able to progress to the end of the game. Hence I figured I would be playing on quite a low difficulty level.

        So what does this mean? Am I doomed to buying a game which I would have to sink 100 hours (not likely) into getting good at in order to get to the second half of the game, or is it not that hard even for noobs?

        • The reason not to have more difficulty is that most of the challenge comes from bullet patterns and enemy movement in the game, and that stuff is harder to balance in 3 or more difficulty settings without making the lowest difficulty = enemies that don’t move and fire limited bullet patterns throughout the game. Spelunky and many roguelikes do this kind of thing.

  8. Honestly, Good Robot is not really my kind of game, but man, those gifs! I’d be tempted to find recordings of gameplay, turn off the sound, and just ooh at the visuals. Lovely art style!

    (I’ll buy it because a) Shamus, and b) you guys)

  9. RJT says:

    Is Good Robot going to be in any other stores? I am especially curious as to Pyrodactyl’s experience with GOG. They seem to have some sort of arcane selection process as to which games they will sell.

    • Once we’re done finishing up the game, we’ll submit it to GoG. If they accept it, we’ll definitely sell it there.

      • James says:

        im sure you have a list longer then my arm but there are some channels i can reccomend “Jesse Cox” unrest was on his channel before on his “greenlight” show, “Many A True Nerd” is a small channel that likes to cover indies, and on the twitch side is “Strippin” & “DexterityBonus” they tend to cover variety of games and are popular.

      • Tektotherriggen says:

        A tip for GOG. I think games with extras stand out a little bit more. You’ve already made wallpaper-sized images for Steam trading cards and backgrounds, so you might as well include them as bonuses in the GOG version too.

    • Tektotherriggen says:

      You could try Humble Store as well. A good middle route for people who like Steam keys for convenience, but DRM-free for a backup.

      • Humanoid says:

        I found it curious that Unrest was available DRM-free on Humble (as well as a Steam key) but the release of WFFF on Humble was Steam key only.

        I asked Arvind about it and he directed me to itch.io which did sell the DRM-free version (in addition to a Steam key), so hopefully if nothing else, that should be an option again.

      • Mephane says:

        You can totally release games on Steam without any DRM at all. The use of Steam DRM is a choice for the developer, not mandatory. I am pretty sure that there won’t be any in Good Robot, otherwise Shamus would have to complain about his own game. :D

  10. WILL says:

    But Shamus IS a famous youtuber/games journalist/columnist/social media person! Just email him – that should be enough right?

  11. Xeorm says:

    Is this where we shamelessly post that we have a blog/twitch stream/youtube channel in hopes of participating in your drug-fueled frenzy of promotion?

  12. swenson says:

    Aww, look at those pretty gifs. What a good robot. I wanna pat it* on the head canister.

    * him? her? xir? I don’t know what Good Robot’s preferred pronouns are here.

  13. Paul Spooner says:

    So, what about fan-made content? Should we hold off on releasing stuff like this and wait for the media blitz?
    https://youtu.be/Sc9uM9pv4dQ

    • First of all, that’s awesome! Thanks for making that video :D

      Secondly, it is indeed better to wait until the game is out. Buzz is much better if someone who hears about the game can immediately buy it. (However I’m not going to stop you if you do stuff beforehand)

  14. skulgun says:

    Why is green the canonical color of plasma mortars in video games?

    • Harold says:

      Because plasma is green, duh.

    • Naota says:

      In this case, blame good old-fashioned Starsiege: Tribes.

    • Humanoid says:

      Various flavours of Plasma Cannon existed in Wing Commander and I don’t think any of them were green. Something to do with chlorophyll in an anoxic environment maybe.

    • bubba0077 says:

      It goes beyond just video games, as green is also used for plasma in sci-fi. It is probably because green makes it obviously different. A reddish pallette makes it just look like standard fire, blue makes people think electricity (even though watch you see is the plasma). I’m sure there are earlier examples, but TNG was doing it back in 1991 in “Disaster”.

    • Mephane says:

      It isn’t. In Warhammer 40k games, plasma is typically a shade of blue or purple.

      • Lachlan the Mad says:

        In most of the 40K video games I’ve played, the plasma weapons fire white bolts with blueish edges. The plasma weapons themselves are usually blue though.

        (I play Necrons, and our weapons are green in both the canonical and modelling sense, since they’re actually made out of green plastic).

    • ehlijen says:

      It’s colour association. Red is hot is laser/heat ray. Blue is cold and associates with lightning guns or freeze rays. Green is alien and slimy and therefore has been the colour of alien plasma weapons since at least the days of XCOM: UFO Defence.

      Notable differences are in franchises that use multiple colours to differentiate good and bad guy laser guns (eg red xwing lasers vs green tie fighter lasers), but those don’t usually also have plasma weapons.

      • Mephane says:

        Except Star Wars does also have plasma weapons which are simply called “blasters”. Blasters and lasers in SW look identical, however, and come in all kinds of colours.

        • ehlijen says:

          Blasters are called blasters because they blast things. That’s about the extent of thought star wars puts into weapons.

