Seed Idea of a game is a crucial element for a video game. It’s something I try to find out every time I meet new developers. I introduced this concept recently in the Indie Game Movement Podcast. I was invited to talk about how independent game developers should approach public relations. As a freelancer, I like to work with new people on new games. That said, what’s new for me is possibly a 3 years project already.
As a partner, I need to understand the project as deep as possible. That’s why I always ask a lot of questions. I need to perceive it from the outside as a player and from the inside as a team member. Knowing the story of a game is really important to set up good marketing and communication strategies.
One concern I often meet when talking to indie game developers is that they don’t use the full potential of their Seed Idea. They use it to create their game and little or not enough to communicate on it and market it. The Seed Idea is the source of your branding strategy. It will guide your marketing research as well as the story you will tell to reach your audience. And that’s how your game will be perceived as unique and eye-catching. Which is vital for any independent video game.
Defining the Seed Idea of your video game
How did you come to develop this game?
To be more specific, what’s the first thing you remember about the genesis of your game?!
It is important to understand the genesis of your Seed Idea. It may seem simple to you now that we’re discussing it now. I suppose you remember when it came to you the first time. Maybe it’s a market opportunity that led you to it or maybe there’s something else. If you’re an independent developer, it’s probably something else you need to dig into.
It could be values you want to share with the world, a special game mechanic, an under-used mix of game types… list what are your inspirations, values and influences.
Be clear and precise and write it all down to best define your Seed Idea.
Once you defined precisely your Seed Idea and its genesis, ask yourself few more questions:
- Is all this consistent with the game you are currently developing?
- Was the basic reasoning correct?
- Is the Seed Idea clearly understandable to the players?
Is your game still in line with your Seed Idea? And if not, what is the Seed Idea of your game now?
Harness your Seed Idea to develop your video game
The Seed Idea is the backbone of your game. The artistic design, the game mechanics and your game must meet this specific need that you have identified and that you want to fulfill.
I recently spoke with developers who are starting to develop a platformer game with a strong focus on ecology. After taking a close look at their social media and game videos, I found a great deal of inconsistency. They claimed the game was green on social media but there was nothing in the video about it. It was just a random platformer so far. Hopefully, the project is just starting and they have plenty of time to readjust all that.
During our discussion I took the liberty of pointing out this communication inconsistency and suggesting some ideas for game mechanics emphasizing ecology to stick with their Seed Idea. The more consistent your game is with your Seed Idea, the easier it will be to develop and promote its uniqueness. Whether it is the artistic, narrative, sound and musical elements or your game mechanics, stay consistent with your Seed Idea.
The Seed Idea Kevin came up with was to develop a casual survival game. Kevin is a fan of survival games and he realized that this type of game tends to offer complex titles with a lot of management like in Oxygen Not Included. However, many players would surely like to play this type of game in a more simplified, casual way. Why should a game be reserved for a specific type of player? It’s natural that fans of survival games want more and more challenges… but too much complexity associated with a whole genre of game prevents access to the greatest number of gamers.
If you check out Isle of Spirits, you may think that the graphics and sound design are relatively simple and you will learn that the learning curve is quite smooth which match with its Seed Idea. However, the game is not that simple. There are significant survival challenges and game mechanics to deal with such as Permadeath, no tutorials and no manual save allowed. Thus Isle of Spirits is at the exact junction of a casual game and a survival game corresponding totally to its Seed Idea.
Harness your Seed Idea for the marketing of your video game
You started to develop your video game but did you asked yourself who exactly is going to play it and how to reach this audience? All gamers from 20 to 35 years old is not an audience.
Without marketing research your game might become one of the best…unknown indie gems. You probably have 99% of chance to see your indie game sell less that a smaller niche production that would perfectly understand and know how to reach its audience. Even if this one is potentially less great than yours and that its market is smaller than yours.
