The importance of marketing your indie game
The success of a video game hinges on its sales and popularity. As a result, marketing is an integral part of video games, especially for indie games, as indie developers would not necessarily have the market presence and brand awareness that big budget video game publishers would usually have in the gaming industry.
The visibility of a video game is paramount in the gaming industry. Even if a video game boasts the best quality and the highest production value, without substantial marketing and visibility, the gaming community would not be aware of its existence.
Unfortunately, video games do not sell themselves solely through word of mouth, nor do they appear magically on the trending lists of digital distribution channels such as Steam, PlayStation Store, Nintendo eShop, Xbox Games Store, Google Play and the App Store. Although word of mouth marketing and being on trending lists may boost the visibility of your video game, they should not be relied on as your main marketing strategy. It is necessary for your indie game to gain enough traction first before word of it can be spread throughout the gaming community, or for it to appear on the trending lists of gaming distribution channels.
As such, you should start to market your indie video game as early as possible. Ideally, publicity for your indie game should be generated in the pre-development, development and pre-release phases to create hype and establish awareness and interest among the gaming community (e.g., gamers, video game journalists, streamers). It is important to provide incentives for the gaming community to purchase your game at launch. Such incentives could be early access or free gifts and promotions.
Launching an indie game with a strong marketing campaign would not only boost its visibility and popularity among the gaming community, but also increase its likelihood of performing well in sales. With a successful indie game, all the time and money invested, as well as sacrifices made by indie developers in the development process would be worthwhile. As a budding indie developer without the budget to hire a marketing consultant, how can you market your indie game in a cost-effective approach?
We’ll explore the ways to effectively develop your marketing plan and promote your indie game through various marketing channels. The aim is to maximize your game’s visibility in the gaming market, boosting your game’s chance at success, even without a hefty marketing budget.
1. Develop a marketing plan even before developing your game
Planning is everything. Knowing your target market and audience is absolutely crucial before embarking on the development process. Even in the video games market, the supply and demand of games would affect a game’s marketability and sales.
Conducting market research on gaming trends, genres and themes, especially those relevant to your planned game, would give you an idea of the market conditions, specifically the supply and demand in the current gaming market. Websites such as Steam Spy and VG Insights are valuable sources of information that publish data and statistics on indie games released on Steam. In 2020 alone, over 10,000 indie games were released on Steam, averaging almost 30 games released daily! With such an outrageous supply of indie games released (most of which are of the same genres and themes), it is imperative to develop a distinguishable game that stands out from the rest of the indie games. This begs the question, how can you get people to buy, to play, or even care about your game?
Knowing what appeals to your audience or what they want in a game is an important element in your marketing plan. However, you have to first decide on your target audience, as it is generally impossible to target all types of gamers in the gaming market. Developing a game that would appeal to the majority of gamers might sound tempting and promising for the sales of your game, but targeting a niche audience might actually be more beneficial, since there would likely be less competition and you would be able to develop a more focused marketing plan to reach your target audience.
Research on the current trends and demands in the gaming market should be also done to develop your marketing plan. For instance, with the emergence of cloud gaming and digital distribution, would there still be a need to publish physical copies of your game? What consoles or platforms should your game be launched on? Should you consider porting your game onto mobile platforms to tap into the rapidly growing market of mobile gaming? Such questions need to be addressed so you would be able to develop a clear marketing plan for your game down the road. Gathering information such as the number of sales or downloads, or user retention rates on games that are similar to your planned game is useful as an indicator for its demand. It would not be easy to market a game in an overly saturated gaming market where the supply of games of a particular genre significantly exceeds its demand.
The landscape of indie games is a massive learning ground. Examine both successful and unsuccessful indie games to identify factors that contribute to their success and failure. Identify gaps in the gaming market that your game can potentially bridge, and figure out how to fulfill the demands of your target audience. Conducting market research before the development phase is an essential step, as you should use market trends and analytics to inform your decisions on the development and marketing of your game.
