November — and early December — were an incredibly busy time for Novy. Let’s look back and remember some of the highlights:
VentureBeat interviewed Swarm, creator of the SwarmConnect platform. The piece came out a day before our big Unity announcement.
Appy Entertainment (www.appyentertainment.com)
Kotaku writer Mike Fahey loves Animal Legends for one reason and one reason only: he gets to be a Rogue Raccoon.
Shadegrown Games (www.shadegrowngames.com)
TUAW (The Unofficial Apple Weblog)
TUAW featured Starbloom as its Daily iPhone App for December 3. Better yet, editor Mike Schramm shot a video review of it!
Modojo / Business Insider
Editor Chris Buffa needed developer reactions to Peter Molyneux’ Curiosity. Novy PR was happy to help.
Swarm’s CEO (Matt Haggerty) penned an extremely polished piece for GamesIndustry International. His article includes a ton of updated numbers and in-depth analysis, making it a must-read if you’re interested in mobile gaming.
Woo Games (www.woogames.com)
Indie Woo Games relied on Novy PR to help them with the iOS launch of ErnCon. 148Apps, one of our favorite sites, did a very fair and accurate review of the game, helping this one-man studio reach a wider audience.
Step 1: Make a trailer
It’s hard to believe that some developers choose not to make a trailer. But it happens. While screenshots are easy and straightforward, trailers sound terribly complicated and time-intensive. Don’t let the extra workload deprive your game of a proper trailer. The consequences are often dire, starting with less coverage and ending with non-existing sales.
Step 2: Make every second count
The only thing worse than not having a trailer is having a 3-minute one. No one will watch a 3-minute trailer for a mobile game. The ideal length is 45 seconds to a full minute.
Step 3: Make it dynamic
We like trailers that show off different gameplay mechanics, characters, locations and atmosphere. You can’t have a minute of the same exact gameplay, over and over again. Think of the joy of driving the Pacific Coast Highway versus the mind-numbing boredom of the I-5.
Step 4: Make it descriptive
Text-less trailers might look stunning but will often leave viewers with a big question mark. Is it a sequel or an update? Is it for Android or iOS? Is this a new feature? Is it free? This information must be in there. If the best you can do is list the most important information at the very end, with bullets, that’s still better than leaving everyone in the dark.
Step 5: Make it real
Killzone 2 is famous for trying to pass CGI for actual gameplay. Don’t be tempted to make the same mistake — I know it’s easier to re-purpose the intro CGI or cut-scenes in the trailer, but you will lose your target audience in the process. Gamers watch trailers on YouTube and GameTrailers in order to evaluate a future purchase. They need to see how the game plays, not how great the cut-scenes are.
Step 6: Make your mark
Lush trailers can cost a lot of money. They usually have sweeping 3D art, post-processing, sharp HD visuals and booming soundtrack. That’s awesome if you can pay for it, but it doesn’t mean a more “indie” trailer can’t compete. The YouTube video embedded in the post is for a game currently in production, Planck. It’s for a single level. And it didn’t break the bank. Still, the trailer worked wonders for the game. It made Reddit and many game sites and blogs. It worked because it had personality. The developer, Shadegrown Games, poured itself in the trailer… And it shows. From the copy to the music choices, everything meshed. If you’re like me, you were dying to play Planck after watching it. So… be creative. Make the trailer an extension of your game. Give it an attitude. That’s the only way to fight the big boys, with their over-produced trailers and licensed music.
Feel free to add great mobile game trailers in the comments. Then tell us why you chose each particular example and what makes it an excellent trailer.
Looking forward to your submission :)
Jovan Johson is an attorney with L.A. firm Johnson & Moo. Like Novy PR, Jovan specializes on helping indie and mobile developers grow their companies from one-man start-ups to successful studios with a global audience.
Stray Pixels asked Jovan a few questions about attorneys, contracts, working with foreign publishers and more. Let us know what you think in the comments!
