The Playbook - Top marketing tips from Failbetter's Haley Uyrus

The Playbook - Top marketing tips from Failbetter's Haley Uyrus

For the last few months, Failbetter Games marketing chief Haley Uyrus has been kind enough to share her advice about how developers can promote their upcoming projects. 

The days of needing millions of dollars to spread the word about your game are over. Sure, having that kind of clout is nice, but Uyrus has been providing refreshingly practical tips about how to get people to know - and more importantly, *care* - about your title with some solutions that won't break the bank. In fact, they won't require much in the way of capital at all. 

So, here is everything you need to know about marketing your game on a budget. 

Click here to view the list »
  • 1 How to brand your game through words alone

    In the first of a regular series of columns, Failbetter's marketing chief Haley Uyrus tells us about how developers can brand their projects using words alone

    Whether you’re an indie dev or a games marketer, once you have a concrete game idea in development, one of the first things you’ll need marketing-wise is branding. In a digital age where everything is search optimised and transmitted through algorithms, the words you use to describe your game are important.

    Branding is basically what marks your game as unique and keeps it from getting lost in the sea of all the other games for sale. Considering ICO Partner’s Steam newsletter often reports over 150 games released on Steam per week–it’s important to make sure your game’s identity is crisp and clear–that way it’ll get in front of the right players, streamers and journalists.

    Whether you’re writing a store page, Kickstarter campaign or press release, these bits will be the base structure of your branding:

    Title: Self-explanatory, but make sure your title Googles well
    Tagline: A snippet of flavour text that can expand upon your title
    Genre/keywords: Any applicable categories so people know what to expect
    Short description/elevator pitch: How to get your game idea cross in one sentence
    Long description: A fleshed out version of your short description that can include setting and backstory (if applicable)
    List of USPs/game features: Mechanics and other parts of your game that are unique

    1 - All Good Marketing Begins with Research

    An easy place to start is checking out what’s already on store platforms. Find out not only what your game’s competitors are doing, but also what the latest top-sellers are doing too. It’s just as helpful to find what pieces other games get right as well as what isn’t working for them.

    Check internally with your team too. If members of the dev team have different ideas about the game’s genre or USPs, then you’ll know which areas of the branding require some extra work. As the marketer though, it’s your job to weave together ideas from different teams to make a coherent and appealing store page.

    If you have a more niche game or one that is hard to describe with current game terminology, looking into descriptors of other creative mediums can be useful. For example, the word ‘horror’ often comes with a very specific idea of gameplay that may not be reflected in games of that genre. Researching film sub-genres can help add specificity to titles in broad games genres.

    2 - Brainstorming, or: Why Marketers Always Have Post-it Notes

    Now that your brain is swimming with research and ideas, the best thing to do is just get them all out of there. At Failbetter when we were rebranding our game Sunless Skies, we got out giant sheets of paper and post-it notes and wrote down all our ideas for new genres, keywords and themes that we wanted the branding to convey.

    At the time we were working off of Mike Rose’s idea of hooks and kickers. A kicker is the unique selling point of your game, and the hook is what will make people really excited about that. So with that framework, we filled out three different sheets, one for Story Hooks (such as: celestial horror), Gameplay Hooks (defining your captain), and Visual Hooks (Queen space).

    3 - Create a Monster

    Once you have plenty of lists, it’s time to combine it all and see what works. Try it—all of it. It’s okay for it to not make sense as this is still the “it’s okay if it sounds stupid” phase.

    For Sunless Skies, these were a few of the short description combinations we worked through:

    Set a course to the living stars in your steam locomotive. Slaughter a swarm of space-bees. Hope for salvation. Pause for cricket. A Victorian literary RPG for PC, Mac and Linux.

    Lose yourself in a universe of living stars, celestial horrors, and Victorian ambition. Mind your manners. Betray your Queen. Murder a Sun. A story-driven RPG for PC, Mac and Linux.

    MURDER A SUN. BETRAY YOUR QUEEN. PAUSE FOR TEA. Survive in an unfeeling universe of living stars, celestial menace, and Victorian ambition. A narrative RPG for PC, Mac and Linux.

    In the end we chose:
    SAIL THE STARS. BETRAY YOUR QUEEN. MURDER A SUN. Set a course for the heavens in your steam locomotive! Lose yourself in a changing universe where even time can be bought. A Victorian Gothic adventure for PC, Mac and Linux.

