August 24, 2021, My newsletter subscriber count grew from around 500 to almost 40 000 in just a couple of days, but how is that possible?
But first things first, my name is Nikolas Crisci and I am a solo developer from Würburg Germany. I am currently working on School of Magic and if you want to find more about me or my games you can visit my website.
August 19, 2021, As part of my Gamescom package from the FFF I got to be part of a Stream from a German Streamer called Huebi. None of my games were ever covered by a Youtuber his size, so I decided to give a free copy of my old game Will Glow the Wisp to everyone that subscribes to my newsletter. The stream went well and I got around 30 subscribers after everything was done. I was pretty happy with these results, based on past giveaways I did not expect a lot of subscribers.
August 20, 2021, This is the day my son got out of the hospital, he was bitten by a dog and since only 1 person was allowed to be with him, we decided that my wife would go, also because I was busy with Gamescom preparations. Anyway because of that I tried to keep the day free, to spend some time with him, so I decided to plan nothing big for the day. The only thing I wanted to do is post the giveaway on all my social channels, to get some more subscribers. So I posted the giveaway in the morning, at this point I quickly need to talk about how I set up the giveaway. I build a landing page using Mailchimp and added an email notification whenever someone subscribes to my newsletter. So most of my promo was done in the morning and I got a steady amount of signups, way more than I expected but nothing crazy. At this point, someone on Reddit mentioned that I also should post the game on r/FreeGameFindings. I did that at 02:50 PM Berlin time, at 03:54 PM I already had over 1k unread mails. I was no longer able to check my mailbox for other stuff from Gamescom. At this point, I knew this will not be a quiet day, at 09:30 PM I already had over 6k mails. At this point there were a couple of problems, the first was that my free Mailchimp account would only allow me to have 2000 Contacts and if I didn't delete the excess contacts I would not be able to update my landing page. A monthly subscription would cost me a couple of hundred euros, I am only working on my games part-time, so that was out of the question as it would blow my budget out of the water. I also did not want to cancel my campaign just update it so people would not expect to get their keys too fast because I only had 3000 available. Which brings us to the second problem, how should I send the keys to that many people, I still would need to attend Gamescom after all. So I started to work after my son went to bed and worked until late in the night, but I was only able to write a small program that would read all the mails from my inbox and parse the Infos out and delete the mail. This way I could at least still read my inbox without losing who already got their keys. I went to be pretty exhausted but I knew I would need to work the next day to get the situation under control.
August 21, 2021, I talked to my wife (thanks for being so understanding) and I started to work on a small program that would read out the data I stored locally and send the emails automatically. There was only one problem, the daily send limit from a normal Gmail account is 500 and by that point, I needed to send around 10 000 Keys (I only had 3000 available at the time). So I created a bunch of Gmail accounts, started sending the keys automatically, opened a ticket with valve, and wrote to all my social media channels that there would be a delay. I changed my Mailchimp account to pay as you go (still had to put over 100€ in) to be able to at least change my landing page and updated that. So at least the situation was under control, the only problem was that I wasn't sure if valve would give me around 7500 Keys I needed at this point. By the end of the day, I already got 30 000 new subscribers and I knew my journey wasn't quite over yet.
August 22, 2021, I still needed to figure out how to send around 20 000 keys (I filtered out multiple requests by the same IP at this point) to people, the problem was that even if valve would give me all the keys I requested, I would need a way to deliver them to each person, in addition to that I also wanted to do some updates to School of Magic for Gamescom. I thought about this a lot and finally decided to ask Valve if they would be willing to set Will Glow the Wisp to be free until the end of the month. This way I could send a new newsletter out to all my subscribers and inform them about what was going on and would still have some time to do other things for Gamescom. After I opened the ticket with Valve there was little I could do other than wait.
August 23, 2021, people started to get nervous if they would receive keys. I also needed to update the program so I was able to merge new subscribers into my data. So I worked some more on that and by the end of the day, I had a pretty good system in place to send keys via multiple accounts. I was still hoping to not need to use it, but I did not expect valve to answer too quickly. This is also what I wrote to some people that started to get impatient because I told them they would receive their keys in around 2 days (that was a message I put in place at the very beginning when I thought I would be sending these emails out by hand).
August 24, 2021, 00:00 I am ready to go to sleep and my phone plays the sound of a notification. I am taking a last look and see that valve wrote me a message. After login into the steam backend the I saw that Will Glow the Wisp was set to be until the end of the month. So instead of going to bed, I started writing everyone who wrote to me personally about their keys and then started to post on all the social media platforms about it.
Conclusion Right now I am sitting at 39 544 subscribers of which around 20 000 unique IPs. I am happy with how the giveaway turned out and I am looking forward to seeing what Gamescom has in store. The only thing that I regret is that I went for newsletter subscribers instead of wishlists, this might prove to be a great move later down the line, but the amount of money I have to pay to send out a newsletter is nothing to sneeze at for a part-time developer as myself. In addition to that, the success of School of Magic is mostly about my Steam sales and I have to see how well I will be able to convert these subscribers.