At some point, most developers will start wondering how to boost the sales of their indie game. Over the internet, at conventions, through emails, and even while sharing a beer; regardless of how long you’ve been in the industry, this question likely already came up. Finding a proper and thorough answer, though, is not always as easy as it seems.
Some development teams spend years on their projects, only to see them fail right in front of their eyes. Devastated and discouraged, these people rarely stop to analyze what they did wrong. The truth is that there are plenty of different reasons why an independent game might not perform well. Listing each and every one of them would require a book, not an article!
Nevertheless, in the next few lines, I want to shine some light on how the right approach could shape the destiny of just about any project. Stick with me for a while and you might pick up something that could help you on your journey!
Not Every Idea Is Worth The Hassle
Let us begin from the first step: the planning phase. Before you can start working on your very own indie game, you’ll need a solid plan. While I wouldn’t dare to suggest that you limit your imagination, a clear threshold should be put in place. Game development could take anything from a few months to a couple of years. Some ideas simply aren’t worth that kind of hassle!
Helplessly watching as a young company crashes and burns would bring a tear to anybody’s eye. Unfortunately, though, feeble designs rarely evolve to become best-sellers. If you want to maximize your chances, try to understand how the market would react to your product. In layman’s terms: ask yourself how the title’s genre, niche, and fan-base would benefit from your creation.
Copycats, for instance, have lately become an issue among indie developers. The release of a game that closely resembles another damages the whole industry. Hundreds of similar titles flood the shelves, burying promising projects in what can only be described as an ocean of worthless shit. The entire effort is pointless and self-destructive. The fact that someone made it doesn’t automatically mean that doing the same will make you rich.
Instead of wasting your time on a rehash, try to focus on original concepts. Probe the scene and get a feel for what the general population wants. Once you have your idea bagged and tagged, sit down and take all the time you need to flesh it out. Consider your capabilities and develop your indie game without biting more than you can chew!
Feedback’s Half The Battle
Obviously, execution still plays a vital role in deciding the fate of your endeavor. In the end, it all comes down to value; bang for a buyer’s buck. As your project comes along, do your best to remember the goals you’re trying to achieve. Take a break every once in a while and look at things from the outside. I have another question for you: would a user pay to play what you’re building?
This is where feedback would step onto the stage and steal the microphone. Especially when you’re working from the safety of an office or your own room, though, the outside world easily slides to the background. Soon you find yourself developing without guidance. When that sudden realization hits, your project might have already derailed.
While code, assets, and sweat will give you an indie game, they’ll rarely if ever be enough to sell it. A majority of gamers care little about complex lines and flawless compiling. What they want to see, first and foremost, are flashy demos, promising trailers, and juicy previews. As soon as the first prototype comes off the production line, you should start to build a community around it. Take a few pictures, write a compelling description, and pack everything in a nicely-tailored press kit.
Among other things visit events, showcase what you’re capable of, and engage with fans as well as fellow devs. All of this helps you make noise, channeling your buyers’ attention and gaining a spot in their minds. It also allows you to receive genuine and unadulterated feedback, indirectly showing your team what works and what could use a once-over!
Personal Pride Has No Place In The Indie Game Industry
Feedback could be great, but you’ll need the right kind of mentality to benefit from it. Occasionally, first time developers might decide that they’re right and everyone else isn’t. Lack of experience is usually the culprit behind this mistake, but such a behavior could irremediably doom both their current projects and their entire career.
For reviews and criticism to work their magic, you’ll have to set your personal pride aside. It’s not uncommon for someone who made an indie game to lose their temper in front of a negative review. Most fellow creatives would understand it: nobody likes having the results of their hard work torn to shreds. Throw trolls and bored 10-graders into the mix and review pages become one of the most toxic environments humankind has ever stepped into.
Unfortunately, even the most serious of players cares little for your personal feelings. They invested part of their savings in your game and expect it to be up to snuff and keep its promises. Whenever they feel something isn’t working as intended, you can be sure they’ll mention it! Keep your cool, understand what the issue is, and do your best to fix it. You might even gain a few fans in the long run!
Don’t Pull The Plug Just Yet!
Patches and expansion packs ultimately made every title immortal. Even though your indie game might not be at its best right now, there’s no reason for you to give up on it. Retracing your steps could make you a better developer, teaching you important stuff for the future. If you need it, we have an entire section of our website filled with guides on marketing and community management.
Once you’re ready to commit your changes, piece a patch together and take to your studio’s social media accounts. Let fans know how much you care and they’ll forgive most of your mistakes. If the people behind No Man’s Sky managed to turn the tables and save face, why shouldn’t you?