Part 4: Our first steps into the world of marketing.
So we had settled on a name, SPAZ. It was time for me to delve into the world of marketing while Richard worked on a trailer and builds us a website, he drew the short straw. I would start trying to learn how to exit my dark coder cave and burst forth from my cocoon into a marketing butterfly... nope, I wrote a quick mail asking wtf do I do now.
Over the course of the project, I had discovered a site called Reddit which seemed to have a pretty helpful indie community that were always ready to answer questions, so I made my first stop there. Here is the original post for those interested in where my promotion started:http://www.reddit.com/r/gaming/comments/f8w2i/getting_ready_to_sell_my_indie_game_after_15/
So a few things happen as a result of this post. We put our contact with Steam on hold to create a demo, we get noticed by Notch (MineCraft), and we are contacted by Frank Dokter, the PR guy for Total Biscuit. Now up until today, pretty much no one knew about our game. We were always sure that Steam would accept us, but we wanted to be extra sure and we decided to make a demo and get some comments from our you tube video to really wow em. We will knock their socks off we thought.
While I worked on the demo, Notch's tweet about SPAZ worked its magic. We immediately had 7000 hits to our website that was maybe getting 30 hits a day, mostly us refreshing to see if there were hits. In the end, it amounted to 12000 hits and a huge flood of interest in our game. We quickly jumped to 500 forum members. This was a good sign and we were feelin' great now.
Next there was Frank. So people on Reddit had mentioned, talk to Total Biscuit a few times. At the time, I didn't know who he was, but that was gonna change. Here is our response to Frank reaching out to contact us.
We received your email offering to do a "WTF is?" for SPAZ. It definitely
piqued our interest. MinMax is a very small indie developer. There are 2
of us working on SPAZ, but we are also very proud of it and think more
people should know about SPAZ and soon. SPAZ has taken us 18 months of
concentrated effort to produce.
SPAZ is currently in an alpha state, meaning there are still bugs and minor
technical issues, but it is quite playable. My partner and I have been
weighing the promotional value of a Totalhalibut first look video vs. the
fact that the game is not currently for sale and does have a few bugs and
tuning issues. Looking at your reviews, you seem to be funny and fair and
we believe that a segment done by you would be a good fit and really could
tell people "WTF is?" SPAZ.
Our current trailer, while flashy, is too short to touch on the deeper
metagame elements of SPAZ that we think will attract many players. One of
your segments would highlight those elements nicely.
What I suggest is: We provide you with a personal copy of the demo we are
building for Steam. This demo contains the first two stars (about one hour
of game play), and by the end, you'll have a good idea of what SPAZ is
You would be the first person out there in the "wild" to put their hands on
SPAZ. We would also like your input if there are menus or concepts that you
do not easily understand. We would like to fix them before the final game
comes out, but not hinder your "WTF is?" video in any way. Our only real
requirement is that you let people know that SPAZ is an Alpha and this is a
first look, so there will be problems, but we are dedicated to fixing them.
We think you will really enjoy SPAZ though, and we would like to pounce on
Once you are done with the demo, we also ask that you destroy it and do not
distribute it. We are taking a large leap of faith, and this demo is not
meant for the general public.
Thanks for reaching out,
MinMax Games Ltd.
So that is where it began with Total Biscuit. Looking back, it was pretty insane to give out a copy of our mostly non play tested alpha project to someone who could tear it to shreds and kill it while it was still in the cradle. This does show you our level of faith in SPAZ at the time though, and is what makes the next part of our story so mind bendingly horrible, at least for us.
We busily worked on a demo, and decided finally that the best demo would be the actual game, so we decided to package up the tutorial and first open world star. As work on the demo progressed, we tuned and tuned the tutorial chapter and got it to where we thought it was perfect. Finally we were happy with it and we sent the installer to Frank and John (Total Biscuit)
About a week passes and we wait for news on the WTF Is? video. The slowest week of our lives. I tentatively poke Frank in an email as not to be annoying. Everything is sort of sinking in and feeling very fragile. Finally with my last poke to Frank, he says that John (TB) is making the video right then. Ok, big relief, then the negative possibilities sink in and terror commences. The video is going to happen, our work is going to be unveiled to 100,000+ people and there is nothing we can do to stop it. We are naked.
The next day, a mail:
Hey there, the two videos are up! You're probably already aware of this, but
the links are:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IxJTul3AEAE
A short mail, but I was shaking. I quickly send Richard and MSN ping and we begin to watch the thing. It is a bit of a slow start, and TB is falling into every trap and hole that we missed. By the time we are getting into the second video, I have about a page of notes, my hands are still shaking, but I am getting a very very good vibe! Somewhere in the notes, I have underlined an offer of voice acting. I will have to follow up on that. By the end of the second video, TB says “Overall, I am very impressed.”
These are some of the sweetest words I have ever heard. Things are coming together. We aren't going to lose the house. Steam will love us. We will send them this video. I bet Steam sends a limo and we get to meet Gabe! Richard and I are a wash in excitement. We quickly get to work tweaking the demo, and send it off to Steam a few days later.
It is all happening! MinMax is gonna make it. We don't have to crawl back to Activision. No more ketchup sandwiches. Phew.
Oh, hi Damocles, geez that's a nice sword.. wait WHAT!