If you’re an indie developer, chances are you’re trying to share a game—or a few—with the world. You spend hours crafting the perfect characters, tweaking the God Rays, setting the tone, and placing the platforms in just the right spots. It’s no wonder you want people to see your creations, your art, and to hopefully pay you for the experience as well.
Unfortunately for you, it’s not enough to just make a video game. No, in fact, to be a successful developer, you have to market your game as well. Marketing takes the best features from the game and displays them for the world to see to entice players to buy it. It forges connections with your target audience, and it establishes you as a solo developer, indie studio, etc..
Here are some basics you just can’t do without.
For the sake of completion, let’s touch base on the basics: Kickstarter is your friend. Crowdfunding in general is your friend, but Kickstarter is the most commonly used method of crowdfunding. There are some pros and some cons here, however.
On one hand, Kickstarter gives you 30 days to campaign your game in the hopes of getting the funds you need to make your game happen. If you don’t meet your goal, you don’t owe any fees, and you don’t get the money. Essentially, you just waste your time at that point. That being said, if you meticulously add links to your Kickstarter page, and connect it to your website, the game’s site, social media accounts, etc., you can rank higher in Google searches. This helps you gain exposure, at the very least, even if your game doesn’t get funded.
The bad part about Kickstarter, is that games don’t really get funded unless they’re already relatively known. Much like Patreon, people like to fund projects from people they know and trust. If they feel like they already have more of an established connection with you, or your team, then they are more inclined to help out.
Plus, with the whole “games take too long to complete” and all the dead projects that never really come to fruition, you have some skeptical backers. Funding for games on Kickstarter has dwindled in the last year.
So, how do you set up a “developer platform” to increase your chances of success?
If you want to connect with more people, you need Search Engine Optimization. There is no better way to market your video game. SEO is when your online content contains appropriate keywords throughout, making it rank higher in searches. You’ll be using tags and categories, as with any blog post, but also a useful title with the focus keyword included. Meta descriptions and images are also factors.
When you’re not using Yoast SEO, you’ll be using tips and tricks to rank even higher. There’s a lot of competition out there! Your objective is to stand out more than others, and land a spot on the first page of search results when someone types in your game’s name, your studio’s name, or something else relevant.
Some tips and tricks include adding captions to your images—containing keywords, of course. Using Google’s Keyword Planner to see what keywords rank higher is also a smart idea. Finally, remember that marketing and SEO take time. If you don’t have the time for this, and you feel that it’s cutting into the much needed development, or Kickstarter campaign time, don’t be afraid to hire a freelancer who does SEO. The longer the project gets exposure prior to crowdfunding, the higher the chances are of getting the funding you need.
Views & Conversions
Upon using SEO and ranking higher in searches, you’ll realize that your views will increase. This sets the stage; it creates an audience. Now, every audience member has a job, even in real life. Their job can be to listen to music, to watch a play, or in this case, purchase a game. Every time your audience does this, they’ve increased your conversion percentage. Or, as Analytics Help describes it:
“When a visitor to your site or user of your app performs an action defined as a goal, Analytics records that as a conversion.”
Google Analytics is a tool you just can’t do without. It helps you see how many people are going to your site, how they’re being directed there, and how many are actually doing what you want them to do. For instance, if you’re trying to get them to click on an ad, and they do, it’s in favor of your conversion rate.
The higher the conversion, the more successfully your game is marketed. Here’s a resource on how exactly to do that. It’s a lot more simple than you think, but time consuming!
If your head is swimming, don’t worry: we’re going back to basics in the next few tips. Web design is a must if you’re trying to market your video game. Yes, web design. Why? Because no one wants to look up a developer’s website or game studio and find a dated, broken, unkempt, cobweb website (RIP Geocities and Angelfire). Using SquareSpace—if you have the budget for it—you can create a sleek website. WordPress is more SEO friendly and cheaper, but the themes are a bit more limited. If you do go down this path, consider using Bluehost for only $2.95 a month. You get a domain name, and they offer easy WordPress creation.
Now, if you’re more hands on and have an eye for design but also fancy a decent pricing system, Weebly is a good option. It involves much more keyword planning and SEO knowledge, since it doesn’t have Yoast SEO, but it’s great if you know how to do it. And the design, regardless of the theme, is all customization-friendly.
Pro tip: keep it simple, yet interesting. Simple goes a long way, and it certainly helps to cut down time spent tweaking the website. It can become an addiction, if you’re not careful. Instead, add interesting elements, like a bold color scheme, an appealing paragraph title font, or eye-catching images.
Sometimes, having a nice website and your heart in your hand isn’t enough. If it was that easy, everyone would meet their business goals. This is when social media comes in real handy. Stop stalking exes and use social media for something better: marketing. Tweet out images and updates on your game. Instagram the whole process. Post on gaming boards and Pinterest the concept art. Whatever outlets you choose, make sure to add something the community would value.
For instance, Tumblr is known for being artsy. Posting concept art there would do well. Instagram is more vain and all about quality images. Posting photographs of the studio and the team in action would be perfect. Videos of someone sketching too.
Getting Old School
Finally, remember that nothing beats the old tricks. If all of your marketing is done through a screen, you’re only going to reach so many people. Nothing beats word of mouth! Nothing beats going out there and promoting yourself. As a developer, you might be an artist first, but you’re an entrepreneur second. Or is it the other way around?
Make business cards and hand them out at conventions. Set up a booth and pitch your game. Make merchandise and sell it on the studio’s website so people can wear it out and about. Make a few things for yourself, so you market your game while running errands!
But Wait, I Have Questions!
Now that we’ve covered the basic outlets you should be using, let’s focus on some common questions that we get all too often:
Can a small indie team handle both development and marketing?
Developers say that yes, they can handle that as long as the two are combined. Live streaming the development or interacting with the community is a great way to obtain exposure, and the results are well worth it. The trick here is to be dedicated in regards to your work, and the results will come for sure, there’s no issue with that, it’s only dedication that has to be there.
Which is the best form of marketing for an indie dev team?
There are many you can use, you can opt for Twitter, Steam announcements or blogs. At the same time, websites like Reddit, Facebook or any other similar tool that can bring you a great exposure and create a connection with players. Interacting with the player base by playing with them directly is a great idea for multiplayer games.
How to overcome the initial struggles when it comes to game marketing?
If you want to get the ultimate exposure and obtain coverage for your games you need to work hard and talk with every piece of press you can find. Knock doors and work hard in order to increase exposure. Hard work is the best way to obtain exposure because the more you work to promote your game the better the results will actually be. Don’t be afraid to overcome your fears of thinking that promotion may be out of your reach, and always try to find new methods of promotion.
Best marketing techniques to use
A good way to promote your game is to hand keys to YouTubers because this allows you to reach more people instead of paying tons of money to game magazines. Talking to as many people as possible about your project does the trick, but at the same time social media can be a great tool in this regard. At the same time, you need to be nice with everyone, especially bloggers or Twitch streamers, as they can easily promote your game to their audience, and this will lead to increased sales.
Best practices in game news
You should try to focus on niches because this is the best way to gain attention. Talk with the niche publications and you will be able to obtain great exposure. Writing a press release and then sending it to as many sites as possible will help you as well, but at the same time going at events and interacting with the press will help as well.
Marketing your video game is tough work, mainly because it’s so time consuming. It literally takes up most, if not all, of your time. You should be marketing yourself constantly, through social media and your website, or even out and about. Whenever you’re making a game and need a break, you should be stopping to capture the moment and share it with anyone who will pay attention.
In the end, the idea is to share your art with others. And hopefully sell a few copies, of course!
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