Enhancing game mechanics during development to support marketing
Even after starting on the development of your game, marketing activities should not be neglected. Marketing during development could come in the form of screenshots, GIFs or teaser trailers in the early stages of development, or playable demos in the alpha or beta testing stage. Such marketing methods would not only build interest and gain traction for your game, but simultaneously allow you to enhance the game mechanics with the help of the data, metrics and feedback collected from your playtesters and audience. A reward system should be clearly defined through the game mechanics to make it more enjoyable for players to continuously play your game. For example, the indie smash hit Hades, a roguelike action role-playing game developed by Supergiant Games, randomizes major gameplay elements (e.g., weapons, enemies, power-ups, rewards), giving gamers a different and unique experience in each playthrough. Such gameplay mechanics would incentivize gamers to keep replaying your game, potentially increasing its user retention rate and popularity due to word of mouth. After all, replay value is a key predictor of a video game’s success and longevity.
Besides game mechanics, other video game components such as gameplay, characters, visuals, music, story or theme can be used to market your game during the development phase. Since you should have already identified your target audience at this stage, consider how your game should appeal to these groups of gamers. Would they want a game that is completely foreign to them, or would they want a game that reminds them of something that they are a fan of? Certainly you could captivate your audience by introducing something unprecedented in your game, such as innovative gameplay. However, since developing a game with a novel concept can be rather tricky these days, you could draw inspiration from existing games and media (e.g., films, books), especially those with a huge cult following, to create a game that would resonate well with your target audience. This is where marketing your game to a niche audience would be beneficial. If your game resonates well with your audience, chances of it going viral would be higher. Having something tangible that you can market and sell would also help your game to go viral, such as a character from your game as a mascot. Take for example, some of the most recognizable indie game mascots such as Sans from Undertale, Meat Boy from Super Meat Boy, and the eponymous Hollow Knight. It is no coincidence that these indie games fared extremely well in their marketing campaigns and sales.
Pre marketing activities before releasing your game
Pre-launch marketing is absolutely essential. If you don’t already know, it is a necessity to build a fanbase and community for not just your game, but for your brand and reputation. Loyalty from your fanbase goes a long way. If they enjoy your game, it is highly likely that they would continue to support your future projects and recommend your games to the rest of the gaming community. Your marketing efforts before your game’s release are going to be beneficial in both the short and long term. With an active fanbase, in all likelihood your game will be getting a significant number of downloads on launch, which will increase your chances of appearing on the trending lists of distribution channels.
So, how do you go about building your fanbase and marketing your game before its release?
Most, if not all indie developers would agree that reaching out to the gaming community through websites, social media and forums is a good way to build your fanbase. Actively engaging with the gaming community through different platforms and channels by sharing your experiences and progress in developing and marketing your game would help to form connections and build relationships, and even friendships. Being active on these platforms and channels allows you to reach out to various groups in the gaming community, such as gamers, fellow game developers, and gaming news sites and journalists. They can potentially contribute to the development and marketing of your game in ways you would never expect. Not only can they help to promote your game, they would also provide you with invaluable feedback and advice.
In addition to sharing your experiences and progress, including a call to action in your marketing plan is a critical factor in determining the success of your game’s launch. A call to action can simply be getting people to add their email to your mailing list, where you can keep them engaged and updated on your game’s progress. Another call to action is getting people to add your game onto their wishlists. The significance of wishlists cannot be understated, as the number of times that a game has been added to wishlist is an indicator of how successful it would be. For instance, Steam uses an algorithm based on that number to compute a game’s popularity. If your game is considered to be popular, it will be promoted on a higher frequency on Steam’s front page, trending lists and recommended games. This would allow your game to increase its visibility and reach out to a wider audience, thus increasing its chances of generating higher downloads on launch.
2. Identify a list of marketing channels that you can utilize based on your limited marketing budget
Casting a wide net over a multitude of marketing platforms and channels to capture your audience may seem effective, but it might not be the most cost-effective and efficient. Understand your numbers and figures when it comes to the costs, time and projected downloads and revenue target. This would enable you to formulate your marketing budget and develop your marketing plan accordingly.
If you are a fledgling indie game developer, chances are that your marketing budget will be relatively low. But fret not! It is still entirely possible to market your game to a wide audience despite your limited marketing budget.
