Indie titles are made with smaller teams—sometimes even solo developers—and while, development-wise, this can sometimes be a hindrance, when it comes to marketing, it’s a major advantage. As an indie dev, you have the ability to really connect with the people you work with and the community you build. If someone wants to talk about a large AAA game like Battlefield, they don’t think about who the lead developer is—they only look at the brand producing and publishing it. If people want to talk about an indie game, they will often remember the names of the people who made it.
When you start marketing your game, whether it’s by email, Facebook, or Twitter, you need to make sure your voice is communicated clearly and effectively to your network. Voice is defined as a “distinctive tone or style” and includes everything from your word choice to your punctuation to even how often you post. Your voice is the medium through which people engage with you and your game, and as an indie you should try and keep it highly consistent so people can build up their vision of you.
For larger, more established brands, people have an idea of what the brand represents. Devolver Digital is a super quirky, eccentric brand that produces a lot of very creative projects. Blizzard is a visionary, professional studio that is committed to providing high quality long-term player experiences. EA has huge commercial appeal and seeks to push out a variety of games across genres. All of these companies have their voice mirrored in everything they do. Just spend fifteen minutes on each studio’s Twitter feed and you’ll begin to see patterns emerge in terms of tone of voice, word choice, register and punctuation.
As an indie, you have (for the most part) two main choices for how you want to present yourself to the world. You can be a person, or you can be a company. I’ll share two examples that illustrate this principle. Many have heard of Jonathan Blow, who developed Braid and The Witness. Many also know the studio Vlambeer, who developed Luftrausers and Nuclear Throne. Both of these developers made a conscious choice regarding how they wanted to come across to fans as well as how they wanted to represent themselves.
If you want to be a Jonathan Blow and have your name and “human” persona be the figurehead for your projects, then make sure you double down on personality. Treat your Twitter feed like a text chat between you and a group of close friends. Let your inner thoughts and feelings be heard (while remaining appropriate of course!) and try to become friends with your fans.
Developers that take this approach often share pictures of their personal lives and their opinions on popular topics in addition to promotion and outreach for their games. Don’t overthink anything—just type, quickly proofread, and post! This can be tricky if controversial issues or topics arise. It’s hard to distance yourself from an image that gets built up about you, whereas if you post as a brand you can rebrand more easily. Jonathan Blow Tweets a lot about articles he reads or his thoughts on current issues, which people love to engage with.
On the other hand, if you want to be a Vlambeer and have a studio or company entity represent your brand, you need to be a little more prudent with your posting. This is not to say you need to spend hours and hours drafting every post—quite the contrary: you should follow the same principles of transparency and honesty as though you were posting as a person, but you want to establish your company as a personified entity that has its own voice.
Small changes like using “we” and “us” instead of your company name (“XYZ studio is proud to launch their newest game” as opposed to “We are proud to launch our newest game”) can greatly impact how people perceive your brand. Often, a studio voice will be born from the voices of its creators. For example, if you and your friends are all anime-loving geeky dudes, don’t try to be a corporate bigwig on Twitter. It’s not you! People will see through your facade; your posts will be awkwardly phrased and you may have trouble building your network.
Stick to what you know and modify your company voice to be more in line with the voice of the person running it. Vlambeer uses their company Twitter feed to promote new products, share updates and post about events they are attending or exhibiting at.
Try this at home: Grab a pen and paper, scroll through your social media feeds, pick a company and analyze their Tweeting patterns. Who is their audience? What is their voice? How does their voice fit in with their audience? What kind of sentence structure do they use? Do they use formal language or are they more colloquial?
Figuring out why certain companies present themselves the way they do—while keeping target demographic in mind—can benefit your own voice. Think about how you react to other companies on social media, and how their voices increase or decrease the connection you feel to their brand. Then tie that in to how you want your fans to react to you, and the kinds of engagements you want to have.