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Author Topic: Reaching customers  (Read 1308 times)
coxcomb
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« on: November 17, 2002, 09:20:52 AM »

Hi all, I'm new to the boards but have already found much inspiration on the site.

My question is deceptively simple:

What are the most effective ways of reaching customers with information about your game? There seem to be very few avenues for conventional advertizing of RPGs (magazine ads, etc.) and of them, those with the widest distribution (e.g. Dragon) are not available to non-d20 games. not to mention that conventional advertizing is notoriously expensive and of dubious value.

My working theory was that the way to reach a wider audience is to visit conventions and provide a positive and supportive online presence. But reading Ron's article "The Nuked Apple Cart" gave me pause. Is conventioning *really* a waste of my time? How else am I going to get people playing my game than by fun demonstrations? Does anyone have any insight into this?

Thanks,
Jay Loomis
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Jay Loomis
Coxcomb Games
Check out my http://bigd12.blogspot.com">blog.
Cynthia Celeste Miller
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« Reply #1 on: November 17, 2002, 10:02:53 AM »

I can only speak of what I know from first hand experience.  I can't comment on conventions as I've not yet had a chance to represent my company at one.

Forums are a godsend for advertising your game.  For one thing, you can include a blurb on your signature, but this should usually be more than just having your company name and website.  I tried that on RPG.net and it just didn't cut it.  So, I added a bit of pizazz and, like magic, our website's hits increased significantly.

Also, visit game forums regularly and keep a look out for threads in which you can slip in mention of your product.  This may sound kind of smarmy, but the results speak for themselves.  

The more times people see your product or company mentioned, the more exposure you'll get.  People will start to connect certain relevant topics to your game.  Before Cartoon Action Hour was released, there would be posts from folks asking about games that would be good for playing Transformers or Masters of the Universe...and the RPG.net regulars would almost invariably respond with something like, "Well, this Cartoon Action Hour game sounds like it could be what you're looking for and it comes out in April".  Boom!  Right there, the word had been passed along.

Now I know the online game community is only a fraction of the total game community, but it's a good start.  Right now, if you go up to a non-internet gamer and ask them about CAH, they'll look at you like you're stupid.  But a lot of gamers who have visited some of the game forums know all about the game.  Many of them own the PDF version too.

In February, we go to print, which will widen our horizons even more.  So, I'm all in favor of using online forums as a launching pad for your product.

Before I stop rambling, I want to stress the importance of press releases and reviews.  

Press releases are great for keeping your product in the minds of gamers everywhere.  Don't just take a fire and forget approach.  Send them out on a fairly regular basis.  Not constantly, but you get the idea.

Reviews are a godsend.  Seriously.  Every time we get a review of CAH, sales go through the roof.  The more reviews, the better.  It's worth it to send out review copies to reviewers who do good work.
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Cynthia Celeste Miller
President, Spectrum Games
www.spectrum-games.com
Pramas
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« Reply #2 on: November 17, 2002, 07:44:17 PM »

Quote from: coxcomb

What are the most effective ways of reaching customers with information about your game? There seem to be very few avenues for conventional advertizing of RPGs (magazine ads, etc.) and of them, those with the widest distribution (e.g. Dragon) are not available to non-d20 games. not to mention that conventional advertizing is notoriously expensive and of dubious value.


Non-d20 games are advertised in Dragon in Dungeon (White Wolf does ads for WoD stuff, GW for their Lord of the Rings minis game to name two). Their readership certainly isn't ideal for all RPGs, but the avenue is open to you.

Pickings are pretty slim for traditional print advertising. Games Unplugged is of dubious value, irregular zines like Campaign and Gaming Frontiers are d20 focussed. There are the gaming related comics like Dork Tower and Knights of the Dinner Table. Green Ronin has done a bit of advertising in Dork Tower, though its hard to say how effective it was since it was part of a large marketing campaign for Mutants & Masterminds.

One place you definitely want to hit is Games Quarterly Catalog though. This is not for cusumers, but for retailers and distributors. Since they are the folks who need to order your product to get it on the shelves, you want to get your info in front of them for sure. GQC does what's called a catalog page for $160. You give them text and graphics and they put the page together for you. You can also take out color ads seperately if you want to. Since GQC is published four times a year, getting a catalog page in each issue is pretty reasonable.

Comics and Games Retailer is another trade magazine you might consider advertising in. They have some business card size ads that are pretty reasonable if you have a small budget.

Quote
My working theory was that the way to reach a wider audience is to visit conventions and provide a positive and supportive online presence. But reading Ron's article "The Nuked Apple Cart" gave me pause. Is conventioning *really* a waste of my time? How else am I going to get people playing my game than by fun demonstrations? Does anyone have any insight into this?


Conventioning is not a waste of your time. It gives you direct access to potential customers, lets the person who knows most about your products (ie you) do the selling, and provides some ready cash with direct sales. As a small company, you may lose money at a big show like GenCon, but it's still worth doing for the exposure. If you can swing demo games, either at your both or elsewhere at the con, that's also very much worthwhile.

Your website is also a great tool, especially if you can get people to come back week after week. With Green Ronin, we try to update the site at least twice a week with news, previews, and web enhancements. Hosted forums are also good, to spur dicussion. I remember a couple of years ago watching our hits climb up to 10,000 a day. When we hit that number, I was psyched. These days we are routinely getting 50,000 hits a day.

It also does help to be an active member of assorted gaming forums, as Cynthia suggests. I would say being part of the EN World community has definitely helped us. Cynthia is also spot on with sending our review copies. Some companies are stingy with them, but getting people talking about your products is almost always good.

Another low cost tactic is the demo tour. You can target game stores within easy driving distance of your home and set up appearances with the store managers/owners. Most retailers are happy to give you some time and space to run demos, answer questions, and so on. With a little planning, you can hit a lot of stores in one week (depending, of course, on where you live).
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Chris Pramas
Green Ronin Publishing
www.greenronin.com
Ron Edwards
Global Moderator
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« Reply #3 on: November 18, 2002, 07:36:04 AM »

Hi Jay,

I'd like to stress that answering your question depends heavily on the means of distribution you use, or plan to use.

1) If you are talking about an RPG book to be sold in game stores across the country and across the world, and you're budgeted for a print run numbered in the thousand or thousands of books, then Chris Pramas' advice is solid, with perhaps a few tweaks depending on the publishing plan and content.

2) If you are talking about a direct-sale via website sales model, then allying with similar publishers is very important. Learn about their games and promote them, and they will do the same for you. Run a forum or mailing list for the game and attend them regularly. Establish a community of artists and layout people who like your game and who like working with you.

3) Some tactics apply across both types of distribution, and you should consider these in detail:

- Treat your website and all associated internet activity as a magazine for your game and company.
- Provide a means for users of the game to speak with one another and to give feedback to you (think of a comics letters page).
- Get reviewed on popular RPG websites, like RPG.net, as often as possible or decent.
- Exchange links with other websites with similar interests, whether topical or RPG-based.
- Set up the metalinks on your website such that you are recognized by commonly-used search engines (never pay a search engine service to be included on it).

I also recommend browing this forum all the way back from the first page. I don't think any other venue on the internet contains as many insights from people who have succeeded at alternate or innovative means of publishing RPG material.

Best,
Ron
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Misguided Games
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« Reply #4 on: November 18, 2002, 01:29:52 PM »

Quote from: Pramas

GQC does what's called a catalog page for $160.


FYI, this is now $180.
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