1. When should indie studios seek out a lawyer?
Indies should probably seek legal counsel once they begin working with others, including artists, programmers, marketers, etc. This will help ensure the terms of their agreement are written clearly and structured properly.
For example, last year my partner and I met with a potential client who produced a song (which, of course, is a form of intellectual property) that turned out to be quite successful. Gross revenue was close to $460,000, costs and expenses were approximately $25,000. Under his arrangement with the recording artist the producer’s share should have been $160,000, give or take.
The producer’s first problem was that he drafted the contract he signed with the artist. The document he came up with was quite detailed but didn’t make any sense. I’m not saying that as an attorney. I’m saying that as someone who reads and writes English. Next, he involved himself with investor-partners who were attorneys. The producer didn’t have an attorney review this second deal either. At the end of the day, he’s probably going to wind up with nothing to show for his efforts. In fact, he may be in debt before the ordeal is over. If he would have retained counsel from the beginning, he would probably have $160,000 in his bank account right now.
Some people think they cannot afford a lawyer. If you’re doing business and want to succeed, you can’t afford not having a lawyer.
2. How are mobile deals structured nowadays? What is the publisher role, for example?
The publisher’s role is to promote the game and sell units. They should provide input on polishing the game and a base level of PR and marketing. For that they receive a percentage of revenue, which may seem high to some developers. However, it’s better to have part of a financially successful game than 100% of one that sells 200 copies.
Some publishers have relationships that help with key placements within the Android Market and App Store, but that will not show up as a contract term.
3. What should developers watch for before signing a contract?
It’s always important that both parties have a clear understanding of what’s expected of them. Warm and fuzzy feelings are nice but the content of the written contract is what matters.
Some common issues that developers need to understand before signing a deal are:
4. Can working with foreign capital or a foreign publisher affect the way a contract is drafted?
Absolutely. If you plan on dealing with a foreign publisher you may have an issue in terms of choice of law. If the publisher insists on their local law, it’s a good idea for the developer to hire an attorney who is familiar with those laws.
Any deal regarding capital gets complicated quickly because it may be a securities transaction. Most attorneys are NOT capable of reviewing these contracts. Get help immediately if you’re thinking about a deal with capital, especially if it’s foreign capital.
5. Tell us about yourself. Were you always a gamer? When did you decide to focus on indies?
I’ve actually been a gamer on-and-off. Of course, I can remember spending many hours playing Nintendo when I was in elementary school. Same thing throughout high school, college, and after law school. Let’s just say if I get into something, I’m really into that thing. It’s best that I stick to casual games.
One of my brightest friends released a couple of iOS games. He worked with a small team on a handshake deal. This made me wonder about others making games without business and legal assistance. I’ve had a great time working with all of my indie clients. That makes me feel like I’m on to something.
6. Where do you see the game industry in the next 10 years?
I think gaming may go the way of movie studios. That is, large game companies who are financially sound will focus on blockbusters. That leaves a big opening for the indies to produce most everything else.
I also think mobile games will continue eating away at the market share console games have enjoyed for so many years. Game engines like Unity allow for increasingly advanced mobile games. It’s astounding, really. Google and Apple release mobile operating systems at a break-neck pace and developers take advantage of that.
Another advantage mobile developers have is that very few people want to buy a new Sony / Microsoft / Nintendo console year-after-year, but statistics seem to indicate that many people will opt to buy a new iPhone annually.
7. Is there anything else you’d like to say to Novy PR’s clients and readers?
Don’t hesitate to reach out to us for help. We answer emails and return phone calls. Kamal Moo, my partner, focuses on music and film law and has been around the block. We’re currently working with a fan-funded project, Angry Video Game Nerd The Movie. If you have a creative project in the works, there’s a good chance my firm can provide the attention and advice you need.
Here are some PR mistakes new studios will often make. Each (or all) of them can sink your mobile title in a single hit.
