VVVVVV and the Power of PR for Indie Games

It’s only the second week of January, and 2010 is already shaping up to be another incredibly strong year for independent game development. Derek Yu’s freeware colossus, Spelunky, and past IGF Grand Prize winner Darwinia are both coming to XBLA. Newgrounds sensation Meat Boy is headed to WiiWare, as is indie classic Cave Story. Many of the recently announced finalists in the 12th annual Independent Games Festival look poised to take the gaming masses by storm, if they haven’t already, and you can bet there will be plenty of talk about them as GDC approaches. Despite all the buzz surrounding the IGF and these heavyweight indie titles, some clever PR outreach by Terry Cavanaugh has ensured that his cruelly entertaining puzzle-platformer “VVVVVV” is the first big independent game of 2010.

Over the last week or so, talk of VVVVVV has been popping up everywhere, from EDGE (who gave the game an impressive 8/10) and BoingBoing to Destructoid and Rock, Paper, Shotgun. Some people might chalk that up to word-of-mouth and the fact that VVVVVV is a great game, but the true culprit is Terry himself. He’s kept his fans up to date and provided behind-the-scenes details with a regularly updated blog, taken his game on the road to big events, done interviews with the right outlets, and weathered bad news honestly and gracefully.

Even more importantly, his well-planned preparations for VVVVVV’s launch, including an incentivized preorder campaign, have caused a plethora of stories about VVVVVV to hit the web in an incredibly short period of time. Buzz can be built up in a wide variety of ways, but one of the best things you can do to get people interested is make sure they see your game mentioned so many times they can’t NOT look it up.

At the end of the day, VVVVVV’s success does, truthfully, hinge on the high quality of the title. If the game wasn’t fun to play, we wouldn’t be hearing about it. That being said, the simple PR tactics Terry used to get his game out there and get people talking are what may take it from being a good indie title to a top game of 2010.

Whether you’ve got a team of 250 people making a million-dollar title or you’re a one-man studio with almost no budget, spending some time (and sometimes a little money) on public relations can ultimately be the difference between a good game and a great one. VVVVVV, the first great indie game of 2010, is living proof. Do yourself a favor and give it a try!

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