    We felt this was the best combination for our aforementioned hooks and gameplay. It’s important to mention at this juncture that verbs are important to games branding. The art, setting and writing are of course selling points, but the actions and actual mechanics of the game are going to be what makes it stand out against other games (and other media!). Tell people why they should spend their time playing your game.

    4 - Refine and Finesse

    As you play Dr. Frankenstein with genres and descriptors, you’ll start to feel which bits work and which bits don’t. Inherently some will be harder than others (for us it was the tagline), but all the research, brainstorming and combining will mean you have plenty of options for each of the different categories. A word you love may not feel right as a keyword, but may fit beautifully in the tagline. More evocative phrases that may not be fitting for a store page may be helpful for a press release down the line.

    5 - Let it Rest, then Test

    Your brain at this point will be exhausted and empty. Words won’t look like words anymore. Take a break and let everything sit there for a day or two while you get on with other work.

    Then come back to it and test it where you can. Share it within your studio and see what they think. Re-check your original competitor research and take a look back at those store pages to see if they inspire any final eureka moments.

    If you have a community, share it with them. Whether you share it with a small core group of your fanbase on your forums, do a Twitter poll or allow a sneak preview, going directly to your fans can really help clarify and solidify your branding.

    Final Thoughts

    • It’s not set in stone! You can make tweaks to the branding as you continue developing the game.
    • Find a balance between illustrative and boring. Being too poetic can muddle your message and being too trite can dampen player enthusiasm. Find a middle ground.
    • Be aware of your audience. Knowing what excites them will help you pull apart what makes your game special.
  • 2 Top tips for making a kickass trailer

    In her second regular column on Failbetter's marketing chief Haley Uyrus shares her top tips for making a fantastic trailer for your game

    Trailers are an epic tool of games marketing. They’re an all-encompassing way to get people interested and the easiest way to explain your game without someone actually playing it. They’re also one of the few times you can convey how it feels to play your game and set the emotional tone. Plus, trailers keep working for you even after you’ve finished them and when you think about them strategically you can stretch their worth.

    What should you include?

    If you’ve ever talked to a marketer before, you’ve probably heard the question “What’s your objective?” With any marketing activity that question should be what drives it. The same should be true with your trailer, but you’ll probably want to include:

    • Gameplay or story so players can see what your game is about
    • Any unique selling points (USPs) so players can see why they should play your game over someone else’s
    • A call to action so they know what they should do next to play the game (follow, wishlist, play now etc.)
    • A release date if applicable so they know when they can play it
    • The game’s branding and your studio branding so they know who you are and how to remember you
    • And where they can play your game, which you can show through store logos or a web address
    • When should you release a trailer?

    Launch trailers are the most obvious choice, but any milestone is usually a good candidate for a trailer—so the game’s announcement, preview stage or its launch. If you’re doing crowdfunding or early access, then that opens other options too. For example during Sunless Skies’ early access period we’ve created a new trailer whenever a new region is added to the game.

    Each of these stages will have slightly different messaging and calls to action behind them.

    1 - Game Announcement:
    This is your introduction to the players and can be the most mysterious. At this stage you’re mostly selling the idea, so you can afford to be coy.

    2 - Midway / Preview Stage
    This is where you’ll want to expand on some of the USPs of your game. Depending on the length of your runway before launch, this is where you’ll have time to dig a little deeper into what makes your game stand out. Leave them wondering what the next announced feature will be. Though it’s important to make sure that even if you’re focusing on a specific aspect of a game, that players will still be able to understand what they can expect from the full game, too.

    3 - Launch
    This is your opportunity to put the hype train at full speed. Use everything you’ve learned from the previous trailers, interactions with your fanbase, and the response from press to craft a tight trailer that showcases the most enticing bits of your game. Leave them thinking “OMG, I need to play this NOW!”

    And when should I release my launch trailer?

    After speaking to other devs and marketers about their preferred release date for launch trailers, it seems the verdict’s still out on the best practice. Popular choices for a launch trailer include: on launch day, the day before launch day, a week or two before launch, and even a month before launch. The variety here will have to do with varying objectives as well as the notoriety of the studio itself.

    If this is your studio’s first game or your studio is still pretty unknown, the safest route is to send the trailer out to the press within a week of launch, but with an embargo on the trailer for launch day. This is helpful in two ways:

    1 - Sending it to press in advance allows them time to prepare their news piece and get things approved. It also gives you a little wiggle room to follow-up with them and makes sure you’ve secured cover for launch day.

