GameDev seeks Player: How to find players online

More people are playing games than ever before but it’s still tremendously difficult to connect with players. Rising above the massive glut of content online and standing out is an extreme challenge. We interviewed 70 game studios across Canada, here are their top tips to find players for your game.

  1. Stand out.
    If your game plays like every other game you’ll blend into the background. Find the games like yours, understand how you fit into the broader landscape, then identify and amplify the ways you are different.
  2. Stand for something.
    Build a strong brand that feels authentic to you. Find hooks and give people something they can be excited to engage with and talk about. Look for the moments where people’s eyes light up.
  3. Seed community early.
    Start building your community early. Make a Discord, build your social media presence, then invite people to become part of your community.
  4. Don’t give up.
    It can take time to find your fans, especially if you are making something niche or experimental. Stay consistent with your values and give people time to find you.
  5. Be open.
    Don’t hide until everything is perfect. Be transparent and share your process. Early fans who become invested in your journey can help strengthen your game and can become your biggest evangelists.
  6. Choose community platforms wisely.
    Build your community on platforms where you have more control, like Discord, instead of on platforms like Facebook where an algorithmic tweak can bury your game in an instant.
  7. Make space for people to connect.
    Create opportunities for people to connect and engage with each other inside your community. If you get a critical mass of people engaging, they can build a thriving and exciting community.
  1. Manage community expectations.
    Be mindful of expectations when shaping your early community. Be transparent about your bandwidth and be careful what you promise. The consequences of a horde of superfans with unbounded expectations can be perilous.
  2. Maintain relationships.
    Relationships take time. Show up consistently and bring genuine curiousity and openness to others. It’s easier to be interesting when you are interested, so invest in relationships that excite you. Show appreciation, look for ways to give back to people, and boost the work of others in the community.
  3. Be open to feedback.
    Make space for fans to communicate with you and reply to feedback openly and honestly. If you feel defensive, wait a day to cool down. Consider your goals when replying to feedback.
  4. Set and enforce boundaries.
    Ban people who are making your community toxic. Growing your community requires pushing toxicity and abuse out, which makes space for healthy relationships to thrive. If you hire someone to do this work for you, thank them often and compensate them generously.
  5. Invest in marketing.
    Experiment with your marketing tactics. Try many small things to see what works. Let your successful experiments guide your resourcing decisions. Then invest in tactics that demonstrate measurable impact. Don’t spread your budget everywhere. For example: only buy social media ads if they have measurable conversion rates.
  6. Get it in the contract.
    If you are working with a publisher, get everything in the contract. You can expressly request to be involved in marketing your game. They are working with many studios, help them make yours a priority.
  7. Get press.
    Build a press list. If you have the budget, hire a publicist who knows how to reach your demographic. Don’t blast the entire world with your presskit. Seek out streamers and media outlets who are covering games like yours, get introductions if you can, and write personalized messages. Make as big of a splash as you can on the first day and week. Platforms want to support games that are hot.
  8. Prioritize punchy assets.
    When you only have two seconds to catch someone’s eye online, it helps to have an attention-grabbing title, a strong trailer, compelling images, and playful gifs.
  9. Consider Steam.
    Steam is where many of the players are. Make lots of Steam updates and be responsive. Always get people to wishlist your game. Try to cross-promote with other games. Steam forums can help cement support. If someone has a problem with the game and you fix it and reply to them, they will often write a glowing review.
  1. Consider Discord.
    Discord can be a central hub for engaging with players, creating community, and getting feedback. Build your own experimental bots and custom tools to engage your community!
  2. Consider Twitch.
    Build an audience by doing daily dev streams, monthly devlogs, playing games, or hosting interviews.
  3. Experiment with social media.
    Platforms change quickly. Where are your players? Be nimble and participate in trends. Schedule posts in advance so you can maintain a regular presence and sprinkle in real-time updates. Use social media to find people, but invite players back to platforms that are hopefully less nefarious and more in your control.
  4. Consider a mailing list.
    Having a direct line to people who love your work is invaluable. Invite people to sign up at events and on your site. Have a clear call to action in your emails: if you want people to buy your game, make it easy for them to buy it. If you want a wishlist, ask for it!
  5. Use existing resources.
    Find out about and access existing resources like industry organizations, industry Discords, and games events. These can be a great source of new relationships, community, resources, and support.
  6. Keep learning.
    Find and follow people who are giving tips and don’t shy away from asking questions. Don’t hesitate to build off the techniques of successful people.

Created by Marie Claire LeBlanc Flanagan from GAIN and funded by Ontario Creates and the CMF, Isolation Nation tackles the tough pandemic-related problems like motivation and communication, as well as continuing challenges like market discoverability and work-life balance.

Download the full free 32 page resource here, or read another excerpt “How to make work-from-home work for you“.