Have you ever wanted to promote your game on Reddit, but just couldn’t make it work? Did you post a nice personal development story and Reddit only hurt you for that? Did it crushed your fragile hopes and dreams that your KickStarter URL in /r/gaming could reach front page and skyrocket your project to the moon? Or maybe you just can’t get over the fear of millions of people judging you for not choosing the right type of post in the right subreddit?
Take my hand, fellow indie game developer. I have zero experience in marketing as well as no idea what am I writing about, but I’m going to show your way to the magical place of opportunities, which is, but usually isn’t, Reddit. I hope that was enough of a disclaimer for you to realize that everything you’re going to read should be taken with a grain of salt.
How to post on Reddit?
With such size and diversity of user base Reddit has there’s no magical formula to get your thread going up, there always will be a chance that a “self post” you took an hour to write be downvoted instantly, because someone browsing new posts didn’t like the certain word in the title. But anyone of us, who already tried sending out 50 emails to the press only to get a single automated response with information about payment options, should be used to disappointment. And it doesn’t hurt to try again… until you get banned (rare, but happens).
Okay, so let’s start this with some terminology. Reddit is divided in to hundreds of thousands of so called subreddits created and moderated by the users and oriented to sharing information about a specific or broader topic.
There are two types of content:
- self posts (title and text)
- link posts (title and link).
Depending on a subreddit, one of those types can be disabled or just generally not accepted as well as another.
After you post something, usually it won’t be visible in the front page of subreddit (unless it’s a small one), because it will need to get more of that magical upvote energy. Check the “NEW” tab to see how much (or little) love it is receiving and if you can’t see it there, wait a bit, check again and contact moderators asking if it didn’t get stuck in some spam filter (I can’t explain this, it just happens). Silently asking a couple of friends to give your post a bit of a healthy boost is kind of okay, but doing it openly by spamming Twitter might earn a removal or ban in that subreddit.
In the right top corner there’s a little letter symbol, keep an eye on it: if it lights up in orangered color – you got either a reply to your post or a message! Maybe it’s someone who loved your game, maybe it’s a mod explaining why your post got removed. Isn’t that exciting?
Subreddit subscriber count is a pretty important number. Generally, the more of them – the more attention you can get, since once your post have reached a certain position in a front page of subreddit, subscribers will be able to see it in the front page of Reddit. And you most definitely want that to happen. But it would be too easy, right? Luck in larger subreddits are much more influenced by the crowd mentality and is generally harsher, as smaller communities tend to be friendlier and hungry for more content. Surely, with plenty of exceptions on both sides.
So, before you start blasting your download links everywhere, take a bit of time and explore the “TOP” tab to see what kind of content is well accepted and watch downvoted posts in “NEW” tab to learn from the mistakes of clueless users.
And always check the sidebar on the right for subreddit-specific rules. Maybe it says “no self promo”, but maybe there’s still a type of content accepted which you can post and, what a surprise, it is related to your game. Be careful how and where in the post you add a link if you are adding any. Sometimes it’s better to submit a screenshot or a GIF and wait for someone to ask “what kind of game is this from?”. Unfortunately, being honest about your intentions and excitement to share, is not the best approach as I found out the hard way. But I might be doing it all wrong.
One more thing… This might be completely false, but I think more casual username is accepted better, than a studio title with “dev” or “studio” part. To the extent same goes for Twitter, since people are friendlier towards other people, not studio or game accounts (that’s why I’m no longer calling myself RunPigRunGame).
Scary, right? Oh, you’ll be fine… Maybe.
What to post?
Now, I won’t go in to much detail here (edit: I lied), but just to clear things up – you can post anything, if it’s in the right place. And even in the wrong place, if your screenshot, gameplay GIF or trailer looks good and/or original enough it should gain some interest.
It’s a common saying that Reddit loves a good story, but then there are plenty of people, which are expecting quick visual fix, not a wall of text, from subreddits they subscribe. So, once again, know the audience before approaching it!