    2 - Embargoing it for launch day increases the impact of your media hit on launch day, which will feed the algorithms and hopefully increase your game’s visibility. Also by having your trailer go live on launch day, that means if people do want to buy your game they can do so immediately. Always do what you can to make it as easy as possible for people to find and buy your game.

    Where should I release it?

    The usual places are of course, on your YouTube channel, website, store pages, and pinned to the top of any social media channels. However, this is also a good place to think strategically about how you can make your trailer work harder towards your objective. Is this an opportunity to build your relationship with a targeted publication? Offering an early exclusive to your trailer can be powerful and be great for increasing your reach. If you’re making a trailer for a Kickstarter, can you share it with your fanbase ahead of time? Can you chop it up into bite-size gifs to use on social media?

    If you happen to have a marketing budget for ad spend, putting money behind your trailer can also be an effective way to increase your visibility. Also as many platforms like Facebook and YouTube/Google are competing against each other, video advertising when targeted well can be surprisingly cost-effective compared to other types of advertising.

    What analytics are important?

    When you lay out marketing objectives, it’s important that there are measurable outputs. It’s not wholly important to be a Google Analytics wizard, but it is important to measure the success of your campaign so it can inform the decisions you make next time around. If you were aiming for wishlists, then click-through rates will be important. If it was more for visibility, then of course views.

    It’s also good to check how long people watched it before clicking away. General practice for game trailers length is 30s - 60s, but if digital marketing teaches you anything it’s that people have short attention spans. Hooking people in that first 10-15 second mark is key.

    After the launch of our first region trailer for The Reach, we could see that more viewers clicked away during those beginning moments than we’d like to, so for our second trailer, we made it a point to start with a burst.

    Common Pitfalls

    • Managing Expectations: There’s a reason AAA trailers have ‘not actual gameplay footage’ warnings. Regardless of the cinematic tone of your trailer script, make sure that players will understand what they can actually expect when they play the game
    • No Impact: Using your objective to build a compelling message throughout the trailer will ensure it’s not just a flat video of gameplay footage. Check out Derek Lieu’s incredibly insightful PC Gamer piece and also his blog for more on the craft of making trailers.
    • Confusion: Always make it as easy as possible for people to find and play your game. Make sure you include relevant dates, store pages, websites etc

  • 3 How to build a community ahead of launch (without crowdfunding)

    In her third regular column for, Failbetter marketing chief Haley Uyrus talks about how to build a community around your game ahead of launch

    Now that the indie games space is more crowded, putting time and effort into building a community for your game is a must. Not only is it a way to boost your visibility ahead of your launch, but store pages these days favour titles with heavier wishlists stats.

    Know Your Game

    As with any marketing, a lot will vary depending on your game and what’s best for it. When you’re ready to start building your community, asking yourself a few questions will help you determine structural aspects of your community:
    Would it be a good option for open development?
    Will it be in Early Access?
    How much runway does it have before launch?
    Will it require a lot of players?
    What are its USPs?
    Do any of the platforms you’re releasing on have their own community spaces?

    Know Your Audience

    Keeping in mind what you know about your game, revisit what you know about your audience. You don’t want to set up a community space somewhere your audience won’t want to hang out. For example, if your audience trends older, setting up a Snapchat channel probably isn’t going to cut it. Or, if your game is more about the visual, it’d made sense to appear on Instagram over Reddit.
    Where do they like to spend their time?
    How do they find games?
    What other games do they play?
    What other interests do they have?
    What type of things do they share?

    Choose Your Locations

    Use what you know about your game and your audience to start select some great spaces for your community. Especially if you’re an indie dev with a finite amount of time to focus on marketing, make sure the social media channels you’re picking count.

    You don’t need to use all the channels out there, instead pick a healthy mix of informational, content sharing, and discussion mediums. By selecting a few from each column, you’ll ensure that information shared will cycle through an effective community loop that will work with individuals’ different commitment levels. Some people will only want to stop by for information, others will want to be aware of your milestones, and some will be heavily invested and want to interact with you regularly.

    Note: If you don’t have a Kickstarter, your Mailing List and wishlists/pre-orders will become a lot more important, so make sure to spend time on getting people to sign up somewhere that you can notify them when your game is launched.

