This article was originally published on Video Game Insights blog.
Marketing - the dreaded word of the indie dev community. All developers want is to have independence and make a game they've always wanted to make. Alas, this freedom, as all freedom, comes with a small print stating you need to be an expert in development, design, art, marketing, law, accounting, business and 10 other roles you didn't know existed.
Being an indie dev is 40% about being a dev and 60% about the marketing and business side of things. Most people have the ratio at more like 90-10 and then they're surprised when things don't work out. I've talked to developers about their experience and researched the material out there on the topic to summarise a list of best practices and tips regarding game dev marketing to help small developers get started on the journey.
1. Supply of games - Many indie devs make the mistake of blindly starting to develop something they'd like to play. There are 500-600 indie games released every month on Steam - many of them from the same genres and themes. It's incredibly hard to market just another indie 2D platformer. Do your research.
2. Demand of games - You need to make a game that other people want to play. Get people to test it early and often. See if there's traction. Do your research on what does and doesn't work on similar games. What does your audience want? It's hard to market something that has little appeal to begin with.
3. Know your customer - Know who you're making the game for. You don't necessarily have to go after the biggest player groups. It's ok to have a niche audience. You might have less competition and you can better direct the marketing efforts.
4. Retention mechanics - Build traction and retention through game mechanics - especially with free to play games, you should think about ways of extending your players' average playtime. There's a lot of material out there on how to reward players for consistently returning to the game and giving players gratification even in late game.
5. Virality generators - Have something new in the game. Something you can market and sell. Indie games are all about trial and error and innovation and that helps with 'going viral'. You need something to market - visually, gameplay wise or story wise.
6. It's SO important to have a community before you release the game. It's like giving yourself a head start during the release. This head start allows you to hit the ground running, get a lot of downloads early on and hopefully push you to the trending games lists. It's all about the snowball effect early on and you CAN'T achieve that without having an existing fanbase.
7. Connect with other game developers
8. Connect with potential audiences
9. Build a network for post-release
10. Marketing is a full-time job if you want to succeed and have no previous track record. AAA games spend another 100% of their development budget on marketing. Indie games don't have that budget, so the key is to get creative and you need to spend your own time on it.
11. You don't always have to aim for large amounts of copies sold at the expense of price.
I am Karl Kontus, one of the creators of Video Game Insights, a free game industry market research platform. If you have any comments or questions, get in touch on our Twitter page or join our Discord group! I'm always happy to talk about the video game industry.