The key is to direct your marketing efforts to platforms and channels which would be the most cost-effective and efficient for you. It is essential to do some research on marketing costs and identify a list of platforms and channels that you can utilise based on your limited marketing budget.
However, with an abundance of marketing platforms and channels these days, where do you even start? The following section is a list of marketing platforms and channels that we recommend.
A comprehensive list of marketing channels and platforms for your indie video game:
First and foremost, a website is an indispensable part of your marketing plan, as it is often an online gateway to introduce your game to a new audience. It also serves as the main operating base of your online marketing activities, where people should be able access all information and updates about your game.
Not to mention that having a link to share your website on other platforms and channels would certainly add credibility to your game and brand, so you should spare no expense in creating a website. There are 4 components to get a website for your video game up and running – the domain, the hosting, the content management system (CMS) and its theme.
Think of a domain as an online address where people can find information about your video game at. Buying a custom domain name for your website is generally inexpensive, costing as low as $10 to $20 per year for a .com domain. And you can do so on domain registrar sites like godaddy.com or namecheap.com.
Web hosting is crucial in getting your website live and accessible on the internet. A website lives and dies with its hosting. It is essentially the space you purchase on a server that allows you to store files (text, images, videos, etc.) pertaining to your website. Popular website hosting providers are Bluehost and Siteground. These hosting providers have one of the best uptime and speed. They also have a one-click install for WordPress, the most popular content management system on the world wide web.
C. Content Management System (CMS)
Using a CMS instead of coding everything from scratch allows you to fully focus on the things that matter, the content of your website. It also allows you to use predesigned templates (or you can hire a web designer to create one specific to your needs) to easily jazz up your website.
If you prefer an all-in-one solution, where 1 single provider helps you set up the hosting and CMS, you can opt to use Squarespace, Wix or Ghost. These providers come with the website’s backend (hosting, CMS and theme) already set up, all you need to do is to purchase the domain and you’re good to start publishing content.
A theme for your website gives it the overall look and feel. It controls its style, layout and color schemes. Most CMS providers like WordPress or Squarespace come with pre-installed themes. And should you prefer others, you can browse theme marketplaces like themify and themeforest.
For ease of use, you should choose themes that are drag-and-drop enabled, for it is the easiest way to customize. Alternatively, you may outsource the entire website development and design to a freelancer or agency. They will take care of the designing aspect for you – albeit, at a fee.
2. Public Relations
Engaging in public relations (PR) to promote your game’s launch is another essential marketing strategy that is low cost. And there are a few ways to go about doing this.
A. Press Release
The traditional way of utilizing Public Relations would be through a press kit. This press kit contains information about your studio (these include the logo, name, biography, location, contact, website & social media links) and game (these are the title, release date & price). This press kit is then published on your website, and also sent to gaming news websites and journalists who write about this industry. And if they like your product, they might just write about your game studio and game.
Creating a press kit virtually costs nothing, although you would have to devote some time to writing its content and coming up with an eye-pleasing design. However, there are plenty of resources online that helps make the process easy.
One of them is presskit() – created by Rami Ismail of the indie game studio Vlambeer. This is a free resource, specifically designed for video game developers, that allows you to create your own press kit from a template. It’s beautiful, optimized and most importantly, free.
However, there are recent studies that found that 70% of journalists spend less than a minute reading each press release they get. Imagine an inbox filled with press releases, it would be difficult to catch the attention of the journalist. Hence, there are better alternatives than just doing a Press Release.
B. Give away free swag
Let’s face it – everyone loves free stuff. And there is no better way to attract the attention of a journalist than giving away fun merchandise about your game. It is an effective way to warm up the relationships between the press and your game studio. And in the long run, you will get more media coverage for subsequent press releases or game launches.
You may also wish to give away merchandise that sits on their desk for a long time – this helps with the brand recognition and recollection later. Such merchandise can take the form of a plushie or a mug.
C. Guest Posting
This method can be effective in getting consistent press coverage with gaming content websites, and it is fairly low cost. Start by creating a list of gaming content websites and their contact email, and reach out to them by pitching articles that you will write for them as a guest. These articles are then published on their website, but credited to you as the author.