    Create Your Space

    Besides picking channels that make sense for the players you’re trying to attract, also make sure the space you create is:

    Presentable! Spend some time at the beginning to make sure your pages look legit and professional. Make sure the important info listed is clear and easy to navigate.
    Attractive! This is where your audience’s preferences come in. Fill your space with content that they will enjoy and that will help you attract new members.
    Safe! One of the most important steps of starting a community is laying down the ground rules. Make them super clear and easy to find, so that current community members can direct new members

    Share Your Content

    Whether your sharing game news, studio antics or trying to strike up conversation, be sure your content is:

    Consistent! Find what works for you and stick to it. There are plenty of tools to help you schedule regular content too if you’re also focusing on development work.
    Authentic! The days of the personality-less corporations have passed. People distrust cold corporate marketing and prefer brands that take a stand on issues that are important to them.
    Relevant! Create content worth sharing that matches the tone of your game. Join timely trends, holidays, or conversations.
    Clear! Within the norms of the channel you’re using, use hashtags and other markers to help attract new community members.
    Encouraging! Hold competitions or events that showcase your community’s skills. Share any fan art, cosplay or other creative acts to show your appreciation.

    Fuel the Fire

    Many of the suggestions above are about setting up a functional ecosystem for your community to thrive in. Not only will it make onboarding smoother for new members, but it should also help to retain users and encourage them to invite their friends to join.

    Word of mouth is great (if not the best) type of advertising, but in order to speed up the process of growing your community, there are plenty of different ways to bring in new members.

    Paid Ads

    If you have some budget to put into an advertising spend, digital ads can be a cost-effective way to boost your reach and attract the attention of new members. If you’re not experienced at setting up digital ad campaigns, work with someone who is—as it’s the easiest way in the world to waste money. Even if you have a small budget, using your audience data to really fine-tune the targeting on your ads can make your campaigns extremely efficient.

    Note: Most advertising is top of the sales funnel type of stuff, aka to spread awareness of your product. This is important to remember if you have a limited budget and are expecting digital ads to directly transfer into sales—if your aim is sales you’ll need a larger budget and plenty of time to tweak and adjust your campaigns. However, using it to spread awareness of your game will be helpful to growing your community.

    Trailers and Special Content
    Creating special content at important milestones will work double for you. Not only will your snazzy trailer excite your current community, but hopefully it’ll entice them to share it on their own feeds.

    It doesn’t always have to be a trailer either, it could be as simple as a new piece of hero art. Or it could be something slightly off the beaten path, for example at Failbetter Games, we recently created a Fallen London character sheet for players to fill out and share on social media.


    Like advertising, gaining coverage widens the reach of your game and people’s awareness of it. Besides working with the press during big game milestones, try getting in touch with relevant publications to see if there are any features they’re currently working on that might fit well with your game or your studio.

    Events and Speaking

    Depending on your game, bringing it to consumer conventions is also a great way to add members to your community. Similar to the other categories above, it is difficult to make events directly correlate to game sales, but it’s the most real-life people to people way to get people involved in your community. Besides your game, consider creating event-specific competitions and special merch or other goodies that people can take away with them.

    Test and Amend

    Like any good marketing activity, building and growing a community will require a lot of iterations. As you go along, see which things work for your fans and fix what doesn’t. It’s a lot of hard work, particularly if this is the first game for your studio, but what effort you put into your community will really come back to you further down the line at your game launch, and hopefully for your next games too.

  • 4 How you should engage streamers to promote your game

    In her fourth insight piece for, Failbetter marketing boss Haley Uyrus discusses how to engage with streamers to promote your game 

    Besides press, one of the many great ways to spread awareness about your game is of course influencers. For games that could be streamers from Twitch, YouTube, or any of the newer sites popping up - such as Caffeine and Mixer - who play your game for their audience. Even stores like Steam are beginning to incorporate streams directly onto your store page to draw new players.

    At the onset of streamer popularity, having a professional streamer play your game was a great way to spread your visibility for free. Even more importantly, having a real person with a real personality exclaiming they enjoy your game to their viewers was as close to a word of mouth recommendation as you could get. Now that streaming’s been around for a bit, it’s evolved to become more professionally structured and normalised as a marketing practice, but it’s still an incredible way to expand your game’s visibility.

    When Should You Get in Touch with Streamers?
    This will vary depending on the type of game you’re making, as well as its runway to launch. For example, if you have a game with a decently long Early Access period you may want to bring streamers in at certain milestones, way ahead of your final launch.

