The coronavirus has disrupted some of the year’s biggest gaming events such as E3, as well as valuable regional shows that indie developers rely on to present their games to the public. The canceled events mean indie devs miss opportunities to beta test their games with a live audience. Now that we’re stuck indoors, devs must explore new avenues to receive feedback from the community.
The canceled events have a silver lining, however: Indie devs are saving significant time and financial investments they would have made to attend the events. With the extra savings, devs can invest in the following strategies for their beta tests.
If your development team or game doesn’t already have a Discord server, now is the time to build that resource. Push people to your server through Screenshot Saturdays, social media posts, and your website or store pages to grow your community. Once those people are in place, you can ask members to playtest your game and offer feedback right there in Discord. Blazing Stick (the developers of Cyber Hook) run their own Discord server that has given them invaluable feedback on their levels.
Itch.io and Steam are valuable platforms for reaching a wider audience without an enormous investment. Post the same demo you would have taken to a convention, then ask for feedback. Don’t forget to invite people to your Discord!
Although many conventions have canceled their in-person events, some have plans for online events. EGX Rezzed, which caters to indie developers, recently held a digital show and even did an online business meeting program. By talking to events organizers as soon as they announce they’re going digital, you may be able to snag a spot in the online event so you can still get in front of potential beta testers.
Reddit remains a great platform for indie devs connecting with fans and industry insiders, especially since these communities frequently engage with small dev teams working on passion projects. Look for the right subreddit to tap into the ideal crowd. While r/IndieDev and r/GameDev are great starts, consider where else you may belong. If you’re building an RPG, consider visiting a subreddit like r/RPG_Gamers or r/JRPG to find gamers who are in love with your genre. Post GIFs and screenshots to ask for feedback on graphics and sequences. As you start to build a fanbase, invite Redditors to join your Discord and test your game.
While you’re thinking about promoting via digital conventions, Discord, and other websites, consider the assets you have to promote your game. Do you have engaging visual and written content? If you have the budget and time available, work on creating attractive trailers and compelling copy. Use this content across each channel to drive more people to your demo.
Canceled conventions may create a physical separation from gamers, but there are other ways to reach your target audience. By using the right channels online, you can tap into an engaged group of beta testers excited to provide feedback.