There is a distinct “news beat” that game companies follow for their launch, and once you notice these beats, you’ll see it everywhere. By following each news beat, companies know what to share with journalists to get the maximum amount of eyeballs come launch. In other words, it’s a marketing template that publishers have been using (either consciously or subconsciously) since the start of video games journalism.

In this article, I’ve laid out the seven distinctive news beats that the companies use, and how smaller developers can use it as well.

News Beats . . . Can You Eat Them?

There are a few elements about news beats you need to know before you jump in.

1) News beats don’t have a particular time span
Some companies may take months to move through the News Beats, while your game takes a few weeks.
For example, some companies announce their game (News Beat #1) and launch (News Beat #7) within a few months (Fallout 4, for example). Others stay in beta (News Beat #4) and take a year to launch (e.g. Overwatch). A small majority provide a rough release date (News Beat #6) and then suddenly launch without much lead time.

2) News Beats are multipliers
Striking a news beat amplifies your voice. Big publishers like Nintendo can turn each beat into a hundred stories for journalists, while indie publishers, on the other hand will have to get creative to get a handful of articles.

If your voice isn’t attracting a lot of attention, you’ll have to make them pay attention.

Let’s jump right in!

News Beat #1: The Game Announcement

The Game Announcement is the roaring, hype-generating message that there’s a new game being worked on. In layman’s terms, it’s a publisher showing an intention to build the game.

Imagine if the words “announcing Half-Life 3” appeared. It would crash the internet.

How to use this beat as a smaller developer:

  • Game announcements from studios without a huge fan-base don’t get much notice.
    • The next best thing for those without a huge audience is to announce your goal publicly and start grabbing emails of those who are interested.
  • If you’re starting with zero fans, start writing developer logs and getting comfortable on social media. Let the world know what you’re doing.

News Beat #2: First Pieces of Media

This beat is about letting the world know about your first official screenshots, your first animated gif, or a rendered version of the main character.

For example, fighting games show off their main characters made in their new engine.

Street Fighter 4 generated excitement by showing off classic fighters with their new art style.

How to use this beat as a smaller developer:

  • Similar to the first news beat, game journalists will find it difficult to write a story unless you have a huge audience.
    • Instead of connecting with game journalists, share it with an audience that will get excited.
    • Example: Those in your genre. Making a Persona-looking game? Share with RPG forums. Making a game where you land on planets and steal everything not nailed down? Share it with all the people disappointed at No Man’s Sky.
    • These fans are excited to see the game development process happen and will be rooting for you to launch.

News Beat #3: The First Trailer

In this news beat, developers visually explain how the game looks and feels, as well as the unique features that get people talking. Check out our article on game trailers for some good tips!

Companies do this at E3, PAX, and other major conventions. When Borderlands was originally announced, their trailer video revealed their unique selling point, which was that their game had millions of guns.

Notice how the trailer isn’t cel-shaded? They also went through an art coup, which generated a lot of press buzz.

How to use this beat as a smaller developer:

  • You can attend conventions (if you choose) by finding and courting advocates, like journalists, Youtubers, and Twitch streamers.
    • If this is your first launch, resist the temptation to host a booth, and instead, wait for a fully functional demo to be ready. The press is wary of small developers who over-promise with trailers and under-deliver at launch.
  • At this stage, your website should be up and running and you should have a rough PR kit.
    • It doesn’t have to be perfect, but should be meaty enough for anybody who wants to write about your game.


News Beat #4: The Start of Beta

At this beat, game publishers open the doors to a select group of people to privately test their game.

Many companies have two periods for testing: an announcement for closed beta testing, and an announcement for public beta testing.

To use Blizzard as an example, Overwatch had a closed beta period in October 2015, which generated a few stories from journalists to attract die-hard Blizzard fans. Another closed beta announcement happened in February 2016, drawing even more stories. Then, a few weeks before launch, they had a public beta testing event for millions of players.


Big publishers are now using their fans to give them an inside look at the game, all while inviting the press to generate stories.