Such articles help generate valuable back-links to your own website, as well as help to get your game studio brand name known. Effective guest posts are well researched and written. They should also provide lots of value to the content site owner and his readers. You should also choose topics that are sharable and have the tendency to go viral.
D. Become the expert
When there is a big news happening in the gaming industry, most journalists will tend to cover it. While writing their stories, they also interview experts for their perspectives on the issue. Here’s where you can come in as the expert by providing valuable insights about the topic at hand.
One way you can immediately start offering expert opinions is through the online PR platform called HARO, also known as Help a Reporter Out. HARO is a platform to help link up journalists with experts for their opinions. These opinions are then written in their stories, and are credited.
The process is simple, create an account on HARO and click on ‘I’m a Source’. Create your account and your industry preferences. If you select Master HARO, you will receive all queries from all available industries. It is recommended to select Master HARO, as you might unearth opportunities outside your prescribed ones.
Once your account is properly set up, you will start receiving 3 emails from HARO every day. Each email contains different queries by journalists. Once you’ve found out the HARO query that you can answer, you can either submit a pitch through the HARO platform, or email the journalist directly.
3. Online Forums
Indie gaming and development forums are a wonderful marketing channel to promote your game. Forums such as Buildbox Forum, TIGForums and GameDev.net’s forums have specific sub-boards where you can promote and showcase your projects. They also allow you to post interactive media such as screenshots, gifs, videos and demo.
Some forums also come with DevLog boards, in which you can regularly post updates on the development progress of your game. Networking is part of marketing too, and these forums allow you to connect with the amazing game dev community, where you can receive feedback and pointers from fellow indie game developers.
4. Social Media Platforms
With the advent of social media, reaching out to your audience has never been easier. Popular social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram and Twitter allow you to connect and interact with your target audience and build your fanbase via pages.
Even though it is a zero-cost strategy, a considerable amount of time and effort have to be invested to build your game’s online presence. Social media is a dynamic, fast-paced platform where new content is generated every single second. Hence, consistency is key when using social media as a marketing platform.
Frequently post updates and content of your game (e.g., screenshots, gameplay videos, teaser trailers, GIFs) with striking visuals and eye-catching captions to captivate your audience. They would be able to like or share your content to others, which can potentially give your game the exposure to an even wider audience.
These social media platforms also provide analytics on views, likes and shares of your content. They give you a good indicator as to which of your posts resonate well with people. This would allow you to tweak your game to include features that are popular among the audience, or exclude features that are not so well-received.
To prevent your content from being stale, the 70:20:10 marketing rule should be applied. As such, the marketing for your game should be broken down into the following types of content:
- 70% of your content should be content that has proved to be successful in attracting views, likes and shares, or building your brand.
- 20% of your content should be more risky to attract a new audience, such as viral content or infographics, or content from others to promote another business or project.
- 10% of your content should be more experimental, such as a call to action to download the game, or to leave an email address.
There are also indie game development groups on social media that you could join, such as Indie Game Developers IGD on Facebook and Indie Game Devs on Instagram.
5. Product Hunt
Product Hunt is another free marketing platform where you can share and promote your game and get its community of tech lovers to vote and review it. The top 50 products of the day are featured on their home page under the ‘Popular’ tab.
You should aim to have your product be in this list, thereby setting off a flywheel, where more Product Hunt users can discover it. More will upvote your product, giving you a higher chance of staying in the ‘Popular’ tab. Product Hunt also sends a daily email to its huge database of over 1 million subscribers. They feature the top 5 most upvoted products everyday. This is a free and sure-fire way to garner visitors to your website.
Another feature about Product Hunt is its community. Its users, or ‘hunters’, are similar to social influencers, whereby if they post about your game, their followers would be notified about your game. This means that if a ‘hunter’ has a considerable number of followers, the visibility of your game will be higher, potentially resulting in more votes.
Overall, Product Hunt is a huge opportunity, considering over 4.8 million people visit their website every month. Even a fraction of that would help to boost your game’s visibility and downloads. Some popular games that have launched on Product Hunt before include Pokemon Go, Fortnite and Super Mario Run (and many others).
