It’s a couple of years since I helped out with press releases for a small indie game called Apple Jack 2. But I’m still amazed by what we achieved, and I’ve been meaning to write it up to help other developers ever since. Better late than never.
Apple Jack 2 is a genuine independent game, made by one talented fellow from the South of England. None of this Kickstarter stuff! Developer Tim Sycamore at one time tagged his company “the zero-budget game developer,” and it’s a fitting slogan. The game’s few external contributors worked for no money up-front, but shared in pretty good profits afterwards.
So how, with such limited resources, did AJ2 wind up on the front pages of massive gaming sites like IGN and Eurogamer? If you’re a game developer, the answers to this question could maybe help you do the same.
There are plenty of other good guides to press release writing out there, so in this post I’m giving my top three tips specifically for game press releases.
Find good contacts, it’s not so hard
Since the death of gaming print magazines, almost every outlet you’ll want to cover your game is online. The great thing about that is, you can easily find lots of them on Google and make a great list of contacts to send your press release to. Search “indie game news,” “indie games” and related phrases, then scrape all the details you can.
Some will have specific “news@” email addresses. But if you search thoroughly, you can find journalists’ own email addresses and strike up a friendship with them.
Don’t just target the big sites like IGN. Unless your game is truly a marvel to behold, it’s a long shot that they’ll run your story. Thankfully there are now lots of specialist sites dedicated to indie games – they’re looking to cover games exactly like yours, so make them your first priority!
Know what’s special about your game and lead with it
If you’re a small indie game developer, then you’re probably fairly anonymous to most game news sites right now. You’re also competing for coverage with a sea of other indie developers. That’s why you need to show something pretty special to get a result.
Of course your game is brilliant — otherwise you wouldn’t be making it. But you need to try and crystallise exactly what makes your game stand out, and lead with that. Make a big impression with your headline and your standfirst, and you’ll have a lot more success. Include screenshots too.
Writing about Apple Jack 2, I was lucky: it was the sequel to a well-reviewed game that had already made a bit of a splash. I used the first game’s review scores as credibility points towards the end of the press release, but the release actually opened as follows:
“Apple Jack hates his boring job. Driven to near-insanity by the click-clack of the photocopier, he’s determined to leave it far behind (along with his clothes) and head for the beach. And so in Apple Jack 2 from My Owl Software, announced today in this here press release, it’s up to Xbox 360 players to help him escape the drab mundanity of it all.”
Pretty daft really. Which leads us on to…
Have fun with it
Gaming news has never been like traditional journalism. It’s more of an enthusiast press. The reporting style, as you’re no doubt aware, is often informal and jokey.
Big developers like Valve often take the same approach with their news releases. It makes sense, because press releases should be in a style that makes them easy for editors to adapt. So have fun with it. Be witty or funny if you can. If you don’t have much writing experience, run it by someone who does before submitting.
You still need to use good English and stick generally to the standard press release format. When planning the structure of your press release, the inverted pyramid is pretty handy too.
If you’d like any more help and advice, feel free to contact me or leave a comment below.
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This post’s image is based on the poster for Indie Game: The Movie – which is a good film, so check it out at buy.indiegamethemovie.com.