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How to Distribute Game Keys Among Video Influencers
May 19, 2020

The video game world is solidly in the Age of the Influencer, with video game streamers and other online content creators leading gaming conversations and commanding massive audiences.

Image courtesy of Newzoo[1] 

Many small-to-medium influencers will stream or review your game in exchange for a playable copy, typically redeemed in the form of a game key. More popular influencers may coordinate lucrative paid promotional deals. In either case, if an influencer likes your game and presents it well, their audiences can quickly become your players.

Here’s how you can start connecting with influencers and distributing game keys.

What is a Game Key?

As soon as your game is uploaded to Steam, you will be able to request Beta keys. This key will allow influencers to download your game and play it, just like retail keys for any Steam product.

Learn more about Steam keys and how to get them directly from the Steam help page.

When You Should Distribute Your Keys

First, make sure your build is stable and playable. Nobody likes buggy games.

Should you present an early prototype to influencers or wait until your game is nearly complete? Early demos may work if you’ve released another game before or if you’re working on a sequel to a well-received title. However, if this is a brand-new game, it may be most beneficial to wait until your game is nearly finished. You want to put your best gaming foot forward.

Start Pitching

Pitching Directly to Influencers

Pitching requires the right strategy, hard work, and endurance. First, define your key messages and then pull the messaging from rival games released in the last three to five years. Do the same for direct competitors and the games you want to be compared with and your target audience.

This is absolutely essential for communication with YouTube or/and Twitch creators, as you will want to contact as many relevant influencers for your game as possible. Otherwise, not only do you waste time, but you also may end up being ignored by some influencers because your pitch was not suited for their audience.

Go to YouTube and Twitch and search for games similar to yours, then compile them into a spreadsheet. You’ll want to pull all kinds of media:

  • Video announcements
  • Previews
  • Developer gameplay/interviews
  • Reviews
  • Walkthroughs/Twitch streams, etc.

Here is what your spreadsheet should look like[3] 

The next step: collect those contacts. Most creators are open to being contacted, and you can usually find their email on YouTube by going to “Channel About Show email.” In most cases, you’ll reach the influencer, but sometimes you may be directed to a  manager or someone similar. Many people hide their contact information as they do not like being bombarded with emails. If that is the case, just do a Google search for the channel’s name, and you can usually find a site with contact information or links to their social media accounts, which may offer other contact options as well.

Once you’ve found some appropriate contacts, it’s time to pitch.

How to Pitch YouTubers

YouTubers are among the most passionate content creators online and can be very receptive to pitches. Craft yours correctly to ensure maximum success and positive reception.

Pitching Do’s and Don’ts

Personalize your messages.

Start your message with a short compliment to the creator. Let them know you are following them and that you enjoy their content.

Get to the point. Pitch your game idea in one or two sentences. Compare it to other games they’ve enjoyed on their platforms with language like “It’s like Game A-meets-Game B.” Include a few of your best visual assets, like screenshots, GIFs, and a link to any trailers or other video footage you may have. Make sure to link to your game’s official site, Steam page social media sties, or other game store landing pages. Include a unique hashtag, if possible.

Conclude by offering them game keys, and send them as soon as they indicate their interest.

Do not bomb all your recipients with one generic email and never copy-paste press releases. These tactics are boring and tedious and will likely get you ignored. Their time is valuable, as is yours. Don’t waste it.

Follow Up

Most influencers will ignore you. After all, you’re cold-contacting them, and they may have never heard of your studio or your game. Establishing an instant connection and a potent working relationship right off the bat will be extremely rare.

If you don’t hear from a given influencer you’ve emailed, follow up with them after 48-36 hours. Write a new, personalized message that communicates why your game is worth playing. Be positive and personal, explaining why you think your game is a good fit for both them and their audience.

If they don’t reply, move on. Make sure you mark each contact on your spreadsheet with an outcome — whether they answered your mail or not, as this will spare you from duplicating efforts.

Some influencers, on their own or through management, may offer paid promotions.The difference between the paid content and a regular review or preview is that it has a disclaimer of paid advertising and, of course, you’ve paid the influencer for it from your marketing budget. To maximize the impact of paid promotion, place it at the final stage of your launch campaign – two days before and two days after the game release date.

Once an influencer has accepted, be sure to provide plenty of content that will allow them to promote your game on their channel and social media accounts. Help your influencers help you. Create and send participating influencers a document that includes your game’s official description, along with critical advice, hints, and tips on how to have the most fun while they get started playing your game. 

If necessary, provide them with a brief walkthrough guide that lists any secrets or hidden content they may want to discover. If your game includes any major mysteries or reveals, let them know what they are so that they can give their audience spoiler warnings.

Be sure to consider your budget. Working with the right influencers can be more affordable than traditional advertising, but you may want to work with smaller-to-mid-size influencers to spread out your messaging and minimize risk. Learn how to promote your game with small and mid-size influencers on our blog.

Your Budget

What if You Have No Marketing Budget?

If you have no budget, don’t worry, there are still ways to get coverage for your game. You just have to work harder.  Just remember this mantra: “Do not give up.” Persevere, and contact everyone on your spreadsheet.

Generally, it is not recommended to have restrictions, such as an embargo, whether you’re a more minor dev team or an individual. This makes it easier to get coverage. And don’t be discouraged if you only receive a small amount of interest at first. You can earn more as you go, especially if your game is well-received. 

Send the keys and ask the influencers if they would like to coordinate a giveaway on their social media accounts. If so, add another 10-15 keys to your email as well. If you vetted your influencer list well, you won’t need to worry about them going to waste.

Does this sound like a lot to manage? There’s an easier way to connect with, and even compensate, influencers with no starting budget: revenue share-based programs.

Xsolla Partner Network, for example, provides you with tools to equip influencers like Twitch streamers and YouTube content creators with tracking links. By creating content about your game and driving their audiences to your landing pages through their links, they can earn a percentage of each transaction. 

This incentivizes them to work hard to promote the games they and their audiences will like — all with no upfront costs for you. It’s a win-win and can be coordinated from a single dashboard, complete with full performance metrics. You can monitor and learn from your data as you go. Our best practices guide provides you with valuable tips and cases on making the most out of Xsolla Partner Network.

Image courtesy of nolic0321[6] 

Tools

Mailtrack for Chrome — this extension alerts you when sent emails are opened or read in real-time.

Performance email platforms like Mailchimp (free to paid) or Sendpulse (free) are robust and include many useful features, but if you do not plan to send over 500 emails daily, Gmail or other free email clients may be all you need. Remember: do not send mass emails via CC and BCC. These will likely be ignored or even sent to spam folders, wasting your time, and potentially embarrassing you.

There’s An Even Better Way To Work With Influencers 

Ready to ramp up your influencer marketing efforts on any budget level?

Xsolla Partner Network is the fastest and easiest way to build successful influencer programs from scratch on a single, easy-to-use platform. Connect with and compensate influencers around the globe with complete security.

Sign up to join Xsolla Partner Network or email us at business@xsolla.com today to quickly and efficiently create and manage performance-based programs with influencers, affiliates, and more.

Already an Xsolla user? Learn more about how Xsolla Partner Network can integrate with your current workflow today.

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