I want to make Video Games: The Process - Phase III
Hello everyone, let’s have a quick recap first. You can skip ahead if you do not want to!
In the previous post, we discussed about the 2nd stage of Video Game Development, which is Production. We discussed that the team fulfills their individual roles here by level designing, making changes, updating documents, creating art assets and finishing the coding for the game. During this time, the game is heavily tested by testers as well as players and modified as required. After the testing, the game is released on the platform.
Now we will discuss the Post Production phase.
But the game is finished! What else is left?
To be honest, quite a bit (but this will be shorter than before)! Let’s get into it shall we?
Post Production Stage
The Production stage is the third and the last stage of Video Game Development. Here, the views differ from organization to organization. Many even consider Art Optimization to Final Release as Post-Production as well. They are not wrong. Each organization has their own way to develop games.
However, the classical stages of Post-Production are as follows:
Marketing, the bane of every Game Designer but also one of the most important tasks of them all. Our game needs players and to get players, we need marketing. This is something which is avoided by many teams who are starting out, which is a mistake. Although I am putting in Post-Production stage for the sake of understanding, it’s usually better to start as soon as we our First Playable stage.
Marketing! I do not want to become a Corporate Slave!
This is a wrong notion to have. Once we make a game, our target audience needs to know about it. Even if they know about it, we also need to tell them that why they need to play our game for their entertainment when there are millions of other options out there. Marketing is absolutely necessary if we want to make a living out of your games.
OK, fine but how do I do it?
There are 2 ways to go about it. Firstly, we should already consider a chunk of your development budget for marketing. However, many people might not have the budget for paid marketing. Thus, the two options are: No-Budget Marketing and Paid Marketing.
No Budget Marketing
This is possible because of access to social media nowadays. The things we will need for this are as follows:
Game Website: Our game needs a website and you do not need to know coding for it, nowadays. We can use sites like Wordpress or Wix to create a free website. However, it has to look clean, professional and elegant.
Game Trailer: Our game needs a trailer as well. The Trailer should not be more than 2 mins and should show the most interesting parts of your game. Nobody wants to see our character chopping wood for seven hours to make that amazing Tier 3 sword. But they do want to see that character chop someone’s head off with that amazing sword.
Social Media Accounts: We use social media such as Twitter to get in touch with other game developers or even Game Youtubers and if possible, make them play our game. If a famous personality leaves a tweet about our game, we will already be up the ranks. We can also make special forums and blogs about our game as well which lets the players speak about their experience freely.
Game Journalists: Send emails to various game new sites like Rock, Paper Shotgun, PC Gamer or Kotaku. There will always be a chance that they post a small article about our game.
Keep Updating: Keep our website fresh with new updates and new trailers to keep the crowd excited. Let the game media people know about it as soon as possible as well.
Game Dev Competitions: Last but not the least, send our games to various competitions or showcases that take place every year. Some of them do require a fee but it’s minimal compared to the cost of marketing via a PR agency.
Pretty much what it looks like!
If we do have a budget and you have considered a chunk of our budget for marketing, we still have to do the methods mentioned above. However, a few extra things we can do are:
Social Media Marketing: We can use various paid social media advertising services like Facebook. While our normal posts and updates reach only a few players, a paid post will reach far more people to know about our game. For a daily amount, our post can reach a huge chunk of our target audience in days.
Paid Advertising: This is a no-brainer. We can pay for advertising your games. Paid advertisements reach out to more people who are likely to buy our game and we will get a good following.
Sponsored Playthroughs: This is a fairly new trend but we can also pay many youtubers or even Twitch players to play our game. It’s better to get players with a lot of subscribers as our game will reach many more players. It’s also good to find a player who plays the same genre as what our game is.
Invest in PR Agency: Investing in a good PR Agency can make us relax at least on the marketing side. Usually, we pay them a pre-determined sum and they do all of the above for us.
Why should I do all this? I will just put my game on STEAM!
Do you realize the amount of games there are on steam? Our game will be lost in a vortex of freshly made games! Another fact we should be aware of is that very few people actually search for games using the search feature of digital game stores. They mostly just go for the game which is featured on first page.
To reach the first page of these digital stores, we need to have quite a fan-base which can be achieved by the above methods.
Analytics is another really important aspect of Game Design which many new developers avoid. Making a good game and Marketing will give you a player base but eventually they will find something else. Analytics helps us understand our players and how to turn them into loyal fans.
Data Analytics can be done with several tools such as Google Analytics, Amplitude, Flurry, etc. Unity also has an in-built analytical tool which can be used for a Unity Game.
First Marketing, now Analytics! This isn’t MBA!
Well, Game Development is a business! Analytics will show us how our game is doing in the market. If used properly, analytics will also us why our game is not doing so well in the market. It will tell us which region the game is doing well in, the age group, the gender, how long is each player playing and even at what time.
Not only that, Analytics can also help you pinpoint the section of your game where players are most interested or are giving up because of frustration. Getting all this data not only helps you improve your current game but also get knowledge about the next one you are going to make.
Don't worry! It's not that complicated!
Just a clarification, Player Support is commonly called Customer Support but I don’t want us to think that player support means calling our player one by one and offering them bonus offers!
Player support means communicating with our players, either by social media, forums and blogs and listening to what they have to say. After all, it’s for them that we make games. Listening to players and implementing their suggestions not only helps to improve the quality of our games but also increase our loyal fan base which will help us for future games.
A good example would be No Man’s Sky. Everyone knows what happened when it came out but the game is actually doing pretty well now because they are listening to the feedback given by players and incorporating them in the game as updates.
Player Support is mandatory in case of free games because the whole business model of free games works on the fact that a game a huge number of users. However, if there is no player support, the numbers start dwindling really fast and game suffers heavily.
Listen to them before this happens!!
This is part of Player Support but still deserves a separate section.
But I already cleared all my bugs in Production Stage!
Maybe! However, there is a very high chance that there will be a few bugs remaining in the final product, which is usually found by players.
Did you know there is a guild in World of Warcraft dedicated to finding bugs and breaks in the game?
There could be design issues as well. Changes to level design and game balancing often needs fixing as well because not everything always goes according to plan. These fixes are done via updates nowadays.
Hopefully your fixes will be better
Well that’s it for the 3 phases of the Game Development Process. I hope this helps you get a clearer picture of the Game Development Industry. Starting next post, we will discuss the three roles of Game Designer, Game Artist and Game Programmer in more detail and where they fit in the three phases of Game Development.