Hug a Panda at Nan Desu Kan
Finally, time for an update. Last week on Facebook and Twitter I posted photos of the T-shirts and mini-cards that I was bringing to Nan Desu Kan this past weekend. It was the first time I did promotion like this, and knowing nothing about marketing, I wasn’t even sure if it was the “right” thing to do, but talking directly to potential fans — and hopefully converting some to real fans — definitely taught me a great deal. Overall I would call it a success!
Before we go into details, just want to apologize for the lack of blogging and website update. Hug a Panda is a one-person operation, so I have to do game development, finance, and marketing by myself — all on top of my consulting work. Only if I could sleep less! Last week has been especially taxing because I’ve been neck deep getting the Atomic Supers demo ready for the convention. Going forward, I promise to update at least once a week, but for the latest news, be sure to follow and like us on Twitter and Facebook.
Having attended Anime Expo for years, anime convention isn’t unfamiliar territory for me. Though Nan Desu Kan is smaller in scale, the higher concentration of dedicated fans gives it a much cozier atmosphere that allows easier interaction among strangers. After all, we all share a common passion for Japanese animation.
After checking in and picking up my badge Saturday morning, I went straight to work. My plan was simple: stand at various locations of high traffic, hand people the mini-cards, and if they were curious and asked for more info, I would do a 1-minute show-n-tell, and give them a T-shirt. Of course, the eye-catching T-shirt I was wearing helped greatly in attracting attention.
The plan worked somewhat. I handed out at least a few hundred cards and maybe a dozen T-shirts. At that rate though, I was worried I would not give all the T-shirts out before the convention ended. I decided to make a quick trip to Home Depot to get some paper, tape, and made a “Free T-shirt” sign that I taped to myself.
The sign helped, but I was still not reaching out fast enough. In the evening, I added an “Ask Me” to the sign, and made another sign because I was planning to lay out all my T-shirts on one of the tables at the lobby of the hotel where the convention was held. Up to that point I only kept the T-shirts in my backpack and a small carry-on I was dragging around. Luckily I didn’t get to that. Some of the popular events like the cosplay contest were in the evening, so the crowd was bigger than before, and I was able to hand out all the T-shirts. Mission accomplished.
Anyway, handing out T-shirts was a challenge, but my most worried part was if people liked the game. As much as I love my own game, it’s quite another thing for others to love it too. It was crucial for the demo to be fast, simple, and showcasing the main features of the game. To those ends, I made the demo show a sample head quarter background with three characters on screen. You could tap the first one to do one type of superpower, another one was walking around that would randomly do another type of power, and tapping the third one would take you to the character customization screen to change the outfit.
Yes, I know at this point you would like to see a video or at least some screenshots of the demo, but the game is still in development, and there’re a few things I’m tweaking, so I’ve decided not to show it on the web at this point. Don’t worry, I’ll be sharing them soon enough. But, only the lucky Nan Desu Kan few got to see the first ever Atomic Supers demo.
The response to the demo was fantastic! Everyone immediately fell in love the with art style (they probably wouldn’t have noticed my T-shirt in the first place). The charming superpower animations got a lot of chuckles. And, the character customization impressed. One commented, “It’s like MapleStory, but much better!” I got some high-fives, a few hugs, and a mom even asked me for a photo with her kids — upon learning that I was the game designer — and of course I happily obliged!
People loved the T-shirt too. Even as early as the afternoon of the day I started giving them out, people were wearing my T-shirts at the convention. At the Boston Market where I had a lunch, the cashier girl — also a proud iPhone owner — really liked my T-shirt. I didn’t have extras with me at the time, but I went back the next day, just before I left for the airport, to give her one. I knew she would appreciate the gesture, but she didn’t know that I appreciated her kind words even more. The tremendous response gave me great encouragement to make Atomic Supers the best it can be.
The trip wouldn’t have been a success if I didn’t learn anything. After all, it’s in my motto, “Live to learn, live to create.” Besides the various sales pitch techniques I picked up as I went, there were two major lessons learned:
Lesson 1: It’s much easier to sell the product if the product is already out. This is especially applicable to a mobile phone game. Everyone asked me when the game would be released. My standard answer was “in about a month.” Had the game been out, I could simply ask them to download it then and there, instantly turning them into a fan. There would be no downside to trying it out, since the game would be FREE. As it stands, people are not likely to remember the game after a month. Good thing is every time they see the T-shirt, they’ll be reminded. Once the game is released though, I’ll be going full force on marketing.
Lesson 2: Android version should be developed in parallel. Of all the people I talked to, I would say 60-70% of them were Android users (there was one Windows phone user, and a few only had feature phones). Being most familiar with iOS development, I’ve been focusing on making the game for iPhone; Android version was just an afterthought. However, I’m going to miss out on a lot of potential fans. To be a better game developer, I have to know my market. I’m re-prioritizing and working on the Android version as soon as possible.
As an introvert, the mere thought of initiating conversations with strangers gives me stress. To be honest, there were times I was questioning myself and wanted to come home. Even now I wonder what drove me to plan this out, make the T-shirts and cards, and fly to Denver to basically become a sales person. Way out of my comfort zone. Well, I think it comes down to giving this game the best chance possible, and I would never learn if I don’t try something new. In any case, NDK has been great, even if I didn’t get to participate in the events much. Love to come back one day.
Lastly, I want to give special thanks to my awesome friend in Denver who was basically my local transportation, and to my mom who helped me fold and pack the 70 T-shirts neatly into my luggage. The road to realizing my dream is lonely and full of obstacles. I’m blessed with great friends and family, and I’ll forever be grateful to those who help me along the way, making the journey that much more wonderful. Now let’s finish the game!
Posted: September 18th, 2012 under Atomic Supers, Development, Games, iOS - iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, News.
Posted by: Randy
Tags: Android, Atomic Supers, Boston Market, demo, Denver, Facebook, iPhone, mini-card, Nan Desu Kan, NDK, T-shirt, Twitter