Duke Leto knows best:
“The first step in avoiding a trap is knowing of its existence”
1. Launching on a Friday
Fridays are when bad, bad companies like BP put news out so it gets BURIED. Therefore, if you need your game to stand out, the whole idea is to launch on a productive day like Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday. Another reason to avoid Fridays is the fact that Friday morning in the West Coast is Friday night in the UK, so you will lose most (if not all) Euro pubs.
[Go here for a great top ten of “buried news: http://www.poynter.org/content/content_view.asp?id=14489]
2. Failing to produce a trailer
Trailers are essential nowadays. They’re a basic complement to posts in sites like Gizmodo or Slide to Play. Through trailers, customers & press alike can understand how the game looks and sounds in motion — in short, how polished the whole thing is except for pure gameplay. So make sure to have a 30-second to 1 minute trailer ready for launch.
Here’s a great example: http://youtu.be/2_ObxR8d6LA
The game is FaceFighter Ultimate, a fun mobile brawler by Appy Entertainment.
3. Engaging in astroturfing
Astroturfing is when PR pros & interns pretend they are the common folk in order to give games they represent great scores/reviews in the App Store or the Android Market. Recently, a famous PR firm was caught doing it, making them look really bad to both prospective clients, the press and iPhone users. NEVER, EVER engage in astroturfing. You can easily get caught red-handed and in full public display.
Le Astroturf. As fake as my French accent
4. Changing the price / business model two weeks after launch
Pricing and mobile apps/games is always a point of contention. There’s a whole school of thought preaching that $0.99 is the place to be since it allows for mass penetration and wide distribution (the Angry Birds model). Others believe every game or app has it’s rightful place in the Great Pricing Pyramid — so games with a niche audience or high production values demand a higher price. That’s what EA and Activision do and I’m with the big boys on this one. However, there’s nothing worse than launching at, say, $1.99 then quickly dropping the price to $0.99 if lacking in sales. Or going for the whole in-app purchases bonanza only to find out no-one is buying — therefore immediately launching a premium (paid) version. Don’t change horses in the middle of the race. Stick to your guns — hopefully, you didn’t take the whole pricing issue lightly and made a great choice in the first place.
Don’t forget to check their user reviews in the App Store
5. Pestering the press with multiple emails/phone calls/voice messages
The press is busy just like you. They work hard and are often underpaid. It’s perfectly fine to send them one email and leave one voice message.
Don’t email them multiple times per day or leave multiple voice messages. Don’t keep calling either — maybe they are at their desk, but can’t pick up the phone due to a major deadline. Annoying journalists is the shortest path to getting ignored for the foreseeable future. No press = no coverage = tiny, tiny sales
Pests are found in many shapes and forms
6. Failing to provide sites with promo codes / premium accounts
Give the press promo codes of your game. Don’t make them buy it. Also, if your game is an MMO, let them know you can max out their character after a couple hours in-game so they get to see the whole world. Don’t make them play 10-15 hours straight just to have access to all the content — journalists have better things to do with their time. Finally, a word of warning: U.S. promo codes won’t work in Europe. If a target publication is in Europe — like the aptly-named Eurogamer — you’ll need to produce Euro codes or possibly reimburse them via Paypal.
No one will buy your game in order to review it
7. Having no presence on Twitter/Facebook/Google+
Twitter is great to keep in touch with your fans on a day-to-day basis. You can let them know a patch is in the works — or that this massive giveaway starts in two days. Facebook, on the other hand, fosters a sense of community, of belonging. You can still “broadcast” like in Twitter, but you need to understand every post will have lots of comments under it. So don’t assume everyone will love everything you say — expect criticisms from time to time. No matter what, use Twitter and Facebook to RESPOND as well. Engage your fans. Answer their questions. Post pictures of the studio, goofy videos, tips & tricks. You’ll thank me later.
Google+, the latest entrant in the Social Media Wars, it a hybrid of both Twitter and Facebook. G+ is perfect for the typical “broadcasts” done on Twitter but it also allows for posts well-beyond 140 characters. G+ is also a much more engaging social network; comments will be thoughtful — and plentiful.
How about you? Do you have any sins to add to the list? Tell your story in the comments!