Crafting Your Story
Pixels & Profits: Chapter 10
The Power of Story
While branding gives your indie a unique identity, storytelling gives it a soul. A compelling narrative can enthrall players, evoke emotions, and provide a deeper meaning to the experience.
Whether it’s a complex RPG, a simple platformer, or an interactive visual novel, a well-crafted story can turn a good game into an unforgettable masterpiece.
Simple games can use storytelling to their advantage too.
For example, “Angry Birds” is a simple game where you fling birds at pigs. But add in the backstory of the pigs stealing the birds’ eggs, and voila, you have a story that adds depth, emotion, and a touch of humor to the game.
Storytelling is how you accomplish that shift and evolve from a one-off game into a lucrative intellectual property spanning toys, movies, and more.
But don’t make the mistake of limiting storytelling to your game narrative alone.
You’ll use similar techniques in your marketing.
Consider the series you’re so deep into reading right now…
Rather than raw knowledge, the lessons taught here exist within a larger story: Your story, told through the lens of our characters Larry and Jasper.
Great storytelling invites your audience into your world, creates powerful emotional connections, and makes the experience of encountering your brand memorable.
Everything we do at Wabbit is saturated in it, because…
It’s not just about the story within the game — it’s the story of why make the game at all.
Recall the story of why I’m writing this series for you in the first place.
I want to help you get your game the attention it deserves.
So I will end your confusion about marketing, forever.
That’s why I’m drawing you into the world we’ve created, and why I’m leveraging that narrative to teach you the very same lessons we’ve used to help smash the goals of every client who comes to us.
Because my pursuit of game dev as a hobby revealed that this needed to be done.
So I began weaving you into the story we’d already spent the last 5 years developing.
That narrative had to start somewhere — and just like the beginning stages of marketing, developing a story begins with understanding your characters, their motivations, and the world they inhabit.
- What do they want?
- What obstacles must they overcome to get it?
- How do they change as they progress through the story?
By answering these questions, you too can create a narrative arc that engages players and compels them to keep playing or, in our case, reading.
How to Craft Captivation
Combining strong branding and effective storytelling is a potent recipe for success in every market on Earth, videogame or otherwise. Humans are a story-driven species.
In fact, storytelling is one of our oldest skills.
It is innate.
Don’t take that to mean you’re already great at it though. You probably aren’t. Not yet.
It will take practice.
In the context of marketing, branding and storytelling are like the icing on the cake of a strong offer (the product).
As you skill up, you will learn to create compelling stories and experiences that resonate with your audience.
But it all starts with the same kinds of questions we’ve been asking ourselves throughout this entire series:
- Who is your audience?
- What kind of stories would resonate with them?
With the addition of purpose-focused questions, like:
- What emotions do you want to evoke in them?
- What action do you want to inspire?
Wabbit has a distinctive brand identity — colorful art, whimsical characters, and a playful atmosphere. We pair this with a compelling narrative that sees our hero (that’s you) on an epic quest of entrepreneurial discovery and personal growth.
We chose this path because these are the stories that resonate with our tribe, keep them engaged, and bring them back for more.
Our visual identity not only creates a unified, cohesive world — it aids our teaching efforts as well.
Consider this: we are often highly critical of the status quo, and it is easier to receive criticism via analogies and cartoon bunnies.
We want to do everything we can to make a difference, which also includes being willing to entertain while educating, and tell the story in whichever way our audience needs to hear it.
Once you understand your tribe deeply, you can begin to weave relevant and compelling stories into every piece of content you create – be it trailers, social media posts, blog posts, or even patch notes.
Star Citizen: A Study in Successful Storytelling
The crowdfunding phenomenon, Star Citizen, didn’t succeed because the game promised an amazing story — in fact, it didn’t promise anything of the kind.
The cash came pouring in because of the story behind why the game needed to exist, and the story of the person setting out to make it, and the collective story of every player who dreams of their perfect space sim.
It’s the combination of those stories, and their relationships to one another that made the difference.
From day one of their crowdfunding efforts, the team at Cloud Imperium Games have proven themselves masters of leveraging story to build a brand.
Even today they remain an outstanding example of what’s possible when incorporating story into marketing.
Here’s how they introduce new ships:
There are real-world, modern car companies who can’t make a commercial that good.
Not only is it visually stunning and wonderfully directed, it speaks directly to the people who would be most interested in it, and it tells the story of their dreams.
All without mentioning features or price.
As a long-time member of the Star Citizen tribe I (and my wallet) can tell you, it works.
It works so well that in the last decade Cloud Imperium Games (the parent company) has raised over $500,000,000 using exactly that kind of marketing.
By the way, that ship is priced around $250.
That is priced in actual cash, not some in-game currency.
To outsiders, this makes no sense — why would someone pay so much money for a ship that only exists in the game? Why would you pay cash at all when the ship can be obtained through regular play?
Why would we spend anything at all, when the game isn’t even finished yet?
Because most of us 4 million players are invested in the realization of what Star Citizen aims to be.
The players believe in the vision, and (more importantly) in the people doing the work to make it happen.
Merging Branding & Storytelling
To sum it up, branding gives your game a unique identity, and storytelling immerses your target audience in your world, creating emotional connections and making you memorable. These two components (when paired with audience research) can set your game apart from the crowd, foster a loyal player base, and drive the success of your indie game like no other.
Your business, your brand, your game — it’s all so much more than a combination mechanics and graphics — it’s an experience. And the strength of that experience lies in the world you create, the characters you develop, and the stories you tell.
This is as true for games as it is for marketing in general. So, stay focused on your tribe, and let your imagination run wild!
But perhaps you want to develop an even deeper connection with your audience then the standard…
In that case, you might find establishing your own personal brand to be the unique ingredient that sets you apart in this crowded industry.
We’ll talk about that more, next.
Click the button below when you’re ready…