A Horror Story to Developers

Kelsy Medeiros

Published on 25/06/2024

Steam has been supporting indie developers for quite a significant period, and its efforts to promote indie games have evolved. The platform has been a crucial player in the rise of indie games and developers, building their increased visibility in the gaming industry.

Developers could pay a one-time fee per game to gain access to the Steam publishing tools. With this, the platform has implemented features and initiatives to highlight and promote indie games over the years. This includes dedicated sections for indie games, curated lists, and special promotions during events like the Steam Summer Sale.

Overall, Steam has played a pivotal role in empowering indie developers by providing them a platform to reach a global audience. The commitment to indie development continues to be a substantial aspect of Steam’s overall strategy.

Valve may be commended for its developer-supporting platform, but errors beyond anyone’s control can still occur. Unfortunately, one of these errors happened to Bold Spirit Games recently. Their horrific event cost 250K Potential Sales and led to the closure of their indie studio.

Bold Spirit Games: The Horrific Events of Red Trigger Remake

We’ve met Maxime Vézina, founder, Creative Director and co-producer at Bold Spirit Game Studio at MIGS 2023. Max was the leading developer behind the Red Trigger series. The first game, released in 206, received acclaim at a student gala and was later released on Steam for free, amassing 250,000 downloads and a 90% positive rating.

In 2020, I founded Bold Spirit Games and began work on a sequel, ‘ Red Trigger 2,’ aiming for a more ambitious project. Facing challenges with publishers, Max and his team opted to rename the original game to ‘Red Trigger Prologue’ and the sequel to ‘Red Trigger’ to clarify their relationship.

However, a series of misunderstandings with Steam, involving name changes, a remake, and pricing adjustments, led to the accidental deletion of the remake’s Steam page. This, along with a reset in reviews and complications in the release, resulted in a commercial failure, leaving the studio financially strained and the future uncertain.”

The consequences included the loss of wishlists, a lack of visibility for the remake’s launch, and a drastic drop in reviews. The unintended association of the original free game with the paid remake impacted potential sales, ultimately leading to financial difficulties for Bold Spirit Game Studio.

Despite efforts to recover through a Kickstarter campaign for the sequel, the diminished visibility and financial setbacks forced the studio to disband, with the founder contemplating a return to a traditional studio job to rebuild resources for a potential future attempt. Max had recently been featured as a guest on the “Self-Publishing: Independent Game Commercialization” panel, where he shared his nightmare in detail. Here’s a short video highlighting his tale:

Starting Over Can be an Opportunity

As the community manager at GameRebellion, I played the upcoming Red Trigger 2 for about 30 minutes. This was not the first time I dove into the series, and I was very excited to see the updates Max and his team made to the game. The game was polished and felt amazing to play. Each puzzle and every decision that went into its level design was mind-blowing. I smiled and laughed with the developers at Bold Spirit Games for my full-time playing the game.

I left the booth with a painful smile as I realized how much I enjoyed the game. It’s impressive that this team created something special. My time with the title got me thinking: “How can Max bring his game back into the Steam platform?”

Unfortunate Events to Opportunities

Though Max has expressed frustration, he has taken his story to use as a warning to all developers in the industry. He wishes for everyone to learn from the unfortunate event and has now realized that this story can be used to spread some light on his game. The team is highly determined to push Red Trigger Remake in marketing and is willing to do the necessary work to reach its prior community and potential new audiences.

This motivation is a recipe for success that is only guaranteed to come by. The team could have called it quits in this given instance, but instead, Bold Spirit Game Studios is using this story to fill its passionate hunger for sales. Bold Spirit Games has already taken the first steps in its new marketing strategy by speaking publicly about what has happened to its game through tradeshow panels and online through their Reddit form.

They have been networking with the gaming community about their game’s genre. That being said, there is still much work to be done, but don’t worry, we’re here to help the team with some tips and tricks!

Surpassing your Original Success

Starting from scratch may be demotivating, but having the proper mindset is a great place to start. Video game marketing strategies are an ever-evolving medium. As time passes, people change, games change, algorithms change, and so does the market.

What worked previously may not necessarily work today. Not to completely erase the hard work done beforehand but to use it as a reference in researching what will work now as a base for their brand-new marketing strategy. Think of when you first started marketing your game, but now you have an outline to help you. In Red Trigger’s case, we researched the critical ways for the developers to reach their core audience.

