Hello, visual novel developers! If you’re reading this, then chances are you’re a solo developer working on your upcoming visual novel. Maybe you’re working with a small team and on a limited budget. It’s likely your team doesn’t have a designated marketing expert, so it boils down to you needing to do the research on how to get your game known. This article will have a few tips for those of you who’ve been looking to market your visual novel.
Create a brand & understand the hook of your game
The most important aspect of introducing your game is knowing how to pitch it before you begin the next steps. This includes having the synopsis of your story down pat. Potential players don’t need to know all of the intricate aspects of your story-rich narrative from the get-go; they just need to know what sets your game apart from the rest, the hook that gets them interested.
So what does a good synopsis look like? There’s no right or wrong answer, but there ways to summarize your game that will get the message across and pique interest. What’s the story, and why should we be interested?
Let’s look at the Hustle Cat synopsis:
You are Avery Grey, the newest employee at a popular cat cafe called A Cat’s Paw. The coffee’s good and the staff is friendly (and kinda cute!) but mysterious. One day, you find a strange book in the basement, with letters you can’t quite read…Date Nighto
This synopsis gives us a brief overview of the story and what makes it unique right away: you work at a cat cafe. The next two sentences are what hook you in, because there’s more to this cat cafe than meets the eye. There’s mystery, and that’s why you should be interested.
Make a plan
You want to start marketing as soon as possible to allow time to build up your audience before you launch your visual novel. Your game assets don’t need to be entirely complete in order to start this: as long as you have your brand established and a few assets (such as a game logo, studio logo, and a few pieces of promotional artwork to show), then you can start marketing your game.
Sometimes even a one-line idea and a logo is enough to start acquiring a following on social media. This was the case with Gidget & The Mysterious Thievery of Hoppity Town, a visual novel that quickly gained a small following with developer Fable Novel’s first Twitter posts containing a logo and character descriptions. Now, just a few months later, their game has 36 ratings on itch.io, which is a good amount of interest for a new studio.
Stay active & consistent
There’s two different styles of marketing for games. One is what I like to call “burst marketing,” where the developer heavily markets their game a bunch for a few weeks and then disappears for a few weeks to a few months. There’s nothing wrong with that method, but I think you’re more likely to get results and build a steady following by posting consistently. It’s not easy, it takes a persistent attitude, and it can feel like a defeat when your posts don’t go viral, but consistently posting on social media will very likely set you on the path to gaining a steady following, which can be very rewarding. Allow yourself a month or two until you start looking for results, and be reasonable about your goals.
If a lot of time goes by and you don’t feel satisfied with the level of feedback you receive, then it’s time to start thinking about taking a different approach. If you’re passionate about your game and have enough motivation and resilience to try again, then you don’t need to mold your game or change it into something that fits a more mainstream product. What you do need to do is take a different angle on how you present the game you already have.
Social media is constantly changing, and so is the way we market things. Just about anything can be “sold,” so it’s just about how you deliver the message that convinces people you have something worth playing.The Silent Kingdom‘s developer shows a great example of being able to adapt: when they relaunched their Kickstarter campaign, they reached their goal in about 9 hours.
Whether you’re aiming to sell your game or just share your masterpiece for free with as many people as possible, then you’re going to need to advertise the concept. Marketing is one of the most important aspects of your game development process and can’t be underestimated.