          At no point in any of the remaining canon, are blasters described as plasma weapons. (In fact the old EU stuff had blasters as lasers and SW turbolasers as laser powered plasma weapons).

          Basically, to be a plasma weapon, it has to be called a plasma weapon (as really, that’s the only metric we have for observing the science in fictional universes).
          If Han Solo was meant to have a plasma pistol, he would have called it that instead of blaster.

  15. ThaneofFife says:

    I’m personally very excited about Good Robot, even though shoot-em-ups aren’t usually my preferred genre. I’m hoping that Shamus (and Pyrodactl, of course) will have a break-out hit on their hands.

    Echoing several people above me, I also had a couple of questions:
    – I know almost nothing about the genre, but in the last couple of months, I’ve seen several reviews for new games in this genre. Do you anticipate any difficulty differentiating Good Robot from those other games?
    – What will be the recommended control scheme for Good robot? Mouse & keyboard or gamepad?
    – Finally, if Good Robot becomes a Stanley Parable-sized hit, what would your plans for the future be (both Pyrodactl and Shamus)?

  16. Paul Spooner says:

    Just noticed this, GR blinks when taking damage and colliding with things! Such a tiny touch, but adds so much character!

  17. Brandon says:

    Just an FYI: those huge, animated GIFs are a major drag on the latest Firefox. The browser stalls for several seconds while it loads the image file and then sets it to animation. I don’t have a slow connection, either. Chrome is gradually loading them, but Firefox is being a pain. Don’t know what that means for you as I suspect Firefox users are a smaller percentage of your site visitors, but I figured you should know what’s going on.

  18. NoneCallMeTim says:

    Manny Straw: truly the most legitimate debate partner.

    Looking forward to playing this. One of the first games I played seriously was Xenon 2, and the space shootemup style of this game seems to evoke something of that.

  19. Ravens Cry says:

    I hate to ask, but is there a Linux version, or is it at least Wine friendly? I’d love to buy this, if only to support my favourite bloggers, but it’s a hard sell if I have no chance of playing.

  20. Cuthalion says:

    So, it’s coming out in just a couple months? Awesome! I’m not super keen on roguelikes (and last I heard, this was?), but it looks fun, and I like buying things that Shamus is associated with. (Also, impulse bought WFFF, and it was pretty funny.) I’ll stick it on the wishlist. :D

  21. The Specktre says:

    Okay, that bouncing laser is really, really cool! Made me a wee giddy.

  22. Gothmog says:

    I am SO excited, Shamus! This game looks AWESOME and I can’t wait to play!!!

  23. Sabrdance (MatthewH) says:

    Beginning of April… let’s see, tax season and birthday… I think I can shake $10 loose. I expect to be horribly disappointed (I am basically expecting the second coming of Sylpheed, my all-time favorite shmup/bullet-hell game, which is an unreasonable standard to hold you guys to). But it will leap the queue ahead of whatever AAA schtuff is out that month.
    Also, Arvind has completely nailed our host’s deadpan.

  24. wswordsmen says:

    Good Robot will be the first and last game I will buy at full price, for a while, since seeing what Shamus designing (or influence the design of) a game will be worth that much.

  25. Da Mage says:

    What’s the market like for twin stick shooters? Is there many of them releasing in the indie market at the moment to compete with you?

  26. Mephane says:

    You should also emphasize that the game is very mouse+kb friendly. Lots of twin-stick shooters come with a “gamepad required” warning, and there’s definitely a large number of PC gamers who don’t have a gamepad at all.

  27. stomponator says:

    Good Robot is finally getting released? Is it 2016 already?
    I’ll be definitely getting that at launch!

    Now… when can we expect a Witch Watch-themed RPG to come out?

  28. Tektotherriggen says:

    A big turn off for me, is Steam games whose summary descriptions are entirely story-based, and say nothing about what type of gameplay it is. I need to know if it’s an action, adventure or 4X game before knowing that the Empire of Madeupilur has fallen into crisis. Good Robot’s description looks pretty inviting – good start!

  29. Wray92 says:

    Shamus, you should contact Slowbeef (https://twitter.com/slowbeef). He’s a fairly big YouTuber, and he plays a lot of Good Robot style shoot-em-up games. He’s done some streams before where he gets the developers in to comment, too.

  30. Zaxares says:

    Sadly Good Robot doesn’t look like the kind of game I’d enjoy (just watching those gifs starts to give me motion sickness), but I wish you guys all the best. :)

  31. blue painted says:

    Does following on Steam help at all? (I’m new to Steam)

  32. Jonathan says:

    Assuming this runs well on my old XP computer (6? 7? years old?), my toddler is going to love watching me play it. Lots of movement and shiny colors.

  33. Fabrimuch says:

    Will I be able to purchase the game in my local currency? I live in Argentina and I have no easy way to access US dollars. I want to buy the game, so it would really help me if I could buy it in pesos.

  34. WWWebb says:

    So when will you release the Special Edition with developer commentary audio tracks that are triggered ON_FIRST_SIGHT. I want to hear about which weapons were thought up in the shower and which baddies were so annoying they made testers ragequit.

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