1. Use Your Unfortunate Event as a Promotion

What happened with Bold Spirit Games is an error that should have never happened. However, it makes the development of Red Trigger Remake unique. We mentioned in other articles that successful indie games like Cuphead and Super Meat Boy faced uniquely tricky development processes.

Bold Spirit Games shared their story on XSolla’s panel at MIGS, earning many new B2B opportunities. The team also released their Reddit statement, informing the video game community about their tragedy. Since then, Reddit posts have attracted over 300,000 readers. This number doesn’t include additional articles published by other news outlets, including those in the gaming industry.

2. Make an Engaging Steam Page

Steam pages aren’t just present to represent your game’s storefront. This page is your game’s home. It brings out the game’s personality and growth, which can include various features. Developer vlogs, updates, patches, screenshots, and Q&As can be shared on Steam pages. These interactions help engage the gaming community and boost your game’s relevance on Steam.

Making beta versions accessible is a great way to get players’ feedback for free. Use reviews from players to improve your game’s design. This also promotes your title naturally, as gamers can play and review your game. When players reach the end of the demo, display a “Feedback” message. This motivates gamers to leave their input on the title upon finishing the demo.

Steam page. A live stream usually showcases fans of the game’s stream of the title.

3. Utilize Social Media Groups and build a Community.

Before marketing your game publicly, it’s essential to research your game’s identity and what kind of gamer you will be trying to reach. The case of Red Trigger targets the genres of puzzle solving, first-person shooting, strategy, and platforming. Red Trigger has taken massive inspiration from Portal, which has found significant success across the community. Red Trigger can learn a lot from studying its target audience and getting involved with the Portal fan community.

Facebook Group pages and indie game servers on Discord, including their very own server, are essential when creating a loyal and supportive community. Twitter, Reddit, and TikTok are great ways to reach out to gamers who are scrolling and searching for their next adventure to fulfill their gaming needs. Developers can create a relatable brand for the series by replying to comments, creating memes, hosting developer diaries and more.

Indie Game Devs on Facebook is an active group with over 54,000 members. These members consist of developer updates for their titles, tips and tricks in game development, resourcing, and networking.

4. Reach Out to Influencers & Reviewers

Streaming is now the most popular form of media in the gaming industry. From micro streamers to affiliates and partners, hundreds of streamers are working on their brands in visibility for their channels.

Researching your target audiences’ figureheads in the influencer communities is a great way to spread content about your game while earning new followers. Sending your builds to major reviewers such as Gamespot and Polygon allows your audiences to see how critical your game is. Gamers cannot be fooled; they know what makes a great game and will be willing to purchase what they know will be fun.

Famous gaming influencer: EazySpeezy’s video on Cuphead earned 10 million views and brought much attention to the indie title.

5. Participate in Events

As Bold Spirit Games did at MIGS, participating in events is essential for B2B and B2C opportunities. These tradeshows allow developers to show their game to investors who can fund greater production ambitions. Developers can meet marketing experts (like us! 👋) and give gamers hands-on experience with the game. This helps gamers decide if they want to purchase the game on release.

It also allows gamers to meet the developers and understand the kind of people they are. Creating a personal connection with gamers is a great way to grow your game’s community on Discord. This also helps increase your game’s traffic.

The Beginning of a New Chapter

Though the horror events of Red Trigger Remake have occurred, there is no such thing as a time machine. We can’t go back, but we can use what has been done to create a better future for the title. Red Trigger Remake is a fantastic time, and the developers are incredibly kind and passionate about their work and the video game community. As gamers themselves, they understand games on a deeper level.

Our rebel in command: REB-E (left) standing tall with Maxime Vézina (right) at MIGS 2023 after meeting each other over the story of Red Trigger Remake.

Since the team’s statement about their game, hundreds of thousands of watchers have been on this event. There is no doubt that the core of the game’s development story has ended so that the climax can begin. You can check out Red Trigger on Steam to experience the passionate project yourselves while staying up to date with Red Trigger 2’s development. We wish Bold Spirit Games nothing but luck and success!

Share your thoughts about the story with us. What marketing strategies could they apply to increase their game’s visibility? 🚀 check out more articles, here!

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