Darkness Dwells Marketing and Branding

In the brief for Darkness Dwells we were told that marketing was going to be a big part of the development. In fact, it was the entire reason that the game was created from the start. To take an existing game, research the market for it and then start creating a brand and promoting our work online to gain an audience before the game was released.

Marketing & Promotion

For the marketing itself, we really enjoyed the thought of having the fan base try to decipher the story or the origin of the characters. To do this we planned to post images and Gifs as much as possible to attract audiences early on. The whole point of this was to make them curious and start sharing ideas and theories about the game and its story.

When we sat down to talk about the market for our game we decided that twitter would be our main platform, as it is easy to share posts with your followers there, but also using Facebook to try and reach that audience as well. We did a bunch of research into horror games and what their price points were, as well as what type of content you got for what price and what the users thought about it. We also made some difficulty assumptions, which was based on an assumption that horror game players enjoyed challenge in their horror games. Fortunately, our assumption was proven correct and it allowed us to shape our game to be more difficult. Our market for darkness dwells were mostly YouTubers and horror game players. The main reason for us using YouTubers were because they tend to fake being scared and therefore gain more viewers. More viewers for them would hopefully translate over to more downloads for our game.

In order to reach a larger audience we were given the tip that we should use localization, meaning we add language options in order to reach other countries as well. One of the main languages (that also is a big portion of the games market) is simplified chinese. It shocked me to find out how much the percentage of purchases used simplified chinese as a language.

Branding

For the branding of Darkness Dwells we early on noticed that we really enjoyed Longtooth, and because of that he became the main monster for our game, much like Freddy in the Five Nights at Freddy’s franchise. Because of this we decided to use him for a ton of promotional material including banners, logos etc. We thought it would be important to have a distinct character that would give our game a recognizable face.

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Above are some of the marketing material used to promote the game and to create a brand out of the character Longtooth.

The results of this plan will be posted in the post mortem for the project, which is being posted in a few days, so keep your eyes peeled for that.

Thanks for reading

Chris Shadforth - Business Design Concepts

During last Thursday's class, we were visited by a friend to my lecturer by the name of Chris Shadforth. He visited to talk to us about business design concepts and marketing. I personally found this to be a very useful talk, as it filled in a lot of cracks of questions I've had previously about marketing. In short, the presentations purpose was to reduce the possibility of failure and to build a model of customers. To do this, our main primary rule was "don't bullshit yourself", Something I as non-English speaker learned meant "don't lie to yourself".

The first crack to fill was "what is marketing". I've sort of had an understanding with it during the classes, but never really had a sentence to explain it. But thankfully, Chris's presentation did. The way it was explained was "A process for creating, communicating, delivering and exhanging offerings that have value for customers, clients etc.". This was not the full explanation but unfortunately that's all my notes said. 

The main section of the presentation was all about the 4 P's of marketing. Price, Place, Promotion and Product. I'll go through each of these and talk about what I learned and what it means for my profession.

Price

There was a lot of good stuff to learn about this, considering I haven't charged money for any of my games. The first thing we talked about was "what do competitors charge?" which was interesting to me as often when making a game I don't really see other games as competitors. I make my thing and they make theirs. Of course, when it comes to pricing you really just want to check what they are charging, and then match your game with theirs and see if you can charge the same amount, which is really interesting. I'll try to do this moving forward with the games that I'm making.

Another thing that I learned to keep in mind is expectations at different price points. What people expect at different price points helps you as a content creator to place a price on your product depending on quality and content. For my own practices, I would most likely always place my price slightly below the price of the competitor, unless I am 100% sure that my game is better in some way. 

Other than that, we learnt about common price conventions, bulk discounts and price drops. Common price conventions meaning that most companies make a $5 product $4.99 instead as our brains interpret that as cheaper.

Place

Place was something that we didn't need to talk a lot about as we as game developers know where to sell our products. Mainly itch.io, but there's always Gamejolt and Steam.

Promotion

For promotion we learned some things we already knew and some new things. The first thing is that promotion is not the whole of marketing, however, in my personal opinion it's a big part of it. Of course, marketing is a lot about scoping out your audience and figuring out what they like. 

We were told that visual designers and writers are good to have, and even better if you know some personally, but access to the right audience is better. For example if you know an academic that can write reviews of your games and so on (hinting at the one academic we used to have as a lecturer, Brendan Keogh). We were taught there three different types of promotion. Paid, owned and earned. Paid being of course a service you pay to do promotion, owned being a friend or colleague that does it for you, and earned being the kind of promotion you get from getting a lot of downloads or views on YouTube. While doing promotion it is always important to keep track of trends.

The 4th P of marketing, Product, will return later in this post.

Brand

Next up we were taught about brand, which has two definitions. The unofficial one, is the mental model of your business/product/you.  For example, my brand is the viking themes I keep in my work. I use runes and stone, Nordic mythology and etc. for websites and games. The official definition tend to be limited to symbols of identification. There are personal brands (which is the one i'm using), team brands and product brands.

