Community-Driven Discoverability for Indies

Notes on a talk by Patrick Corrieri of Dry Cactus, developer of Poly Bridge

  • Game design decisions aimed at promoting the title in socially-driven way, rather than “real” marketing
  • Battling against saturation, algorithmic curation (or no curation at all), lack of cross-promotion showing similar games (e.g., in Epic store)
  • We need to drive as much traffic as possible to the stores ourselves (can’t rely on the platform to do it for you)
  • Broad categories covered by discoverability:
    • Email lists (see other GDC talk this year)
    • Discord community (see other GDC talk this year)
    • YouTube/streamer outreach
    • Misc “good marketing” (trailer, timing, promotion, etc.) aimed at appealing to existing markeys
  • Think about discoverability during design & development
  • External traffic you drive to your sales platform—the most important thing!
    • You must be able to generate your own traffic/visibility
    • Obvious: sell copies
    • Less obvious: appease the algorithmic gods that will send you traffic from the store itself
      • Ideally even people that don’t have a Steam account—helps your title be recommended by the algorithms
  • Discoverability as it relates to community
    • Building a community around your game is the ultimate goal
    • A healthy community provides immense value
      • Long-term fan base
      • Advocates, support, bug reports, design ideas, etc.
  • Niche
    • Make small games for your community… don’t try to do something massive
    • Benefits:
      • Tap into existing communities
      • Iterate & improve within an established set of constraints & design language
        • If you confuse/befuddle people, you’re liable to turn them off
      • Avoid market saturation
    • E.g., car simulator: these people aren’t core gamers, and they’re hungry for good content
      • This is an example of “finding people who too much money and want video games”
    • Pitfalls:
      • You have to know the subject matter well
      • Have to provide value & quality above & beyond what’s already out there
    • E.g., “Automation” game—an engine/car building sim
      • Made for engine enthusiasts & hobbyists, marketed solely through established car forums & magazines
      • Still in active development (6 years now)
      • A clear example of providing a high-quality game for an established niche that was hungry for content
      • Recently paired up with Beam.NG (car simulator focused solely on the driving part)
        • 450% sales increase year-over-year
        • Automation implemented an exporter, Beam.NG implemented an importer
  • User-generated content
    • E.g., Minecraft, Mario Maker, sim games, Roblox
    • Riding on the wave of the Maker movement (Arduino, Raspberry Pi, etc.)
    • A strong socio-psychological factor
    • Encourage creative ownership of content made in-game and enable sharing to social circles
      • Enables “bragging” about what you made with these tools
      • When you “own” the content, you’re invested in it
    • E.g., Poly Bridge GIFs, where they auto-record and prompt you to “share replay”
  • Twitch streamers
    • Twitch is here to stay
    • Lots of material out there on how to approach streamers (start small, be personable, etc.)
    • Attempting to involve “influencers” as a late-stage marketing technique doesn’t work in general
    • Again, a significant sociio-psychological factor is at play
    • Poly Bridge Twitch integration
      • Wanted to allow real-time collaboration between audience and the streamer (but streamer stays in control)
      • Created minified WebGL build where audience members could copy current state, change it, and send it to the streamer
      • Could we do this with letting other people control views (“ask” for the streamer’s machine to send them a particular view)?
  • Twitch extensions?
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