Case Study: Supporting Payload Studios' Forward Journey

The studio behind the open-world sandbox construction game TerraTech

Will Freeman

The open-world sandbox construction game TerraTech has had a remarkable journey.

First appearing at gaming shows in 2014, its early demos quickly beguiled public and press alike. The game – which tasks players with designing and constructing various combat-focused vehicles before setting off to explore a vast alien world – soon enjoyed a successful Kickstarter, and is today is supported by an enthusiastically proactive player community across PC, Xbox One, PS4 and Switch.

That means TerraTech creator Payload Studios remains happily busy maintaining and expanding the game, while growing both its business and audience.

Payload is also absolutely a community-driven studio.  While ideas and creativity ultimately guide the team, engaging the community with the process of building and expanding TerraTech sits at the core of what Payload does. Sharing Steam betas, hosting polls and a proactive forum are all key in involving the community with the studio's forward journey. It’s a common approach across the game industry that brings tremendous benefits – and yet it is not without its challenges. For one, marketing and related disciplines like community management often become a shared responsibility of the team, or fall to staff who might also be busy shaping level environments or maintaining live infrastructure.

It's a model that works very well for many studios - Payload included. But it can introduce more process and complexity into the effort of coordinating a team marketing effort. That made a platform for improving marketing planning and efficiency something Payload decided to explore.

A better way?

At Payload, publishing director Rob Kinder took on leading the marketing effort, collaborating with developers, designers, community managers and more. As he strived to deliver marketing with impact, he carefully assembled means to track various marketing activities. But by his own admission, working across the likes of Google Sheets, desktop folders and a variety of separate documents wasn’t ideal.

"I needed something to better show the rest of the team what I'm working on, where things are going, and what it all looks like,” says Kinder. “I needed a more structured way of organising and presenting the detail within each of our campaigns, from both a planning and execution perspective. When we started talking to actioncy., they were talking about creating something very close to what I was looking for. It offered a way for me to organise our marketing and social activity in a system that simplified and organised what can become an unwieldy amount of information, while also helping me keep the development team’s needs in mind."

Kinder and his colleagues have – like so many studios – plenty in place to manage their game production pipeline. But integrating marketing planning into that ecosystem could easily complicate or interfere with vital development work. They needed an option that would help them coordinate with the development teams, while keeping marketing planning and management separate and distinct.

"Let's say I need to put the store information up, for a new piece of DLC on PlayStation or Xbox,” Kinder offers as an example. “Now that's very much a development task – and a task I do behind the scenes. Once that work's done, I now have that work complete and I can say: ‘OK, well, the DLC needs to launch on this date and there are a number of subordinate tasks that need completing, in order to support that launch. So that is really where actioncy. comes in.  Without needing to list everything out manually to see what needs doing, actioncy has much of that information listed within each task, thanks to a long list of preset options it provides, which is incredibly helpful.”

The required approach

There Kinder is referring to actioncy.’s   built in requirements; something that can prove to be a key tool in the drive to coordinate and refine marketing planning . Provided as comprehensive, shareable lists of key requirements needed to deploy meaningful marketing across the rich mix of channels available today, they don’t just serve as convenient reminders; they can give agency to others on any team that are contributing to the marketing effort.

Back at Payload, harnessing actioncy. also saved time, and that let Payload do more marketing for less – less time invested, in a business where time is so often money.

“Actioncy. reduced a lot of the time that I would normally spend building out my own bespoke systems for keeping track of all the collective requirements,” confirms Rob. “This would often mean having to feed information from multiple different worksheets or programs, and often meant I’d have some information unnecessarily duplicated. Actioncy. brought all those things together. It just reduces the time spent on that stuff, and reduces the difficulty of staying on top of it all.”

Time saved, of course, leaves a studio with time to invest. That time can be spent on enacting a marketing action over doing battle with organisation and planning. Or it can simply free up time to get back to actually making games.

With a little help from actioncy. Payload has managed to increase marketing efficiency, reduce impact on development, save time, and put more into the action of marketing. All of those make for obvious positives. But marketing isn’t just about getting a game exposure and sales. It should equally foster company growth.

“As our team grows, we will have more people working on this sort of stuff. And so we will need tools to help us do that more effectively; to work on them more efficiently. So something like actioncy. gives us a great basis from which to move forward.”

Making video games is all about the forward journey, be it creatively, technologically or commercially. Well-managed, impactful marketing might not be the only driver where growth is concerned, but one thing seems clear. If your game studio intents to grow, marketing efficiency may become more important by the day.