[size=150]Market your larp[/size]
By Ryan Paddy
15 Oct 2012
We’ve all seen it happen. You hear about a larp event being planned, and the next thing you know it’s been cancelled due to lack of interest. Or the game goes ahead, but doesn’t really have enough people to run well.
This is where marketing comes in, helping you to attract enough people to play your game. Marketing also informs your attendees of the details so they know where to go, how to prepare and so forth. Good marketing can be a big part of running a successful larp.
People prefer larps that are:
[li]Suitable to their gaming preferences[/li]
[li]Convenient for them[/li]
[li]Likely to be successful[/li]
[li]Attended by people they like playing with[/li][/ul][size=120]What kind of events need marketing?[/size]
For a stand-alone game or campaign the job of attracting players lies entirely with you as the organiser. But even if your game is running within a convention, you still need to advertise it at a minimum by creating a great blurb to go on the convention’s website. For a convention, the materials you present for your game will help to attract people both to your larp and to the convention as a whole. People sometimes decide whether to attend a convention based on whether any of the games sound unmissable.
[size=120]Designing a larp to appeal[/size]
Successful marketing starts with choosing the right product for your audience. If you are fixed on a game concept or event details that nobody else likes, you will struggle to attract players.
[ol][li]A lot of the appeal of a larp lies in its genre. Certain genres such as fantasy, modern supernatural and steampunk have followings of players who already have suitable costumes and an appreciation for that style of game. It’s great to try to new genres, but be aware that it may be harder to attract as many people, at least until you prove the concept.[/li]
[li]It’s easier to attract enough people to small, short events. Larps that run on a single evening for a dozen or so people can be a good place to start, before running larger events or a series of events. A small game with full attendance will feel successful.[/li]
[li]If you are re-running a scenario that has been played in your area recently, the appeal may be reduced. Some people are happy to play the same game twice, but many aren’t.[/li]
[li]If you are running a game written by someone overseas, it’s less likely to attract people than a game written by someone they’ve at least heard of. People are most attracted to games run by the author.[/li][/ol]
[size=120]Airing your concept[/size]
To gauge interest in your concept you can present it in the Game ideas forum on Diatribe. If people are enthusiastic then you’ve succeeded at building anticipation. If the response is lukewarm, you may need to rethink your idea. If you’re confident of your idea you can skip discussing the concept online and go straight to presenting it as a definite event, with a set time and prices and venue and creative material to showcase it. Sometimes surprising people by announcing your event is the best option, as it gives you the benefit of presenting your larp in a fully-developed form with definite details.
[size=120]Making it real[/size]
When you announce your event, the materials you present are important. The more creative, professional and definite your information seems, the more confidence potential players will have that your game will happen and be a success. An invitation to attend an event that has no date, venue, price or description of the game can seem flakey, and people will be put off by the vagueness of your advertising. Post your event notice in your regional forum on Diatribe, and ask for it to be added to the calendar. If your game is a campaign or series then have a forum set up on Diatribe for it. Creating an event in Facebook and inviting lots of larpers to it is also a very powerful way to advertise your game. Other options include advertising your event in forums other than Diatribe, printing flyers, setting up a dedicated website (or a site hosted on the NZLARPS website), talking it up with larper friends, etc. The more ways you advertise your event, the more people will hear about it.
[ol][li]Be careful not to schedule your larp close to a popular event. People only have so much time and energy, and have to prioritise. [/li]
[li]People like to know what they’re getting. If your concept is novel or obscure, you’ll need to be especially clear about what the larp involves. You also need to make sure your larp delivers the experience you advertised, or it may become harder to attract players back to future events.[/li]
[li]Don’t over-promise, and be honest about any limitations. Moderate the claims you make about your game, so that people are impressed with what you achieved rather than disappointed with what you didn’t.[/li]
[li]Larp is sold by word of mouth. Attend games, get out among larpers and enthuse at them about your event to build interest. [/li]
[li]If you run a great event, word of mouth will attract more people to your next one. If you make flaky plans and then cancel, people will be less likely to book in for your next event.[/li][/ol]
[size=120]Building a reputation[/size]
If you’ve run a lot of successful larps, you will have a reputation and people will assume that your future games are likely to be good too. Similarly, if you have a large circle of gamer friends who trust you and want to help your larp succeed, then finding people to play may be relatively easy, and the exact materials you provide may be less important. However, if this is your first event and you’re not well-known in larp circles, then all people have to go by is the materials you present, so it’s important to make them as confidence-inspiring as possible.
Even with all the best planning in the world, sometimes advertising doesn’t work out and you don’t get the numbers you wanted. Then it’s time to dust yourself off, have a read of this advice and a chat with friends, and try a new tack for your next game. Maybe try running something safer like a smaller one-off game in a popular genre?