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Game Design On Demand. Building mobile games for spaces. Museums, games, education and other great adventures.

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Building mobile games for spaces. Museums, games, education and other great adventures.

Filtering by Tag: marketing your game

PLEASE OH PLEASE Play my game!! The Art of Engaging People Part 2: Five action items

Kellian Adams

Trailblazer

PLEASE PLAY! Part 2: "Who will play my game??!” I hope you’re asking this because it is exactly the right question. Sometimes people forget that if they build a game, people will not magically come out of the woodwork to play it: user acquisition is one of the hardest parts of game building. Part one had three big ideas on how to design your game to be more playable. Here for part two are five real-life, real-time for realz things that will give people permission to play. Ready? GO!

First of all: BEWARE YE THE BADGES

Don't get caught in the trap of thinking that points and badges will get people to play. Points and badges are fun where there’s an existing community of people that you know to compete against or you’re competing in real time. Foursquare mayorships were fun because you stole them from your friends. Game leaderboards are fun if you’re playing multiple times to best your own score. Yay! I got 10 points. Who cares. If you can answer that question, think about points but if there's no way to gloat over your success, points and badges can end up feeling a little more like a test (which also has points, and yet is critically un-fun.) I’ll write more about that later but I think I can say confidently that badges and points won’t make people play your game.

1.Use your testing as marketing You’re testing right? You’re testing EVERYTHING with at least 5 fresh-faced, non-builder test players before it ever goes live, right? (Serious face….) Of course you are! But use that testing as part of your marketing outreach. Set testing dates or testing parties where you invite a very limited number of people to test out the game before is live. People love to be involved in the design process and often testers blog about it, share and can be interviewed and give you marketing quotes. Tweet pictures of them playing, put on your FB page “can’t wait to test the X game with families today”. Send out an email blast looking for testers etc.. This way by the time the game releases, people have heard about it already, if even in passing.

2. Throw a launch party

NatM_Murder_2
NatM_Murder_2

Once your testers have tested the project out and given everybody a sneak preview, have a launch event! If you can do something where people are competing for an iPad or something, that's great! (one iPad is worth it's weight in marketing gold). For a non-competitive challenge, launch it as part of a party where people will just be psyched to have something fun to do while they socialize. Again- tweet, FB, media and website all of your pictures of people having an awesome time!

IMG_2387
IMG_2387

3. Encourage groups to play

If you encourage classes, homeschool groups, Nick Cave fan clubs, church groups, meetups, stroller moms, girl scouts etc… they bring a group of 5 to 20 with them. Encourage groups. You’re still trying to get the word out and having people play in groups will get the word out faster, make people more likely to play and increase your numbers faster than encouraging individual players with a scatter marketing effort. Reach out to these groups directly- call them! Email them! People have so much noise that it's easy for them to miss you if you're not speaking to them directly.

4. Be specific with your target market

I've found that it's easier to reach out to people when you have someone specific in mind rather than just a blanket marketing thing. The Met launched their murder mystery for their teen group to play at an event. The Quartermaster museum uses their game as part of soldier training. The Joslyn is reaching out to kids from Buffet Middleschool and their families. The Smithsonian American Art museum built some fun stuff but they haven't done any of the above and so nobody knows to play it yet. (We’re working on it...)

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7c83de0f-b72c-4236-b57c-3819a4940d96.png.ashx

I've found that it's easier to reach out to people when you have someone specific in mind rather than just a blanket marketing thing. The Met launched their murder mystery for their teen group to play at an event. The Quartermaster museum uses their game as part of soldier training. The Joslyn is reaching out to kids from Buffet Middleschool and their families. The Smithsonian American Art museum built some fun stuff but they haven't done any of the above and so nobody knows to play it yet. (We’re working on it...)

5. Do your marketing legwork  I know I know- signage is hard but you should put a MINIMUM of 3 hours (minimum) of regular old marketing into any game launch. If you put any less than 3

Postcards cost like $100 for about 500 of them and you can either mail them to people or keep them at an entryway.
Postcards cost like $100 for about 500 of them and you can either mail them to people or keep them at an entryway.

hours of marketing into a launch, you're not allowed to be surprised if nobody plays. This is pretty standard stuff. One removable sign in the lobby of your space. A link on your website. Send out postcards to your museum members, students or staff. An email blast. Use catchy names and fun pictures to remind people that this will actually be fun. Reach out to local reporters, student newspapers, radio shows and bloggers! Remember that FB and Twitter are ephemeral, the post will be up for a day and then it will get lost in the sauce so don’t cheat, post it on FB and Twitter and say you’ve done your marketing. You’ll need to put in the time… at least three hours of time. (Or get an intern to do it.)

