I am YourGamingDude.com website owner and i would like to share my knowledge how to advertise your private server and what you should expect and why.
I had VERY popular private servers (RSPS, L2, Wow) I am around 10 years in private servers.
Also i would like to mention these servers didn't have big teams - just 2 developers on l2 and wow servers. On RuneScape server i was completely alone.
In real life i work as Web/IT solutions project leader.
So rule number #1:
Never ever advertise shit server, project or service.
The minimum requirements of your servers should be:
Its rare to see server which has been written from scratch and sometimes its not even worth to do it, but please do not download fancy looking servers full of bugs then change its names from "leechscape" to "SuperCoolServer" and host it. Trust me the more content the server has, the more it has bugs in it, so if you have knowledge (you should have if you want to make your own server) try to write your own code of your own content even if its the same content. People will notice your effort and it will look way different! People are not dumb and they will notice leeched servers. Big percentage of your players know how to host their own server and they actually did it to play with friends so you won't fool anyone with a leeched server.
You are hosting GAME server that's means it has to be fun. Even if you decided to create Hardcore server (i wouldn't recommend this) it still has to be fun and interesting to play. Always and i mean ALWAYS make some reward system. Do not punish players for his low level, gear but always reward players for his achievements.
By punishing i mean logic like this "You are lower player thats mean you get less" but you should use this "You achieved something (like total level, finished some dungeon or etc) that means you will get MORE" You always have to reward players. example: You killed 100 somekind of mobs? Congratulations! Here is X reward. And it doesn't matter what kind of game are you going to host it could be Minecraft server, Wow server, Lineage2 server, rsps, tibia, old MU:Online or even Maple Story server!
If your game server has PvP make it rewarding but do not force it! Usually players from Wow, lineage2, Runescape playing in private servers just to pvp with others. But there is big percentage of players who wish just to chat and chill.
Depends on your server type but if you decided to make some custom items/mobs you should consider the idea to make some challenging bosses (not IMPOSSIBLE but challenging) and your items doesn't have to be OP and trust me its hard to balance things not to mention server's economy. (Your custom items could be QoL(Quality of life) kind of items. But its your server with your ideas!)
Please just PLEASE do not host server on your own computer. Right now private server hosting is cheap as hell also we have magic kind of technology called Cloud trust me DO NOT HOST your server on your own computer.
Here is some story about server stability and why i have mentioned leeched server before.
Long time ago i had runescape server. In my eyes it was leeched (base was leeched, some content leeched) of course i have created a lot of new content myself and in that time it was really unique and impressive. After a while i manage to received huge amount of players (in one month i manage to get from 50 online to 500~) BUT that's why server die. After i received such a huge number of players (in rsps its really huge amount of players) my server become unplayable no matter how much i improve server resources in RAM/Memory/HDD (in that time SDD was used just by nasa /joke ) the problem was in my server code. Server base was just too poorly written to handle so much players and everything started to crash there was no choice but eventually close server.
Moral of the story: if you are using leeched server and you don't pay attention to your server base code and somehow you succeed your luck wont stay forever and your server will crash. No to mention economy breaking bugs.
Okay enough for now. About servers i can write much more about it (Like how to reward players, economy balancing, is it worth to create server with team and much more)!
Lets start with advertising.
If your server meet those minimal requirements we can start to talk about advertising.
First of all decide your budget. If your budget is small that means it will take a time and effort to get traffic to your server, but its not impossible!
In server it doesn't matter what kind of server (l2, world of warcraft servers, rsps, tibia, MU:ONLINE, Ragnarok or even travianZ servers or Minecraft Server!) your server destiny depends on first week MAXIMUM 2 weeks. If you fail in that week your server will become "zombie". Your server has to be perfect and "noob friendly". Your online has to be BIG( especially in lineage2, open tibia, wow servers, SRO servers or Perfect world servers!)
Here is some graph it shows how in reality your player base will change:
As you see as in your server start you already should have big amount of players. In first week you will notice how your player base grows (guild and players inviting their friends) and after that suddenly it drops (guilds, friends couldn't handle server competition or just didn't like your type of server and they leave it. You can't do anything more about this especially in servers like wow, lineage2, tibia) after that you still losing your players, not so much but still losing its because they have noticed how other ones is leaving server and they just following them like a sheep's. So remaining ones is your server base players. Its your server community and since now you build your server around them. You have to listen them, you have to fix bugs, and most important communicate with them. Now you have keep advertising and if everything is going good you should expect stable and growing player base.
So how to advertise it?
There is no wrong/correct answer for that but there is some strategy i would recommend.
First of all your server must have website and it has to be good looking not overcrowded and simple to use. Also everyone recommending to make "welcome page" but if your resources is limited in time/money you should focus more in your Homepage (design, welcome text and good looking active buttons (like "download now!" "play now") maybe its sounds old and boring but its effective and it must have! Also a lot of your players is not english native speakers, and a lot of them understand english just in minimal so keep that in mind.
Also while you doing this try to make your facebook/twitter page and build some community there. Also you should create topic about your project in some fanpages or forums and keep updating it with your progress. This will help you to get those precious "starter players".
After you have good looking website, information about server, forum with some noob friendly guides (strongly recommending) you can start to announce about your server start.
I depends what kind of server you are going to start (l2, wow, tibia or other competitive MMORPG) but you should announce it like 2 weeks ago in your socials, in your forums.
now you can try to search to buy some cheap advertise (do not overpaid right now) and visit gaming forums and make announce about your server start.
Now there is left just 1 week till your server start. Now you should buy some advertising spots in forums like banners, Pin your advertise topic in forums, gold member in toplist (i would strongly recommend you to buy private server advertise that looks similar like in my server list.
Thats how you can get traffic without retarded bot votes and your name will be visable to your audience. In my site there is hidden points and you can even be top 5 spots even without forcing your players to vote. My server list looks on quality of server. So if you manage to reach in top 5 you can just buy Gold membership and VOLIA! Now you have almost same advertisement as Sponsored!), also you should try to make facebook advertising not expensive from start.
Now there is just 3 days left to your server start! You should keep everyone hyped post some teasing screenshots, bump your topics, keep your facebook page up to date and try to make some discussion in it! Your discord server should be ready! Now you should buy expensive advertise banners in forums and top list.
But don't be a sheep and do not buy advertise if its not worth. Top lists asking huge amount of money and usually its overpriced. I mean you will get traffic but most likely you are going to overpay it but if your budget is ok with it you should go for it! Post everywhere and advertise it anywhere! and i mean EVERYWHERE! Make some good looking screenshot, Photoshop it and PIN IT in Pinterest! It sounds crazy? But its effective!
First of all make a coffee for yourself and your team if you have one. Check your topics and bump it again. Now check some server like if its fully configured, client ip, download links (trust me its stupid mistake but in panic you will make them). DO NOT let panic control you, do not edit your server rates, drops, shops and other stuff. Your server is ready. You had your time and all you have to do is wait for start and prepare for huge amount of work in first
12 120 hours if you feel tired and you notice you can't think anything go to sleep. Its easy to say but hard to do but you have to go sleep for tomorrow.
So your server is started and lets act that everything is going smooth (without bugs, connection problems, client problems, trolls) now you should focus first week to help players.
Also sadly but you should force your players to vote in top list or just buy it (Yep! most popular toplists is selling votes if you contact with them directly that's why i am against toplist and thats why i am created my server directory without votes but with real players traffic), you should still keep your expensive top page advertise on lists/forums atleast for 3 more days since start.
3-7 days after start. Now you should change your advertise type from "One big expensive ad to a lot but cheap advertising" search in google for small communities forums or check out our fan page list and if they ask like 10-30$ for month and they have like ~500 unique users in day its your advertising jackpot! I mean you can't lose for that price!
Week and more after server start:
Now you can ignore expensive ad spots if your budget is low. You should keep your golden membership on toplist usually it doesn't cost much and your server looks more trustful compared with free one. If your budget allow try to keep your server advertising topic on pin in your niche forums. And always try to bump it (like post some news, post update, post screenshot and etc but for god sake DO NOT spam it!)
Month and more.
Now you should receive some server donation don't be greedy and cheap otherwise you are going to fail no matter how good your server is.
First of all pay for your server hosting bills, if you see your server lack in some resources BUY IT! If your server starts to lag no matter how well and how much you spend on advertise your server will become "zombie".
Now pay salaries for your team members.
After that if you have some issues with server like major bug, "must have content" and you/your team are not capable to do it just find someone who would this for money! Again you can find these people in our game service list, or in your game forums.
After you fix and added must have content to your server now you should pay your advertisement bills for: Serverlist gold memberships, Pin topics, small forums advertise, and if you receive a bigger amount of donation you should buy again some one big advertise or increase amount of small ones (its up to you!), also keep your facebook advertise on (update your advertising post every week to look it fresh for eyes)!
Keep at least 15% amount of donations every month "just in case".
And after all what left is for you. Not so much for so much work huh?
Ohh by the way get ready for "server crisis" i can't prepare for that because every server has it own crises caused by players dramas, server bugs, real life situations, some unlucky accidents and much more!
So overall you have to always keep your advertisement running, look for places to put your server website link, always keep in touch with players.
If your budget is low prepare your little fingers to post your server advertise post in every gaming forum, blog, community, submit your server on every toplist no matter how popular/unpopular it is, keep your social pages active. And always try to talk with website owner directly for advertisement spot most usually you will get some extra discount! Your best shot on low budget is SEO and google ranking. Its cost time HUUUUGE amount of time but its worth your effort.
As you see its hard and expensive to advertise your server so now you should understand why rule number one is that you can't advertise shit server or project in first place. But if you believe in your work you should definitely go for it! You will get your fame sooner or later if you work hard and have a really good product/services to sell
Good luck to you and your server!
Best wishes, YourGamingDude.com
Created on YourGamingDude.com 2020-01-19