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SUPERSTRING

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A member registered Apr 09, 2018 · View creator page →

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Have you got a link to your channel? How big is the audience right now?

Hey Dark Dimension. Firstly, congrats on getting the game out the door and live on itch.io - an impressive milestone in itself!

Some very quick notes from me on the page: 

- Find some time to create some core brand elements for your game: your store page should, at a minimum, take advantage of a logo for your game, and a piece of key art which can be used as the header. Match the rest of the page's theme (colour and font) to your brand elements, and you'll have a cohesive looking page which represents your game.

  • Sell the player fantasy. Your page opens with aim and objective of the game. This is great, but doesn't let me know the wider world or theme I'm buying into. Visitors to your page will be attracted to the player-fantasy you're offering first and foremost. What is the experience you're selling? What role do I assume as a player in your game? Am I hitman? Do I raid tombs? Do I explore post-apocalyptic wastelands? I can see from your game that I likely solve puzzles - which is great - but you need to package that up and sell it with a strong theme that gives the game an ownable identity. 
  • Spend some time to really nail the language that communicates what your game is all about. Create a sharp razor - a sentence description which sells the game in as few words as possible, and open with that. Don't force people to work to understand what you're selling; get to the point quickly, then build out from there and layer in the detail. Visuals are an obvious point of focus for store pages, but langauge is really powerful tool which can be overlooked.
  • User text headers to separate content - break your game down, and chunk your page into themed content. Open with an attention grabbing intro that sells the big picture and lays out the premise/player fantasy. Then you could have a header for features, and bullet out the game's key mechanics or points of differentiation. Divvy up your page to make things easier for the viewer on a quick scan. 
  • Let people know where to find out more! If somebody has found their way to your page, you have their attention. Use this moment to promote the game's website (if it has one), your social channels, and where they can find out more. Hustle! :) 

For more on store pages - and Itch-specific advice - there's a section in my book, The Zero-Budget Game Marketing Manual (and there's a free version, too!)

Hope this helps somewhat!

https://svperstring.itch.io/headspun-dazed-edition

More than happy to have Headspun included. 

We're collating feedback and questions from the first edition of the book, and would love to know if it's covered the majority of problems or challenges small developers might face with regards to their marketing. 

So, for anybody that's released a game on Itch.io - or anywhere else - what's been your biggest challenge on the marketing side of the fence? Where have you tried (and failed) to get traction? What's proving your biggest obstacles?

Answers will contribute towards future posts and updates! 

Hullo @phlebas - please email me at jamin[at]superstring[dot]studio (with the email associated with your payment) and I'll sort you out :)

It's the only other folder inside the zipped folder you will have downloaded. If it's not there, I'm confident you don't have the 'FULL' version. 

If you contact jamin[at]superstring[dot]studio I can check your email address and see which files you got. I can also send you the accompanying materials manually :) 

Thanks!

Hello! There is a folder off the root called 'ACCOMPANYING MATERIALS' -- but it's only included in the full version ($6.99 or above). Hope that helps!  

Little update!

The Zero-Budget Game Marketing Manual launched on itch.io today, and you can check it out for free right now. 


From the description: 

So you've made a game - a great game! - but nobody has bought it. Nobody is talking about it. Nobody knows it exists :(

Your problem is one shared with almost every indie developer out there: a lack of awareness. 

How do you get attention in a saturated market? How do you communicate what makes your game unique through your marketing assets? How do you create a community and build channels to support it? How do you reach the games media and get influencers playing your game? 

How do you sell more copies of your game without having to spend money yourself?

This comprehensive manual - and accompanying materials - shows you how to get your game the attention it deserves with practical, actionable advice, accumulated over twelve years of AAA and indie game marketing experience, with expert advice from industry veterans and game journalists, including Hannah Flynn (Failbetter Games), Thomas Reisenegger (Future Friends Games), Wesley Yin-Poole (Eurogamer), Gav Murphy (RKG) amongst others. 

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Jamin

(1 edit)

Hello! The Zero-Budget Game Marketing Manual – a resource for indie developers offering Brand, PR and community strategies on a shoestring – is available now on itch.io, and you can download a Lite version for free today.

From the description: 

So you've made a game - a great game! - but nobody has bought it. Nobody is talking about it. Nobody knows it exists :(

Your problem is one shared with almost every indie developer out there: a lack of awareness. 

