On January 25 2017 My friends and I released a VR experience called Don’t Look Away for the Gear VR.
We have been working on this project for a accumulation of 7 months and for many of us on the team it was our first video game we have ever released. It was a long and difficult journey. We learned, so much and had so much fun, but it was time to set our little VR baby out in the wild for others to enjoy the fruits of our labor. We released our project only expecting to get maybe 500 downloads of our experience. However we were pleasantly freaked out to see that our downloads for Don’t Look Away were over 67,000 after the first two weeks. Soon after showing Don’t Look Away at PAX East our downloads reached 100,000+.
Our pet project was now unprecedented success and we had no idea why we were more successful than our mentor’s project Swing Star VR. In hind sight I think we did couple of things right that set us up for success. I’d like to share these tips in the hopes it can help future indie game devs looking to make their dreams come true as well.
- Tip 1: Reaching out to Youtubers before the game release.
Before our game’s release we contacted a ton of Youtuber’s who specialized in reviewing or doing commentary on VR games. We offered them a free copy of the game before release to review our project and told them them they cannot release the video until a day or two before the game came out on the Oculus store. It is important to give the access early to Youtuber’s in order to entice them into creating a video for your game. The Youtuber that releases a video first on a new game gets the most views, so it is a race to finish their work and getting the video ready for the embargo date. This helps them with getting viewers excited to see a new game before its release which bumps up their subscribers and it help you as the creator to get your game in front of as many people as you can within your release window. This way potential buyers can see your game through a Youtube lets play and pick the same game up when its released later that week. How did we get the contacts of all those Youtuber’s you might ask? It was just a process of going on Youtube and finding reviews we liked then contacting them through their contact page on Youtube.
Going to events like PAX, E3 or Play NYC is an awesome way to get hundreds of people playing your game within a small amount of time. Going to these events are great because you get to see real people trying out your game. You can see the low and high points of your game. It is also just rewarding to see people react to your work. Seeing the excitement and fear on a player’s face for a feature or level you’ve worked on for months is a necessary cathartic exercise in making interactive art. Along with this benefit, if you are unable to regularly play test your game in a smaller venues like Playcrafting’s Expos or NYU’s Playtest Thursdays on the East coast, going to these event are necessary in order to finding and fixing level and design problems within a game. Usually we as developers are so focused on making our project that we create things in vacuums. Showing your project gives you the real world player feedback you’d need to improve the experience and the gratification that your work matters.
- Tip 3: Lean on your support groups in your area
We in NYC have an organization called Playcrafting NYC and the community in this group was very important in not only getting Don’t Look Away ready for release, but actually forming the group to start the project! Everyone on the team of Don’t Look Away I either met or heard about through Playcrafting. The Playcrafting community was made to empower game developers to make and finish games. Organizations or meetup groups like this are rooting for your success because it’s a win-win scenario for all parties involved. If a hit game is released within the community that drives more buzz around that group and if you’re making a game you can lean on the community for getting the word out, getting help on hard problems or just finding talented committed people to join your team. If you do not have a community group like this around you, I’d say make one. I guarantee you someone within your area either wants to make a game or app and does not know where to start or is making a project siloed and could use a community of even just one for support. Groups like this start with just a few people and grow, so if you’re making a game find or make a group to support your process on finishing your experience.
Currently, Don’t Look Away is near is a couple thousand shy of 200,000 downloads and players of the experience have collectively spent over 930 days within our work. Honestly, it is easy to put a my face to this project as the lead creator of it, but projects like Don’t Look Away almost always has a team that makes it happen and that is why I’d like to take this time out to thank everyone who has worked on this project and stuck with it to the end. Andy Lohmann, Bobby (Robert Canciello), Jose Zambrano, Andrew Struck-Marcell, Sean Hyland and everyone that help in their small way. Don’t Look Away would not have been without you all.
We are getting ready for our next project so stay tuned to our progress on Twitter and Facebook
Try out Don’t Look Away (here).