Indie game PR guide: How to find your WHY

The biggest misconception around PR for indie games is that you just need to find an email address and send your info point blank.

I've seen this from devs showing me walls of text they've sent to editors at the biggest websites, wondering why they never heard back or got any coverage; some of them got good press back in the days when indie releases were still relatively scarce, and were sure that the same tactic would still do it now.

Let me get this straight: "Hey look at my game!" doesn't work (not with the big players anyway.)


What you're missing is the WHY.

Why you're making this game (if you have a special reason behind it) but most importantly, why the person you're contacting should care. Why their readers/viewers/listeners would care. Why they should even read your email at all, starting with the subject line.

Time and attention is a limited resource in the media, and the bigger the outlet, the more competitive you have to get to grab someone's attention.

This is the most important trick in the trade, and it's also invaluable for building a community and putting your best foot forward on storefronts. It's not foolproof, it can't make up for bad assets or mediocre timing, but it still makes a huge difference.

Look at your game

Good news: you know your game inside and out.
Not-so-good news: all of it is special to you.

It can be tough seeing particular reasons why those who aren't emotionally invested in your game would start paying attention - to you, the game itself is special, I get it. But you can test your community's reaction or ask other devs for example, to start getting a feel for what to highlight. Asking yourself the right questions can push you in the right direction too:

  • Does your game have a particularly striking art style? Unique gameplay mechanics?
  • Is the narrative designed in a special way?
  • Does it come from a very personal story?
  • Are the themes relevant to current affairs?

Look at who you're addressing

We're all human, with likes and dislikes, preferences and different things getting our attention (I know, I'm being incredibly obvious but bear with me for a minute.)

We all get way too many emails. If your first contact with the media is obviously not tailored to the recipient, you're going in the bin. Simple as that.

One particular "special point" about your game or story won't resonate with everyone in the same way, and the only way to know what will is to get to know each writer, reading/watching what they published before and what resonated with them about a particular game.

Are you even pitching the right person? Sending your experimental narrative adventure to a journalist who clearly only enjoys action/shooters would fall on deaf ears. Pay attention about whether the outlet itself would be open to covering your game, and who in particular could be interested in your story.

Credit:  Mike Reddy

Credit: Mike Reddy

To top it off

Here, you want to pique someone's interest. It can be very tempting to get swept up in the "here's why you'll like my game" and start going off about all the amazing aspects of your game. We've all seen how this can backfire, especially in the early stages of production - and it can cause you more grief than it's worth.

Under-promise, over-deliver.

P.S: Hang on for part 2, about how to actually formulate that why. Got questions in the meantime? Email/Tweet @ me.