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Introducing Hit Points, a newsletter about the game industry, by me


Nate Dogg III
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On 05/09/2021 at 21:46, Len said:

I really enjoy these as well and find it all very enjoyable, informative and relatable, particularly the kids! 

 

Must take a look at subscribing properly really, be rude not to. 

 

Finally subscribed today, sorry it took a while. Kids, life etc.

 

Looking forward to the long read over the weekend. :)

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7 minutes ago, Thor said:

Enjoyed today's regarding soundtracks and GotG. 

 

As did I, although I thought there was a certain amount of irony is telling us he specifically avoided spoilers for GOTG and then immediately deciding to spoil a specific section :lol:

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  • 2 weeks later...

I enjoyed today's (and not just today's - I'm enjoying them all, actually. A really welcome arrival in the inbox when they arrive) about being an old dad playing old dad games. Not that I'm a dad, but I am old. And, from the feel of it, more adjusted to that than poor Nate. Welcome to resigned middle-age, mate. 

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  • 3 weeks later...

Your cunningly-crafted Black Friday discount finally prompted me to pay up today. Is there a reason it's only priced in Dollars (or am I an idiot?) I think it was that hurdle of remembering which of my payment methods most liked foreign currency that put me off last time.

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40 minutes ago, Nate Dogg III said:

I keep meaning to reply to everything in here and then never quite manage to do it. I am very wary of being self-promo guy

Dude, isn't this basically how you're now making a living, and indeed helping to raise a child? I don't think rllmuk (even the cuntiest element) is going to begrudge you promoting your work. It's always a joy to read. :)

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13 minutes ago, Thor said:

Dude, isn't this basically how you're now making a living, and indeed helping to raise a child? I don't think rllmuk (even the cuntiest element) is going to begrudge you promoting your work. It's always a joy to read. :)


Oh, god no! (And it’s two kids actually.) This is at best a sideline. My money comes from consulting on games in development and the odd bit of copywriting. This is a sideline (albeit one that has benefits for the other stuff, by reminding people of my existence etc) and a thing I do for enjoyment. I’d love to get to a point where it’s the main source of income and the consulto-stuff is the fun sideline, but that’s a way off. 
 

You’re right in a broader sense of course. I do need to get more comfortable, and maybe a bit more bullish, with the ol’ promotional stuff. I do think I’m getting better at it over time but still a long way to go. It’s a journey, eh. 

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Bloody hell @Nate Dogg III, you’ve set the bar for your subscriber content worryingly high with that one. Fascinating, and not just applicable to games or the creative industries.

 

To be honest, I hope you resell that interview elsewhere so more people read it (or publish it later as an example of your subscriber exclusive content).

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Ah, thank you! That's great to hear. Part of the idea of this is a sort of broadening of the traditional scope of game interviews, making them more relatable, or putting them into a wider context somehow — to find ways that ordinary schmoes like you and I can find ways to relate to these people, even if we work in different industries. It's about games as a springboard into a wider conversation, rather than just being about the games themselves. If that makes sense.

 

The reselling/republishing question is an interesting one. I had a few offers pretty much as soon as I launched the newsletter, but it felt off, given part of the original pitch was about it doing things that mainstream games media either can't do, or chooses not to. But I think the thing is mature enough now for that to be okay — it's not about what it isn't anymore, because it has its own identity, I think — and now the focus has to be on growth rather than principles. So, yes, perhaps time to get back to those people and see if they fancy republishing it in a few weeks.

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  • 2 weeks later...

I really enjoyed today's edition. I hate the ridiculously dated idea that reviews are just a buyer's guide and are intended to just let you know which game you should spend £44.99 of your birthday money on in HMV; reviews and game writing should be entertaining and educational in their own right, and it's nice to see someone articulating that idea so well.

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2 hours ago, K said:

I really enjoyed today's edition. I hate the ridiculously dated idea that reviews are just a buyer's guide and are intended to just let you know which game you should spend £44.99 of your birthday money on in HMV; reviews and game writing should be entertaining and educational in their own right, and it's nice to see someone articulating that idea so well.


Yeah just to second this, great column.
 

The “Reviews aren’t needed anymore” comment always makes me eyeroll when reading the Edge thread (it’s normally trotted out by someone not happy with a score to be fair) But the idea of them as a buyers guide is never what I used them for. If anything I read reviews for games I know I’m not going to play, just to keep an eye on what’s going on outside of my own buying habits.
 

