I’ve learned a lot in the almost 15 years I’ve been running online games. Sure, I can tell you all the different marketing strategies you usually see articles for that show you how to spam your game in every social network and paid advertising service known to man, but that’s not what this post is all about. There’s a difference between getting people to KNOW about your game and getting people to PLAY your game.
Know Your Target Audience
First and foremost you need to know your audience. Who does your game appeal to? If you’re advertising your game for 30+ year old men but the only people who’ve played it so far are young teenage girls then advertising it on a Cars Automotive Forum is just a waste of your time. If your game is brand new and you’re not sure of your target audience then you can do some playtesting to get feedback on who it appeals to the most. You can also try asking a variety of friend and family to play if playtesting isn’t an option for you — this will give you a varied pool of ages and computer skill levels to draw some basic conclusions from.
Advertise To Your Target Audience
If you’re looking for children to play your game and all of your advertisements/branding/banners/phrases use large vocabulary words and dense/visually busy/highly realistic/dark images then you’re already setting yourself up for increased headaches and hair pulling. If you don’t know much about your target audience then it’s time to stop and do some research. What appeals to children is completely different from what appeals to adults or teenages just like what appeals to women is different from what appeals to men.
Add Lots Of Variety
If you go the pay for advertising route, or even if you self-promote your game in forums/social networks you need to vary how you advertise. By this I mean use both different graphics and wording and in what you’re posting. You’ll quickly find out which advertisements and wording works better than others. If you always have one static saying and image that you’re spamming around the internet it will fade into the background noise. Try animated banners and static banners, bright colors and dull colors, varying text sizes and text amounts. If you post just one banner/phrase and it doesn’t attract people then don’t keep posting the same banner/phrase. One thing I like to tell people is the definition of stupidity — doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. If you don’t mix things up you won’t get a different outcome.
Make It Easy
By this I mean you want your game to be easy to find, install, run and start playing. If someone clicks on your website and they now have to wade through 15 different links that are randomly dispersed through an already text-heavy blog post to find the link to get to your game download page then you’ve already lost customers before they’ve even started. Have your download or embedded game front and center. Make it easy to download or join — the fewer fields and steps they have to complete to start playing the faster they’ll become engaged and access to the experience they were looking for.
Teach Them How To Play
It’s hard to play if you can’t figure out how the game works or which buttons you need to press to get things started. Make access to instructions or a tutorial just as easy as it was to find and launch your game and keep your instructions appropriate for your target audience. Children need instructions with fewer, easier to follow with less text than adults do. Don’t shoot yourself in the foot by writing instructions or a tutorial that they can’t follow or don’t understand.
Start Playing As Soon As Possible
Instructions and a tutorial are great but they can also be tedious and time consuming. Keep them short and to the point, or intersperse brief tutorials/instructions that are introduced progressively throughout gameplay. The longer your target audience has to wade through learning how to play the less likely they are to start playing and stick with it.
Control, Control, Control
If your target audience has made it past your tutorial or instructions and they’re playing there’s one other thing that can really bring everything to an abrupt stop and that’s having difficulty interacting with the game. If your controls are too sensitive or your combinations are too tricky or are too fast for them to accomplish in the amount of time you’re giving them you’ll find that their interest drops off like an air-conditioner falling out of a window. I’m not saying your controls can’t have a learning curve, just that it should be a fairly short one or even a progressive one where you start off simple and add more and more complexity as you go.
Make It Fun
So you can do all of these things I’ve mentioned and people still don’t play your game because they don’t think it’s fun. I could go on and on about this topic and in fact I already have if you’re interested in reading about it so I won’t drag on about it here and now. If people don’t think your game is fun then it doesn’t matter if you’ve hit the mark on all the other points you’ll still find yourself back to the drawing board. So I hope this helps you in your endeavors to get people playing your game because in my experience if you can master these points here you’re well on your way down the path to success.