Keeping Promises: How to Have a Successful E3

E3 2013 was arguably the biggest gaming event in the last five years. The dawn of a new generation of consoles brought with it a bevy of games to every publisher’s booth. With big competition for media attention, you need to be seizing every opportunity you can to stand out and get your game the attention it deserves. Here are a few tips I’ve found useful to help make every moment your finest at E3, based on working at the show the last few years and on the successes of working with the indie horror game Outlast this year.

Have faith. Make promises. When you truly believe in the game you’re representing, you exude confidence. When you’re confident, you start making promises — promises you can keep — such as, “Outlast will scare the s*** out of you.” A lofty statement like that will almost always lead to skepticism, and the natural reaction will be for a journalist to find out for themselves if you’re spewing PR rainbows or the de facto truth. Promises, when kept, have a domino effect. After someone has a positive experience with your demo, your claim can be amplified as they discuss their experience with friends and coworkers, driving more traffic and attention to your booth. By the end of the week, some publications had sent their entire staff to experience the Outlast demo!

Come armed with different stories. A good game will shine on its own – but that doesn’t matter unless the right people see it. Help this happen by painting a bigger picture around the game. Come prepared to suggest and discuss larger stories that will amplify the experience. Consider having discussions about the background of the development team, media or pop culture that influenced the developers, interesting research conducted by the team to offer a realistic or factually accurate experience, etc — many attendees have very little insight into the research that goes into creating a game. Sharing these stories offers an interesting perspective about the developer’s creative process. Some examples of stories we helped to tell this year include:

**The fainting actually happened! An attendee fainted while playing Outlast, and after making sure they were okay, we told one person who told another, who told another, until the story began to spread all throughout the show.

Be aware. Capture reactions as they happen… And share them! If you’re not speaking with someone in any given second, there’s probably someone you should be speaking to. During half-seconds, your eyes and ears should be peeled to what’s happening inside and outside of your booth. New opportunities may present themselves that you want your game to be a part of. For example, one of the bigger stories at this year’s E3 was the concentration of high-quality indie games appearing on next-gen consoles. Email editors you see talking about this or use Twitter to make sure your game is a part of the conversation!

What are people saying about your game after they play? How are people reacting? Capture these using tools like Vine for reactions or Tweet out quotes, tagging the appropriate person. Keeping promises is easy when you’re creating content to prove it.

Timely reminders and follow-ups. Did you speak to a journalist about a story idea that piqued their interest while at the show? No matter how interesting it is, words are easily lost in the hustle and bustle of this hectic show every year. Send a follow-up thanking people for coming by and playing if you haven’t already and rekindle the discussion of any story ideas shared during your E3 meeting the week following E3, or sooner, depending on deadlines.

PAX: The Indie Game Developer’s E3 Expo

With millions of marketing dollars hard at work on games like Call of Duty and Mass Effect, do independent developers stand a chance? You bet! The games industry has reached an interesting period where consumers have begun to actively seek out indie games. Is it because traditional big-budget titles are sorely lacking in innovation? Are today’s indie gems fulfilling a need through their willingness to take risks with gripping, heartrending tales like Freebird Games’ To The Moon? Or is it simply because there are now popular trade shows like the Penny Arcade Expo (PAX) that let developers bring the games face-to-face with their target audience? It’s very likely a combination of the three, but PAX is the puzzle piece that has put the power directly in the hands of these indie studios.

According to the NPD, in Q4 2011 consumers spent $3.3 billion dollars in games outside of traditional boxed products. That includes “used games, game rentals, subscriptions, digital full-game downloads, social network games, downloadable content and mobile games,” and downloadable gaming plays a large role in this figure. Interestingly, SEGA, one of the larger publishers attending PAX East 2012, is showing eight titles at the show this year, including games like Jet Set Radio and Hell Yeah from smaller developers, while showcasing only one boxed retail game.

With a price tag of around $2,000 for 10’x20’ booth space and an attendance of about 70,000 at PAX East in 2011, PAX is the sweet spot for indie developers. At a show like this, not only can they meet their existing fans, but it’s also much easier to garner new fans, and even shake their hand, too. It’s hard not to feel special when given a chance to meet the actual creator of a game and offer feedback and encouragement. Attendees of a show like this are some of the most passionate fans, making PAX ideal for viral, word-of-mouth excitement.

Having attended PAX East since it originated in 2010, I’ve noticed a few trends – the ratio of big name studios to fresh new faces is almost 1:1, and nearly every booth location can be good real estate. A spot beside a booth like Rockstar Games may at first seem intimidating to a small developer, but with long lines wrapping around the booth, con-goers will quickly move on to the next shiny booth that catches their eye, willing to trade some play-time for feedback.

Traditional gaming expos like E3 cost developers hundreds of thousands or even millions of dollars; journalists have limited time and resources to cover a slew of smaller titles that don’t generate the same attention as the AAA games. For these reasons and more, PAX has become an affordable, welcoming trade show that lets developers bring their games directly to the players. In fact, top-tier gaming press attend PAX to cover and discover the latest and greatest in indie gaming. It’s one of the few showcase opportunities where you’ll see indies honored right alongside their big-budget buddies.

TriplePoint will have a ground team at PAX East this year, manning booth #368 for Paradox Interactive and booths #548 and #448 for SEGA. Follow us on Twitter and send a shout-out if you see us or if you’d like to meet up!

Stephanie – @tigresaa  |  David – @dasupa1  |  Dustin – @DustinBlackwell  |  Ryan – @ArrrMo

Day One Purchases Are Fueled By Social Media

It’s here. It’s finally here! That book. That movie at the theater. That video game you’ve been counting your pennies towards, reading articles about and having friendly discourse via Twitter with anyone and everyone in and outside of your social network for well over a year now. “That’s going to be a Day One purchase,” is a phrase video game fans are surely more than familiar with.

Do you have enough money? Could you wait a week or two until that sale you heard about hacks $20 off that $60 game’s price tag? I mean, what could possibly be a con against saving $20?

Well, let’s weigh the advantages:

Pro: Save twenty dollars. (?? Profit!)

Con: The entire face of the Internet.

Twitter. Facebook. Comments on articles. Everywhere you go will be a potential minefield of spoilers. One false step and the entire experience you’ve been waiting for could explode in your face before you even purchase the game. Not to mention being out of the loop if you have to avoid social media to protect your experience.

I’ve realized social media is one of the largest drivers behind launch purchases for media. When the latest George R. R. Martin novel A Dance of Dragons hit the stands this month – my Twitter feed erupted with discussion about X character still being alive and Y character’s latest wild plot twist. It motivated me to read the volume I was currently reading more quickly so I could hurry up and join in on the reindeer games. The video game Catherine just came out this week and that was my latest video game purchase on day one to both support the publisher for daring to bring a game of this nature to the Americas (it’s a Japanese erotic horror puzzle adventure game, try that genre on for size), and to be able to chat about it with my friends online and off.

“It’s out!”

“It’s here!”

“Everyone’s talking about it!”

“You haven’t bought it yet? Boy, are you missing out.”

Do you ever feel subconsciously peer pressured to make your pre-planned purchases or trips to the movie theater sooner rather than later to stay “in the know” on your social networks?