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A Subjective Bullet Point

This article contains 1 tip about 1 marketing subject, and 3 actionables.

Rami Ismail
Rami Ismail
4 min read
A Subjective Bullet Point
Photo by Belinda Fewings / Unsplash

In my opinion, the blurb is -behind ARPPU- one of the worst-named things in games. Despite its awful name, writing a short summary will become a very frequently used skill as an independent developer or creator - whether it is for your store page, your publisher pitch, or your website. A blurb is a short promotional text about a game, and we tend to write them for three places: tag lines, store descriptions, and feature lists.

Now, I want to set clear expectations: your blurbs aren't a make-or-break kind of situation. If anything, it will help nudge momentum your way, or keep uninterested players from clogging up your reviews. As we described in the Funnel article several weeks ago, the goal of any promotional effort is to both entice potential players, while culling those that would dislike the game. The blurb is no different: our goal is to communicate clearly the strengths of the game, and make abundantly clear what to expect.

This means most developers I speak to try to approach writing these blurbs from a very objective lens, and follow a formula that starts something like the following:

Game Title is a genre (for amount of players) in which players verb to goal.

Throughout Levelling The Playing Field, you might notice me referring to lenses frequently: they're these shorthand ways I discuss certain tones and methods of communication about a product or project. I generally believe there are three lenses: objective, subjective, and financial. We can forget about the financial one when we're talking about game blurbs, but let's quickly discuss why these other two lenses matter here.

The objective lens very much speaks to your work from a technical point of view. It might describe the genre, the number of quests or levels or characters, or the size of the world. It is primarily focused around verbs and nouns. The subjective lens speaks to your game from an experiential point of view. It describes the feelings, mood, and atmosphere of the game. This lens is primarily focused around adjectives and verbs.

I believe that no good blurb is ever purely objective - in fact, I mostly believe no sales copy should be fully objective - that includes your bullet points, full description, and any tag lines.

Take a look at the following bullet point for a (sadly cancelled) fighting game I consulted on for marketing almost a year ago, with a unique selling point of environments that can be (almost) fully destroyed, and it is set in a near-future universe:

Select between 42 different characters and 12 levels with destructible environments.

This is all 100% correct, but it is also bland and unimaginative. Even worse: it fails to communicate basic information about the game, including the genre and atmosphere. Let's add some colour to the description, and create some clarity about the tone. Most importantly, let's see if we can turn "different" into something that feels more defining - something that gives a sense of what the difference between these characters might be.

Master over 40 unique fighters with versatile movesets and abilities, & compete in spectacular and destructible locations around the near-future sci-fi universe.

The second one has -less- objective information, but reads better because it is more evocative. It is not enough to know the number of things: it is important to know why the number of things matters. Nobody cares that there are 12 levels, because they can't tell what the point is, whether the levels are good, and what that means for their experience. If you only take one thing away from this blog post: do not post numbers without context.

Regardless, even if it might be better, this is way too many words! What we're writing remains a blurb, and you want to minimize the amount of words you're using: think of this writing like mathematical equations - if you can simplify the sentence while still writing the same thing, you should do so.

So, let's look once more at:

Master over 40 unique fighters with versatile movesets and abilities & compete in spectacular and destructible locations around the near-future sci-fi universe.

"Moveset" might imply "abilities", so we can try and drop that already. And near-future & sci-fi are potentially implied by the fact that the battles happen across the universe, so we can drop that too. We might be able to fold "spectacular" into "destructive" and save ourselves a word there.

So that might become:

Cause mayhem throughout the universe as you master a wide array of powerful fighters.

Or, perhaps, leaning into the characters a bit more:

Master 42 unique fighters and tear a trail of destruction across the universe.

Note that in both, we're evoking a clear mood: whatever battle these characters do, they are implied to be very destructive, and the game is one of mastery. We've added a subjective tone or flavour to the text - and given that we started with "Select between 42 different characters and 12 levels", I think it is clear that we are now communicating more clearly what the game is - and we're emphasizing the unique selling point of the destructible environments.

Blurb writing, like most copy-writing, is an exercise in brevity versus clarity - but clarity is often misunderstood to mean objectivity. Games are ultimately emotional artefacts - people don't play Street Fighter because there are 42 characters - they play Street Fighter because of the sense of mastery, the nostalgia, the mechanics, and the fun and varied characters. It is important that in your communication, you never fail to express why something matters with a well-chosen adjective, or a carefully chosen verb.

Again, this won't make-or-break your game, but approaching writing a blurb with a clear mindset can absolutely make-or-break a sale. In the end, every sale counts: you might as well get this right.

Actionables

  • Read the short description, feature list, and tagline of some games in the genre of your most recent or upcoming title. Take note of patterns that might exist, or words that are used. This might sound silly, but for every verb, noun, or adjective - grab a(n online) thesaurus and look up synonyms for every important one. Sometimes there's a better & more accurate word sitting just out of reach of your mind.
  • Simplify your sentences. Look for implications that can be simplified, pleonasms and tautologies that can be corrected, and unnecessary lists. Humans tend to have a tendency to try and make lists of three out of everything, just like I did just now.
  • The most successful copy-writing tip I've ever learned is to let others write it for you. If your game is already out, or you're at events - read the reviews, listen to what people say. If you find something evocative in there, know that it is never too late to adjust your texts.

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Rami Ismail

Gamedev. Exec.Director of gamedev.world & creator of presskit(). Speaker, consultant, helps devs globally. 33% of the The Habibis podcast. Traveler. Was 50% of Vlambeer. He/Him. Muslim. Dutch/Egyptian

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