For me it probably comes from being a kid and only being able to get new games for Christmas and Birthdays, so reviews were the only way I could experience games in between. Now it’s more about not having the time to play as much as I’d like, so streaming still doesn’t work for me as that takes just as much time as playing. 

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On 26/11/2021 at 20:05, Nate Dogg III said:

My main worry until now has been that it's too beholden to the news cycle, so if nothing's happening, I have nothing to write about.


I very much enjoy your opinions on topics and thought your fake game patch update was a post made from the heart — a genuine concern about something for which you truly care (see also: badgers). 


I think I share your reluctance to accept praise or encouragement, but fucking Hell. You were the editor of Edge. Incredible respect. You’re really, really good at this writing malarkey (stating the obvious here). Believe! :) 

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@Nate Dogg III Why not post up some of your content from your newsletter for the world to see, like the interview mentioned above and other choice bits and bobs. You might well attract new customers and its always a good idea to give people a taster. I don't know how your sub model works at the moment but are you doing freebee weeks and so forth to get people invested and possibly follow up with subscriptions? Apologies if you are already doing this sort of thing, just throwing ideas out there to help expand your userbase.

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5 minutes ago, squirtle said:

Ha! I'm an idiot. I meant to just subscribe on the monthly sub, which I'm sure I ticked, but seem to have been billed for the year. I guess I must have hit the wrong option. Oh, well. Happy Christmas!

 

Oh gosh, sorry! What happens if you try to cancel it? Will it let you switch it to a monthly? I can't imagine it's taken the money already? Or maybe it has. Argh. Sorry. I promise to spend it sensibly.

 

3 minutes ago, Alan Stock said:

@Nate Dogg III Why not post up some of your content from your newsletter for the world to see, like the interview mentioned above and other choice bits and bobs. You might well attract new customers and its always a good idea to give people a taster. I don't know how your sub model works at the moment but are you doing freebee weeks and so forth to get people invested and possibly follow up with subscriptions? Apologies if you are already doing this sort of thing, just throwing ideas out there to help expand your userbase.

 

The vast majority (like 90%) of the newsletter is free for the world to see at the moment anyway. You can sign up for free and the whole thing, monthly paywalled stuff aside, is all listed there blog-style. The things that will get me more readers right now are people that like it sharing it around, potentially the posting of interviews etc elsewhere, and... actually just that, but particularly the sharing thing. I have readers who have Twitter follower counts well into six figures, opening each email multiple times, but never sharing it. That needs fixing somehow. I am thinking. 

 

Also I know a few people that post here also post on ResetEra, if anyone can find a way to (elegantly!) mention it over there that could be very helpful. The whole deal with Substack, I now realise, is that it's only really viable if you have a big audience already. Whenever someone with a decent following, whether that's a social-media thing or just a big website (Martin at Eurogamer gave it a shoutout a while back), mentions it there's a surge in new signups. I just need more of those really. There's also a fairly predictable correlation between doing paid-exclusive things and new signups, so working out how I can focus more on that stuff in 2022. Wherever many people congregate, let us shout about Hit Points to the world. Sorry, I've had a drink.

 

Thanks everyone for the kind words. I wasn't actually that happy with today's. The first draft was about three times the length and then I just cut and cut until I wasn't sure anything was left. Was conscious of being seen as shitting on Jeff Gerstmann, too, which I didn't want as he's an OG and I respect him a lot. I am, as ever, glad it has resonated, and delighted to be proven wrong. Onwards!

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My mistake then, I think that's a good model. But in my opinion you would be very well served to get some of the content out there without people having to sign up for anything. That in itself is a massive barrier if you just want a taster of whats on offer, for the world of the internet today so many people will just immediately click away if reading a piece requires a login or signup. I guess that's a problem with Substack in general. I suppose the question is where you can put out taster pieces to draw people in. Any commercial website will probably be a bit reluctant to post a piece with an advert to join a rival publication at the bottom! Maybe independent gaming websites, forums etc are the way to go in showcasing your work.

 

If you have your own website you could pop some of your stuff on there, anything where someone can just click a link on a different forum/webpage and go right to reading example content is the way forward I think. Then as a forward or post-script (or both) you explain where the piece came from, link to the Substack etc.

 

As for subscribers who aren't sharing your work, are you asking them to in your newsletter? If you aren't already, do like indie podcasts do, put a heartfelt intro asking people to share articles and help you to expand the audience. Give reminders every now and then in your newsletters saying to people that if they like it, sharing is a great way to help you grow. If Substack has any functionality like easy share links/buttons, get them in there too. People will happily share and help to grow audience but they need reminders to do so, and people generally don't mind being asked if its succicently done and not constantly being rammed down their throats.