Our Product Hunt Strategy
1. Preparing your video game’s website for showcase
Spend time building up your website professionally, with all of the important pages published. A minimalist theme would be preferred as it seems to gel well with the Product Hunt branding. Gone are the days where clunky and text-heavy websites take centre stage.
2. Start using Product Hunt
Now, it’s time to get comfortable with the Product Hunt platform while exploring its features. Understand what goes on when a product is launched. Understand how the upvoting and commenting system works. You should also spend some time building up your own Product Hunt personal profile as well. Get everyone in your team onboard as well!
You can also tap into Product Hunt’s community for their expert opinion and advise on both their dedicated Maker’s Page and their Discussions Page.
3. Research and create a list of influential hunters
Just like any social network, the followers of a profile get notified by posts by the user. And users tend to share products that they like the most. This increases the visibility of them in the relatively crowded Product Hunt space. This will definitely boost your product launch substantially.
Find out who these influential hunters are, create a list, and reach out to them on your launch day. Share more about your video game – its features, unique points, your studio’s vision and even your roadmap. You’d be surprised at how many of these influential hunters will reply you and even go the extra mile in helping to share your video game.
4. Prepare your Product Hunt listing
By now, you should already know what goes on in a product hunt listing by referencing how others do it. To summarise, here are the components that you need copy for:
- Product Name
- Website Link
- First Comment
And here are the art assets you’d need:
- Product Thumbnail
- Video link
- Other relevant images
A quick, free and easy way to mock everything up would be previewhunt. You can do your finishing touches there before downloading your launch kit for the actual Product Hunt site. And once you’re ready for the post to go live, hit the ‘Launch Now’ option on Product Hunt.
Similar to forums, Reddit is a marketing platform where you can showcase your game and connect with other indie developers. Users are able post, comment on, and vote for content that they like.
Subreddits such as r/playmygame and r/gamedev allow you to post your demo and discuss everything related to indie gaming.
r/playmygame currently houses 57.4k members (as of March 2021), and even a fraction of that captive audience who view your game will help with your baseline.
If you have the budget to spare (minimum spend of $5 a day), you can consider running paid advertisements on subreddit pages. Running ads on Reddit is good way to drive awareness to your website. Hubspot did a paid marketing campaign on Reddit, and found that the cost per acquisition is similar to that of Facebook’s.
Here’s how to advertise on Reddit:
1. Make a company Reddit page (not your personal Reddit profile)
2. Create an advertising account with your billing method
3. Find subreddit pages with audiences that you think would want to play your video game
4. Set up your advertising campaign with the correct objective
5. Determine your ad group settings – Location, Interests, Communities, Device, Budget, Bid, Schedule
6. Create your ads with your creative assets and ad copies
7. Input your ad trackers
8. Hit ‘Review’ and your ads are good to launch
7. Game Review Sites
A marketing channel that would increase your game’s visibility is game review sites. Pitching your game to gaming websites and journalists would require you to ascertain its Unique Selling Proposition (USP), which is a quality that makes your game stand out from the rest of the games.
Examine what are the features that make your game unique. These USPs will be used to showcase how different your game is to the game reviewers, who will then do up a post about it on their own websites.
Another essential component with this marketing channel is your press kit, which was discussed earlier in the article. Using your USPs and press kit, you should be able to pitch your game easily to gaming websites and journalists to get them to do a feature and a review on it. These sites should not be charging you for such a review, so simply send them a beta key access to your video game, and ask for their honest feedback via the write up post.
Here are 5 Gaming news and review sites that you can start off with:
3. Game Informer
In addition to such game review sites, you can also reach out to video content creators on popular video platforms like Twitch or Youtube. The downside about game review sites is that they lack a consistent voice and persona. This is because they usually have a large team of writers, and each of them have their own writing style.
8. Twitch & YouTube Gaming
Through a single content creator on Twitch or Youtube Gaming, you get to choose the persona that best fits you and your game. And by featuring your game’s gameplay on video, it lets viewers have a first hand taste of your gameplay through a neutral reviewer.
