Last week, we published a blog explaining the way some larger brands and developers are capitalizing on the connections between social media and the games industry. Of course, any brand with a large enough budget could accomplish much of the same thing. But what about smaller franchises? What about indie developers? How can a small business, with no spare budget, get their work in front of the eyes of millions of gamers?
Let me introduce you to Sips.
Minecraft’s sudden success has been written about hundreds of times, but was it a fluke? How much impact can YouTube really have on the indie gaming industry?
“YouTube is a great platform for mass sharing, and when making a game, that is all that the developer could wish for.” Kyle Wildman, Lead Developer on indie title Mace Swinger, says about the importance of YouTube for indie developers. “Publicity is one of the hardest parts of making a game, and channels like his [Sips’s] that highlight community work…offer a huge boost to their game.”
Mace Swinger is a true project of love, and without Sips, it wouldn’t exist. Earlier this year, Sips began a video series playing through Game Dev Tycoon, an indie title that simulates the experience of running a game publisher. One of the first “games” Sips published in the series was a Medieval Action game called Mace Swinger. Game Dev Tycoon doesn’t actually show you any gameplay from the titles you make up, but that didn’t stop a group of Sips’s fans from bringing the game into the real world. I spoke to the Mace Swinger development team to get their opinions on some of the challenges of the indie games market, and how YouTube and social media impact the work that they do.
Tim Howell: What inspired you to make a Mace Swinger video game?
Greeny, Lead Artist: By far I think the biggest inspiration and driving force behind the game has been the community in general. I just wanted to be a part of the Sips community and I think that’s the same for all of the developers. Then, once we started getting the response from the community that we did…that knocked us all sideways. Within 24 hours we had 2,000 followers, thousands of video views and hundreds of people liking us on Facebook and Reddit. We are currently riding the wave of community feedback which is driving all of us to create this for the fans. The response has been overwhelming so far.
Richard Carson, Programmer: I’m a big fan of Sips, and have always been a fan of online collaborative projects like this, so I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to work on a project associated with him like this, in concert with the greatest fan base in the world.
TH: Are you working with Chris ‘Sips’ Lovasz and/or the Yogscast in any official way to promote the game?
Kyle Wildman, Lead Developer: Not officially. Although a large majority of our traffic has come through retweets by Sips as well as having highly placed posts in places where his fans are prominent, there is no actual advertising taking place.
Greeny: Sips will be featuring as voice talent in the game! As far as promoting it goes, he has re-tweeted us a couple of times and liked our videos on YouTube. It’s amazing when that happens as our views spike dramatically showing the power the Sips community has!
Oli Austin, Community Manager, PR: We are working with Chris Lovasz during the promotion stages of Mace Swinger. He uses his twitter and YouTube to help promote Mace Swinger.
TH: How important do you think YouTube, and channels like Yogscast Sips, are to the independent game industry?
Richard Carson: Vital. The indie game industry has thrived with the rise of YouTubers like Sips. Minecraft is a perfect example of this; the community really is the core of its success. This game as well would be nothing if not for the massive support of Sips’ fantastic fan base.
Greeny: The response we have had through social media platforms has been outstanding, and without it there wouldn’t even be this project! More and more insanely talented developers are able to get their games out there and reach much larger audiences. You can connect with people that share your interests. For [Mace Swinger] we have developers from America, the UK and Sweden all collaborating…People from thousands and thousands of miles away working collaboratively on a project, and it all was born from social media.
An indie game inspired Chris Lovasz to make a YouTube video, and that video inspired an unrelated group of fans to make an indie game. A game that developed an overnight fan base of thousands, all thanks to the power of social media and digital collaboration. If that isn’t a YouTube success story, I don’t know what is.
Tim studied creative writing, fine art, and popular culture at Bowling Green State University. At Make Me Social, he develops and manages public-facing content for the Small Business Division. Before joining the team, Tim wrote for several blogs, websites, and short story collections including Groove Fiction, The Cog, and Ears and Loathing.