Let’s pretend that you’ve just finished quite decent computer game. You tell your parents and friends, you put it on Steam with low price, and place link on Reddit. The next day you come back to check results and… There’s zero players, sales, and comments. Even your mom didn’t buy it. Isn’t that the worst possible outcome for indie developer? Truth is, you have to think of marketing plan for your game even before you start coding.
So… You want to get players? This is what every indie game developer dreams about. And this is where majority of them fails. And it’s often not because of quality of their game, but because of lack of marketing efforts. Of course if your game is bad, then it will be harder to market it. But even if it’s literally best game on the planet, you still need to do it. That’s why I’ve decided to write this long video game marketing guide.
Game Marketing Misconceptions
There are four major misconceptions in the world of game programmers when it comes to marketing. The most common example of indie dev is someone who hasn’t made a game yet. And this is the kind of person that repeats mistruths over and over (in a good will, though) most likely believing he is correct.
Seeing just one side of the coin is almost never enough, so when someone says “indie games are doomed because Steam is saturated”, then he’s only partially correct, as Steam is indeed saturated, but that doesn’t ruin chances of indie games at all.
Mistruth 1: Steam Results In Sales & Marketing
Hell no. Even if your game is good, Steam doesn’t result in sales and additional marketing. It can do it, of course, if your game is already popular. So if you already have an existing huge audience, and their friends see what game they bought and what are they playing, then Steam can help.
If your game is of outstanding quality and can get only top scores and reviews so it gets featured on the front, then Steam can help. Otherwise? Not. If your game isn’t popular yet and it’s not of outstanding quality then you can only use Steam as secure middleman that will handle your sales.
Mistruth 2: Steam Is Saturated & Indie Games Are Doomed
This is true. Steam is saturated. This is not a mistruth. But what people mean when they say this is that your indie game is destined to fail because it won’t gain traction on Steam.
Wrong. Steam was never supposed to be your main marketing method. Not unless you meet above conditions. And you can only meet them if you already have other marketing done correctly.
Mistruth 3: Great Games Automatically Become Popular
That’s the biggest mistruth. Sure, great games (probably not your game) are easier to promote. And that’s it, they are easier to market. But you still have to do it.
Some people believe if they create great product then magically his few players that he accidentally gained will help him promote the game by spreading the good news.
These accidental three players could result in other four players, and these four could invite twenty people more, and so on. This is a real thing, people talk about good games. But nowhere close to the degree where you can expect it to be viable method.
For ten of your players, you can expect one of them to share it with his friend. You see how wrong it would be to consider it as your main marketing strategy?
Mistruth 4: You Need Money For Marketing
What you need for marketing is computer with internet, and ton of time. Before internet got popularized and widely available, you needed money to promote your product. However now there are ton of ways to do it online.
And many of them are free. So you don’t need money for marketing. Although it would certainly help. Just be careful whenever you hire someone, as it’s easy to get scammed in this field.
Best Game Promotion Strategies
All these methods require time and have very small results unless done correctly, strategically and many times. Actually, even then they need ton of time and effort. But that’s better than nothing, right?
Method 1: Forums
So you made game anyhow similar to Pokemons? Perhaps in your game you can hide weapons, animals, people or anything else in small balls that you can take with yourself on your adventures?
Or perhaps this is a game about constant collecting and upgrading (insert anything here)? Then we can do is find forum where such community exists to inform them about our game that is similar to Pokemons:
- Search for Pokemon forums in Google.
- Make an account and activate email.
- Write some posts about how and why you love Pokemons.
- Create thread about your game, add screenshots and trailer, and interesting description.
It isn’t hard! I am sure if your game is really related to Pokemons then there will be many people who would love to try it.
Method 2: Reddit
You can do the same thing as above on Reddit. Or you can even post in some gaming or gamedev sub. And this is how you can get some audience from Reddit:
There are many ways to do it, and you are only limited by your creativity. Examples:
- In game design subreddits: “hey folks, I left my job and spent 3 years creating this game”.
- In subreddits of similar games: “hey men, I’ve made similar game to Diablo 3, here’s the link”.
Method 3: Discord
Even before you finish your game, you should create Discord server and actively promote it. What it does is it gathers alike-minded people who like your game (from the screenshots you gave them at least).
They can talk about it, or even invite more people. Being in such server will make them never forget about your game, even if they don’t post there.
Method 4: Social Media Pages
Social media pages like Facebook and Twitter on its own are weak. That’s because they can only work if you already have some audience and likes.
However if you do, then you should create cool pages, post really entertaining tweets and tell your existing audience about them. They will be the first to like your tweets.
There are ways to gather likes and followers on social medias without existing audience and on a fresh page, but that’s quite hard challenge. So I’d suggest creating pages on popular social media websites for your game, but not relying on them, at least not until people start searching for your game online and liking your pages.
Method 5: Your Own Website
Every game needs a website. Will website gather audience on its own? To some extent. If you add a blog to your website, you could write articles like:
- “Deadly Stars, The First Sci-Fi Cosmos MMO With Survival Elements”.
Then if someone searched in Google for Sci-Fi MMOs then with little bit of luck he could find your website:
Isn’t that easy?
Not only blog can be added to your thin game website, but also forum. However own website may be not as good at gathering audience as it is at keeping the audience engaged, e.g. in forum discussions. If you want to invite people to your game, then you should go where people are.
How Will You Promote Your Indie Game?
Marketing is not easy. And you may need to spend as much time on it as you spend on game development, if not more. And your game has to be good or marketing efforts will be wasted.
Not only it has to be good, it also has to be made with marketing in mind. That’s why you shouldn’t create games that:
- Are boring.
- Are ugly visually.
- Are bugged.
- Bring nothing new to the table.
But if you have an idea for gameplay that people would love to try… Then you should definitely give it a go.