The game press is not your marketing department. Despite this, developers will often bet their entire promotion strategy on having their game noticed and promoted by games journalists.
Independent developers will often spend dozens of hours working on their pitches and e-mailing lists, or uploading to tools like Gamespress to reach customers. For some, this can result in success. Especially years ago, when smaller games were rarer, and journalists were eager to champion spunky games like Super Meat Boy, the effort to results ratio could be enormous.
Today, the situation has changed. Editors even at marginal outlets receive dozens of pitches each day from talented developers. Developers write most of the pitches themselves. Editors will tend to select the media kits that are most professionally composed, which means that many quality games become overlooked.
#1: It Requires ‘No Budget,’ So Everyone Does It
A professional press relations firm will often charge upwards of $7,500 for a single press release. That’s on the low end. Despite this, developers often think that they will get a good result by either
- Spending dozens of hours that could be spent on production learning how to compose a media kit, creating a list of press to e-mail, and exhaustively personalizing each pitch
- Slapping together 500-1,000 words and e-mailing it to as many people as possible, with screenshots as attachments
In the majority of cases, a successful campaign without hiring it out requires an expenditure of money or an expenditure of effort at great opportunity cost. Since this approach is so common among independent developers, it suffers from a lack of competitive advantage.
If you consider the hourly rate that a game developer can charge as a contractor, the time that goes towards e-mail pitching can rapidly start to be incredibly expensive, just in lost potential wages that could have been redirected to another promotional effort.