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16 minutes ago, Nate Dogg III said:

 

Oh gosh, sorry! What happens if you try to cancel it? Will it let you switch it to a monthly? I can't imagine it's taken the money already? Or maybe it has. Argh. Sorry. I promise to spend it sensibly.

It's fine. It was probably my fault. I chose the amount, then registered, came back to sub and maybe it had switched and I didn't look. No worries. Just means I don't have to worry about it for a year and get to read all the stuff you write. It's a win win for both of us. 

 

I'll give it a shout out on our Zapped to the Past Twitter account. Mostly retro people but I'm sure some will want to read quality writing. Any particular links your want tweeting?

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44 minutes ago, Alan Stock said:

My mistake then, I think that's a good model. But in my opinion you would be very well served to get some of the content out there without people having to sign up for anything. That in itself is a massive barrier if you just want a taster of whats on offer, for the world of the internet today so many people will just immediately click away if reading a piece requires a login or signup. I guess that's a problem with Substack in general. I suppose the question is where you can put out taster pieces to draw people in. Any commercial website will probably be a bit reluctant to post a piece with an advert to join a rival publication at the bottom! Maybe independent gaming websites, forums etc are the way to go in showcasing your work.

 

If you have your own website you could pop some of your stuff on there, anything where someone can just click a link on a different forum/webpage and go right to reading example content is the way forward I think. Then as a forward or post-script (or both) you explain where the piece came from, link to the Substack etc.

 

As for subscribers who aren't sharing your work, are you asking them to in your newsletter? If you aren't already, do like indie podcasts do, put a heartfelt intro asking people to share articles and help you to expand the audience. Give reminders every now and then in your newsletters saying to people that if they like it, sharing is a great way to help you grow. If Substack has any functionality like easy share links/buttons, get them in there too. People will happily share and help to grow audience but they need reminders to do so, and people generally don't mind being asked if its succicently done and not constantly being rammed down their throats.


You should probably take up a free subscription ;)

 

but there’s no need to give an email address first.

 

https://hitpoints.substack.com

 

 

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4 hours ago, footle said:


You should probably take up a free subscription ;)

 

but there’s no need to give an email address first.

 

https://hitpoints.substack.com

 

 

 

Thanks for that. I had misunderstood the model obviously! That kind of invalidates half the recommendations I made :lol:  - my fault for not at least following up the initial link, I was completely under the wrong impression about how the site worked, I thought it was literally a mailing list where you only got the content by mail. For people like me who haven't used Substack or similar sites it sounds like a faff, when it clearly isn't. There's a mental barrier to entry there as soon as you hear the word subscribe or mailing list. This isn't directed at Nate, rather the format/tech, but its not immediately apparent that subscription is completely free. As soon as I see the word subscribe I always think money.

 

I think the latter points I made still stand, I had no idea you could read content without joining the mail list, which is ideal. Obviously it does allow direct linking to the posts seeing as it has the article format so I would get links out to the good posts as much as possible, and still think it would be good to have such articles appear on other sites with links back to Hit Points. I see there are already little subscription reminders so that's good, to me they seem just right in terms of length and content, an ideal place to put the 'please share' message as well! A dedicated post now and again to appeal for shares etc might be worth it.

 

My apologies for wading in with advice without properly checking out what was on offer beforehand. Although maybe that is part of the problem, perhaps the concept/tech could be communicated in a different way for newcomers to the scene? Or it just could be me!

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Ha, no problem. It is a bit weird. I get quite frustrated by the way it bundles paid and free readers together under the same label of 'subscribers', becomes quite difficult to write about. I try and think of it as 'readers' and 'subscribers' but even that's not great because obviously they're all readers, whether free or paid, and they're all subscribers too, technically. Ugh. And yes, as you point out, it's a newsletter you can sign up for but you can read the whole archive on a webpage whenever you like. The messaging around it is a bit strange.

 

There's a fair bit of 'best practice' guidance for growth within Substack but a lot of it involves doing things I don't like the idea of. I subscribe to a few other newsletters and a lot of them do a subscriber prompt at the very beginning, then again after a couple of paragraphs, then again at the end — basically all the places you'd expect to see an ad on a web page. There's an option to send premium-only posts to free readers as well but cut it off after a few paragraphs with a subs button. I hate receiving those emails and have unsubbed from a few as a result of it. Substack also suggests you mix up your free and paid emails to keep people on their toes (doing a paid exclusive on Wednesday one week, then Friday the next, etc). I don't like the sound of that either. 

