7 Things Every Game Developer Needs on Their Website

2016-11-11,

7 Steps to Optimizing Your Indie Game Development Website

Prior to Devdog, I ran an online games industry news media for and about Nordic game developers for nearly two years.

During that time, I often reached out to new game developers directly, apart from interviewing the ones who sent a press release directly to me.

But there was one glaring mistake many, if not most, of the game developers I personally reached out to made (and even many of the ones who sent a press release too).

Their website. It simply didn’t include all the proper information I found myself in need of as a journalist.

Therefore, based on what I saw when writing about the Nordic games industry, here’s my guide for any indie game developer or studio who want to make their website ready for the press.

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The 7 Steps to Prepare Your Game Development Website for Press

First of all, in case you don’t have a website for your game / studio yet - get one!

You may think it’s too early to create a website if you have little to show off, but it’s not. Just trust me on that one. Think of your website as the first step in marketing your game.

And besides, you never know when a journalist may stop by your website, so be sure to have the right information on there right from the start.

Yes, very few developers enjoy making websites. I mean, it's time not spent on making your game (or assets, which is what we do).

But I promise you that none of these steps will take more than a few hours at most to implement, and they may just help you get some press coverage later on.

So it’s definitely worth it.

But without further ado, here are the 7 ways you can optimize your game development website for press coverage.

1. Display Proper Contact Details Everywhere

This step sounds so obvious.

But the truth of the matter is that many forget or outright neglect the importance of making it extremely easy to contact you or your game development studio.

But if I have a contact page, won’t that be enough?

Sure, if the journalist has extra time, or really wants to write about your game, they’ll navigate their way to a “contact us” page.

But most journalists work on extremely tight deadlines, and there’s really no reason to make it harder than necessary to contact you.

So an e-mail address and potentially even a phone number in the footer of your website is something you should strongly consider adding. 

 

What should a game developer’s contact us page or footer include?

On a contact page, I recommend adding your address of business, a phone number, and an e-mail address that you check every day.

If you have a bigger team with separate e-mail addresses, it’s a good idea to include more than one e-mail on the contact us page. Maybe even a separate e-mail for press contact.

For the footer, at least make sure to add a way of contacting your company (and a phone number is preferred, although rarely added).

Here's what I consider a great example of a footer - this one from Warhammer: End Times - Vermintidedeveloper Fatshark.

All it is missing is a direct e-mail address, such as the one found on the website of Terraria creator Re-logic

2. Get presskit()

The purpose of a press kit is to help any journalist interested in writing about you and your game find the information they may need for their article.

I asked Jesper Krogh Kristiansen, a long-time author and journalist in the games industry with over a thousand published articles, and currently Communication Manager at Interactive Denmark, about his recommendations for press kits, and here’s his response:

“Before spending too much time on weekly updated dev-blogs, game developers should make sure that their press kits are up to date.

And in that regard, I’d recommend using presskit().

It has quickly become the standard, and using it ensures that journalists (or whoever is reading the presskit) knows exactly where to find the information they seek.”

If you have a press kit already, remember to also clearly link to it from your website menu (either in the header, footer, or where ever your menu resides).

No reason in spending time filling it out properly if it’s impossible to find.


Update: Based on a suggestion from Reddit user theloveofpower, I would like to emphasize the importance of including a few high quality transparent versions of your logo that can work on both black and white background, as part of the presskit.

This is very important, as many journalists will want to feature your logo somewhere in their articles. 

"Good god, the amount of times I had to hack together a logo from whatever scraps I could find... Make my job easy, give me assets and I will make your game look a lot better." - Reddit user theloverofpower.

 

A bonus tip for press kit images

Since 99% of all online news media include a featured image at the top of their articles, be sure to include images in your press kit that fit the sizes these news outlets typically use.

In many cases, finding the right image is just as important for the journalists as writing a great article, so having images in the right dimensions readily available in your press kit is another way to make the lives of the journalists easier.

So, which image dimensions does the gaming press typically use for their articles? (as of November 2016)

 Rock Paper Shotgun  620 x 300-310 pixels
 PCGAMER  602 x 330-380 pixels
 Polygon   726 x 484 pixels
 Kotaku   800 x 450-480 pixels
 The Verge   671.81 x 447.63 pixels (yes, seriously)
 Destructoid  1345 x 810 pixels

3. Think About How You Split The Website Between Your Studio and Games Pages

During the development of the first game, many developers chose to stick to one website for both their company and first game.

However, when the game succeeds and you start development of your second game, what do you plan to do?

Do you stick with one combined website for everything (probably not the smartest move, as too many pages will confuse the visitors), or do you create one website for each game and a separate page for your company.

And even when that decision has been made, how much information do you include on each page, and how do you plan to link between the different websites, so that a visitor on any of your pages will always be able to find all your other websites.  

There are many right ways to setup your website(s), so it’s difficult to advice on the subject and near impossible to point toward any “best solution”.

Therefore, the best advice is simply to start thinking about your website setup ahead of time.

Having made a conscious decision early on, will give you less of a headache in the future when you might have to start splitting one main website up into several game-specific websites.

If in doubt, think about how some of your favorite developers split up their website and content. There’s no reason not to take a lesson out of their book.

