The Minimalist Game PR Email: A GIF, A Link, & A Steam Key

Not everyone can hire a PR person, especially indie game devs often working as a one-person-team. That said, I often get a lot of…rough emails from devs.  As an example, here’s a barely edited sample directly from my inbox:

A game PR email containing nothing more than "new game, do you want keys"

The obvious issue here is…I know nothing about the game. Sure, I could click that link, but it’s just as easy to click the ‘archive message’ button, and with 50+ emails in my box, that’s probably my first reflex nine times out of ten if you don’t make an impression. I wish I could say this is rare, but I get a lot of these. A few very basic PR services even send out emails that are basically this with better formatting.

And I get it! Almost certainly you’re a gamedev first and a PR person second. Or third. Fifth. Sixteenth. That’s fine! But even solo or hobby game devs still need to do a little homemade PR too.  Let’s take a look at creating a Minimum Viable Product for game PR that gets people to actually look at your game even if we can’t pay someone to just do it for us.

Game PR as a Minimum Viable Product

You’ve probably heard of Minimum Viable Products before; it’s all about making the simplest, easiest, cheapest thing that (you think) will actually solve your/your client’s problem. And hey, there’s something to be said about minimalism in general for PR—I’m no big YouTuber, and even I get 10+ emails a day most days. I’m sure major review sites are getting many, many times more than that. You’re going to need to assume anyone looking at your email is getting dozens of similar pitches.

Here’s what helps me the most, as a gaming YouTuber with far, far more emails than time:

  • A GIF of the game
  • A link to the Steam/itch.io/etc page
  • A review key to actually play the game right now

That’s it. You can and probably should give me a little text snippet describing the game, but really, a good GIF can really sell that on it’s own. Show me just enough of the game to give me a sense of the gameplay, the setting, the mood. Something your target audience will see and think “yep, I want that!”.

You can use a YouTube video instead if you like, especially if music/sound is critical to your game; when I say “GIF” I mean something short, small, and punchy. Even if it’s a video, think Vine, not RedLetterMedia.

GIFs are Magic

What’s so great about a GIF? Let’s use an a (fake) copy example, pretending I’m pitching Assault Android Cactus.

Assault Android Cactus is a score-based Twin-Stick Shooter available on Steam featuring full controller support, multiple game modes, and 9 selectable characters with unique weapons.

If you got that in your email, would you be interested? Maybe you really like Twin Stick shooters, but there’s a lot of those. Let’s try a GIF that takes as about as long to watch as that took to read, this one from FutureBetaGamer:

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A Word on Reviews

When I started SirTapTap.com, the core intent was to have a place for more detailed, written reviews since I felt more detailed and deliberate analysis didn’t really fit in with my YouTube channel. My attempts at “reviews” had little distinguishment from the Quick Look/Let’s Play videos and their view counts would never justify the additional effort. So, a website specifically for reviews was the clear solution!

I wrote a few, as you can see in the Reviews section. I tried to keep myself to a high standard and go over the games thoroughly. Covering even one game turned out to be an impressive degree of effort and, again, the actual amount of people reading each didn’t really justify the effort.

So long story short, I’ve decided I’m going to be reviewing games less, and talking about them more.

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A Factual Timeline of the Alex Mauer DMCA Debacle

In June 2017 Alex Mauer began a series of events including DMCA claims, death threats, and releasing personal information of countless parties due to a contract dispute with her former employer, Imagos Softworks/Imagos Films. The dispute also spread to include River City Ransom Underground and includes several other games as well.

As sick as I am of talking about, hearing about, and generally being in the same plane of existence as this issue, it’s a very confusing and fast-moving topic and no one really has the full story. And unlike other articles, this one will be kept up to date with new events and will be corrected as needed.

So, here we are; a timeline of events in the Alex Mauer DMCA situation. There will be little analysis in this piece for various reasons; the horse is dead, I’m sick of talking about it, discussion on the issue turns nasty fast, an objective analysis isn’t easy to find, etc. etc.. Most of Mauer’s actions speak for themselves when presented in proper context anyway.

Times may be approximate. Feel free to contribute or correct anything you feel is relevant and I’ll update the list as necessary, but some of the more minor issues are not tracked due to the extreme depth of this ordeal.

If you’re curious about the YouTube specific situation, see this article by me on how YouTube’s DMCA system is being exploited by Alex (and could be exploited by pretty much anyone else).

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An Objective Undertale Review

(There are some very vague, very technical, very Objective™ spoilers for Undertale below. You probably won’t get the joke if you haven’t beaten Undertale at least once anyway.)

Undertale is a 122.52 MB single player game with “partial” controller support described as an “RPG Game”. The game is rendered at 640×480 pixels like a 30 year old CRT television though almost all ingame art is actually made at a resolution well below 480p. Most enemies are black and white in combat with extremely limited animation. The color pallette is similarly limited, probably 32 colors or less on most screens. The game only uses three buttons and arrow keys.

An objective sample of Undertale's art.
An objective sample of Undertale’s art.

The game has three endings. Two endings can be achieved at level 1, while the other ending requires more time grinding than playing the game. The “hardest” boss in the entire game has only 1 HP and their attacks can only deal 1 HP in return. The strongest equipment in the game is literally useless. Several fights cannot be lost.

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Niche games and useless reviews

I encountered the following statement regarding Everybody’s Gone To The Rapture:

“Totally see myself rating this a 6 out of 10 for the site. I’m just completely bored with the mechanics in this game.”

If you’re unfamiliar, Rapture is a “walking simulator”, the only “mechanics” are move, look, a very slow run button and an “interact” button (actually, every button interacts). It’s not my intent to explain the appeal of walking sim games here, but suffice it to say if you were looking into this game hoping for Deep Mechanics you have absolutely no idea what this type of game is. Continue reading “Niche games and useless reviews”