Your game's demo is one of the biggest and most important assets that you'll create during your marketing campaign.
But as you may already know, or at least presume, making a demo costs time, money, and nerves. So it's only natural that you should squeeze out as much marketing goodness out of it as you can. Yes, optimization belongs to marketing too.
Today I will show you my five-step demo marketing plan -- my demo milker so to speak. A step-by-step guide on getting the most bang for your buck and the most whooshes for your wishlists:
- Step 1 - Show a preview to selected top tier sites
- Step 2 - Written previews go live
- Step 3 - Release video of preview/demo playthrough as an exclusive
- Step 4 -- Give preview to influencers
- Step 5 -- Release demo to the public/Steam Fest
As you can see, when thinking about your demo, don't just think about players. Your demo can be of interest to more than just them. You should also think about two other important "stakeholders" of your marketing campaign -- the good olde press and the good olde influencers.
Now, both of these stakeholders have different needs, wants, and attitudes to your preview/demo. So let me go through each step and talk a bit about the needs of these stakeholders.
Step 1 - Show a preview to selected top tier sites
This one might be a bit tricky depending on your game's "clout" (read as popularity and coolness) as well as your timing on the calendar (AAA season, avoid it like the plague). But one thing is certain: if you want your game's demo/preview to be covered by the press, your best chance is to give the demo to them first.
If your demo is already public -- it's old news. If influencers have shown it -- it's old news. So give journalists and press the demo first. This will give you the best chance of getting coverage from them. They like seeing things first. If you want even more exclusivity, just go to a few selected sites -- 20 max. Mention that to the press and your chances of coverage have just slightly increased too.
Step 2 - Written previews go live
So you gave your demo to selected press, and once the embargo date goes live, fingers crossed you should have some previews published. At this stage, you might get some more requests from other sites for a demo; if you want, you can give them access too.
One tip: prepare a B-roll of cut-up scenes from your game so that the press can use it. Provide footage that best represents your game. And if any site asks if they can show the playthrough they've recorded, don't be shy to politely say no (see step 3).
It's worth mentioning that those preview articles are not just a great marketing beat in themselves, they can also be used as materials in your trailers too. Nothing builds validity and shows that your game is good as a nicely worded positive statement from a critic or an influencer.
Step 3 - Release video of preview/demo playthrough as an exclusive
So once you have some nice coverage, it's time to do my favourite move. Take a playthrough that you've made, record it as best as you can (make it smooth), perhaps add some commentary, and pitch it as an exclusive reveal with one of the bigger sites.
Exclusive gameplay reveal is always a tempting snack. Pitch it around and who knows who might bite.
Step 4 -- Give preview to influencers
Now that you have taken all you can from your demo with the press, it's time for the influencers. YouTubers and streamers are a bit easier to satisfy -- they are not as exclusivity sensitive as the press. Having positive previews in the press about your demo might even work in your favour. It might make them more inclined to cover your game on their channels.
A couple of heads ups though. First, make sure your demo is pretty solid. Some YouTubers can "go to town" (read as "destroy it online") on your demo if it has bugs and glitches. Make sure the demo is understandable and is polished. Remember, if it's on YouTube, it's going to be there for a long time.
Also, make sure that the demo is not yet available to the public. It'll be more enticing for influencers to play something that "normal" people don't have access to. That's one of the reasons why people tune in to watch influencers -- to see games in action that are not available to play just yet.
Step 5 -- Release demo to the public/Steam Fest
Now that your demo has made a bit of splash with the press and with influencers, it's time to let the public in on the fun. Hopefully, your game and its demo have raised a bit of awareness by now and you'll have a playerbase that's excited to play it themselves.
Remember, it's easier to convince someone to try something that they've heard is good as opposed to trying something they've never heard of before. The previous hype behind you should help your demo roll on and gain even more traction during Steam festivals.
Just a few bonus words here. If you can, showcase at the Steam Fest that's the closest to your full game release date. The more wishlists you have, the higher your demo will be in the Steam Fest's most wishlisted charts, which boosts your discoverability tremendously. And of course, you can use this demo for any physical events coming up too.
Now, as much as you might plan your preview/demo mini-marketing campaign, if your demo is bad, or even average, the five-step plan ain't going to help you much. So make sure that your demo oozes quality, both technically and in content. Make sure that your demo shows your game's USP, that it leaves people wanting more/on a cliffhanger, and it leaves with a positive impression and a nice call to action too.
And if you can, make the demo have a hook! Maybe you can go for the "you only have one go" hook, or the players with the Top Five scores recorded during the Steam Fest get the game for free. Give incentives.
Michal Napora is a video game marketer and owner of marketing agency 32-33. His gaming credits include Dying Light, The Sinking City, Aragami, Sherlock Holmes: The Devil's Daughter, and more. If you need help or advice on marketing, you can reach him on LinkedIn.