Developing a game independently is a massive challenge, and it doesn’t end once you’ve released it into the world. Marketing now has to be included within the game development process and considered during the planning stages of the game itself. In short, you need to start marketing your game straight away and keep doing it throughout development.
The main concern I always hear from people when I tell them to do this is, “what if someone steals my idea!?”. Firstly, that’s very unlikely to happen, but if it does you’re already one or two steps ahead in the development of that idea so your version will be a lot better than whatever knock off version they come up with. I also see it as a compliment, it’s free validation that it’s a good idea, which is awesome!
I read something a while back that said in todays market, it can cost on average almost $14 to acquire 1 user for a mobile game, from a marketing perspective. If you’re selling your game for less than $14, it’s a business model engineered to fail from the start. Independent game developers often have a limited marketing budget, if any at all. But the news isn’t all bad, there are a lot of things you can do to help get exposure for your game, it just takes work.
My personal involvement in the games we make is in the programming and designing. When I first started game developing in my spare time, 100% of that time spent developing my games was allocated to programming and designing. It never even occurred to me that I should be marketing simultaneously, I mean that’s boring and doesn’t matter, right?
This might come as a shock to some developers, but I now probably spend 50% of my time engaging with the community, whether that be on Twitter, forums, attending networking events or writing articles like this one, and the remaining 50% of my time working on whatever game we’re developing. Shock horror! In fact, I’ve come to really enjoy the marketing side of things, meeting new people and hearing about their ideas can be inspiring in itself, so don’t rule it out until you’ve given it a go.
Develop your brand
If you’re just starting out as an independent studio, you need to establish your brand as game developers. What are the types of games you’re going to make? What will the visual/audio style be? Once you’ve worked this out, the games you make in the future should always fit into your brand guidelines. This is important if you want to build a community of followers who like the games you make and keep coming back to check out what new game you’re working on. This takes time and effort, but it will pay off in the long run, so be persistent and active.
Use Twitter to engage with…anyone! It’s a fantastic way to reach people all over the world. Get involved with conversations and give back to the community. Similarly online forums are a great way to build a community, the Steam forums is a good place to start and there are lots of interesting conversations going on over there.
You can also build a Facebook page and/or website landing page to share content and development progress as you go. This has worked for some people in the past, and definitely worth a shot. There is a nice article I came across a while back that looks at some nice game landing pages, you can find it here.
Conferences and festivals
I mentioned the value of networking events earlier, but you should also try to attend conferences when you can. These are always fantastic opportunities to meet like minded people who are often there for the same reason you are.
There are also game festivals taking place all the time around the world. I recommend submitting your finished game to as many as you can. The worst thing that happens is you don’t hear anything back, in which case you haven’t lost anything. But you could get nominated for an award, which is fantastic exposure for your game and could lead to a whole new bunch of players – you might even win an award! Check out the links below for lists of upcoming game conferences and festivals:
I don’t want to sugar coat anything, marketing your game independently is hard work. There isn’t one way to market your game that is better than another and different methods work better for some studios than others. The only way to know for sure is to start doing it and work out where you get the best results from. Spread your time evenly across all of the avenues mentioned above, within a few months you’ll definitely see the benefits of your graft. Good luck!