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YouTube is the world’s video behemoth, but it’s easy to miss the fact that it’s the second largest search engine in existence by some accounts. Upwards of 1 billion unique users visit YouTube each month and, according to TV ratings outfit Nielsen, it reaches more US adults ages 18 – 34 than any cable network. With many of YouTube’s top personalities and channels focused on gaming, it’s a titanic force that can change the fortunes of any indie game.

Before we list some tips on getting your game featured by a YouTuber, let’s take a look at what kind of effect the video network can have.

The Binding of Isaac had an average of 150 sales a day shortly after release, but it skyrocketed to more than 1,500 copies a day seven months in. The reason? YouTube.

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“Then I checked out YouTube, and I noticed that fans of the game were uploading Let’s Play videos constantly — over 100 videos every day, each getting tons of traffic,” Isaac developer Edmund McMillen wrote on Gamasutra. “Isaac had found its fanbase, and that base was growing larger and larger.”

For the developers of the Kickstarter success Shovel Knight, YouTube helped them overfund their campaign by 415%. According to Yacht Club Games’ David D’Angelo, right around 20% of the campaign’s backers came directly from YouTube, and it seems to have caused a groundswell. Although Shovel Knight hit its goal in late March, it wound up quadrupling it in the last few days of its campaign, thanks in large part to attention given to it by YouTubers.

The team tapped into the YouTube audience by asking the hosts of staples such as the GameGrumps and Super Best Friends Play to take Shovel Knight for a spin.

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The arrows above point to the days where YouTubers released their Shovel Knight videos. Many more featured Shovel Knight during its campaign.

Now that Shovel Knight has been released, YouTube will continue to be an organic marketing engine for it as gamers record and upload their play sessions.

Getting Your Indie Game Played on YouTube

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YouTube streamers Ryan Letourneau (Northernlion) and Michael Shaevitch (SmikeTV) each put together presentations (here and here) on getting your game covered by fellow YouTubers. We’ve condensed the highlights below.

Finding YouTubers

Of course, you’ll want to reach out to the YouTube streamers with the most subscribers — VidStatsX has a handy list of the top 100 — but there are plenty of others with smaller audiences. Get many of them on board and their numbers will add up. Video Game Caster has an enormous list of YouTubers with followings of all sizes, complete with profiles listing what platforms they use, what genres they enjoy, and their contact information.

Make sure that…

  • They play games on on the platform/console your game is on.
  • They enjoy the genre that your game falls into.

Contacting YouTubers

When you’re ready to get in touch, be sure to send emails instead of using YouTube’s built-in messaging system. If you do the latter, you’ll almost certainly get lost in the deluge of spam.

In your email…

  • Be brief.
  • Be personal and relevant. Don’t send a bland, heartless form message.
  • Explain what makes your game worth playing and entertaining to watch.
  • Link to a trailer or in-game footage, if you have it handy.
  • Include a way to download your game. Whether that’s a Steam key, link to a file or otherwise.

Rejection

You might not hear back for many reasons, but the most common is that they missed your email or simply forgot to reply. If you haven’t heard back in a few days, give them a gentle reminder over email or, as Northernlion suggests, on Twitter.

You also might not have heard back because…

  • They aren’t interested at first blush.
  • Your game’s still too early in development stages.
  • There are technical issues or bugs, especially when used with streaming or recording software.
  • They just flat-out didn’t like it.

According to Northernlion, all of these reasons, except for the last one, translates into a “maybe later” and not a hard rejection.

Optimizing Your Game for YouTube

Games can be better candidates for YouTube videos if they have a few important qualities. One of the key traits is compatibility with streaming software. If your game can’t be streamed or screencapped easily, its chances of being featured on YouTube are slim. Remember, if your game can run in a windowed mode, it’ll be easier to record and stream.

Make sure your game is bug-free. Bugs may deter YouTubers from featuring your game, and they certainly won’t give potential players a good first impression.

Other YouTube-friendly qualities are…

  • It’s fun to fail.
  • Lots of replay value.
  • Single-player. It’s easier to follow the action in non-multiplayer games.
  • Your game can be played different ways. Minecraft, for example, has world-building, role-playing and survival components.

If you’re hoping the long tail of user-created Let’s Play videos will help with marketing, explicitly grant players permission to stream and monetize footage.

Twitch

While YouTube certainly has a lot of eyeballs, it isn’t the only game in town. Even though relative newcomer Twitch fills a different function than Google’s video site, its 55 million users are just as important. Heck, last spring it accounted for 43.6% of all live video streaming traffic on the web.

So, how do you find streamers to reach out to on Twitch? Easy, the folks at SocialBlade have amassed a list of the top 100 Twitch streamers by follower count.


Have you landed your game on a popular YouTube channel before? If you have, let us know how it happened in the comments!

Posted in Game Development Marketing