TALKING TO NON-GAMERS ABOUT YOUR GAME

Indie developers tend to sell their games to people who play lots of games. This seems like the easiest target since these players have shown that they are willing to buy if the concept is intriguing.

This strategy can net you a respectable number of sales, but the problem is that you’re in a very crowded space. Steam’s new release list shows me 47 games released in the last week.

The key to marketing your game is to find a way to stand out above the noise. Only your imagination limits how you will achieve this, but one viable method is to take your message somewhere else where it is far more novel.

Go Where You’re Weird

This doesn’t mean to try to sell copies of your game at the retirement community… although it could. The tricky part about taking your message to people who don’t generally play games is that it could fail spectacularly.

Be sure that you have a rationale for where you want to talk about your game. Who are the audiences who might appreciate the themes, setting, subject, or mechanics of your game? Here are a couple of great examples of this method in action.

Portal

Valves games are among the gamerest games you can find, but they have found other audiences who would appreciate what they have to offer. Portal and Portal 2 found new life outside gamers in the classroom.

Valve provides lesson plans and forums for teachers wanting to use Portal in the classroom. Most teachers and administrators are not reading reviews on Giant Bomb to find new ways to engage their students.

By targeting this audience with a message and toolset that speaks specifically to their needs, Valve was able to get some traction they would otherwise never have achieved.

Wii

The Wii is slightly different from Portal as it seems to have been developed with a broad appeal in mind from the beginning.

Ads for the Wii emphasized it was a friendly, accessible way to have fun playing video games. This is why the console became a mainstay at family gatherings and living rooms in a way others before it had not.

Nintendo promoted the Wii through mommy blogs, among other places, but even their television ads took on a different tone from the typical video game ad. Although the channel was the same they would use to reach core gamers, the ads were different to appeal to that audience.

How Can I Do This?

Does your game accurately simluate an activity people enjoy in real life? If you’re making a hardcore racing simulation, car enthusiasts might want to know about it even if they don’t generally play games. The same could be true for a fishing or hunting game, or anything that closely resembles an activity people enjoy. On the other hand, trying to sell a Phoenix Wright game through ads on a lawyer’s blog might not be as effective.

Does your game require skills that a particular type of person might be interested in honing? Plenty of programmers might like SpaceChem just because it helps develop the sort of analytical processes they need to excel at their jobs. I recently picked up an iOS game called Rules! to help me hone my memory. In these games, the learning is a by-product of what’s happening in the game.

Does your game have an explicitly educational intent? Maybe schools would want to use it. Or, maybe it educates on an obscure topic that certain communities would be interested in learning. Make sure these people know about your game. Maybe the game is centered around some form of emotional education and therapists would use it as a tool with their patients.

Does your game allow someone to do something they can’t otherwise do? Plenty of people play Second Life, WoW, or other MMOs just for the social interaction they get with other players. The game, to them, is secondary. Social interaction is a basic human need that people can get cut off from for one reason or another. These games provide an outlet for that.

Don’t Limit Yourself

People who are enthusiastic about games are always looking for their next fix and should not be ignored. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t venture outside the walled garden of gamers to tell others about your game. You may find a resonance with some other group that will give them something they need and will give you a bigger budget for your next project.