Category Archives: Game Business

Setting up a small gaming event in your hometown

Last March, me and another game designer friend decided to launch an indie gaming event in our hometown of Montreal along with the help of our friends and some very kind volunteers.

We never organized a major event before and a great deal of experience came out of it. I want to share our experience with you in case you are planning to organize a gaming event yourself.

The idea of the Montreal Independent Games Festival (MIGF) came to us when we realized that there wasn’t a great deal of events that focus solely on celebrating indie developers in Montreal. Gamers of Montreal know all the big studios already, so we thought it would be only fair if they had an opportunity to know the little studios as well. Been inspired by events such as BitSummit that is held in Kyoto, we thought that this kind of project could be feasible with the resources that we had. The activities of the event would be kept simple for the first year, focusing on showcasing indie studios on the show floor and giving non-cash prize reward for the best games.

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We soon realized that we were right; in fact, the event surpassed our personal expectations. We had over 40 game submissions and we estimated that about 900 people came throughout the day.

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Finding the right sponsors and partners

We learned that if you have schools in your hometown that give courses related to video games, they can become essential partners. Even if they can’t help you with funding, they can offer so much more. Schools often have rooms that are specifically made for events and they can already have a system in place for planning such events. In our case, we already had good relations with Dawson College, a local college that offers courses in independent game design; they were more than happy to give us access to one of their conference room in exchange for promotional space for their programs.

Working with a small budget

Ok, so we did manage to get a venue fairly easily, but we also realized that there would be costs involved such as for artwork, printing, awards, etc. We knew that since it was our first year, it would be very hard for us to get big sponsors such as the Microsoft or Nintendo. Also, we decided that charging people at the door or asking a fee from the indie studios would not be a good option since it would compromise the accessibility of the event.

Our strategy was simple: Focus on the activities that are low cost and high value for the first year to keep the budget low. Since the showcase of indie studios on the show floor was an activity that required little cost and management from us, we decided to fully focus on that.

As for the awards, we decided not to focus on prize money and rather on the prestige of winning an award. One of the awards was voted by the public and added even more drama to the scene. As organizers who were also indie developers, it was clear to us that we should not participate in the awards or be part of the nomination process.

Reaching to the local media

I contacted websites before as a developer to promote my game, but I never did it to promote an event and I never really contacted the local press; I didn’t know what to expect. As it turns out, we got excellent coverage; two key local newspapers wrote about us and also a few noticeable local blogs. On this point, I would advice to be ready to tell your story and also answer questions; reporters find personal story behind an event very appealing.

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Things to improve

Things went very well for the first year of MIGF, but we also know that there’s always room for improvement. Here are some things we want to improve.

  • Our most common critique was that the room was too small. The truth is, we didn’t expect the show floor to be so packed; I guess it’s kind of a good problem to have. We already have a bigger room planned for next year.
  • We should have contacted the sponsors earlier and be more active in our search. Alot of the sponsor work was done too close to the event date and that put some pressure on us. We would also like to get more partners and sponsors that not necessarily help us with funding but with supplies and other benefits as well.
  • As for promotion, we focused on blogs and newspaper this year, but I would also like to start reaching out to other media outlets such as local radio and TV shows.
  • Hopefully, with more partners and sponsors, we can add new activities to the festival such as musical performance and also guest talks.
  • Also, we noticed that the work done by our volunteers was fantastic and we want to give them more rewards for their help in the future.

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Conclusion

All in all, our festival was a success and we are extremely happy with the result. We learned a lot of things while making the event and we are also very grateful to our friends and the local professional in the gaming scene that took the time to give us advices. I hope that this post was able to inspire you or help you if you are planning a gaming event yourself!

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The 3 Fans that Make or Break your Indie Game Community

With the indie games scene getting more crowded, simply having an amazing game might not be enough. Unless you dedicate yourself to promoting your game and building a community, it would be unlikely for your game to reach its full potential of success. Since most indie developers like myself don’t have the budget necessary for traditional marketing methods such as television ads or street banners, we often need to rely on internet-based methods when it comes to promotion.

You have a Facebook page and a Twitter account, so you’re going to do fine, right?
No!
You also need to figure out who is reading about your game, where they are reading it from,and what content they are looking for.

While making our game The Girl and the Robot, I noticed that there were 3 types of people that showed interest in our game, and I quickly realized that they were all different but still essential to the success of our game. They were: fellow developers, the press, and gamers (“regular” fans).

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Fellow developers

When you talk about your game to fellow developers at the start of your project, they can become your very first fans. Even if you only have an idea and no prototype, they can still be excited about your game because, unlike others, they can see the potential of a game idea more easily. If you share ideas and development methods early with them, they will not only talk about your game, but they will also give you quality feedback to make your game successful and help you grow as a developer.

One of the best ways to keep fellow developers interested is to post about your game progress and about your development methods. This is information that will inspire them.

For example, we started by making a thread for The Girl and the Robot in the Work in Progress section of the Unity forums and the early feedback we got from other developers helped us confirm the potential of our design and make better decisions. It’s also good to show the game’s progress on social networks and participate in events like Screenshot Saturday on Twitter and Reddit.

From my experience, fellow developers are often:

  • On Twitter
  • On Reddit (r/gamedev/)
  • On forums (indie development, Unity Forums, etc.)
  • At your local indie meetups
  • In your own circle of developer friends

The press

You are in the middle of development and your game is starting to look pretty good. You finally feel that it’s time to show it to the world. Fellow developers know about your game, but that’s about it. This is the perfect time to reach out to the press. If members of the press like your game, they can dramatically increase its awareness.

The press is looking for something different than fellow developers. Since they want to write a good article, they want a story. If there is something unique about the gameplay or the art of your game, or if there is an interesting story about how you made your game, it’s in your best interest to tell them. For us, one of our stories was the fact that our team was working remotely and spread pretty much around the world (Japan, Canada, England and France).

It’s also important to have good relations with the press and this often starts with a proper email. I recommend reading Mike Rose’s article on communicating with the press to get started.

Again from my experience, you can reach the press:

  • By email
  • At gaming event
  • On Twitter

Gamers

Now that the press started talking about your game, more of the regular fans come in. Obviously, those fans are extremely important as they are the ones that will ultimately pay you to play your game. They can also give you feedback and valuable data about the design of your game.

When we presented our game at the Indie Game Festival BitSummit in Kyoto, I had to take out my notebook because the feedback we got from gamers was just too valuable. Watching them and listening to them helped me spot parts of the game that could be better designed.

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Fans will want information about your game often in the form of announcements, trailers and screenshots. Some of them will also want to interact with you (the developer) and with the other fans in your community. Social media tools such as a Facebook page and your company forum page will cover that need nicely. Also, organizing events such as contest, give aways, and special events can also keep them interested.

Your fans will try to reach out to you:

  • On Facebook
  • On your crowdfunding page
  • On gaming press site
  • On your company forum page
  • At expositions and festivals
  • On digital stores such as Steam

Summary

As you make your game, you will find that different kinds of people will be interested in your game at different times and for different reasons. It’s important to identify who they are and produce content for each one of them. This will help you build a strong community throughout the development of your game.

If you have an opinion on the matter, I would love to hear from you.
Our Twitter: @FlyingCarpetsG
Our website: Flying Carpets Games