How do you get attention in a saturated market? How do you communicate what makes your game unique through your marketing assets? How do you create a community and build channels to support it? How do you reach the games media and get influencers playing your game? 

How do you sell more copies of your game without having to spend money yourself?

This comprehensive manual - and accompanying materials - shows you how to get your game the attention it deserves with practical, actionable advice, accumulated over twelve years of AAA and indie game marketing experience, with expert advice from industry veterans and game journalists, including Hannah Flynn (Failbetter Games), Thomas Reisenegger (Future Friends Games), Wesley Yin-Poole (Eurogamer), Gav Murphy (RKG) amongst others. 

WHAT DO YOU GET?

Pay what you want for a Lite PDF version of the eBook, which includes 5 of the 9 chapters in the book, including: Introduction, Marketing Basics, Studio Branding and Product Positioning. 

Or, for $6.99 / £6.99 you'll get the full nine chapter eBook (EPUB + MOBI formats, fully optimised for all eReaders) + accompanying resources, including  Brand plan template (.ppt), Roadmap / Campaign Beat Sheet template (.xlsx), Example press release + template (.doc), and Press Kit template.

--

I hope the book and supporting materials are helpful to the itch.io community - if you have questions, comments and requests for future editions, please do reach out. 

Cheers,

Jamin

Some notes you might find helpful in this thread. 

Good luck!

It's simultaneously easier and harder than it's ever been before, which is the least helpful answer ever. 

It's easier in terms of tools, engines and open distribution and publishing platforms (like Itch!). In 2020, the barriers to entry in terms of getting to market is incredibly low. Small studios can handle their own publishing and marketing like never before. 

The flip-side of that, of course, is that there are that many more games in market. Getting attention and recognition is harder than ever  in indie circles. Making money, then, is harder than ever. 

I think if you're going into this wanting (needing?) a financial success, you need to think very carefully. It's a super risky business if you're putting anything on the line (a day job, for example), and you need to go in with very thorough schedules, business plans and funding strategies. 

I actually published a short article on exactly this topic the other day after a bunch of Twitter threads surfacing the same questions: https://medium.com/@superstring_studio/surviving-in-indie-game-development-ea754dccef44

Hello! There are far better people with far bigger followings than me to advise here, but best route to followers is ultimately through great games and regular updates/content relating to them. There aren't too many short-cuts here, sadly; people follow when there's value to be had. Consistency of communication with meaningful updates is key on that front. 

Some other strategies that might work for you in short term, though:

  • Put some effort into your itch.io creator page - let people know what you're all about. Treat it like you would your store page; sell yourself! Make it look nice, use formatting, use imagery, include links to your website/social media etc. 
  • Become a vocal part of itch.io community - be present on the forums. Join the chat on Discord. Have an opinion and help people out with their projects with any relevant knowledge/experience you might have.  
  • Cross-posting - somebody mentioned already, but engaging with other developers and their games will give you some degree of follow-back. Interact with others with reviews, ratings and comments, and you might see a boost yourself.
  • Promote outside of Itch.io - be sure to promote your Devlogs on Twitter/FB/IndieDB -- wherever you might have a studio presence. Syndicate your content across these other platforms where you can, and leverage existing followings you might have elsewhere. 

I hope that's somewhat helpful. I've also chucked a follow to everybody in this thread so far and will continue to do so :) 

Hello! I'd be really keen to know what other activity you have running in parallel to anything on Itch. How are you leveraging your own studio channels? Where are your cross-promoting? What publications, groups and communities are you introducing your game to? Have you conducted any giveaways? Have you opted into the Itch partner program? Have you blasted out keys via Keymailer? 

As No Time To Play mentions, Itch is just a store here (albeit one with very good community and social integrations). You need to push people here. 

I put together this very top-level marketing support post a while back - perhaps you'll find it helpful. 

If you have specific questions on anything here, I'm always happy to chat and offer specific recommendations :) 

Thanks to those that have reached out so far - via email or on this thread - some interesting questions to mull over. 

Generally speaking, it seems indies have a particular appetite for PR knowledge, and how to approach press and media. I think this feels like a unapproachable, overwhelming task for indies - but it's not. 

In putting together The Zero-Budget Game Marketing Manual, I've reached out to some of the games media's more prominent voices, and put your questions to them directly. The book will feature quotes and Q&A from those journalists, with specific advice for the indie community. Looking forward to being able to share the full list of collaborators soon... 

Strong! Only 8 letters and you dominate the Google search for it.

A little excerpt from the Zero Budget Game Marketing Manual - I hope it has some value here :) 

The title of your game is key to the overall brand. A good title will reflect well on the genre you’re developing for, and let people know they’re in for a certain type of experience. Hitman, Tomb Raider and Monster Hunter are all great at this; telling the player more or less exactly what they’ll be doing in the game from the title alone. This is what’s affectionately referred to as the ‘Ronseal’ approach; it does what it says on the tin, and carries with it a lot of very accurate connotations about the experience of the game itself (you play a Hitman assassin, you raid tombs, you hunt monsters etc).

Some things to consider:

  • The best names are short, and ownable. Do a quick Google test. If no existing brands – TV, Film, Game or otherwise – pop up when you hit search, that’s usually a good sign. The intention here is that when you Google the name of your game after it’s released, it’s the first thing that pops up and it dominates the search.
  • Made up names can be great. A nonsense word or clever amalgamation you’ve constructed can be very ownable and great for SEO. Google ‘Headspun’ as an example of this.
  • Ensure the domain is available before you commit. There are a multitude of domain extensions these days, meaning you can pretty much use any title of your choosing with regards to this, regardless of whether the .com is available (although if you can get this, all the better)
  • Ensure your preferred social channels are available before you commit. Use NameCheckr (https://www.namecheckr.com/) to quickly and efficiently see what handles/usernames you’ll be able to landgrab with your chosen name. 

I've got a little giveaway scheduled through indieDB shortly. More as a test than anything else. 

Will report back with some data and let you know what kind of effect - if any - it has on our channels. 

Some great stuff here Matt! I think a lot of the more devvy aspects of what you mention here are actually really applicable to marketing for indies - playtesting & transparency specifically, which the book definitely gets into. 

Hello! My name is Jamin. By day I'm a Global Brand Manager at Square Enix. By night I run a little studio called Superstring

I'm releasing a book soon! The Zero Budget Game Marketing Manual is a resource for indie-developers to help demystify the marketing process and offer some advice from the world of AAA games . In short, it's a guide to promoting your game without having to spend money yourself


(The book was written off the back of a short post made here on itch.io, but I realised far more detail was going to be needed to do the topic justice)

The book is *nearly* done, and I'm hoping I've got all the bases covered, but I'm keen to add a section which addresses questions from the indie-dev community head on. If you have a specific question related to promoting your game, I may address it in the book itself; I would love to update the resource with a Q&A chapter. If you have questions or marketing challenges you'd like to see addressed, please do reach out - either here, or via marketing[at]superstring[dot]studio  

(itch page for the Zero Budget Game Marketing Manual will be live upon release - stay tuned!)

Hello! I popped a few tips/resources/best practices for promotion into a thread a little while back. You might find something helpful here -- https://itch.io/t/646271/promoting-your-game-with-zero-budget-the-big-indiedev-marketing-guide

If getting YT views through influencers is your focus, it's all about relationship management; finding the right people for your genre/target audience, and then getting as many codes into the right people's hands as possible. That's not a quick/easy thing; will take some hustle. Of course you can opt in to itch.io's partner program which automatically grants certain media/YT'ers access to your game. 

Good luck! 

Hullo - main Headpsun page is here: https://svperstring.itch.io/headspun-dazed-edition

Thanks :)

It's not free I'm afraid, no. It's $9.99 / £9.99 standard, but I've heavily reduced on itch (75% off) while the world is in turmoil. If you're big into narrative games, self-isolating, and in a questionable financial situation, please reach out to me privately and I can try to help. 

Thanks for taking the time to play and leave a note. 

Good feedback on controls - if there's an update down the line, we can absolutely take a look at this. 

Thanks again!

Ah, must've expired. Will update page. Also here: https://discord.gg/JW6MUUk

Big thanks - hugely appreciated!

Is devlog/blog post scheduling functionality something that can be expected at any point? Would be ace to be able to prop content in advance to coincide with sales / activity outside of itch. 

Cheers!

Jamin

A little update and cryptic screenshot for our second game. 

P R O J E C T  A M I C U S

An ambitious narrative experience.
Now in full production. 
Pitch deck and first information now available exclusively through the Superstring Patreon
itch.io page and early builds to follow before long. 
Follow Superstring for updates!

Jamin

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Envy is unavoidable in the world of game development - too many insanely talented folk out there creating amazing experiences. Only natural to compare and critique your own work more. I think envy is healthy for the most part, though; inspires us to greater heights yadda yadda etc. 

Personally, I try to convert that envy to a learning experience. If somebody has created something successful - it's good to work out what contributed to that success and apply it to your own work (I'm talking more about strategy/production/business here, less art/design which is obviously not so cool to copy...).

Aside from a few group projects at university, the first game I actually designed and made (but never got round to actually finishing or releasing) was a Geometry Wars-esque twin-stick shooter called Obelisk. It looks crude to me now, but I still think there's something in the idea; maybe I'll revive it one day. 

(4 edits)

Hello! I lurk around these boards a lot and see lots of the same questions popping up re: marketing, and how to build awareness for your game. I thought it might be helpful to put together a little list of action points - broken down into pre-launch and launch - with some best-practice and accompanying resources where necessary. 

I've kept things fairly top level here, as don't want this to become an essay. Marketing for games is a complex beast that covers many platforms and disciplines - each with their own dedicated jobs in AAA games - and the below is very much just the broad strokes. There's plenty more that could be said for each one of the points below, so please give me a shout if anything can be clarified further. 

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PRE-LAUNCH

CREATE YOUR BRAND ASSETS

Your brand assets are everything a consumer/player will see about your game before they actually get their hands on it. They will make their mind up about your game exclusively from these assets. These assets need to accurately represent your game, and distil what it's all about with as much impact as possible (this is the world of my day job, by the way, there's a lot of work that happens here). You'll want to work on these alongside the development of the game itself - the earlier the better. The list below could  be plenty longer, but at the bare minimum you'll want to create:

  • Trailer
  • Language/Descriptions - you'll need language at varying lengths for various places, but create a razor (or 'X' Statement), short (one sentence) and long description (one paragraph) for your game in addition to bulleted feature list. 
  • Key Art - traditionally box-art, this will likely be your main store/capsule imagery. 
  • Screenshots - 6 minimum. Try to show the breadth of your games features, and diversity of environments/characters/etc
  • A great .gif!

This ultimately will be what populates your store pages. 

More on branding:
Mottos, Mantras and Mission Statements; 4 Steps to Studio Branding
The Big Game Branding 101
How to get your game across in five seconds (Amazing talk on the importance of GIFs and how to make 'em. Thomas Reisenegger is the king of this)
Creating a GIF for your game 

BUILD YOUR CHANNELS 

Again, apologies if this is bleedingly obvious, but ensure your studio* has the following channels all set up and good to go in preparation for the announce/release of your game: 

 *studio over game, if possible - this will ensure future games build off the hard work of your channel building and can be re-used for the next project!

  • Twitter - don't exclusively promote yourself; follow and interact with other studios and developers. Use the #screenshotsaturday, #indiedevhour, #indiedev and #gamedev hashtags to share your content where appropriate, and ensure others can find it and signal boost. Batch and schedule tweets weekly if you find the regularity tough. 
  • FB - slowly moving away from relevancy for game marketing, but good to create an initial grass roots community of your closer friends/family. Blanket invite your entire friends list to the page. 
  • Instagram - good for sharing in progress screens and videos. Thriving little IndieDev community here. Again, follow the #gamedev #indiedev etc hashtags, interact with similar content, and you'll slowly build a reciprocated following. 
  • YouTube - I'm a solo-dev so don't have time/resource to really take advantage of this channel. Other than trailers, though, BTS Studio Updates, Dev Let's Plays and VLOGs can all help boost the channel.  
  • Tumblr - I've yet to find much luck here, but have an account I post to regardless. Would be interested to hear others experiences here.
  • Discord - I won't claim to be an expert here, am am still learning myself, but I've included a guide to getting the most out of Discord below. 
  • LinkedIn - yawn. Can't hurt depending on how seriously you're taking things, though. I've been tinkering with this recently. 
  • Mailing List - arguably the most important of the bunch. Direct marketing at its finest. Give an incentive for people to sign up (discount/eBook/demo etc), don't spam, keep consistent and regular updates. Watch your open-rates closely, and tweak your content (or when you send your content) based on what works and what doesn't. If your list snowballs and you're a studio with several games/products, use list segments wisely so you're not sending irrelevant content. 

More on building social: 

Getting the most out of Discord
Email Marketing 101: How to Actually Use Your Mailing List (Chris Zukowski is the master of email marketing, and I'd recommend signing up to his mailing list for more)
[TO BE UPDATED]

--

LAUNCH

  • Write a press release this doesn't cost a penny and there's no reason not to do it (I'd actually recommend doing it before you write a line of code; it will help clarify your vision and envisage the end-product and proposition). If you can't condense your game into a press release, you'll struggle to sell it. Be sure to find an angle. It's often the story that is picked up on here, not a description of your game; find your hook (you developed the game in hospital, your game was made during a game jam on a  boat, your game is the first to bring together genre[x] and genre[y] etc etc) 
  • Send your press release - most news editors have their email addresses on contact pages / twitter pages. Find them in advance. Build a list. Find writers interested in your genre/platform. Personalise the intro - don't blanket mail your entire list. Also sign up to GamesPress and submit to that - which will then be syndicated across gamasutra etc. 
  • Create a press kit, and link to it in press release - also ensure it's available on your website. Use presskit()
  • Post on all your own channels (listed above), in addition to the below: 
  • Imugr  - Imugr can have *amazing* virality with a little luck. Post your best screens/gifs, with the right tagging, and it could find the right crowd. 
  • IndieDB - set up studio/game pages; post your release news here
  • Reddit - be sure to have an active account that regularly interacts with other content, then share your own news to the relevant channels (r/indiedev, r/gamedev r/adventuregames etc)
  • Steam post - assuming your game is on Steam, ensure to post your Out Now blog/copy here. 
  • itch.io- obviously :) Write an Out Now dev log, opt into the press program, use this forum, and respond to content creators looking for games that might fit what you've worked on
  • Genre-specific publications - for example, if your game is an Adventure game, post to AdventureGamers.com, or if it's an audio game, post to audiogames.net. You'll need to do a bit of research for this one. 
  • Do a giveaway! Gleam is *fantastic* for this, and will help boost your channels in the process. It needs $$$ to unlock more functionality, but is perfectly fine at a free level. 

Resources:

PressKit()

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I by no means consider the above exhaustive and plan to update soon; please do send me other articles/guides you think would be a good fit here, and I will update this post with additional insight anybody may find useful. 

If you have more specific questions or want to chat, hit me up on Discord. I also blast out similar articles and guides to my mailing list and Patreon page. 

Thanks!

Jamin

Also, if you - or anybody else - want so share their mail list form, I'll sign up :)

I sign up to every studio newsletter I can find to see how people take advantage of what's - arguably - the most effective channel we all have at our disposal. 

Hello! Apologies if any of the below is too obvious, but hopefully helps. 

Assuming you're signed up to Mailchimp already? If not you'll want to get that up and running, and then create a list of all your email addresses. There are other platforms, of course, but Mailchimp widely regarded as the best - I've used for years and it's fantastic. You need to be *very* careful if adding existing addresses manually, however, and ensure you're GDPR compliant with everything. 

For *new* email capture, create a landing page / sign up form - which can either be a landing page through Mailchimp itself, which they recently added functionality for, or your own custom version (example for our mailing list capture here -- https://www.superstring.studio/mailing-list)

A few other bits of advice: 

- Incentivise the sign up - let people know what they'll be getting up front (free ebook, discount code etc)
- Don't spam, but keep your communications regular 
- Track your open-rates religiously and tweak your approach based on what's working and what's not
- If you have a multiple games/products, be sure to segment your email lists so you're messaging the right people the right information (people will unsub if you're sending them communicatiosn which aren't relevant) 

Hope that's somewhat helpful! 

Jamin

Hi Stewart! I'm chucking a couple of Headspun keys to your email now. 

Headspun is a narrative game that explores the theme of logic vs emotion. Set in Cortex - the world of the human brain - it follows the personification of the rational, human voice in the brain, and the primal emotional voice - and the differences in their philosophies. 

The game combines live-action FMV scenes (the real world - outside the brain) with more traditional visual novel elements to create a new narrative hybrid. 

Headspun was released in August 2019 for PC, PS4, Xbox One and Switch. 

If you have any questions, drop me a line!

Jamin

Huge thanks, leaf!

(2 edits)

Headspun is an FMV/Adventure hybrid set in Cortex; the world of the human brain. 

After its release on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch and Steam at the end of August 2019, we're incredibly excited to announce that the final Headspun release is now available on itch


Headspun explores the ongoing battle between logic and emotion.

After waking from a five week coma, Theo Kavinsky finds his life in disrepair, and with no memory of the accident, it’s up to Ted and Teddy – the conscious and subconscious voices in his head – to work out what happened, and put his life back on track.  Headspun is an FMV/Adventure hybrid which puts you in the shoes of Ted: the Director of Cortex - the rational, intelligent voice in Theo's head. What Ted thinks is best for Theo isn't necessarily a view shared by Teddy, however; the primal, emotional subconscious voice...  In the process of repairing Cortex, re-hiring a team and finding out what happened the night of the accident, Ted and Teddy must cast aside their differences and learn to work together. Headspun is a game about recovery, discovery, and the ongoing battle between logic and emotion. 


FEATURES

  • Rich FMV story-telling
  • Branching dialogue - sway the outcome of your interactions
  • Rebuild Cortex - earn Neuros to hire staff and commission renovations 
  • Retrieve Lost Memories and work out what happened the night of Theo's accident
  • Original Synthwave Score from Soho Loop

--

Previously an early access itch-exclusive version of the game, the Dazed Edition now includes the official Headspun OST by Soho Loop, which is unavailable on any of the other platforms. 

--

If you have questions/comments/problems, please get in touch via any of the below: 

--

Superstring

 x 

Hello! I started a new Journal series recently, with articles and guides aimed at helping out indie developers or those less familiar with the intimidating world of marketing. 


Superstring is my side-project. During my day job, I'm a Global Brand Manager at an AAA publisher. My intention is to bring some of that thinking and experience into the world of indie dev. I want to build a resource which offers guidance and insight into marketing, PR, community and brand. All that jazz.

The first article "Mottos, Mantras and Mission Statements; Four Steps to Branding Your Studio" can be read here. It's designed to help small teams think about how their studio is an extension of their games, and how to go about branding themselves accordingly. It's basically about defining mission statements and studio philosophy and all that delicious stuff.

The second article, "The Big Game Branding 101" - a sequel of sorts to the above - has just gone live on Patreon today! This focuses on positioning pyramids, style guides, market research etc. 

Patreon will be the first port of call for this journal series (in addition to early builds of our games etc), but each article will also hit our mailing list and Gamasutra etc at a later date.

I want these articles to be relevant and helpful - so if there are specific themes or questions you'd like covered, I'm all ears! Drop me a line any time. 

Cheers!

Jamin x

My only tip would be don't put 'Pixel' anywhere in your studio title. Tired, generic, and terrible for SEO - find something you can own. 

I put together a little article on studio branding a little while back - possibly of interest to you :)

https://www.gamasutra.com/blogs/JaminSmith/20190507/342096/Mottos_Mantras_and_Mission_Statements_4_Steps_to_Branding_Your_Studio.php

HEADSPUN


Bit of a bump with some exciting news! 

 Headspun will be launching on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, PC and Mac this Summer! That said, you can access a near final version of the game TODAY via the Superstring Patreon page - which gives exclusive access to the game on Itch. This is the only place you'll be able to get the game before launch. Available at our $9 HEADSPUN tier, this also includes an in-game credit and Headspun wallpaper pack - in addition to host of other BTS content and exclusive #IndieDev articles.

Headspun was born on Itch, and this community will always be looked after. To everybody that's supported the game already - huge thanks, and can't wait to share the final version of the game with you.

Many thanks,  

 Jamin

Hullo, 

I'm just finishing up some feedback docs for some other itch folk, but I think you have something interesting and I'm more than happy to offer a few thoughts. 

Drop me a line at the email provided and we can pick the conversation up there. 

Thanks!