Recently I decided to take the bold and nerve wracking step of exhibiting Dare the Monkey at a major UK gaming exposition. At the time of the decision I’d only actually built three of the game’s levels, there was no music or sound effects either, and there wasn’t even the slightest hint of a user interface to hold it all together. So why on earth would I even contemplate showing off a very incomplete game at an expo?
Firstly, by committing myself to the expo I was actually setting myself a very ambitious but achievable deadline. Deadlines don’t really exist when you’re a lone developer. You don’t have a boss forcing you to get things done, which makes it very difficult to be motivated. Knowing that I was definitely attending the expo gave me the shot in the arm I needed to push the game towards completion.
Testing and Feedback
This was my primary reason for attending. I don’t have access to a testing team and beyond handing my iPhone to friends and family I really can’t get any worthwhile feedback regarding the game. Is it actually fun to play? Is the difficulty well balanced? Can first-time users easily figure out what to do? By exhibiting your game at an expo you can get access to hundreds of eager players over the course of a weekend. I found that the feedback I received was absolutely invaluable.
In any line of business, networking is one of the most important aspects. Getting out there and meeting other developers and individuals from the industry can open doors for you. I spent a good chunk of time each day speaking with other indie teams who are working on some exciting projects. We chatted about all sorts of things including game design, development environments, tools, funding, marketing and analytics.
Discovering how others tackled the development of their own games was insightful and fascinating. There’s also the general public too. By just talking and listening to those who turned up to the expo you can really start to understand your target audience.
Marketing a game can cost a small fortune. Most indie teams are unlikely to have any kind of marketing budget available to them. However, if you can attend an expo you’ll have direct access to thousands of gamers all actively looking for new apps to download. It’s even better if you can get your game released just before the show. That way there’s a real chance you could see a boost in download numbers if you can make enough people at the expo aware of your game. Expos are a very good way to market directly to your target audience at relatively little cost.
One final reason I decided to attend the show was to receive some hard analytics about Dare the Monkey. I was really hoping that over the course of the two day event I could gather together some solid data that could help steer the game in the right direction. I was looking for all sorts of information such as session times, the number of retries, how long each user played, how far each user made it into the game etc.
So there you have it. There are many reasons for attending an expo and it makes a lot of sense even if you’re working to a tight budget. I had a great time at the expo and the reaction Dare the Monkey received was way beyond my wildest expectations, but I’ll leave that for another post.