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  • Postmortem: Chestnut Grove

    [02.04.21]
    - Philip Drobar

  • Marketing

    Very soon after having the first few presentable areas of the game, I created some screenshots and GIFs. This wasn't just to market the game (I wasn't even sure it was something I wanted to "market" yet), but helped me to see the game without "developer glasses". If I'd stumble upon a Chestnut Grove screenshot online somewhere, would it pique my interest? Does this convey the look and mood I'm going for?

    While I was locked into my art style, but the lighting, post-processing, and camera angle are big factors on what your media conveys to the audience.

    Announcing the game and having a closed beta

    Pst! This was probably the "cheapest trick" in my marketing!

    Around mid-April 2020, I created a website for my game and included a newsletter sign-up that would get you access to a beta version of Chestnut Grove if you'd sign up by a certain date. I also tweeted this out with a couple of hashtags.

    I didn't (and still don't) have a significant Twitter following, so I think the hashtags did most of the work along with people wanting to get early access to an unfinished game - for free. This also got Chestnut Grove the first media coverage: Alpha Beta Gamer was so nice and featured the announcement of Chestnut Grove on their website.

    This helped to get around 50 signups to my newsletter and beta (after removing lots of spambots).

    You can read it here: https://www.alphabetagamer.com/chestnut-grove-beta-sign-up/

    So, the positive takeaway on this was: I got quite a few newsletter signups, Twitter followers, and even a bit of media coverage from this (which helped increase reach).

    It also lead to first gameplay videos. (Some very polite streamers asked me before if they can post a public video actually, really appreciated that). An example of that is this video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WrUF8f8wPeg

    The downside was that even though it was a beta, I got almost no feedback whatsoever (which I didn't hugely expect, but still). If you're making a small game in this scope and are looking for productive feedback on your game, I found it more valuable to send the game directly to some trusted friends and ask them directly.

    Trailer release

    Up until that point, I only had some screens and GIFs of the game.
    On June 13th, 2020, I finally posted the trailer on Twitter and Youtube 

    As I'm writing this it got around 123 views on Twitter and 90 views on Youtube.

    For me the most useful aspect of having the trailer is being able to post it on some of the Twitter threads that go around every week or so, making sure your game is part of the "indie gang", though you usually only reach the same group of people with that.

    I also posted the game announcement and trailer on my LinkedIn and actually got pretty decent engagement out of it. Mind you that my LinkedIn network is completely different than my Twitter network, helping me get quite a bit more reach with almost no extra effort.

    Reaching out to other media: Print/podcast

    After seeing it floating around on Twitter, I reached out to the Editor of PixelBison magazine. Some Twitter DMs and Emails later, I sent them the beta, they were kind enough to do a preview in their #2 issue of July 2020.

    While the magazine probably had a small reach, it was truly special to have a written and printed preview of my little game, something that not a lot of Indie's have.

    Pretty much around the same time, the IndiePod podcast did their regular call for Indie developer interviews. I messaged them and recorded my interview with them about Chestnut Grove, and how it was like to make a game about the corona virus crisis while actually being in the middle of it.

    You can listen to it here: https://open.spotify.com/episode/4F5ncv3uvXemsZ778uS0kU?si=cMv1AZIzSOKmfs1PlTqH2g

    A small note to keep in mind was the delay between the time of recording and the actual air date of the interview. I was still in beta during the interview but by the time the episode was released, Chestnut Grove v1.0 was already out.

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