Updated thinking on the marketing of the game (now to be known as a book) following user testing (15th Feb 2011) -
Manage expectations well and we'll have no disappointed players. We conclude that this expectation needs to be managed in the following areas:
Expectation - narrative
Expectation - category/genre
Expectation - graphic
With regard to expectation narrative, the player would need to know that they were a single, office worker, otherwise the story wouldn't ring true. That way even if a non-single player plays the game, they know that they are assuming the role/scenario of a single office worker. We will have to make this clear in our marketing/intro materials.
Also, the player input/assigned as friends in the game would need to ring true to the player in their mind, i.e. how close is that friend?, is it an ex you're friends with or an ex you despise?, Is the person a good-time acquaintance?, and that perhaps we can insert a few key words next to each friend input section saying what type of person they are, in the hope that the person that the player inputs will fit their expectations of said friend within the game.
Make sure player knows that they're single
Make sure they know what type of friends their friends are
With regard to expectation category/genre, in the year 2011, when people hear the word App, they think of games/graphics etc... from the beginning we've been vehemently steering clear of the word book and using game instead, to make us stand out from the bucket loads of e-books out there... however, we conclude in the end, despite what we all thought at first, that game is setting up a false expectation for the player and that it is this that makes them expect graphics etc. It might be more closely affiliated with interactive fiction or interactive chose-your-own-adventure story or interaction story... rather than text-based game. Even with the words text-based as a pre-cursor, people still only hear the word game...
Eradicate the word game from our vocab.
With regard to expectation graphic, the salmon/apricot coloured pages (not the logo, just the pages) were adding to setting of the wrong expectation for the player as that colour can say bubbly, fun-time, game. Alternatives of 80s green and black terminal window colours are wrong too in that it says retro. The idea of a creamy sort of pale-butter-yellow that suggests the colour of an old worn book page is offered for alternative.
Lose salmon colour and make aesthetic more book-page-like
To create awareness and interest in the application by identifying the types of people that would be interested in playing it and then getting knowledge of the applications existence to them.
Initial thoughts are to get the coded book application separate from the actual story, so this becomes the franchise in essence and the story becomes the intellectual property. The story is identified as a book of determined size page text that has either one or two narrative choices that the reader can make to determine the next part of the story that is presented.
The application is not necessarily a new concept but more of a new way of doing a previously known thing, ie reading a book with reader choices involved in determining the narrative direction. So it is assumed that once the application is received and approved by the app store then it will be copied and or improved by other parties. Due to this belief it is necessary to get the branding of the application well and truly defined as soon as possible, as this may be the only really effective way of ensuring the product lifespan.
To this end it is necessary to have a unique and catchy name that covers just the application, in this case the reader applciation that is purchased and downloaded from the app store with a story included in it that is the first episode of an ongoing series of stories. This is the current iteration of the app that has only a single story included in it and no way of separating the two and no way of importing a new story.
Ideas towards naming the application brand have so far come up with "iChoice" and "iChoose", both of which have domain names associated with other products. Other versions are using "2choose", "2choice" or "tuChoose", "tuChoice" and variations on those two elements. So far this has not lead to any conflicts with existing products other than "2-choice hashing" which is a variant on hash tables commonly found in databases and progamming, et al. More thought on this aspect is necessary.
It has been established for a while that promoting the application/story as a game is much more desirable than any promotion with "book" as its main focus. This is sound as the application is a story that can be read and played, a "social game", "it's not a game, it's a choice" or "2choose or not 2choose, that is the question". Using the gaming aspect and adding the social element can allow a more targeted approach to marketing the application as there are a number of specific online resources available to the promoter at little to no cost.
Online promotion will consist of creating some awareness of the applications existence via resources such as Facebook, Twitter and an application specific domain name website that will serve as the first port of call for any marketing, press or promotional references as well as being a place that can serve as the centre for a community to develop around the concept of the application, ie one that is interested in the idea and use of an application that has a story in that the user can control the destiny of the narrative, not of the application itself.
Launching the application first and formost, is entirely dependant on the app store approving it and putting in the release schedule. Depending on this process and the length of time it takes, the launch may have to be planned in a short time frame due to the fact that apps are only on the front page of the store for a limited time before newer ones replace them. So it is essential that promotion serves to keep it there for as long as possible, until it can be move to the Top 20 sidebar list, or similar. Prior to this launch and given that its time is currently unknown, it is necessary to develop and promote the IDEA of the application first.
Promoting the IDEA of the application, the concept, is simply a matter of taking what it is that is unique and the selling point of this app, the differentiation, and pushing it forward into the minds of potential buyers of it. This is identified as the limited page size story that has social aspects to its content and present the reader with two possible choices that then lead to further parts of the story. Promoting this aspect is relatively straight forward with a few short pages being needed to be written by the writers that can suitably hook the reader into the idea and the story.
This short, promotional story can then be coded into various mediums, be they print in the form of a short sentence and two choices presented with the byline "What would you choose?" right the way up to php coded webpages that can allow the reader to play it in a limited form. This last has been identified as a potentially good method to use for inclusion in promotion via social networking sites such as Facebook. The idea is to code a Facebook app that takes the short promo story and turns it into a "poll" type application that can be forwarded between friends and can also display the results either in-app, or on the Facebook page as well as on the website.
A launch party has been identified as one fun thing to do to celebrate the end of a long development process as well as launching the application itself. This party can have as its centrepiece the playing of a limited story using a device (laptop and website, or simulator) hooked up to a projector that can allow all the room's occupants to participate by shouting out suggestions of what the player should do next. Free codes for winners of competitions can be handed out to participants too. A hand held camera following players as they read the actual app and recreate the story has been mentioned as an interesting way to demonstrate the concept via YouTube, etc.