Goat Simulator is a weird game and everything about its PR is just as odd. At Nordic Game Conference, Armin Ibrisagic, game designer and PR manager at Coffee Stain Studios, shared how fans led the way in an unorthodox PR campaign.
Goat Simulator was conceived during a month-long game jam for new employees and never intended to become a valid game. Let alone a hit. Most assets were bought from asset shops –the goat itself costed no more than 20 dollars. The concept is actually an idea by Ibrisagic himself, who became obsessed with searching (and finding) tons of pictures of goats on Google.
The first time Ibrisagic shared footage of Goat Simulator, the ‘trailer’ went viral. Although it was just a minute and a half of bare bones gameplay, people described it as ‘GTA with a goat protagonist’. That couldn’t be further from the truth –the game didn’t even have AI! The team tried to manage expectations by telling people to not buy the game, but that only increased the demand (and no, this was not smart reverse psychology trick).
Major press outlets started asking for review codes, but they were all denied. And maybe for a good reason, because The Guardian rated Goat Simulator a one out of five. Such a bad review would have had a devastating effect on most games, but for Goat Simulator it was quite the opposite. Their ever-increasing fan base was infuriated and started to leave comments. At one point the review got so many hits that it ended up on the Guardian front page and it made the game even more well known and popular.
This was not part of a carefully planned PR campaign. On the contrary, Coffee Stain had no clue what they were doing, but fans seemed to be a huge asset for promoting the game and most of the fans were on Facebook. Within the first weeks of launch the Goat Simulator Facebook page hit 80.000 likes (currently that number sits north of 200K), but keeping fans entertained and have them share posts was a process of trial and error.
Facebook tests updates, before they show them to a large group of people. First the update is shown to a small part of the fans. Does that result in a lot of likes, it’s shown to a larger group, and so on. This means Facebook controls ‘virality’, and you need to pass these hurdles to reach most of your fans. By testing various things it became obvious that people are less likely to share updates that sound like ads. They will also not share things that make them look dumb, especially not since a lot of Facebook users also have their bosses and grandma’s in their friends list. Therefore, you have to make sure that your updates are not only fun for your fans, but also for their friends.
As could be expected of Goat Simulator fans, it turned out that they love silly stuff. The ‘Share this Goat For No Reason’ photo was shared more than 9.000 times!
And a funny goat picture linked to graphics card support also was a hit. Also including Hideo Kojima in the credits got a lot of likes.
Still not every post was a hit. This one trying to get people to buy merchandise was hardly liked at all.
According to Armin Ibrisagic, the promotion of Goat Simulator has shown that in this day and age it’s more important to have a sense of humor and to know how to make people smile than having knowledge about traditional marketing.