There’s no silver bullet solution for all your marketing and communication needs. Everything depends on what you’re making and who you’re talking to. So take these examples as more of an inspiration and less of a to do list.
First of all, how do you even decide what to make? Seems like the best way to success is taking the long road from looking into something that inspires you, through lots of experiments, to talking to the community about what you’re making.
“I have always enjoyed beautiful environments like Skyrim and with Unity 5, it is possible to create them. But the tools to do this are difficult to learn and use so I decided to make my own. It’s been a long journey and three rewrites later, I have finally launched Gaia,” says Adam Goodrich whose terrain editing tool has taken the Asset Store by storm in the fall of 2015.
Similarly, Pärtel Lang has been experimenting with physics-based ragdoll behaviors since 2011, but hasn’t actually released PuppetMaster until November 2015. “Developing PuppetMaster has been more like an idée fixe to me than a rational strategy,” he says.
None of the developers I talked to did any sort of sophisticated market research before embarking on making their hit assets. “I’ve learned that assets which come with a specific art theme are not bestsellers, because they target only people who are interested in that particular style. But I'm not in this business just for the money - releasing good quality products and personal satisfaction are equally important,” says Tom Lassota of Beffio, who recently released the slick looking Space Journey set.
That doesn’t mean, however, that it’s best to just rely on your gut. Adam Goodrich admits that the current version of Gaia is much better due to the input from fellow Unity developers. “Take advantage of the Works In Progress forum while you are in beta – show your work, demonstrate value and invite comments. Get people involved in the process. I really can’t stress how important this is! Gaia is a much better tool today thanks to them. As a bonus, I now have a bunch of new friends.”
Around a third of his development time was focussed on usability. Understanding the negative feedback was key. ”The people with the biggest issues using your tool are your greatest asset. Put yourself into their shoes and find a way to solve their problem,” Adam Goodrich says.
Pärtel Lang started his own “Works In Progress” thread much later, roughly a month before the expected launch. It started to slowly gather interest and questions from potential users: “The best way to answer those questions is to make some showcase videos and post them on a YouTube channel and the forum thread. That will keep interested people coming back to the thread, keep it visible and help explain what the product can and can’t do.”
Using social media is important, but not vital. For successful Asset Store publishers, it’s a way of getting their name out there, get what marketing pros call “brand awareness”. Adam Goodrich sees a lot of potential there, if you have something to say: “Facebook, YouTube and Twitter are an awesome way to grow awareness. Create interesting and relevant stories and images. If someone takes the time to engage with you then it’s a gift – engage right back!”
For Tom Lassota, social channels helped raise awareness for Beffio, but didn’t directly lead to sales: “There still might be some channels for actually boosting the sales, but I have not found them yet - so make sure you let me know when you do!”
Pärtel Lang hardly ever promotes his assets: “I have tweeted about PuppetMaster just once, so other than the Unity Community and my YouTube channel I have nothing.”
Their approach to creating promotional content is also very different. An artist needs images and videos that show his assets in the best light, even if it means spending a lot of extra resources. “I’ve spend 30% of total production time on creating marketing materials only. Eye-catching design is a must. For a customer, the first glance is the most important. If you don't have a knack for creating promotional art, I would strongly recommend to hire somebody who could create quality materials for you instead,” says Tom Lassota.
However, the opposite can be true for an editor extension, as Pärtel Lang found out: “Once I bought some assets from the Store and really spent a lot of time to make a proper cinematic video, but that has not received nearly as many views as the simple voice-over tutorials I made later. Tutorials are really the best way to show the asset in depth, are really appreciated by the clients and considerably help to relieve my support load. So just cut the music and the fancy effects, turn on the microphone and speak to the people – it can do wonders.”
Last thing to remember before you release your assets is to set up Google Analytics. “Check out the demographics of who is looking at your pages and work out where they are coming from. This will provide you with useful audiences to engage further with,” recommends Adam Goodrich.
Just like with design, coding and a lot of other aspects of game development, the best thing to do when deciding on the optimal marketing strategy is to run a lot of tests and get the data you need to make a rational decision.