The last few days have been somewhat frustrating. I’m not including that in an effort to vent, but because that very sentence introduces the entire article. With our website slowly growing, I spent hours looking for new titles to review. I also noticed how treacherous the field of indie games marketing can be.
I myself am no developer; unless setting up a dishwasher to do its job while I’m not home counts for something. What I can offer, though, is the view through the eyes of a consumer; a gamer. While scouring the web for promising upcoming releases, I tried to log my reactions and the things that went through my mind. The idea was to write something about it.
This piece’s a bit of an experiment. It doesn’t want to be a pretentious guide offering you the keys to success, but rather a personal account of how specific details affected my own choices. Perhaps, it shall be of some help!
It Is (Almost) Always Love At First Sight
Did you ever take a trip to your local games or comics store “just to take a look”? Those of us who lived a tad longer surely remember walking out of these places with an empty wallet and thinking: “the fuck just happened? I was only in there for five minutes!”
Today, distribution platforms such as Steam or GoG work in a similar fashion. With hundreds of products on display, here comes the first rule of indie games marketing: dress to impress!
Back in 2015, roughly 8.1 new entries would be added to the Steam Store every day. The number likely grew since Greenlight turned into Direct. That translates to an extremely limited amount of visibility. If you want to carve a niche for the results of your efforts, you’ll have to look the part!
It takes a handful of seconds to decide what to do with an indie game. Even past the first click, I found myself glancing at a few screenshots and skimming through the description before I moved on. I love giving everybody a fair chance, but time constraints rarely allow for so. Obviously, those two sections of your page should really try to showcase the best you have in store!
Trailers are a stronger, albeit more expensive, weapon. The short videos are flashy, but you should still show actual gameplay and features. A big cinematic intro serves you nothing if the title behind it can’t keep up. Go for something that can resonate with your audience and PLEASE be mindful of headphone users! Look at the one just above; I know I’d definitely like to know more about the game!
You Got Them Hooked? Reel Them In!
At times, your project may still be months away from completion. You know what? Shit happens! Perhaps the development slowed down a bit or you could have waited a bit longer before you opened your official website. Now your whole press-kit is out there and you have nothing else to show. It’s fine, there’s no need to panic!
The other two things I kept an eye out for were newsletters and blogs: ways to keep in touch with the team. Indie games marketing is all done online. Much like other forms of promotion, constant reminders and updates maintain the crowds engaged.
Indubitably, flooding an inbox poses a risk. Before you drop a load right in the middle of somebody else’s workday, you should carefully weigh its content. In my few years following the world of gaming, I found bi-weekly or monthly newsletters to work best.
What do I think should be included? Not too much, not too little. A brief dev-log and few new screenshots should suffice! A short updated list of FAQs would also be great!
You Can Always Call In The Cavalry
Aside from being a gaming enthusiast, I’ve also done this writing thing for a while now. Suspiciously, some even say I’m okay at it. Whatever the outcome, I’ve had the chance to peek through the backdrop of this growing industry. Indie games marketing often means indie games marketers: people who do that for a living.
There’s no shame in asking for help. After all, your game is your most important investment. You poured time, money, and sleep into it; you’d do anything to see it succeed! If you don’t feel comfortable taking it all on by yourself, you can always enlist the help of professionals.
Hiring a PR firm is actually a really nice idea. These companies will handle most of promotion and publishing. They will also deal with the press, make sure that review copies end up with the right people, and – at least sometimes – manage your social media accounts. Obviously, I’m not going to tell you who to call; that’s not what this article’s for.
If you’re all the way down here, it means you found some truth in what you just read. Thanks, I appreciate the trust! Before you start tearing down your website, though, there is one last thing I want to make clear.
These techniques and choices specifically worked with me. I’m surely not the only one who’s going to find trailers and thorough descriptions interesting, but each crowd is ultimately different.
Indie games marketing – hell, all marketing really – is based on trial and error. This article may be something to start with, but don’t forget to experiment. If you ever run out of ideas, feel free to come back! I’m confident this will be one of our recurring topics!
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