Tuesday, April 2, 2013

A photo tells a story (Game promotion 1)

I had a half finished post on the role of pictures - for web promotion in general and the SL destination guide in particular - in my drawer for some time. Today I saw Iris Ophelia from New World Notes underlining the importance of photos for event promotion:
If you're organizing an event or a fair, do me a favor: Ditch the stock photos and hire someone awesome like any of the artists behind these, because they'll hook you up with eye-catching art that actually tells me something about your event.
I could not agree more with her. In the past Months - since I am writing this blog - I realized that most game creators invest hundreds or even thousands of working hours into the creation of their builds and the scripting of the game elements. But when it comes to the marketing of their game release, they seem to believe that a good product does not need much marketing. 

This picture from Billy Dollinger would be a great promotional image for a football game - much better than showing another empty stadium...

Here is a countering quote from a marketing professional and I totally agree on his point:
There’s a widely known theory in business: “If you build it, they will come.” This actually couldn’t be more incorrect. [...] One thing we’ve seen is that most startup founders focus so much of their time and money on their product and the launch that they completely neglect to develop a strategy [...] for acquiring users and actually marketing the product. 

Let's go back to what Iris said about art or pictures that actually tell a story and why they are so important for promotion of SL locations and events.  Let me cite two marketing blogs that specialize on web promotion:
Pictures are the central element of the Second Life Destination Guide, the most important advertisement tool for Second Life locations. In other words: the image decides largely about your success or failure in promoting your product on the Destination Guide . Almost every game designer does put their game on the Destination Guide, but how appealing are the entries? Do the game creators make the most of this tool? Well, my answer would be a clear no for many of them. Why? Because most of the time the image just doesn't tell anything.

The promotion picture for my Snowball fight parcel which was shown at the SL Destination Guide 

Last December I put a ready-to-play Snowball game in the backyard of my parcel. I had the purchased the game system on the marketplace. Building the place did not take me more than 2 hours as I bought some additional snow landscape builds. I liked this game so much that I wanted to share the fun with other people and decided to apply for a place on the destination guide. Most other people would probably have made a photo of their playground and a description of the game mechanics. I did invest 5-6 hours to create a picture which tells a story. And I was well aware that I would have only and exactly get 657 by 394 pixels to get an appealing message across.

I drew an image of how I wanted the scene to look. I searched my inventory for poses that would fit the scene. I reworked the poses with a special pose builder. I asked friends to sit on the poses so that we would find the best distance and angle between the avatars. We changed the windlight settings several times and took photos from different angles. And I reworked and cropped the best photo with a graphics program.

But even if you have the potential players' full attention with a good picture on the destination guide, the descriptive text still plays an important role to convince people. So I researched the internet for all positive connotations and citations for snowball fights that I could find. I mingled them with my description of the game mechanics and I shortened the primary result to one page. Then I needed to extract the essence of this text to one paragraph. Because you only have 400 characters for the destination guide entry to convince people. 

I would so much like if every destination guide image told a story and expressed emotions. Instead most images are very simple screenshots of the landscape. Landscape pictures can also tell stories, but on the Destination Guide they rarely do.


If you think that you're not the best person for the job, then do hire someone or organize a competition and promise the winning picture 5000L (but in the latter case, don't forget to get the word to the competent people). Such a prize is a small investment compared to all the other investments you'll do for your game. The outcome on the Second Life Destination Guide will catch the attention of people and multiply the number of gamers visiting your location.


  1. This is very true Stella and something i do consider when submitting my experiences to destination guide. People look for something that catches their eye when looking through the destination guide, it can the single most important thing to make a persons decision to visit your place. But i have found that quite often the image i submit is not the one Linden Labs editors use. For example My first game "the hidden secret base' i submitted a picture of my avatar walking down the dark corridor. I thought this was a good tease at what users would find inside and conjured questions of what is down that cave, whats secrets would i find? But Linden Labs editors decided to use a pic they took of someone sat by a camp fire that was not at all related to the underground base. I complained and they soon replaced it with the one i submitted. A month or so later LL changed the image again to one the one it has currently. While this shows exactly what you will see when you arrive at the start, it does not grab your attention or imagination. . So while its good to consider your snapshot promotional image, your ultimately at the mercy of the Lindens Editor with wether it gets used or not.

  2. Thanks a lot for your helpful comment, Loki. It would have been a tragedy if anyone follows my advice to pay a professional and find their money wasted because the destination guide editor has another idea of a good picture. I have written a follow-up post which can be found here: