Benefits of Releasing Outside of a Comp?

Is there any benefit to releasing a game outside of a competition?

I was in Ectocomp 2021 and analytics informed me that a whopping 2 people actually played my game. Releasing outside a competition can’t be much worse than that.

But do people pay attention to those games? Do Constant Reviewers like Math Brush review them? Or are competitions considered the end-all-be-all and anything else is just flotsam?

Just curious. Thanks for listening.


I can only speak numbers with my own analytics, but from those, I think it depends more on whether your project was promoted before/during/after the release, where it is promoted, and maybe even some aspects of the game (genre, theme, language, etc…).

My English entry to the EctoComp did much better than my French one, partly because it is in English, but also because I teased the project for months on my social media too. My other projects released/updated outside of Competition do pretty well too (and doing better as more people follow those projects).


Hello Arlan,

I’d like to play the game, especially if you feel it didn’t get enough traction/attention the first time around.

Am I correct in assuming that this is the correct game?

As for whether a comp/non-comp release would be best, that’s hard to say. I’ve seen a more concerted effort in comps this year to assure that every entry gets a least a review or two, but there will always be some disparity in the level of interest each game garners. You could try using something like Introcomp to your advantage. Create some sort of catchy intro for a game for Introcomp, get some feedback and exposure, and then finish it and release it for IFComp or Parsercomp, or whichever comp will allow a finished Introcomp game for entry. That way you double your exposure with what is essentially the same game to some extent.

You could also do something similar by finding an itch jam that runs at the same time or slightly after the second IF comp, and release it concurrently there. The entry rules on Jams vary widely and I’m sure you could find Jams that would accept a game that was being released elsewhere at the same time or recently beforehand. You’d want to carefully parse (no pun intended) the entry rules for both the comp and the jam, but I’m sure you could find some combination to increase your exposure without disqualifying yourself, even if it’s simply a low or no rule Jam release a few weeks after the submission deadline for the comp entry.

Manon also makes a good point about promotion and teasing playing a big part in potential interest in a game.

Regardless, I wish you luck, and will get back to you regarding the game above if it’s the one you’re referencing.


Yes, that’s the entry. Thanks for your interest. :metal:

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I have noticed a similar thing. During most of the voting in various comps, a number of games get numerous plays, ratings and comments, while other languish with almost no views, plays or ratings.

What triggers the multi played games to get most of the action. How can games get all of the action while others get little or none?

Just curious, what is the draw?


If Emily Short were to put a game in a comp, a lot of people would play it. Having a reputation for consistently making good (or great) games matters a lot. I played Art DiBianca’s game first in IFComp, because I knew it would be interesting, experimental, and good. The moral: slog on in obscurity until you are consistently making good games and everybody knows it.

And good reviews matter, too. Many people don’t want to sift through broken or incomplete games themselves, and I don’t blame them. They want someone else to do that and tell them what’s worth playing. Because of Ectocomp’s timing, there aren’t a lot of reviews. We just sort of review each other’s games. And this is an excellent place for me to say that Ectocomp needs some love, everybody. I know IFComp is still going on, but there are some really good games in Ectocomp, so don’t let them languish. Get yer butt over to itch and play a few games. And rate them or review them so we can get some feedback.


If we don’t take into account whether a participant is “big” like Amanda said or whether said game has been promoted, I’d add that the name of the game, the image attached to to the entry, blurb/synopsys, and potential warning, must have some effect on a voter on whether they play the game. Those first impressions still matter.


I am not complaining. I really want to know the factors that motivate a games initial play. It is always a learning experience.

Thank you for your insight.


I didn’t think you were! I’m so sorry if I gave you that impression. Tone can come off weirdly in online posts. Although to be fair, my tone often comes off weirdly IRL too.


I think there is also a better chance of one’s written review being read during comps.

& possibly they are more read here than at IFDB? I’m not sure.

It seems that there are structural and cultural reasons why comp games attract more players and reviewers. Someone could decide to, say, review every game released in January and February, and make a thread about it here, but has anyone ever done that?

I do not exempt myself from this discussion. While I had no more free time during competitions this year, I played many more community-made games during competitions than I did during the rest of 2022. I have recently wondered if that is the way that I want to engage with community content, though I have not come up with any answers. That’s not a critique of anyone or anything so much as it is my typical navel-gazing.

A great game by an unknown person could find an audience if released outside of a competition, but I’m not sure how common that actually is. I wouldn’t advise anyone to release their game outside of a competition window, were anyone to ask my advice. I think the question of which competition probably matters, too.

The world of poetry was filled with such tactical considerations, too, and likely still is.


I am pretty sure that a comp is the best way to have games noticed / played.

In particular if there is a them and players are primed to play games within that them. (IFComp is the World Series of IF). Everybody notices.


No problem. I took a second to actually look up the rules. IFComp rules out any prior release, even finished Introcomp games, but ParserComp allows finished Introcomp games.

So, hypothetically, you could have written something for Introcomp 2022, then finished it, then submitted it to ParserComp 2022, and then, after collecting your solid gold lamp, you could have released your game into several ongoing itch jams, like the Neverending Game Jam, and/or Decade Jam, and/or to plenty of others. That would have premiered what is effectively the same game to 3 or more places and audiences. I’d also write a post-mortem and post it to help increase engagement as well as making sure there’s a thorough IFDB listing for the game.

Also, one other thing I noticed about Jack is the fact that the game file isn’t set for online play. It must be downloaded. Sad, but true, many won’t bother. Making your game playable in the browser will increase engagement.

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It might for certain types of games. Choice-based games with a heave work on Romance/Character Customisation can do really well outside of Comps. Parser, maybe less so?

So, there is quite a large IF community over on Tumblr, many whom do not know about the IF Comp (I didn’t even know about it until I did more research about IF in general). But still, projects announced there can get quite a large following and a lot of plays during release/update (hundreds to thousands daily for the most populars). If you look under the IF tag on itch, it is not uncommon to find authors having listed a Tumblr, where they promote their games/progress. There is even a directory on that platform with over 6k followers that promote new projects too.

Similarly with projects in CScript promoted on the CoG Forum, they can get quite a lot of traffic.


I will have to check out Tumblr. I have certainly heard of the site but thought it was targeted at photographs.



I set it for online play. IFDB is buggy or something. I’ll double check.

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Hmm, I just tried playing Jack on IFDB with the Play Online button, both when logged in and on an incognito window as a guest. Seems like it plays just fine!


I was referring to the actual ectocomp page when the game originally when live for the comp.

I never checked the IFDB page because we were discussing engagement during the comp, which would involve peeps trolling the comp submissions page, no?

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Even for free games there is this sort of sales funnel effect.

From my experience, in the context of a comp, a download-only game which requires a third party interpreter to run will lose a lot of players to lower friction alternatives. My entry to this year’s Spanish Ectocomp (also an Inform piece) has 3 downloads vs. 37 online plays.

I have also found out that games outside of a comp are guaranteed to be ignored unless you are already an established author, which can be frustrating (at this point I save my ideas for comp submissions!).


I suspect I may be an odd duck with this. I don’t like to read reviews for games I haven’t played. I find it colors my feelings about the game and I’d rather decide for myself whether it’s my cup of tea or not.


Then we are two odd ducks. I’m in the same vein too. Though outside of a Comp I will check for the rating average before playing.