Showcasing Black The Fall at more than 10 events this year, gave us quite a perspective on what needs to be done to make the most out of such an investment.
Why Would You?
Showcasing at events can get a bit expensive, especially if you have to travel by plane. So, as an indie developer, we are entitled to ask ourselves why would we invest in events, when we could pour that money in online advertising? Here are a few key areas that an event covers and turn useful in various stages of your business, that online doesn't cover:
Business contacts - If looking for a publisher, investor, co-founder, business partner, hardware producer etc, then attending an event is a good place to meet them and add your presence and charisma to the pitch.
Press contacts and articles - Besides launching a game, attending an event is your best chance to have Youtubers and press playing the game, which translates into press coverage.
Increase your fan database - There are events with hundreds of thousands of attendees or only with hundreds, so choose wisely, if your main purpose is to increase your fan database.
Playtest - Events are an excellent opportunity to play test. If you pay attention to each player’s experience, you’ll be able to walk away with game improvement ideas to work on for at least a month.
How To Make The Most Out of It?
Pick the events wisely: E3 is definitely a hit (and The MIX happening in parallel), Gamescom, TGS and Rezzed are also worth it. Before submitting your game to a competition or accepting an invitation, always check online to see how many attendees are coming, what other developers are saying about it etc.
If you are targeting a specific business partner, try to book meetings in advance. If they don’t reply, see if they have a business booth and drop by to say “Hi”.
Showcase in the Indie Area (or a dedicated indie booth). Both press and potential business partners interested in indies, will definitely go in the indie area. Big events are crowded and journalists have a busy agenda with AAA offering first time experiences, which journalists will want to cover. Maybe they won’t have time to check out the map and visit each booth at the event, so make sure you’re making their search easier.
Have a press release. Maybe you have new screenshots, some new game features you want the world to know about and, of course, the fact you are attending this event. Some press will pick it up and you’ll have a starting point. If you already have press contacts and you have something new to demo, drop them an email and book a time for them.
Have a system to collect player’s contacts. It may be a raffle or just a quick question where you ask them if they’d like to get occasional updates about your game. But don’t miss the chance to keep in touch with the players who are interested in your game. We started old school, by having people fill in their details on a card and drop them in a box. Then I'd copy all contacts in a spreadsheet and import it to Mailchimp. But Mailchimp has a mobile app, that helps you collect data during events: MailChimp Subscribe.
Take notes. Observe closely the player experience and take notes on how you could improve it. After they finish playing, ask them about their experience. They’ll usually say “awesome game” so ask them about the most frustrating bits and they will open up. This will bring a new perspective on how the players perceive your game.
If you’re rather new in the business, don’t miss the parties! Talk to fellow developers, most of them are friendly, brilliant and fun. If you don’t know where to start, stick to the devs you meet during the day and the exchanging business cards network will grow from there.
Pack all the needed stuff and a bit extra, just to make sure. Test the build on those machines before the events starts. Trust me on this one.
How To See If It Was Worth It
At the end of the event make an assessment and see how much you took out of the experience. The categories I'm looking at are: