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What to do to give my game the best chance of "going viral"?

A topic by Dariusz "Darkhog" G. Jagielski created Jan 03, 2018 Views: 361 Replies: 8
Viewing posts 1 to 5

I know it isn't an exact science, but there have to be some ways of increasing the chance of it happening. The problem is I don't know what should I do to achieve maximum virality potential.

Admin(+1)

Going viral is generally about getting picked up by someone who has the audience to spread your game to a large number of people. The first thing you must do is build something with gameplay that has the potential to be viral. This can be explicitly done, but it can also be pure luck. Eg. a streamer or influencer just does something with your game that people find funny or interesting. Before you launch your game, make sure you've build the game you want to launch! If you plan for streamers to play your game then you might want to spend some more time adding features that you think they will enjoy sharing, like anything that uses audience feedback. Maybe you can name the items in your game and a streamer can ask the audience for names. 

Assuming you've built the right kind of game, the next step is getting people to find it. A lot of people come to itch.io to find games to stream, and making your game stand out here can definitely help, so I'll give you some tips for maximizing distribution here:

  • The first week matters a lot. Your global ranking is a lot more sensitive the first week after you launch your game. Drive traffic to your project page as soon as you publish it to help it climb in ranking. If you can break the top games list then you're more likely to get even more traffic to keep your game up there. Share your game on twitter/facebook/reddit etc.
  • Tag your game correctly. The more accurately you tag your game the more places your game can show up on itch.io. A lot of people come to itch.io through tag pages via search or just by browsing around. If they click into your game then they can help raise your game's total popularity, thus boosting your chance of making it to some of the higher traffic pages where a potential streamer might find your game. (Streamers also dig through these more niche categories as well)
  • Make your game page engaging. A cool part (or maybe an annoying part) about itch.io is that the project pages start as basic templates that you are free to customize. If you build an interesting page then you're more likely to get someone to invest the time to download and play your game. Although we've seen hits with the default page, I can't say that helped! If you have the time then it's wroth boosting your chances by making your page look good.

Hope that helps

Thanks, however I think I'll have trouble with the first part - driving traffic. I'm not a SEO guru and not good with social media either(on twitter I have only measly 94 followers and I think most of them are fake accounts anyway). As for third thing, without custom CSS making one is kinda hard. I know I can contact support about that, but why isn't it just part of default features?

Admin(+1)

It's not necessary to use CSS to make a good looking page. We put CSS behind a wall because it can be used for malicious changes.

CSS for malicious changes? First heard of it. I'd understand if it was JS we're talking about, but CSS? Lel.

(+1)

Most likely some overflow exploits. I know Firefox used to have one until it was fixed.

Things usually go viral because they generate a strong reaction that provokes social sharing.

Often that is some sort of novelty/awe, laughter or anger/urgency.

People share things that amaze them or that are unique, beautiful or otherwise exceptional in quality.  Personally I am a visual artist first & foremost so I try to draw attention with outstanding graphics and artwork, as I get the sense that's my best shot at standing out here.

But if you make people genuinely laugh with something hilarious that can work too. 

And a lot of times when people are shocked or angry about something that is happening or about to happen, they'll tell others and mobilize against it, even when the thing that upset them in the first place turns out to be a total fabrication (i.e. phony clickbait political news stories spreading on Facebook)

Some other thoughts:

-- incentives. If there's an upside to sharing, then people will more likely share. (I.e. a discount for those who post about a game on social media). 

-- time limits. People might buy, and spread the word, if a really good sale is available, and is not going to last long. I'm going with a discounted early access [just one dollar] and will keep the pricing as low as I can justify even after my game's fully finished, because I am hoping it'll provoke impulse buys and that the larger volume of sales will compensate for the small amount earned per sale.

-- low barriers to entry. That is, if the game's playable for very cheap or better yet,  free it will be easier to access and more likely to spread. This is why 'freemium' and ad-supported games have become a common thing; they can be downloaded without spending any money. Of course, such game experiences are generally pretty flawed and low quality, but they tend to spread anyway.  A limited but still fun and playable freeware game demo, though, can also potentially be an effective way to offer a tantalizing freebie without compromising the full game with broken freemium game mechanics. I am likely to release some small portion of my project 'Miniature Multiverse' for free at some point, in keeping with this concept.

Virality is not very predictable.  Orchestrated, costly promotional campaigns, however, are [relatively] predictable.

You can do a lot right and still not get much attention simply because the indie game scene is so crowded... and big studios will likely drown your work out. Your odds are actually better if there's some traditional promotion in the mix to get the ball rolling. Posting on relevant gaming forums helps, and leveraging all your various social networks. You can also identify people you follow on social platforms who are popular and message them with information about your game. You can even give them a free copy of the game, or an exclusive bit of media [in advance of the game's release] that nobody's seen before, that they can post... it benefits them because they feel and look like they have an 'inside scoop' on your project, and you may benefit from the exposure. Paid advertising can also work but only if it's lean enough [well targeted, low cost per acquired customer] to be effective in generating more revenue than it costs. 

I HATE when people ask if I'm going to make the next Angry Birds. I do not have a million dollar online ad campaign backing my launch like Rovio did. People think that game 'went viral' and to some degree it did. But really it became a phenomenon mainly due to a strong promotional campaign right out of the gate and good timing early on in the life of iOS when fewer than 100k apps existed on the platform. It was not indie, and it demonstrates how effectively big ad campaigns at launch can propel a game into a widespread hit. It also demonstrates how if you can force your way into some top 10 or top 20 list, like 'most downloaded'/'most popular'/'best selling' you can multiply the exposure generated by your ad campaign and make vast sums regardless of your game's real merit, if you have a studio with enough cash to make that happen.



That's about as much as I can think of about virality at the moment. If anyone else has suggestions I missed, feel free to add them to this thread.

Thank you for your kind words. Yes, I already plan a free demo (that's how I'm going to draw people to my $100 indie gogo campaign since I simply can't afford Steam Direct fee, of course will be selling the game here as well). I'll do traditional promotion as well (since I know how hard the making a thing go viral can be, that's why I've asked for tips) and since my game is supposed to be cute, fun and care-free experience, I'll concentrate on comedy - I consider myself pretty good at writing it.

Have a nice weekend!

(1 edit)

I wouldn't recommend it, but you can do something underhanded or controversial with your game to make people notice it.

Since last year, something like 7,000 games have been released on Steam. I can maybe name 4 games off-handedly. A lot of them are shovelware and simply low effort. And I'm not trying to be mean, but these particular games are just very generic, bland, and have no identity of their own.

So then, the trend in the last few years—which coincided with streamer popularity exploding—is to just release a game as quickly as possible, with an emphasis on being "quirky" to get them to play it. All that matters is you get Markiplier or Game Grumps or Pewdiepie or whatever popular streamer to mention your game and you'll get a disproportionate number of people interested in it, regardless of the quality of finishedness of it. 

Personally, I frown upon this since it hurts the honest nature of game development and is basically exploiting the system to maximize your money/exposure. Technically there is nothing wrong with it, so whatever.