How to handle the death of a platform (for example: Twitter)
Maybe you don't use Twitter, but what would you do if Steam disappeared?
We're making games, but we need places for those games to exist, and places to promote those games or nobody will know about them. It may not seem like it, but nothing on the Internet is permanent. Sometimes a platform you've invested heavily in will change for the worse or shut down entirely.
This happened to Tumblr a while back, Facebook has been undergoing an identity crisis with Meta, and Twitter just changed its ownership and is supposedly undergoing significant internal changes. (Especially alarming rumors include the content moderation changing for the worse.)
So! You've invested significant time on a given platform, and things are looking uncertain. Here's are 5 ways that I handle this stuff:
- Build in your own backyard
- Listen for signals
- Make deliberate decisions
- Find the action
- Leave breadcrumbs
1/ Build in your own backyard
The first step is to not be overly dependent on any given platform. I'm trying to do as much Valadria stuff through valadria.com as I possibly can. Valadria will of course provide links to the other stuff I'm working on, like Amazon, YouTube and Twitter, but whenever possible, use your own URL that you control!
For those of you who remember Lost Decade Games, we used to have a Patreon for our podcast, Lostcast. After my experience running that for a few years: you're really promoting Patreon! More-so even than your own offering. First you have to convince someone to sign up for Patreon, then add their payment info, then agree to support your offering. And of course Patreon gets a cut of everything.
So buy your own domain, it doesn't matter what -- yourcompany.io or yourname.com so long as you own it you can do whatever you want with it.
2/ Listen for signals
We talked earlier about moderation becoming a problem on Twitter. I really hope people don't see shots of my game dev book next to something terribly offensive. I wrote this book so that even young children could enjoy it; I don't want it associated with anything offensive or foul, ya know?
On my Twitter feed lately, I'm seeing lots of developers I follow & admire saying that they're jumping ship. I've seen a few "goodbye" posts and other complaints. These are all signs that the writing is on the wall.
So keep your eye out for these, be aware, and react accordingly, but --
3/ Make deliberate decisions
Don't panic! I actually think it's a little early to start jumping ship. Mastadon and Cohost or whatever all sound like cool Twitter-esque platforms and I may end up using them someday, but I'll be on Twitter for a while yet. I've been on the platform since 2008. That's 14 years my friends. That's about 1/3rd of my life!
So don't bail on something you've invested in unless or until you feel that you must. Give things time to stabilize before making any rash decisions. Certainly I wouldn't recommend making a big "goodbye" post (and definitely do not delete your account until you've had a long time to consider it).
4/ Find the action
One of the cool things about the Internet is that it's always hot somewhere! 🔥 Sometimes Twitter is the explosive platform of the moment, sometimes it's TikTok and in the future it'll surely be something new and different.
Platforms come and go, but you and your work remain. Your work will always be important to you and people will always want to find cool new work like yours. Where are the people right now? Which of the hundreds of thousands of platforms vying for your attention are worth your time right now?
Put your feelers out and compile a list of the platforms that are buzzing with players that might be interested in your game or other offerings. Try them out!
Recently I've been experimenting with "shorts" as the kids call 'em. Check out the last Make the Game episode: Scratch your itch with ChuyPlays. It's uhh weird in that it's in a 9:16 aspect ratio, or ya know, "portrait" so it's meant to look good on your phone.
I did this so I could splice YouTube shorts (10-60 second clips) out of the actual episode itself (clocking in at 58 minutes).
It's an odd video to watch on YouTube because it converted my upload to landscape, meaning it has big black bars on the sides (thankfully the Spotify video did not do this). Probably at least partially due to this, that video has far fewer views than other episodes. This is kind of evidence that YouTube and I both struggle with the new format! (It feels like everyone does.)
But it's important to experiment with platforms. As one platform wanes, another might be investing heavily into promoting cool stuff like yours. After experimenting with shorts for a few weeks, here are some of my findings:
✅ YouTube shorts – higher than average views & most views of any video I've posted since launching Valadria on YouTube. I'm convinced that YouTube is currently incentivizing shorts content (not so much long form content).
⛔️ TikTok – barely any engagement. (Which makes sense, as I'm brand new and barely use it.) I get the feeling that I need to learn more about TikTok before my videos there will resonate with enough people to be worth creating. Currently I'm seeing a bigger investment to get onboard than I can afford at the moment.
I've heard that both platforms were great places to gather an audience, and now I finally have some numbers to see what that means for me and the stuff I'm making. (Have you tried either? How's it gone for you?)
5/ Leave breadcrumbs
If you do decide to ditch Twitter, or whatever platform you're leaving, don't just ghost it (and certainly don't delete it!). Update your profile/bio and leave links to your own URLs.
Another good tip is to create a tweet (or post) that also includes links to these places. (Maybe include a photo of yourself so people remember what you look like!) Pin that baby so it's at the top of your profile, and anyone who visits your profile will know exactly where they can still find you.
So there you have it: if you're worried about platform instability, follow this advice: build in your own backyard, listen for signals, make deliberate decisions, find the action, and leave breadcrumbs.
Time for some maintenance stuff
How is everybody? I've been AWFUL. Feels like everybody's sicker than normal. This has been a rough couple of months for me health-wise. Wherever you are, I hope you're doing alright. Be kind and take care of yourself. ❤️
Thank you for your messages about the volume issues in the previous episode. I've tried creating entire podcast episodes in Final Cut Pro with mixed results, so I'm back using Reaper to record the audio. I'm more familiar with this software so I'm expecting better results. Let me know if the volumes are better (or not)!
This episode isn't really about game development, per se, but that tracks with the kinds of things I've been doing as a solo developer recently. As much as I just want to lock myself up in my room and work on Witchmore all day, I've also gotta run a business to keep the lights on. So I run multiple social media accounts, create podcasts like this one, and of course, I'm constantly promoting my book --
-- speaking of which! --
I wanted to share with you a major milestone – How to Make a Video Game All By Yourself just recently sold more than 1,000 copies total across Amazon, Google, Gumroad, and Itch. This is a big deal, I'm so proud, and I want to thank you for helping the book reach this milestone. Over on the selfpublish subreddit, I posted a thorough write-up about how I wrote the book and what I did to promote it, so check that out if you'd like to read more and see my many answers to the community's great questions.
I know you probably already have the book! But if I can ask another favor, if you've got a minute please give it 5 stars: It's currently at 43 reviews on Amazon and I'd love to hit that sweet round 50! Also my poor book is suffering at 3.3 stars on Google Play and it makes me sad. There are barely any ratings so even just one more 5-star review makes a big positive impact. It's hard, but I'm trying to get better about asking! Thanks for your support.
For those of you getting the Valadria newsletter, you should have a recipe for chicken curry salad in your inboxes, along with some insights about this dish as pertains to video game development.
A future episode will include ... pancakes! They're amazing, and we can learn a lot about game dev by making them. Stay tuned.
(If you listened to the podcast version, you were played out by Del Rio Bravo.)