How to use this beat as a smaller developer:

  • Let the world know that you are asking people to beta test. Ask on Twitter, find testers through your email newsletter, and jump into gaming forums.
    • Take it a step further and make it an exclusive event that only a select few can participate in. Require applications. You only want true fans.
    • Create a private forum or area where your beta testers can congregate.
  • Look for opportunities to connect with small gaming sites. Framing the email with, “I love [x] about what you do. I’m looking for beta testers, and your audience would be a great fit. It would be awesome to find a way to work together.”

News Beat #5: Previews

At this news beat, companies are sharing real gameplay footage. Developers are showing off what makes their game different from their competitors, as well as providing interviews on why gamers should get excited.

To use Bethesda as an example, in their previews for Skyrim, they talked about what they learned from Oblivion, their unique Radiant AI, and how they built better dungeons by reducing art fatigue.

radiant-aiBethesda’s Elder Scrolls series has NPCs with real schedules – eating meals, going to work, in a system they call Radiant AI.

How to use this beat as a smaller developer:

  • Tap into your list of influencers and keep them updated on where you are in the development process.
    • If you have journalists on the list, give them a rough timeline so they know what to expect. They might give you clues on when there are slow news days so that you can maximize your reach.
    • If you haven’t gotten any press attention, check out these helpful tips.
  • Since you’ve been gathering emails, now is the perfect time to connect with them with a newsletter as well.
    • Bi-weekly or monthly emails with photos of development, new features, engagement emails to allow your fans to contribute.
    • Use your beta testers to share bits and pieces of the game publicly. Run contests and competitions for your beta testers to keep them engaged and thank them for their work.
  • Expand your authority to other developers. Your peers can open up new doors.
    • Writing articles to teach developers about your process. An excellent developer to emulate is Lars Doucet, of Defenders Quest fame.
  • Attending developer events and conventions.

News Beat #6: Release Date

It used to be that games were announced years in advance. These days, it’s closer to within a few months.

Indies should declare their specific release dates about one to two months before launch to take advantage of the news wave. Declaring any earlier puts you at risk of committing to release a broken game. It’s easier not to commit to a release date until you’re 90% sure your game is high quality.

How to use this beat as a smaller developer:

  • Create a campaign calendar to list out what happens each day leading up to release.
  • Let your beta-testers, influencers, and email list know to continue spreading the excitement. That’s through your social media platforms and via your email.
    • Make sure you follow up with the journalists who showed interest, the video streamers who wanted an exclusive, and the game devs who are watching you closely.
    • You can use a thunderclap to make the announcement.


News Beat #7: Launch!

Years of work with development, marketing, and getting everyone aligned (also known as herding cats)—all for this one day.

The launch day used to be a defining moment, where gaming fans would mark their calendars and camp out in front of their favorite gaming store. But in the past few years, gamers have taken a more defensive stance to launches because of broken games on release and the plethora of gaming options available.

IMG_1312The launch of Scribblenauts to a line of fans dressed as Maxwell. “IMG_1312” by d.powell920 is is licensed under CC BY 2.0

During this news beat, all eyes are on the release. Great companies now launch and very carefully monitor for any support issues. Selling a buggy game and failing to respond can bury your positive press with negative ones. Well-timed social media engagements can create a huge boost in attention.

How to use this beat as a smaller developer:

  • Follow your campaign calendar so you don’t have to spend much time thinking. A launch is exhausting.
  • Much of your energy should be on engagement.
  • Watch your emails/social media feeds for messages from customers or from influencers who want to connect with you.
  • Do a reminder to everyone who engaged with you —Youtubers/Twitch streamers/Press—about your launch.
    • Provide them with keys to access the game if you haven’t already.

Getting the News Beats Right

Understanding the news beats takes practice. Now that you know these News Beats, you’ll never look at game releases the same. Pay close attention to your favorite games pre-launch, and how they are using news beats to get journalists to write to them. Was there a game that did a remarkable job at a specific news beat? Let us know in the comments!