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11 April 2013

LAUNCH: Meet the Games Press

Early Tuesday morning saw a number of Bristol-based game developers congregate outside the Games Hub in Stokes Croft. Force Of Habit, Auroch Digital, Large Visible Machine, Demon Apathy, Toxic Games, Geek Beach, Rice Digital, Infinite Playground, Red Panda Audio -- quite a crew.

We all attended LAUNCH: Meet the Games Press held at Birmingham Science Park Aston, and had a hell of a day. Opening the event was Jaspal Sohal from Creative England - who revealed their latest initiative called Games Lab - as well Jo Twist from UKIE, who thanked us all for coming and casually brought up doritosgate. Speakers included Will Freeman, Rich Eddy and Alex Wiltshire. Panelists included Rich Eddy, Natalie Griffith, Chris Theophilus-Bevis, Mike Bithell, Keith Stuart, Keith Andrew, Ed Wilson and Matt Kamen. Whew, did I miss anyone?

Hyperlink overload.

We learnt a lot, perhaps too much to put in to practice at once. The whole event was recorded and put online, but look out, there were photos taken too. Last year's event video is also online. Everything in the video is super useful and is sound advice for indies, but it's a little long to watch in one sitting. Knowing that, we've attempted to summarise our notes. Here are some of the tasty morsels we brought back.

How to talk to Games Press:

1. Target the right journalists and outlets.

Read news, read reviews, read everything. Get a feel for what particular journalists like to write about. Find the ones that like to write about games like your game. Find the journalists with an audience that matches yours. Maintain your findings in a spreadsheet. If you target well, they will champion your game and spread enthusiasm. If you target badly, you can be ignored. Don't write to RPS about a mobile game. Don't write to requesting a review. Have a brain.

2. Tailor your message.

It's better to have a few contacts to whom you can give a tailored message, than to have many contacts who receive your generic drivel. A wide net isn't as effective as a steady line. Don't start emails with "dear sir/madam", "press release" or "app review request" - give them something personal. Write 25 email subject lines, show them to someone, pick one. All journalists are rampant egotists, compliment them on a piece of their writing.

3. Lower the barriers.

You know what your targets like to write about and what content goes in their writing. Give them all of it. Give them a description of your game. Give them the release-date, platform and price. Give them a screenshot. Give them a video. Give them a build. Make it really easy  for them to write about your game. Read this. If they need a circle, don't give them a square. Don't send huge files as attachments, send them links. Don't ever watermark anything. That would be silly.

4. Don't neglect smaller publications.

Target bigger publications first. Offer them a limited exclusivity on your game or story, they'll love it. If your message is ignored, review your approach, move on to other publications, smaller publications. Often the big guys will have eyes on the small guys. Journalists are like a pack of wolves; wolves on the hunt for page views, wolves trying to feed their readership. The story can snowball.

5. Don't neglect niche publications.

Often your game will have some thematic cross-over in to other specific-industry fields. Tell them about your game too. It might be so leftfield that you get some coverage. If your game is about toast, get in contact with Good Food, Food Magazine, Delicious Magazine; have a good spread.

6. Take your time.

Don't give too much away too soon. Feel free to say "no" if press ask you for more information on your game. You lead the discussion. You control the reveal of information. Your information is your leverage. Be explicit on things you want to keep under wraps.

7. Be an expert. Be a talking head.

Start a blog. Write things down. Are you using a new or different technology? Write about it. Did you release a game with little success? Write a post-mortem. Celebrate your work. Write about the decisions you make, offer insight in to your creative process. Offer journalists your opinion on recent stories you've read - the big controversial stories - they may come to you for a quote on a follow-up article. Be ready for interviews.

8. Be Indie.

Don’t be boring, be personal. Don’t be corporate, be eccentric. Don’t get mad, get even. Not sure on that last one. You’re indie - don't listen to this - you can do what the hell you want.

- Ashley

Toast Time, at LAUNCH: Meet the Games Press

Toast Time at LAUNCH Charlotte Ackrill, Creative England, and Ashley Gwinnell, Force Of Habit.

Photo credit: LAUNCH conf.

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