How do you stand out from the mass of indie games online?
There is certainly no shortage of indie games for players to choose from. On Steam alone, there are 22,059 indie games at the date of writing!
Even with the best gameplay footage and screenshots to entice players to dive deeper on your game page, you can’t just stick a basic marketplace description and count on the visuals to pull more than their fair share of the weight to convince players to choose your game.
Here’s how to write a kickass description for your game’s storefront that will engage players and make them hungry for more.
1 - Anatomy of a great game description (DOs)
2 - Game description mistakes (DON'Ts)
3 - Tips for creative writing
Breaking down the game description structure
If you take a look at the most successful game descriptions, they all follow a common structure.
Let rsquo;s break down this structure and explore how the devs of the successful indie game, Don’t Starve, created an awesome game description that captivated players!
1. A one-sentence zinger that sums up the game experience and hooks readers
Your opening sentence - the first words your prospective players will see - serves two purposes:
To catch the eye of targeted players;
To rule out players who will not be interested in your game.
Let’s face it - not everyone is going to like your game. If you’re making something amazing and unique, there will always be some people who will absolutely love it, and others who won’t care for it at all. And that’s okay!
Your job is to focus on engaging those who will like your game.
Your zinger should be short and sweet, but still needs to capture the essence of your game.
Let’s take a closer look at the zinger created by Don’t Starve:
This sentence tells the player to expect a survival game that won’t forgive your mistakes, and that lovers of science and magic will be well-served. See how this immediately appeals to players who love a challenge (and a niche topic)?
2. A few descriptive sentences (up to five)
After the zinger comes a longer description of your game.
To describe your game, use a blend of context and story elements with action-oriented language. Avoid passive language at all costs!
You want to paint a scene in your player’s mind of what it will truly feel like to play your game. Let’s see what kind of image Don’t Starve paints:
Notice how three of their four sentences start directly with action words?
This description incorporates vivid imagery to tell the player what they’ll be doing and how they’ll be doing it. That way, you can really imagine yourself in their mysterious world.
3. A final compelling hook to seal the deal
Now is the time to present your final value proposition - what will players get out of playing your game?
“Fun” is an obvious answer, but let’s go deeper than that.
Don’t Starve communicates to their players that the game affords endless variations in playing styles, while offering a unique opportunity for adventure and discovery. This final hook conveys more than just fun - it shows what type of experience you can expect.
4. Bullet points with gameplay features
After hooking your reader with an awesome description, you’ll need to provide details about more specific features to give them an understanding of the intricacies of your game.
But don’t be tempted to just list out your features here! Use creative language that fits with the tone of your game.
Let’s take a look at one of the bullet points included in the key features of Don’t Starve:
Notice how this bullet point clearly illustrates the game features - crafting, hunting, etc. - in a way that fits with the tone of voice shown in the previous sections of the description.
Don’t be afraid to be colorful here and let your game shine!
Avoid these game description mistakes!
Now that you know what to do, let’s take a look at a few blunders to avoid.
Overwhelming readers with too much info
Sometimes it’s tempting to lay down everything about your game in the hope that more means better.
But if you churn out a pile of information in your marketplace description, readers won’t know what to take away from it!
They may also be intimidated or bored by the length of your text and decide to move on to the next game instead.
Giving everything away
Your game has some pretty great moments and features. You know it, we know it, and you want your target players to know it, too.
But don’t be tempted into giving away the juiciest, most exciting moments of your game when writing your description!
You still want players to feel like there’s more left to discover if they purchase your game. But if you spill all your beans in the description, there won’t be anything new to stumble upon.
Make a list of your best moments and features, and then figure out a way to word your description to tease out these star moments without completely giving it away at the storefront.
For instance, take a look at this Don’t Starve bullet point:
Who are these 2D characters? What kind of odd creatures are they? Are they dangerous, friendly, scary? Yup, we don’t know! We need to play to find out.
Exaggerating your features
You don’t ever want to mislead players into purchasing your game by exaggerating your features. That’s even worse than giving everything away.
Though this might win you more purchases in the short term as people get excited over your cool features, once players figure out your description was inflated, it will inevitably lead to angry reviews.
People take a leap of faith when they decide to take your word for it and spend their hard-earned cash on your game. Lying or exaggerating your features is a breach of that trust. Doing this will kill any long-term momentum you might have built up with them.
Localizing with Google Translate
Game descriptions are what your potential audience sees first - so don’t waste this golden opportunity with a messy translation.
If your marketplace description is gibberish, players may assume the rest of your game is just as carelessly cobbled together.
Out of inspiration? Try digging through your playtest data and your market research
So you’ve got all the tips you need and you’re ready to write your game description. But you just don’t know where to start or what words to use - you’re out of inspiration!
Now, if you’re at this point in the game development process, you’ve probably tested your game on a sample audience.
Gather the feedback players gave about your game during these playtests, then sift through that data to uncover golden nuggets that will serve as a starting point.
Sometimes, players are the best at finding awesome words to describe the experience they had with your game. You may only find unusable data, but it’s worth a shot.
For instance, if your playtesters just kept adding comments like “Yeah, it was fun” or “Cool game,” that won’t get you anywhere.
On the other hand, if other playtesters used more unusual expressions to describe their experience, like, “It felt like building Ikea furniture, but on steroids,” that can be much more helpful!
You don’t need to use these quotes verbatim, but don’t be afraid to pull out specific words or phrases either.
This can be just the push you need to get your game description where it needs to be!