    Partnering with Larger and Strategic Influencers
    If you have a more traditional lead up to your launch, you may want to create some pre-launch buzz via a few heavy hitter influencers. If you’re looking to try to partner with larger streamers for something like this, the most important thing is to do your research and find people that are going to enjoy the mechanics of your game. Make sure they play similar titles—and hopefully generally have a few indies in their lineup. Get in touch with them well ahead of when you’d like the streams to go live in order to leave room for their busy schedules, as well as the opportunity for followups, and time to try out the game out. These streamers will be getting an exclusive ability to cover your game ahead of launch.

    Sending out Codes on a Larger Scale for Launch
    You also might have a larger list of streamers that you send code to, so that multiple influencers are playing your game during the first week of your launch. No matter how many there are, these should still be hand selected by you for the type of content they have on their channels, especially if you’re a more niche indie.

    Codes can be sent out to this list of streamers up to a week before launch. If you don’t have time to monitor things and chase down the rare few that may start playing ahead of the embargo date, it may be more piece of mind for you to send the codes out the day before or even the day of launch. Embargoes are definitely important, as they allow you to line up all your marketing activities to go live at the same time, and creates a more compact push, which in turn feeds the hungry internet algorithms. Professional streamers will expect and be on the lookout for any embargoes, so make sure it’s easy to find and clearly displayed in any email or press release you send.

    There’s absolutely nothing wrong with handling all your streamer outreach in a Google Sheets or Excel file, and in fact you may have one of those going on top of any additional tools. However, it’s good to know there are some tools out there that may make your life a little easier during launch week and post-launch.

    Steam Curator Connect
    A tool within the store itself that allows you to send keys directly to verified ‘curators’. Curators on Steam aren’t just streamers, more specifically they’re people or groups that review games. However, you may find that some of the streamers on your list also have a curator page too, and if you’re not looking just for letsplays, this may be a helpful tool. It also has a search functionality so you can look for curators that handle particular genre or tech (like VR).

    Keymailer is a tool set up to specifically make it easier for developers to send keys to Twitch, YouTube and Mixer streamers. There are different payment tiers that give you more customisation options and more analytic data, but the free tier is still very useful. After you set up your game, then the streamers can request a key themselves, or you can use the search tools to find streamers. The best bit is that you can check the streamer’s credentials within Keymailer, which makes handing out keys a lot easier. Keymailer also has some great coverage and analytic tools.

    Woovit's another type of Keymailer-esque tool that allows you to connect with influencers and offer them game keys or even create special offers for sponsored deals with them - in the paid version. The free version allows you to create unlimited campaigns for verified streamers, delivers coverage reports, and alerts you to videos about the offers you put out into the world. You can also set embargo dates and include special instructions in the key offers you send out.

    Framing your Communication
    In many ways reaching out to streamers is very similar to what you’d do for press, but these lists should remain separate so that you can tailor it more for each party. Press releases or emails should be short and sweet but incredibly precise - you can always link to your press kit or press folder so they have more detail available to them. You’ll want to make sure you include:

    • ⦁ A compact and intriguing elevator pitch of what your game is
    • ⦁ Why you’re getting in touch with them specifically (do you know that they’re super into god-sims, or have you watched a recent stream of theirs where they handled a game similar to yours excellently etc.)
    • ⦁ How you’d like to work with them
    • ⦁ Your press kit/press folder
    • ⦁ If it’s the right time, a key so they can easily check out your game if they want to
    • ⦁ Any embargoes or other important information (like if your game’s still in Early Access so they can let their viewers know etc.)

    Different Game Types & Streamers

    The type of game you have may affect how and if you want your game to be streamed at all.

    Story Driven
    If you have a narrative game that’s very linear, you may be worried that people will watch streams but then decide not buy your game because they’ve already seen the content. Not many hard analytics have been disclosed about this, so that decision is completely up to you and your team. However, there may be other alternatives, such as creating special builds or demos that streamers can play, etc.

    While it’s important to always pick out and specifically curate the list of streamers you give keys to, it’s doubly important for any indies that are niche. The last thing you want is to give your game to someone who inherently is not a fan of the genre or mechanics, or who has a fanbase that isn’t a good fit for your audience. Make sure the viewership of the streamer is a good match for your game.

    Early Access
    If your game is being streamed while it's in Early Access or something similar, it’s important to make sure that streamers let their viewers know that the game is still being developed and things are likely to change. This helps to manage everyone’s expectations and gives you a little leeway if the design’s not completely balanced yet.

    One Final Tip
    Always check the credentials of any email requests you get for keys with the contact emails listed on the streamer’s channel - in the world of Let's Plays there are cats, pandas, and even aliens out there trying to trick you out of free keys.

  • 5 WTF is a Discord? What you need to know about setting up your server

    Failbetter marketing guru Haley Uyrus is back with more insight about promoting your game and getting people to are. Today, we are talking about how communication app Discord and what you need to know about using this tool to spread the word

    Discord is a free new(ish) gaming-centric tool that offers voice and text chat via desktop and mobile apps. In its own words, it's all the features you'd want from Skype, Teamspeak and Ventrilo all in one service.

    As an indie developer, your time is probably pretty stretched already, and the thought of adding an extra marketing channel to your list can be stressful - so why is Discord important enough to garner your attention?

    It’s specifically designed around gamers, and therefore a lot of gamers already exist in that space and are familiar with it (plus, they recently announced a Discord Store beta, which will show a list of curated games in a special Store tab)

    It allows you to have instant interaction with your community in a personal way. Mailing lists are great, as well as other social channels, but building your community through Discord means being able to @ a channel in live-time directly to your fans right after you push the launch button on your game.
    Its tools allow for easy collaboration, which makes it easy for you to build a lively community for your game or studio, and also makes it easy for your players to contribute to it too

    Setting Up

    One of the first things you may wonder is if you should set up a Discord server per game or one for your whole studio. At Failbetter, we have a Discord server that houses all three of our games, but for us that makes perfect sense as all three of our games are set in the same universe and have similar mechanics. If you have games that have vastly different audiences, it may make more sense for you to set up a server per game.

    If you’re completely new to Discord, I’d recommend checking out the company's "How to Get the Most Out of Your Community Server" blog post. It covers a lot of great basics and has gifs to show you how to set things up. A few great tips from the firm's blog:

    Setting up useful, informational channels such as a Welcome channel and an Announcement channel
    Making sure to create your invite link so that it feeds new members directly to your Welcome channel (which
    is full of plenty of helpful info for new members)
    How to use certain permission settings to control the flow of info and discourse within key channels


    Setting up channels lets you control how people navigate your Discord server. The layout is up to you, but the clearer you make it, the easier it’ll be for you and your moderators as the community grows.

    Basic channels to consider:

    Welcome: As the handy Discord blog says, setting this up to be a static, information-only channel is highly useful. Fill it with whatever info new members need to know to and use it as a chance to welcome them into your community.

    Announcements: In a similar fashion, set up a channel were just you or your mods can post any announcements for the Discord or your game

    Rules: Community rules are absolutely necessary, do not skip this step. Setting these up from the beginning and making sure that they’re easily findable will make your and your mods’ lives easier as the community continues to grow. Also if everyone can see them, that means that current community members can point them out to new members or anyone who may be toeing the line. (Check out Discord’s own Community Guidelines. PubG and Rock Paper Shotgun also have some nice general guidelines if you need inspiration).

    Random/Off-Topic: Setting up a special space for people to talk about non-particularly-relevant stuff helps to eliminate that sort of content muddling up other conversations in more on-topic channels

    Other Games: You may find that a lot of members of your community play the same type of games and that they want to discuss those or have a space within your community to recommend them. This can also be helpful for you in regards to learning more about your game’s audience.

    Fan Art/Cosplay/Fan-Work: Not only will setting up these channels allow you to encourage fan work, but if you prefer to keep these in a separate space to regular on-topic conversations then this can also be helpful for conversation flow purposes.

    If you as the game studio are setting up your Discord, you may also want to verify it with Discord. You can do so by following the steps on this Discord page.


    Besides setting up clearly displayed Community Rules, having a system for moderation is second most important step for any community management—and on a channel like Discord that is so live and interactive, it’ll be hugely important to the success of your community’s growth.

    If your company is large enough, you may be able to afford hiring a community manager or contract moderators, but if you’re on the smaller side with fewer resources, chances are you’ll need to work alongside volunteer moderators from within your community.

    This means at the start, you’ll be acting as the moderator, unless you have mods on other social channels that would be interested in migrating. Once you start using Discord regularly, you’ll begin to notice members who are participating often, that have great ability to guide community discourse, and who—most importantly—really understand your studio’s general beliefs and community philosophies.

    Reach out to those people and ask if they’d be interested in becoming a moderator. As they are a volunteer, this is not an opportunity for you to take advantage of free labour. Respect their time and effort as a volunteer moderator. You’ll need to give them support in this trade of effort for added responsibility. Welcome them into your team and be dutiful in information sharing. Be sure to give them plenty of insider knowledge and give them a heads up ahead of any big announcements or changes that may affect your community. Also make sure to set up a Mod channel or somewhere where they can ask you questions as they come up.

