As some of you have already noticed, we were Greenlit on Steam a week ago. Thanks for your support and spreading the word!
We wanted to show our support back and decided to share some of the insights we gathered from the whole process itself. Our fellow developers at Shark Punch wrote already about their experiences in getting The Masterplan Greenlit in their Devlog, where they sum up nicely a lot of the same theories we found out to be true, so we will take a little different approach in our blog.
First of all, we know from the beginning that getting a game like ours through Greenlight would prove a challenge. The game focuses on narrative and is quite dialogue-heavy, so creating an action trailer showing off the gameplay wasn’t an option. So we decided to go with our earlier teaser, logo and screenshots. We also included quite a sales pitch in the Greenlight page which, looking back now, was far too long and not interesting enough to grab your immediate interest. However, due to our unique visual style of mixing graphic novels, we attracted a decent amount of traffic from within Steam during the first few days. Below is a picture of our overall progress, and as you can see, the first few days are the most important. They clearly judge the amount of traffic Steam will channel to your Greenlight page.
After the first few days, we soon realized that the traffic was starting to die off completely. So something had to be done. First, we changed the logo towards a more personal one with Reggie staring directly towards the screen. Secondly, we ditched the long sales pitch and went with a much simpler version. These gained a little spike in user traffic but nothing special.
The next step was the logical one, bringing the press up to speed on us being in Greenlight. We started this by sending out over 100 press releases through MailChimp using our unique visual design. The package included a brand new trailer showing gameplay and a professionally drafted press release for an easy copy-paste article. We thought it was enough to get their attention.
Nope. Lessons learned: First, nobody cares about a new trailer by a random new game studio. Unless you’ve got something technologically marvelous or industry icons working on it. Second, there are tens of new games submitted into Greenlight daily, so they probably have their mailbox already full of various games begging for some time in the spotlight. Even though we got some attention on various smaller game websites, the traffic they generated wasn’t enough.
So clearly this wasn’t the way to go. After talking this with our advisors, we realized where our error lay: our targeting was completely off. Instead of just approaching the given contact emails on various websites, we should carefully choose the right reporters behind the websites. This actually proved to be quite easy: just think of similar games, check their reviews from Metacritic, and there you have it, the reporters responsible for reviewing games similar to The Detail.
So next I started reading their reviews and wrote them personal emails, where we granted an access to an early demo of The Detail. After a few days, it payed off. The first bigger article was in Hardcore Gamer, which generated the first spike of traffic in late June seen above. Then Rock, Paper, Shotgun checked us out and included some of the most epic scenes from HBO’s The Wire. This resulted in a much larger spike, the highest one after the first few days in our journey so far in Greenlight. Still, this was not enough. We needed more traffic. At this point we also had already changed the logo to a detailed animated black and white face staring right through you, with the game’s name in yellow below it to break from our normal color palette.
We were constantly reading the comments on forums, the Greenlight page itself as well as the different comments section on various press articles regarding The Detail. They all had one thing in common: what is the gameplay like? This was a question we needed to answer as effectively as possible. We started to think about the traditional YouTube gameplay videos and felt like it wasn’t the right way to go. Then we remembered a couple great examples of interactive videos, where the “players” were given the possibility make their own choices within the video itself. Perfect fit for a game evolving around choices, right? The next days were spent working on the video itself and on YouTube’s own linking system. On July 3rd we launched The Detail Interactive Trailer. It worked out well, got some coverage on the sites that had previously talked about our game, and gave the players some idea of the initial gameplay itself.
However after a few days, once again, the traffic on our Greenlight page died off almost completely. We released the early demo through Alpha Beta Gamer for the public to test out a week later. It generated some traffic but still not nearly enough. We weren’t even in the Top100 list in Greenlight. At this point we looked back at the data, realized that we have done everything possible, and now we could only wait. Steam directed some daily traffic into the page but it wasn’t gonna get us greenlit anywhere in the near future. So we focused in working on the game and just let the Greenlight run on its own course.
So you can color me surprised, when our Lead Writer sent me a text on a late Friday evening on August 1st, with just a one simple word in it: “Greenlit“. It caught us completely by surprise, since we weren’t even in the Top100 and only 50 titles had been greenlit in the batch. Actually, we are even still a little confused about the whole thing, and even more thankful for getting picked over a lot of other promising titles still fighting for attention in Steam Greenlight.
As for a conclusion, like so many others have said it before me, it seems getting greenlit isn’t just about the numbers. Getting the attention of the press, the players and the community is as important as the amount of “yes” votes generated at the end of the day. From here on, our journey continues towards preparing the first episode for launch later this fall. Remember to follow us on Facebook and Twitter to get the latest on The Detail.