Advice from a Game Critic: How to Pitch Your Mobile Game for Press Coverage
So you’ve finished hours of coding and your mobile game is complete. Now you just need to get it into players’ hands.
Contrary to popular belief, you don’t need a huge PR or marketing team to get the word out about your indie mobile game. You don’t even need to buy a mailing list. Bloggers, reporters and freelancers typically include their email addresses in their online bios specifically because they want to hear about new apps and mobile games — from the people who create them! Really.
As a contributing writer to VentureBeat’s GamesBeat, I depend on the emails I get every day from mobile developers to help me discover great new games. But I’ll be honest: I don’t read all of them. I only have so much time, so some get more attention than others.
I don’t claim to be the typical pitchee (there’s no such thing), but I know what works for me. If you’ve just launched a mobile game and are hoping to be reviewed by or featured in a publication, here are a few ways you can keep your pitch from languishing in a game critic’s inbox:
Craft a killer, creative subject line
Just like in the App Store, an email’s first impression is important: The subject line is the first point at which a critic will decide if they want to know more about what you’ve made. If you took the time to come up with a ridiculously awesome title for your mobile game like “Nun Attack Origins: Yuki’s Silent Quest,” by all means, use that in the subject line.
But even if you don’t have a crazy name in your corner, you can still be ridiculously awesome. As much as I claim not to like the “It’s like ___ meets___” trope for describing things, it does work — especially if you get creative. One mobile developer described his game as “sort of like Tetris vandalized by Scrabble,” for example, and you’d better believe I clicked. (The image of Scrabble messing up Tetris’ stuff was just too funny to ignore).
Sending out cold pitches can often feel like shouting into a hole, but just remember that the person receiving them is also working hard — so everyone wins if you make the experience fun, genuine and memorable.
Share what makes you stand out
Being different isn’t just good advice for your game; if you can add something really cool and memorable to your message, recipients will notice.
One mobile developer, for example, pitched a board-based puzzle game, and he included screenshots with his email. That’s cool and super helpful for me (sidenote: always save writers work!). But it was this line that really stuck out: “I even made all 800 levels by hand, arts and crafts-style, at my dining room table before coding them.”
Photo via Andrew Schiel
And sure enough, there among the screenshots, he’d thrown in a picture of himself with a whiteboard at said dining room table. While it’s a small thing that has nothing to do with the quality of the game (which I really liked, for the record), it caught my attention, and I still remember that pitch a year and a half later.
Research the reporter’s “beat”
Form emails are fast, easy and convenient. They’re also impersonal and potentially disastrous if you make a mistake. The other day, I got a message that literally read:
Hello [message recipient],
I have been following your work on [site name]
Naturally, I stopped reading (wouldn’t you?). But I’ve received other emails from people who had done the diligence and managed to tailor their pitches for me, and that goes a long way (and, no, it’s not about playing to my ego it’s about knowing what I’m into and what I write about). Here’s a sample:
I’ve been following some of your posts over on Venture Beat [sic] and was really excited to see your coverage of Road Not Taken. That game is really beautiful, both design wise and aesthetically. I keep seeing creepy children-themed games and am wondering if they have to be dark in order to send the message that they’re for adults, too? Have you noticed that?
You’d better believe that I read the rest of that email, and I even ended up covering the game — Cannon Brawl. It turned out to be really fun, but it was the pitch that got me playing.
Evan Killham is a freelance writer who can absolutely point you toward some crazy stuff on Netflix. His work has appeared on GamesBeat and Cult of Mac. Follow him on Twitter.