    Things you’ll need to handle moderation smoothly:

    Those community rules mentioned earlier so everyone is aware of what is acceptable and unacceptable behaviour in your community

    A private channel for you to speak directly with your moderators

    A clear escalation plan that tackles what moderators should do if anyone breaches those community rules
    Some time and patience

    At the end of the day, you’ll still be necessary as a moderator as the all-seeing-dev, this is after all a community based around your game. If anything very disruptive occurs within your community, you’ll need to step in to be the final, firm voice of reason. You’re always needed as an ultimate authority.

    Now What?

    Stay tuned for part two of this Discord piece, where I’ll dig into what information to share and activities to keep your community growing and active.

  • 6 How to invigorate your Discord

    Last week, Failbetter's marketing expert Haley Uyrus filled us in on setting up a Discord community for your game. In part two of her deep dive on the newest tool in the games marketing kit, we're delving into some of the best ways to keep your community growing and active.

    Now that we’ve covered the Discord basics in part one of this series, let’s dig deeper into different ways you can grow your community space and keep it active.

    Information is your most valuable currency

    Much like a Kickstarter or crowdfunding audience, your Discord community will thrive if it receives some special treatment and attention. But what does this mean?

    Give them exclusives: When you have announcements, make sure you share the information with them first. It’s more exciting if they hear it from you in Discord than when it hits the headlines.

    This can also work if there are any smaller pieces of game development news that aren’t big enough for a press round too. Your community will love hearing about progress, new features, funny bugs and mechanical breakthroughs.

    Make it interactive: One thing your community will always have is questions. Especially if you’re releasing new content into the game, it’s great to spend some time in Discord to have a chat with your community and answer any questions they have on new features or mechanics. Invite people in different relevant roles from your team to hop on and do some casual Q&As.

    If you’re worried this will take too much time away from development, you can always have a schedule for these intervals - that way they know when to expect you and you don’t have to fear the need to be there 24/7.

    Don’t forget visuals: Screenshots and videos of upcoming content is something easy for you to upload but will be tremendously exciting for your players.

    Feedback and testing: Some of your most knowledgeable players will also be part of your Discord community, so if you’re ever looking for feedback on smaller chunks of your game, don’t count them out.

    For example, if you had a few different versions of your store page promo image you are deciding between, why not poll your community? Or, if you’ve just added a new feature in, why not host a feedback session at a designated time with core members?

    Being able to add input to the game is incredibly valuable to your players.

    Shape your Discord around your game

    The way you use channels within your Discord isn’t just good for information flow. It can also be used to give your Discord a unique touch and sense of your game’s world or mechanics.

    This can be as simple as creating channel names from locations in your game, to creating game-specific emojis for them to use throughout your Discord. Chances are it’ll also affect the naming structure used for the hierarchy of users too.

    For example, in the Failbetter Discord, many names come from our game Fallen London. So the ‘random’ channel for casual chats is called ‘Veilgarden’ after the bohemian district in Fallen London, and our moderators are named after the Masters from our game, while most other members remain in the Delicious Friends category.

    One of the greatest benefits to players being part of your Discord is feeling like they’re part of something special. Anything you can add to that feeling will strengthen your community.

    The extra mile

    There are also plenty of ways you can go above and beyond the basics within Discord by use of bots and crafting access levels for certain channels. In fact, some developers have even used these to create games within their Discords.

    For Descenders, Mike Rose created a meta-game that allowed new players to pledge loyalty to one of three teams when they first joined.

    These teams would then go on to compete against each other in regular competitions. Discord members were also given Steam beta keys for a weekend, which is a great way to offer a really attractive exclusive that will get players to join the community.

    Pocketwatch Games also has a great piece on all the different Discord stops they pulled out for their game Tooth and Nail.

    One of the bot features they found particularly helpful was to set up commands that created a matchmaking system for players looking to start up a game. Early on, they also used the role feature within Discord to reward players for their contribution and efforts within the community.

    Later on, these two community mechanics forged into a game for their community called The Crown. The Crown game involves the role command to give one player the Crown, and a bot that notifies the Crown wearer when a challenge is issued.

    Anyone can try their chance at fighting for the Crown and it’s won (or kept) by winning a match within the game - which is set using the matchmaking system.

