Today while driving past it, I remarked that they now had condiments and paper towels on the tables near the windows- surely it was going to open soon after they put the sign up. Tonight while driving past it, the parking lot was full. People were sitting in all the tables we could see. It was a soft launch where they were testing their speed and kitchen, so not the full launch- but yet, there was still no sign for the restaurant. As an outsider, I'd assume it was another boutique or even just a small warehouse like the surrounding stores.
This was mind-boggling to me- you want to open up a store and not even advertise what kind of store you are, let alone your name? Even a nearby restaurant that was hidden down a set of stairs had a few small signs (and even a menu) on the wall next to it. So, as a game developer and person who attempts to market said games, it got me thinking- what would this be like if a game did this?
I'm going to use a couple different cases here in my analogy since there won't really be anything 1 to 1.
Case #1 - No Name/Branding
The first case is the most obvious and extreme- you are posting on social media or Discord servers and such but you've yet to put a name to your product, or you fail to refer to it as such/put no logo with the images. People might see a screenshot of the game but if you don't have a name for it or don't put a name where people can easily see it, how will they be able to find out more? Sure, sometimes they'll see it on your Twitter, but what if they happen to see it out in the wild where you can't easily reply with an answer?
This should be a case that, if you're reading this, shouldn't happen. Most, if not all of you, should already have a name set for your game and be calling it by that name if you're actively promoting it in places. Now, I'm not saying you should throw you game's logo on all your promotional material for the game (I find it somewhat annoying to receive screenshots of in-engine looks with the logo plastered on it), but I am saying it's typically best to have the name visible when promoting it in places for consumers.
Case #2 - No Landing Page
This case is going to be more prevalent for most devs- we forget to have a landing page. In this sense, a "landing page" is going to be broad, but something where consumers can view what the game is about and see some form of updates for it. In this sense, the following (I feel) qualify as a "landing page":
- Steam/Itchio/GameJolt store page
- Website with newsletter
- Social media specifically for the game
I've picked the types above as they all include some way to see updates for the game as well as get notifications for new updates- while I normally wouldn't consider social media to be a "full" landing page as they're more for sharing links to the above two places, they are ways for players to subscribe to your content. I would very much prioritize the first two, i.e. making a store front for your game where players can wishlist/follow it and making a website where players can easily see what the game is about.
Your goal with a landing page is to convert viewers into customers. You want a landing page to entice a consumer into supporting your game, even if it hasn't launched- this can be by them following your social media, wishlisting the game, subscribing to your newsletter, and more.
So, what on Earth does this have to do with my long-winded analogy at the beginning of this? Well, them not putting up their name meant I had no way to search them up online, which means even if they did have a website (which they did) I couldn't find it so I couldn't see their menu, their "launch" date, and more. Make pages where potential customers can wishlist your game or sign up for updates!
When do I make a landing page?
As soon as possible! ...No, but really, you should try to make landing pages for your games months before release if you can. Wishlists on Steam are basically an automated email blast of when a game launches and goes on sale, so you want to collect as many of those as you can. And like I said with the analogy, if you wait until release to have a landing page, you're missing out on potential customers who lost interest because there wasn't a way for them to follow the game.
As game devs, we're all guilty of procrastinating things that aren't coding or art or writing (aka, everything business) but we really should try harder to put landing pages and such up sooner. Maybe next time I'll write on the abysmal importance of wishlists on Steam and how they translate to sales on launch day...