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The state of gaming journalism: what’s going on currently?

Last week we had the pleasure to participate in SpilBar 53 at IDA. SpilBar is an ad-hoc event for everyone interested in video games, and the topic of this edition was game journalism. We had an amazing evening, full of making new connections and learning about the game media. We also got to showcase our history digital card game Tectonicus and get feedback for it.

(SpilBar 53’s topic was about gaming journalism and ways of making the audience know about indie dev games)

“I don’t think gaming journalism is dying…it’s being mudered” is how Grace Curtis started her talk. Grace - the Jack-of-all-trades - shared with us her experience as a games writer. Besides memes which made us laugh, she also shared her career journey and the truth about the industry she works in. We could see that being a game writer can be rough sometimes, but the games and the people which are there along the way is what makes it worth it.

Shall we rely on streamers or shall we build a community? Which social media channels are the most effective for promotion?

Those are the questions which we (and very likely, other game devs) are wondering about. Big streamers on Twitch and YouTube, as we heard, are often concerned with their public image. While getting your game featured on a popular streamer’s channel would definitely create a buzz, actually getting such coverage is hard. We learned that the big streamers have an audience to entertain and they’re selective about the games they cover — big, popular titles are a safe bet.

The success story of Vampire survivors, which are now 2nd on Steam of all time, impressed us. The game’s popularity skyrocketed after a YouTuber made a video about it and according to Grace, the interest drove the coverage. Vampire Survivors is an addictive game, and not to mention, it’s cheap, making it easily accessible to everyone. Besides that, the game keeps frequent updates, making its fanbase return for more playtime.

(Grace Curtis made an awesome talk, and we will not forget the lessons she gave us with it)

We were excited by the talks given by Søren Lundgaard (CEO & Co-founder of Ghost Ship Games) and Rasmus Stouby from Bolverk Games. The presentations which showed the approaches they took left us amazed at the originality of their marketing attempts. While laughing, we, as game devs could also relate — but we really appreciated the humour which they used to pass down the experience and wisdom which came with it.

Deep Rock Galactic has definitely come a long way since the last time we spoke with Søren! The game now has a vast community on Discord, where they even started appointing ambassadors on their server. As we learned from Ghost Ship Games, being community-driven is predictive to a game’s success. That’s why we also have our own Discord, where you can get closer to us:

Rasmus Stouby also advocated for building a solid community. As he shared with us, the game Glyph was very positively received and had a lot of good reviews. And even though getting coverage and sales was hard, having a community to back up the game proved crucial. Now, the Discord of the game boasts an active, engaged community and Glyph is getting attention from walkthroughs on YouTube, as well as from streamers.

(Some of the marketing attempts around the release of Glyph included putting it on a board on the Times Square of New York and a goodie box with a code for discount)

Besides surprising us with an accidental green theme in the presentation, PortaPlay’s story inspired us. We were excited to see Hans von Knut (CEO & Creative Director of PortaPlay). on stage talking about Gerda. When we heard about the attention which the history game Gerda: a Flame in Winter attracted, we felt even more encouraged about our own history game Tectonicus. It’s wonderful to see that Danes are interested in their own history. As Hans assured us, stories about the cultural impact of Danish video games are interesting to the media.

(The talk of Hans proved to be very insightful for us)

After enjoying the talks, we had demos at our own booth. A lot of people who were interested in our game stopped by to play it. We were really happy to see so many being curious about Tectonicus. We often heard our testers saying that they like the concept and the visuals of the game. The feedback which everyone provided for us was invaluable. We are also thankful for observing the gameplays. Now we know what we did well and what we should focus on improving.

Overall, the event was an unforgettable experience for everyone. We met a lot of new, inspiring people, but we also had great fun together at the event as a team. Our new team members got to hang out together as an after-work team building activity. Being an indie game studio, that means we are interested in gaming ourselves.

(We socialised, did playtesting and overall had a great time at our booth at SpilBar)

For us, this SpilBar event was amazing, and we’re looking forward to the next one. We also hope to see you there!

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