    There are so many ways to invigorate your community on Discord, from small touches that make it feel like a community people want to be a part of, to bigger, exciting meta-games for your community right before launch.

  • 7 How effective were Failbetter's trailers for Sunless Skies?

    In her latest column for, Haley Uyrus - now working at Mediatonic as marketing and communications manager - tells us about how her old home Failbetter used trailers to market its latest release, Sunless Skies

    Our game Sunless Skies brought with it multiple new frontiers for us to explore as a company, and one of those frontiers was trailers—both in their design and quantity.

    We knew that as a larger game, Sunless Skies was likely to stay in Early Access a bit longer than Sunless Sea, and so we planned to release one trailer per in-game region.

    This allowed us to offer more during press hits, keep our players and Kickstarter backers intrigued, and also continue to accrue Steam wishlists. Our four trailers included: The Reach, Albion, Eleutheria and Launch.

  • 8 Here is all the art your marketing people are going to need to promote your game

    Indie marketing guru Haley Uyrus is still writing for from her new home of Mediatonic which she recently joined as marketing and communications manager. Her latest column is focused on knowing what art you need to have on hand to help promote your game

    If you’re an indie dev chances are you don’t have an entire marketing art department at your disposal. And if your marketer isn’t the one creating all the marketing assets themselves, here are a few helpful tips for making the most common marketing assets.


    Depending on the storefront there may be some extra specifications, but if they’re for a PC-centric store then 1920 by 1080 pixels (px) - or 1280 by 720px - is a safe bet. It may be tempting to automatically optimise them for web view at 72dpi but best practice is to snap them at the highest resolution - at least 300 dots per inch (dpi) - as store pages generally will want them high-res. They can always be resized smaller, but it’ll waste time to have to retake the shots if they’re not large enough.

    Another thing to keep in mind is heads up display (HUD) and user interface (UI). While some of the screenshots can be captured without the HUD on, it’s important to make sure some HUD and UI shots are taken—especially when used for store pages so players have an accurate idea about the game and how it plays. Depending on how important the HUD and UI are to your specific game, try to keep the ratio around 40 per cent with HUD and 60 per cent without.

    Content-wise a marketer will be looking for screenshots that encapsulate both the game features and its mood or atmosphere. Having a few visually stunning screenshots that give players the sense of the game’s atmosphere is great not only for store pages but also for feature images for things like press releases. Most of the screenshots should showcase the game’s USPs or any features players will find attractive such as customisation options. And of course remember to take shots from varied points within the game; show off different levels and locations, as well as shots that encapsulate progression.

    Assets for Blogs and Mailers

    Unlike screenshots, these are alright to send across at a web-optimised size. Whether it’s for a blog, mailer or Steam announcement, 600px is a safe width for these images.

    If you’re eager to show off work that’s not finalised or likely to change before launch, you can add a watermark with the date and whether it’s in alpha or beta. This is an easy way to signify to players that it’s work in progress and is totally legitimate when sharing assets within your community.


    Smaller is always better. While social platforms like Twitter allow for gifs up to 15MB on the web, you’ll find it difficult to upload anything beyond 5MB on mobile and or on storefronts like Steam which still has a pretty low size threshold. If too much quality is being sacrificed for size, turn it into an MP4 video file.

    Previously a 2:1 aspect ratio was excellent for gifs, as it allowed them to be easily shared on Twitter and fit well inside blogs and other announcements. However, as more and more users scroll through Twitter on their phones, a 16:9 ratio is preferable so no valuable information is cut off in the slightly narrower feed on mobile.

    General Tips

    Layers, layers, layers. If you’re creating assets for marketing, chances are it’s going to need to be cut up and spread across a variety of different channels—all of which will have different specifications. Create files that can be adjusted across these, with separate background and foreground layers. Whether your original files are shared internally or externally to vendors, keeping clear and simplified layer and file names will also help tremendously.

    Going along with that, complex layer types that involve lots of layer masks or other extra effects will make it difficult for others to easily manipulate the file. Once you’ve finalised the art, try to simplify the layers, keeping in mind a lot of different people with various skill levels will be adjusting the asset over its lifetime.

PCGamesInsider Contributing Editor

Alex Calvin is a freelance journalist who writes about the business of games. He started out at UK trade paper MCV in 2013 and left as deputy editor over three years later. In June 2017, he joined Steel Media as the editor for new site In October 2019 he left this full-time position at the company but still contributes to the site on a daily basis. He has also written for, VGC, Games London, The Observer/Guardian and Esquire UK.