Risk

We talked a bit about risk management as well, which was a very useful thing to touch on. We should always avoid mental risk, and only take risks where failure would improve us. Through our degree we have been thought that burnout and crunching is never worth it. Crunching being the concept of working to the point where you barely sleep in order to meet a deadline. With risks you also need to minimize leaps of faith, and always look to win over the long run. 

As a game developer I feel like I have been taught risk management in a proper way. Of course, sometimes crunching is unintentional and unavoidable. Research and preparations are also good ways of avoiding leap of faiths, and just taking risks over all.

Observation

Observation in this case means observing your audience in order to find out what types of features they like in your product. The first advice was "go where your audience is", which in our case would be forums like Reddit or social media like YouTube. Then take notes. Take a lot of notes, as opinions are different in different parts of the internet.

It is also important to approach these observations as a stranger, and not as a game developer, and always be careful of participation in discussions and the like. You don't want to have influences or cause influences that may skew your findings.

The Exercise

The rest of the talk that Chris held was tied to a certain exercise that was carried out afterwards. It was a useful exercise that had us dive deep into what customers gains and pains, and what we as developers could do to create those gains or relieve the pains.

Conclusion

This talk was very eye-opening into all the different procedures and processess that go into marketing. It closed a lot of gaps for me in what we have learned so far, and I will take many of the things I learned from the talk into account when moving forward in my career as an indie game developer.

Definitely the main take-away for me was the part about pricing, as I've never put a price on any game I've made ever. If possible I've always had donations or ad-revenue as the main income, and Chris talk taught be a lot about what I can do in order to put the right price on my game that it deserves.

That is all for now! thanks for reading this rather lengthy blog. Until next time, take care

 

Darkness Dwells 2 - Studio 3

A big part of studio 3 has been and is the marketing. Which is understandable, as marketing is so incredibly important to get your product out into the world. The long-term assessment for the marketing side of studio 3 is that we gather all previously created games, pick some that are suitable for marketing, and then carry out marketing processes for that game along with adding/removing features that makes it more/less marketable.

The team I am a part of (team name yet to be determined), consists of me, Paul Frame, Nicholas Duxbury, and the game's owner himself, Scott "Penguin" Anastasi. As I mentioned, Penguin is the owner of the game Darkness Dwells, and we are setting out to make the sequel, Darkness Dwells 2.

A little information about the game before we dive into the marketing side of things. Darkness Dwells was a first person game where you play as a child, laying in a bed trying to sleep while monsters and horrible beings apparate all around you. If you wait long enough, you will hear your parents comforting voice through the walls talk to each other and you'll finally be able to rest, free from monsters.

What we noticed in horror games, is that jumpscares always sells. Especially in the streaming/youtuber market, as it gives both the game and the youtuber views. Youtubers gained a lot of views (and money) from sitting and screaming at jumpscares coming at them (that may or may not be scary). We wanted to try and reach that goal of having a very youtuber friendly game. So what we mainly are looking to changing/adding to the game is the following:

  • Walking
  • Monsters with purpose
  • Blanket Mechanic

 

Walking

What previously wasn't possible in Darkness Dwells was walking. We wanted the player to have more input on where they go and what to do, so we added a purpose. You wake up in the middle of the night, and have to try and find your parents room before the monsters catch you. Because the game is set within a house, there will be short play sessions, which are optimal for youtubers and streamers as they can play a quick game or a couple of games per streaming session.

Monsters With Purpose

A lot of horror games (nearly all of them) have at least one distinguishable threat that is recognizable for that game. Examples are the Five Nights at Freddy's (FNAF) animatronics or the good old classic Slender man. We want the player to know what Is chasing them, so that the face of the monster can be tied to the game, in order to spread. For example you might see a monster you recognize, but you're not sure where it is from so you look it up. That's how they find Darkness Dwells 2.

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What we mean with purpose as well is that they all have a purpose for haunting the character. However it can be debatable why. Slender man for example kidnaps children while the FNAF characters seek revenge for their unfair deaths (also debatable). A lot of the characters have stories that you read between the lines to figure out, and that appeals to us, and to youtubers as well. It also allows a type of audience participation that is very intriguing.

The character we chose for Darkness Dwells 2 is Longtooth. We have some early concept arts of the character, and so far no backstory has been written. But I figured that the image itself can haunt you until a purpose is fully made.

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Blanket Mechanic

A lot of horror games have at least one mechanic that let's them avoid the threat haunting them. Sometimes at the cost of something else. This would for example be the golden mask in the FNAF franchise. We added a blanket mechanic to Darkness Dwells 2. This means that the player walks around constantly wrapped in a blanket that they can hide in for a certain amount of time. We are also discussing ways of making this a curse, much like the blinking mechanic of SCP containment breach or the weeping angels from doctor who.

We strongly believe that all the above mentioned mechanics will allow for a strong game that can be played within 10 minutes and give the player a good scare. The game will be suitable to youtubers mainly for the short game time and plentiful of varied jumpscares that the player can try and avoid. Only time will tell what gets added and removed.

Thanks for reading this first blog post on my new website, I appreciate it!

Until next time, take care.