Seed Idea helps you define your audience and find opportunities. Run researches on similar games and video games that have inspired you. Learn from games that succeeded AND games that failed! You will find lessons to learn from. The marketing analysis based on your Seed Idea will give you a good overview of your audience, trends, game platforms suitable for your game, prices, expected sales, upcoming game shows to attend, outlets and influencers to reach.
Lornsword Winter Chronicle is a story-based action strategy game that has yet to receive the success it deserves. The developers of Tower Five are fans of the RTS genre and console games. However, RTS-type games do not meet with much success on consoles. Tower Five’s observation is that these games are first developed for the PC platform and then ported to consoles. Lornsword‘s Seed Idea is to offer a true RTS that is easily playable with a game controller. From this point, the team has created unique and creative game mechanics. This brings to the RTS genre a lot of novelty in terms of management and strategies. And in my opinion, Lornsword‘s next developments will be even more successful.
Harness your Seed Idea to communicate on your video game
Words and ideas are important. Communication on your game is about telling a story, hook people and let them know your game is the one they want to play!
From a PR management’s point of view, knowing the Seed Idea of a game makes a real difference when it comes to design communication strategies.
It can help you to find a great Hook in order to grab attention from everyone: gamers, influencers, press journalists, publishers. What’s the Hook? This is a clear and catchy sentence that describe your game and its uniqueness in whole.
Let’s go back to the earlier example of Isle of Spirits: its target audience is mainly casual gamers. Then, I used a well-known literature reference to emphasize the concept: Isle of Spirits is a casual Robinson Crusoe game.
I also recently started to work with the Synnaxium studio and their Seed Idea is very solid. Although it’s still a secret at this stage. They’re developing Radian Blade all around this core idea. It also gives me the opportunity to design different scenarios for their PR management.
Communication is really important to promote your game but also to test your Seed Idea. Lack of community management is a serious risk to miss opportunities. Interact with other developers, independent game enthusiasts, marketers and create a community you can rely on.
Unfortunately, sometimes your Seed Idea (or a part of your game for that matter) doesn’t match the tastes of the players and the sooner you become aware of this, the better it will be to adapt your game.
Seed Idea and missed opportunities
I have two examples where Seed Idea was not accompanied by sufficient community building effort. This lack prevented these 2 games from reaching a level of popularity (and sales). What makes the charm of indie games is the freedom in creativity. To keep this freedom and create other games it is important to dedicate time for your marketing, communication and community building.
An under-exploited Seed Idea
In my humble opinion, Hellmut: Badass from Hell could have benefited from a community during its development. I won’t mention here all the benefits of a community for a game, which are many. I think the PC publisher of the game missed the opportunity to connect with speedrunners and roguelike communities. Marketing analysis and community interaction could have helped the game get closer to the level of titles such as Nuclear Throne or Enter the Gungeon.
Cutting a root can improve the tree
My other example is where your Seed Idea doesn’t offer a sufficiently satisfying experience for players. Towards a Perilous Journey is a challenging VR Shoot’em up game developed by a talented solo developer. Even though the game received good reviews, its success was limited due to a realistic but not player-friendly choice.
A realistic choice that reduced the sounds of shots and explosions in space to nothing. TPJ’s sound atmosphere is therefore summed up by the rather cool electro music.
However, during the influence marketing campaign I did for the game’s release on Oculus Rift, the influencers thought it was a bug and didn’t like the lack of sound effects. Feedback earlier in development would have helped to adapt the game and offer a better gaming experience. The Seed Idea of a VR Shoot’em up is great but cutting the root of “no sounds’ would have benefit to game and the entire tree.
Your Seed Idea why you started a game. harness it to develop, market and communicate on your game.
- Define the Seed Idea of your video game.
- Collect feedback (good and bad) to test/improve it upstream and find opportunities.
- Adapt and cut a root if it serves the tree.
- Last but not least: Please subscribe to my Indie Game PR & Marketing Newsletter 🙂