 

I'm quite stubborn about how I want this to look and feel, and about putting the reader experience before my bank balance. (You can take the boy out of Edge, etc.) If that means slower growth then that's a shame but I understand it. I'd rather have people paying because they want to than because I'm bullying them into it, or giving them no choice. I do think it's on me to make a paid sub more compelling, though, and that's top of the list going into 2022.

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29 minutes ago, Nate Dogg III said:

Ha, no problem. It is a bit weird. I get quite frustrated by the way it bundles paid and free readers together under the same label of 'subscribers', becomes quite difficult to write about. I try and think of it as 'readers' and 'subscribers' but even that's not great because obviously they're all readers, whether free or paid, and they're all subscribers too, technically. Ugh. And yes, as you point out, it's a newsletter you can sign up for but you can read the whole archive on a webpage whenever you like. The messaging around it is a bit strange.

 

There's a fair bit of 'best practice' guidance for growth within Substack but a lot of it involves doing things I don't like the idea of. I subscribe to a few other newsletters and a lot of them do a subscriber prompt at the very beginning, then again after a couple of paragraphs, then again at the end — basically all the places you'd expect to see an ad on a web page. There's an option to send premium-only posts to free readers as well but cut it off after a few paragraphs with a subs button. I hate receiving those emails and have unsubbed from a few as a result of it. Substack also suggests you mix up your free and paid emails to keep people on their toes (doing a paid exclusive on Wednesday one week, then Friday the next, etc). I don't like the sound of that either. 

 

I'm quite stubborn about how I want this to look and feel, and about putting the reader experience before my bank balance. (You can take the boy out of Edge, etc.) If that means slower growth then that's a shame but I understand it. I'd rather have people paying because they want to than because I'm bullying them into it, or giving them no choice. I do think it's on me to make a paid sub more compelling, though, and that's top of the list going into 2022.

 

Interesting. I both share your concerns but also think a bit more 'look what you're missing out on' might help. 

 

I agree that it is annoying to receive interesting looking emails which fade our early on to ask you to subscribe but if the content interests me it does get me to actively consider subscribing - particular if it happens regularly and you end up thinking the subscriber only content is going to be something you will regularly want to read. 

 

I've not yet subscribed to https://puck.news/ as it is not massively cheap but they have a good email model which works on the above basis and there does seem a lot of stuff I'd like to read but I'd have to subscribe to finish the article. You're right, ultimately such a model leads you to either subscribing or unsubscribing. 

 

Jack's Flight Club operates a premium and free model and essentially the free model gets one free email a week and at the top of the free email it basically says something like: This week free members missed deals to Thailand at £371 return, *business class* to Montreal at £1104 return, Barbados at £410 return, and more... Get all the flight deals

 

Clearly they can operate that type of model easily being a deals based newsletter but you could similar put that this week free members missed out an my interview with X and my thoughts on the Y news. 

 

Regarding your subscribers with large twitter followers, is a refer a friend type system something that works with Substack - E.g. for every person you send this link to who signs up we will extend your subscription by a month for free. 

 

I tend to think you get the level of 'please subscribe' in your emails broadly correct - from memory normally something at the start and the end which works well. Not sure if I have ignored both of those suggestions that pleas in the middle of an article or the email will do the trick. 

 

I guess ultimately one of the biggest things that might convert more people into paid subscriptions is just adjusting the amount of 'exclusive' content you get. I've paid for a subscription but currently there is not much content I'd be missing out on if I hadn't paid. That tends to be the crossover point for me, the stage where there is going to be regular subscriber only content that I want to read but won't be able to unless I pay for a subscription. 

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Feel free to totally bin this idea.

 

Seems to me that the vast majority of subs (if not all) will come from fans of your Edge writing. Why not give the subscribers the opportunity to have a monthly vote on a title that you will review?
 

This won’t be a new title but a game that got that elusive Edge 10, a controversial 6 or a lowly 1. Re-review it. To your audience, Edge scores do have an important place in their gaming upbringing. Revisiting those games whose reviews elicited anger, mirth, incredulity etc. would draw in and sustain paid subs. 
 

Then make the review only available to subs. 


I appreciate you’re looking at a game through a modern lens but you’re measured enough to accommodate that bias. 

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