For example, here is how Fatshark provides each game with its own page, which is linked to from a central studio website. 

BONUS: SEO Optimizing Game Images

As for any other website, you should make sure to do some basic search engine optimization for your game studio website.

(for a quick 101 on SEO, check out IndieGameGirl’s blog post on SEO  - you can ignore the part about Author Rank, as Google doesn’t care about that anymore)

But if you don’t have the time to dive into the nitty gritty details of SEO, my advice is to focus on the game images found on your website.

Why do I advice to focus on SEO for game images rather than the individual pages of your game development website?

First of all, images are an often-overlooked element of search engine optimization.

Secondly, most popular CMS like Wordpress already do a pretty good job at optimizing your pages and posts for search engines (hint: use a free plugin like SEO by Yoast).

And lastly, journalists will search for great images of your game to include in their articles, so why not make it as easy for them as possible to find the images you believe best presents your game?

The basics of image SEO is both quick and easy, as it only includes:

  1. Naming your images correctly before uploading them (a name like “my-game” will certainly do better than “Screenshot1”).

  2. Add a description, including your keyword (in most cases the name of your game or studio), as alt text of the image.

There is more to doing SEO for images, of course, and if you want to read more, I recommend the Yoast blog post about Optimizing images for SEO.

4. Create a DevBlog - if You Can Commit To It

You hardly hear anyone talking about ”getting the word out there” as a game developer, without also hearing the words Devblog or Developer Diary.

And with good reason.

Starting a developer diary early in the development of your game allows the community of fans that form around your game to follow its development, giving them a peak behind the scenes.

This is generally assumed to foster a stronger feeling of community around your game, creating a small army of ambassadors ready to help promote your game once it releases.

However, Games industry author and journalist, Jesper Krogh Kristiansen, has a fair warning to make about starting devblogs without a proper strategy in mind.

“There are many game developers who will say ‘uh, we’ll start a dev-blog’, write 2 episodes in the blog series, and then never touch the blog again.

This doesn’t leave a good impression, and in many cases it would have been better never to start the devblog in the first place.

This doesn’t mean that it is necessarily a problem to have a website that isn’t updated at all times, however – as long as you are just upfront about it.”

So if you are unsure you can keep up with releasing a new developer diary each week, just do one per month – or even one every other month.

As long as you’re consistent about what you do.

Inconsistency sends a bad signal to both potential buyers of your game and the media who might consider writing about you.

5. A Team or About Us Page

Ah yes, the team page.

Unnecessary?

For the consumer, most likely. But for journalists (and potential employees), the team page could very well be one of the most important pages on your website.

There is no reason to overcomplicate things, though.

A simply page with a short story about your team, a team image or two (remember the SEO tips for images mentioned earlier in this post), and the names and e-mail addresses of the key team members will suffice.

For a great example of how simple a team page for a game developer can be, check out the team-page of Forced-creator Betadwarf.

Or for inspiration of what a more in-depth About Us page can look like, check out what Among the Sleep-creators Krillbite are doing:

6. Keep Job Pages Updated

If you are the CEO (or whichever fancy title you assign to yourself) of a game developer studio with traction, one of your highest priorities quickly becomes attracting the right employees.

You’ll want to hire the most skilled and passionate programmers and artists to ensure the best possible execution of your game idea.

But competition is fierce, and why should a potential future employee apply for a job at your studio and not Blizzard, CD Projekt, or somewhere else completely?

This is where the properly updated job page(s) come into play. And they may be relevant even before you believe you are ready to start hiring.

As Jesper Krogh Kristiansen argues:

“You should always keep any job opening descriptions updated, knowing that when it comes to developer / studio websites (not the website of the individual games), a significant chunk of your traffic will come from other game developers or artists looking for jobs in the industry." 

 

7. Link to Where Your Game Can Be Bought or Downloaded

Before you skip this step, arguing that it’s too obvious a tip to include in this list, and that you are already linking to where your game can be bought / downloaded, consider this:

From how many pages on your website can I buy or download your game without having to click around any further?

Most developers have a buy or download button that re-directs to an App store or Steam store page on their Frontpage.

But what if I am on the Team Page or reading your latest Devblog entry?

I added this obvious step to the list because too many developers don’t link as much and clearly to where their game can be downloaded or bought, as they could.

This has the potential to not only hurt the conversion rate on their visitors, but may also hinder a journalist from easily adding a sought-after direct download link to your game from their article.

 

Getting The Attention of the Press as a Game Developer (Conclusion)

Getting the attention of any blogger, journalist, or gaming-related news media in these days of indie development and readily available engines, such as Unity, is tough.

But your chances of being mentioned in an article are even slimmer if your website isn’t optimized and easy to navigate for any writer or journalist who stumbles upon it.

By implementing as many of the 7 steps above as possible, your game development website will not only be optimized for press, but every visitor, journalist or not, will have a better experience browsing it.

Now, go finish your awesome game, and spam those journalists (don’t tell them we said that! :p).

Sometime in the near future, I will write a follow-up to this blog post. In that post, we go hands-on with how to get the attention of the press once the kickass website is in place.

So stay tuned for that one, on Twitter, Facebook, or our newsletter.

 

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