PLEASE OH PLEASE PLAY MY GAME… The art of engaging people Part 1: Three ideas

Kellian Adams

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This last weekend I was a judge at the Mass Digi Games Challenge. It was a completely exhausting and really wonderful experience- practically a full 8 hours of games. There were a lot of games. http://www.massdigi.org/gamechallenge/ They ranged from half-done student projects to fully fleshed-out game design studio projects but for those of us who have seen a lot of games, we consistently saw one problem that was overlooked. WHO WILL PLAY YOUR GAME?? This happens a lot: You have an idea. It’s awesome. Everyone will love it. They’ll all see the value. It will definitely go viral. Wait. That’s your plan?

Sometimes magically everyone does play. But educators and ed gamers, we need to get it firmly planted in our brains that this won’t happen to us. It’s irresponsible of us to act as if our game about gravity or the history of the Bread and Roses protests will catch on and get a half a million downloads. Like the lottery, it does happen to some people rarely but it’s a very bad idea to bet your organization’s budget on that. Who will play for real? What will YOU do to get them to play? Give this question the due diligence that it deserves! Whatever you do, don’t fall into the “if we build it, they will come” trap.

It’s not all doom and gloom. People WILL play your education game but you need to work at it. I like to geek out about the psychology of getting people to play. To me, here are three of the most important concepts I’ve learned about how to get people engaged:

#1: KNOW THE STORY

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47389477

Describe the person who will play your game. Careful, don’t say “everybody” and don’t say “millennials” because none of that is specific enough. Think of individuals and their stories. Marketing companies make user profiles and so should you! Fast forward 1 year, who is playing your game? Ask these kinds of questions about that person:

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47389616
  • How did they find your game?
  • Why are they playing?
  • How much time do they have to play?
  • How long does it take them to actually begin playing? (Not learn how to play)
  • Are they playing alone or with friends?
  • Where are they sitting/standing as they play?
  • What are they thinking about? What are they worried about while they play?

After you ask, things may start to get more clear: Is it a mom keeping her kids busy on an ipad while she drives? Is it my husband, obsessing over playing a video game better than his friends? Is it someone who walked into your gallery with a friend and has 60 minutes to look at art? Think about how to reach out to precisely those people.

#2: BE A HERO MAKER

Now that you’ve thought about the story of your target, think about how they might share their experience with your game with their family or friends. How do they feel? How do they share it? Do you make it easy for them to share it with others?

Don’t let people be embarrassed by your game.

“Wanna play??!” “Sure!” “Do you have a smartphone?” “Oh I have a dumb phone.” Fail.

“Play with your kids!” “My kids won’t really spend time on things like that.” Awkward.

“Learn all about science!” “Actually, I don’t really get this.” Oh… right.

You want people to show up to your game prepped, ready to play and feeling like they’re experts. Don’t let them walk away from your game feeling defeated! How to make heroes will be different according to your game: maybe you’ll need to let people download it ahead of time. Maybe you’ll need to let people test it. Maybe you’ll need to put it in multiple languages. Either way, watch very carefully for play testers feeling dumb. That’s the sign that it’s going to be hard to spread this and you need to make some changes.

Let people be the hero who went to the museum and found that cool activity that the family all had so much fun playing. Let them be the kid that introduced all the other kids to that fun game. Let them be one of the cool, “early adopter” parents. If you can put people in this position, they will love you for it.

#3: UNDERSTAND THAT YOU HAVE 16 SECONDS TO NEVERMIND

People are BUSY. They’re overwhelmed and they don’t have very long to make sense of what you’re trying to get them to do. If you have a video game and your player is alone at home in front of a screen, you have a lot more leeway than if you’re building a location-based game.

I build almost entirely mobile games so it’s become a rule of thumb for me that I have 16 seconds to nevermind. Somebody opens my game! HUZZAAAH! Can they play now? No? How about now? Try this exercise:

Open your smartphone and just fiddle with it blindly counting slowly to 16. Don’t check your mail or read the Times for 16 seconds- just poke at things and be confused. 16 seconds feels really long when you don’t know what you’re doing, right?

This is why your games have to have SUPER LOW barrier to entry. People have to be able to figure out how to download it, know where they’re going, know what is asked of them and be able to get there.

It’s not a great thing if you have a bunch of people open your game and close it- in fact, it’s much much better to have a few people open it and actually play. So do what you can to draw people in the second they open your game. You have 16 seconds to engage them, otherwise it’s going to be really hard to get them back.

Next week: 5 real things that you can (and should) do to get people to play your game!