Of course, choosing a good title is also very important, but that’s a rocket science for me, so hopefully, you’re better at it. Check the subreddit sidebar to see if there are any requirements for tags you should add ([Windows], [Beta], [Screenshot], etc…). “Download my new game!” will not work, “Download game my girlfriend made” will work better and “My girlfriend made a game dedicated to our dead cat and promised me sexy times if this gets upvotes” will work perfectly. But don’t do that. Reddit is already tired of being emotionally exploited and you’re not that kind of the person, are you?
Jokes aside, if you’ve already found a right subreddit (see next section), have a fitting content, just adapt title to that. Make it easy to read and understand. Do not sound like a PR agent. Add a joke or a relaxed ring to it if audience is appropriate.
Blatant advertising and download/sale fishing will not work and, honestly, when and where did it? I see it this way – you’re in front of huge community, you want their attention, feedback and love, so you have to offer something.
Should be clear without saying, that being polite, friendly and responding to feedback can go a long way, so don’t just post something and be done with it. Your communication style and reaction to critique will definitely be watched closely.
If you’re posting a screenshot or gameplay GIF, use Imgur. I can’t stress this enough. Imgur was created by a redditor for Reddit and it is loved for that, speed and usability. Also, since the domain of link post URL is visible in the thread list, “imgur.com” notifies viewer that a pretty picture awaits his attention and going on a click frenzy with all visible Imgur links is a pretty common “redditing” technique. Using TinyPic will bring instant downvotes. Minus.com is okay.
I personally have thumbnails disabled, but many don’t, so keep in mind that linking to an image will add it next to the title. Make sure that a small version of your screen grab doesn’t look like a colorful mash potatoes.
Where to promote your game?
So, the first thing to do after joining this horrifying place would be to join /r/gamedev subreddit. It does have pretty strict rules, but a lot of useful content and also weekly self-promotion targeted threads (FeedbackFriday, ScreenshotSaturday, SoundtrackSunday, MarketingMonday). Utilize them, post about your game, be annoyed that you get no comments, leave feedback for other games, finally get some feedback, yay!
Now, if you’re working on a bigger and interesting (well, of course) game and you have a story, experience, solution to a problem or home-made development tool to share – that might work in /r/gamedev. Also, success or failure stories with some details are generally well accepted too. You can always message mods and ask approval or guidance, I think they would like that better than having to remove another ill-fitting post.
Other big place would be /r/indiegaming which, for some reason, is pretty dead despite having 50k subscribers. Maybe because they chose an invisible font for their thread titles. Anyway, it seems like a nice place to post almost anything and get zero attention. Although, some can still get lucky.
One post in /r/indiegaming was an amazing find –list of indie game related subreddits. Use it wisely if a game you’re making is similar to or inspired by one of them.
If you write a game development blog, submit your posts /r/DevBlogs for those couple of visits it could get from there. Doesn’t hurt.
Now, I could go and on and on about specific subreddits I have tried, but I’m getting a bit tired and I’m not sure if this post is going anywhere, so I’ll just add this crazy huge list of gaming related subreddits for you to explore and try luck in – http://www.reddit.com/r/gaming/wiki/faq . Grouped by type, sorted alphabetically, has subscriber counts – all what you need to find that perfect place you can post about The Game You’re Making.
For example, if you accidentally messed up gravity and recorded a hilariously glitchy gameplay – /r/GamePhysics might like it. Have a gorgeous, high quality screenshot of a landscape you just build? Go to /r/GamerPorn (it’s not what you might think it is). Or if you ordered a sexy underwear with your game logo, there’s a subreddit, where you can post pictures of yourself, if you’re in to that. You’ll find it in a list above.
And maybe one day, you’ll get enough mental strength to post in /r/gaming and who knows… Maybe that thread will be upvoted by thousands and seen by millions in the middle of all those gaming-related memes, nostalgia posts and gameplay GIFs from AAA games. I wish you that.
TL;DR: a bit of research, choosing right time and right approach, correct subreddit, fitting content, friendliness and spamlessness (it’s a word now). Try it.