For indie game developers, creating an exceptional game is only half the battle. Making noise about your new release in an already crowded market can prove to be both a major and disheartening challenge.
So, how can indie game devs successfully make their games stand out in a sea of competition?
In this article, we’ll provide independent game developers with the top tips and strategies they need to engage new audiences and nurture a growing player base.
Whether you’re in the pre-launch stage or have just launched your latest project, this guide will help you ensure your game is a roaring success in the indie marketplace.
What is indie game marketing?
Indie game marketing refers to the strategies used by indie game developers to promote their games.
Developers usually have little to no budget to market their games, and therefore often have to rely heavily on more creative methods or grassroots strategies to generate a buzz.
Why is marketing so important for indie game developers?
The primary goal of indie game marketing is to increase the visibility of your game. If people can’t find your game, they can’t play it. Enhancing the visibility of your game will help you capture the attention of potential players, which will ultimately lead to more downloads and purchases.
The gaming industry is highly competitive, with thousands of games available across multiple platforms. Over 6,000 indie games were released on Steam alone last year. Therefore, marketing is crucial to avoid your game from getting lost in the crowd.
Through effective marketing, developers can ensure that a game reaches its intended audience, creates excitement ahead of launch, and differentiates itself from competitors by conveying its unique value proposition.
By executing the right marketing activities, indie developers can also foster a dedicated community around their games, aiding in further promotion and longevity of their releases. These communities can also provide valuable feedback to help developer marketers make updates or influence the creation of new games.
Now we know why indie game marketing is so important, how do we go about it successfully? Let’s dive into the top strategies.
Understanding the market
Before you do anything, you need to conduct market research to identify the target audience for your game. It’s vital that you gather the relevant data and analyze industry trends and player preferences to ensure your game will reach the right people and meet their needs at the right time.
Identify the genre and platform(s) you want to target and compare other games of that genre on those platforms. Examine these games’ key features and take note of reviews and forum discussions about the audience’s favorite and least favorite aspects of them.
It’s also a good idea to engage with gamer communities on platforms like Reddit, Discord, or social media channels (like Twitter) to find out what your target audience values and what appeals to them.
To get more specific information, why not send out surveys to potential players? Using free tools such as SurveyMonkey, Typeform, and Google Forms can help developers obtain valuable data on user behavior and help them more accurately analyze the game market.
Ultimately, market research helps to refine the indie game development process, ensure that your game is aligned with market opportunities, and that players’ expectations are met.
Develop a strong online presence
Utilize social media platforms to create awareness of your game, share updates, engage with other developers, and provide behind-the-scenes content about the development process. By regularly posting content, you can create a buzz and build a follower base of people interested in purchasing the game.
You should also consider setting up a developer blog to document your journey and share tips and tricks.
By creating a positive online identity, you’ll increase your credibility and trustworthiness with your intended audience, who’ll be convinced that your game will be a good investment.
Build a community
By building a community, you allow yourself to create a loyal fanbase for your game.
Community members can create buzz for you both online and through word-of-mouth, which will ultimately increase the chance of getting lots of downloads. You can build your community through platforms like Discord, Reddit, and Slack.
Create hype through teasers and trailers
A high-quality and informative trailer can create interest and excitement amongst potential players. Ensure your trailer provides an effective snapshot of your game’s story, objectives, and general mechanics, and share it across social media and community platforms to create hype before the release.
Launch a beta version of your game
Launch a beta version or a demo to get valuable feedback from players. That way, you can make solid improvements, fix any bugs, and ensure that your game is the best version it can be before it’s launched.
A beta release can also build anticipation among your players if access to the game is limited to only a few people.
Develop a press kit
Put together a press kit with all the key information about your game, including high-resolution screenshots, videos, artwork, logos and icons, music, testimonials, and any other information about the game’s release.
Send your press kit to bloggers, influencers, reviewers, and journalists in the gaming industry to increase coverage and awareness of your game before the official release.
To ensure your launch runs as smoothly as possible on the day, it’s important to follow these steps:
Coordinate a successful launch day
- Let everyone know your launch date well in advance by sharing it on social media, your website, your community platform, and any other channels you use to reach your target audience.
- Conduct a final test of your game, and check every detail from the gameplay to the ability to download it. This is your final chance to find and fix any issues before your game goes out into the world. It’s also a good idea to prepare answers to common questions and problems that may arise on launch day.
- Schedule a number of social media posts for launch day, and ensure you respond to comments and shares and engage with your audience.
Collaborate with influencers and streamers
Find and network with people who have a follower base that matches your target audience. Talk to them about your game and ask if they can help you market it around the launch date to gain maximum exposure.
Building strong relationships with influencers and streamers can be highly beneficial for the long-term success of your game. Keep them updated with the latest news about your game, future updates, and other projects related to your release.
Issue press releases and reviews
Prepare a press release and send it out to a list of relevant media contacts in time for launch day. Ensure all the vital details are included about the launch, like the price of the game, where you can buy it, and what makes your game unique.
You can also provide free access to your game to journalists so they can play it and write a review.
Continuously monitor coverage of your game and share any positive reviews and articles on your website and social media channels.
Host a launch stream or event
Consider hosting an event like a live stream on Twitch, YouTube, or another platform to celebrate the release of your game. You could conduct a playthrough of the game, a behind-the-scenes look at the development process, or host a Q&A session to address any immediate queries or concerns from players.
Indie game marketing doesn’t end after launch day; it’s a continuous process if you want your game to be a long-term success. Here are some strategies that independent game developers can adopt to maintain player interest and engagement post-launch.
Update and discount your game
Keep your game fresh and exciting by regularly updating it with new features, expansions, and bug fixes. This’ll keep your existing audience interested, and also attract new players who’ll be able to see that the game is actively being worked on and improved on a regular basis.
You can also entice new players by offering limited-time discounts and offers, creating a sense of urgency and encouraging players to quickly take advantage of these deals.
Continue to engage with the community
An active community is a critical tool for indie game devs. By continuing to engage your community, you can maintain the loyalty of players, and receive continuous feedback to make those vital improvements and adjustments to your game.
Showing how much you value and appreciate your community will help you to gain their trust and strengthen your fan base.
Participate in gaming events
Continue to gain exposure for your game by attending indie game conventions and events. These types of events give indie game developers great opportunities to showcase their games, meet players directly, get feedback, and network with potential partners.
Analyze game performance
Once your game is out in the market, it’s important to gather and analyze data to identify areas for improvement.
Analyze metrics such as the number of downloads, monthly active users, retention rate, and session length to determine how players are interacting with your game, what features they enjoy most, and what modifications you can make to create an even better user experience.
Implement long-term monetization strategies
To ensure your game remains sustainable, you could implement in-game purchases like new characters, virtual currency, and subscriptions. You could also implement in-game advertising, extra downloadable content, in-game events, and even merchandise.
Although the marketing process for indie game development can seem daunting, the time and effort you put into it can be incredibly rewarding.
Extensive market research, creative pre-launch strategies, a carefully planned launch, and ongoing post-launch efforts are critical to enhance your game’s visibility, attract a loyal player base, and differentiate your game in a competitive market.
Indie game marketing is a continuous process that requires patience, innovation, and a desire to meet the needs of your target audience.
By adopting the strategies mentioned in this article, indie game developers can navigate the challenging journey of marketing their newest releases, and uplevel their success in the gaming industry.
Download our Developer Relations Playbook for more insights into engaging other devs and attracting them to your game!