YouTube is a popular channel for gamers to browse game tutorials and game play videos. Not only that, there are around 2 billion of users who view YouTube monthly. With the right marketing strategy, your game could potential reach a sizeable amount of people who would eventually become players of your game.
Here’s how to get your gameplay video discoverable on YouTube Gaming:
1. Identify and list down micro influencer gamers who stream regularly on YouTube.
Ideally, you’d want to reach out to micro influencers, these are not the mainstream influencers who have millions of followers. Instead, find micro influencers who have 1500 to 500,000 followers. These guys are a lot cheaper than the main stream influencers, and tend to have a very engaged group of audience. Overall, your conversion rates with them would be higher, and at a lower cost.
Here’s the method to find micro influencers on YouTube:
1. Go to the YouTube Gaming page.
2. Click on the ‘Top Live Games’ tab.
3. Choose and click on the Live Games that are similar to your game’s genre.
4. Click on the ‘Live’, ‘Recent’ and ‘Explore’ tabs and identify YouTube channels that have a video listed there.
5. Identify micro influencers who you would like to reach out to, and go to their ‘About’ tab. They would usually have some form of contact details there, be it an email address or an Instagram handle.
6. Make an excel sheet list of their key metrics and contact details. (YouTube channel name, Subscriber count, Average view count per video, Frequency of video streaming, Join date, Email address or Instagram handle)
2. Contact the YouTubers who meet your criteria.
It’s recommended to only reach out to YouTubers who can attract at least 1000 views for their videos. This saves you time and effort, as a view count of below 1000 is would not make that great an impact in terms of traffic numbers for your game.
Send them an email instead of using YouTube’s native messaging platform as the latter would most likely be filled with spam.
In your email, go straight to the point and craft a personalised message. You should also mention why that particular YouTuber stands out to you. This makes your outreach genuine and sincere, and this makes them more likely to want to work with you. Also explain why your game is worth playing, and what makes it special. Lastly, include a copy of your game for them – whether is it a downloadable link, or a game key code.
3. Know that rejection is part of the game.
There are many reasons why these YouTubers don’t write back – and it’s perfectly okay. You may wish to send a polite follow up email to those who did not get back. Otherwise, it’s time to move on and find new YouTubers to take on your project.
4. Ensure that your game is ready for feature.
Your game will be played, reviewed on and featured by these YouTubers publicly. Thus, it is paramount that your game is free from technical glitches and bugs. First impression counts a lot, and viewers who are seeing your game for the first time will be judging it.
Over 140 million users watch videos on Twitch every month, and this number is set to keep growing. And although 140 million isn’t as impressive as YouTube’s 2 billion, you can rest assure that the audience on Twitch loves to play games. About 70% of their audience are aged below 34 years old, and that age band is the perfect target audience for most video games.
Here’s how to get your gameplay video discoverable on Twitch:
The strategy is similar to YouTube, we’ll want to only hone in on micro influencers on Twitch. These guys have the best engagement rate, a very loyal audience, and stream only in a specific game niche.
1. Identify and list down micro influencer gamers who stream regularly on Twitch.
There are 2 manual ways this can be done – sieving through the recommendations on the home page, or looking through each game category on Twitch.
Home Page Recommendations
Scroll through the live channels that get recommended to you every day, and click through to each streamer’s profile. Look for micro influencers who specifically have between 1000 to 500,000 followers.
Game Categories on Twitch
Hit the ‘Browse’ button on the top left, and you’ll be taken to the full list of game categories on Twitch. Pick out game categories that you think your game’s target audience will fall into, and start looking out for micro influencers who are streaming.
9. Alternative Digital App Stores
Beside the major digital distribution channels such as the Play Store and the Apple App Store, listing your game on alternative online stores will allow you to reach out to a wider pool of audience.
Why should I list on alternative digital app stores?
These alternatives make viable platforms to sell and market your game on, since there is a considerable number of users and less competition compared to the major ones. They also seldom charge a hefty app listing fee. In addition, there is a higher chance of your game getting a spot in the recommended app list, or the top games list.
These alternative digital stores include:
1. Amazon Appstore, features new games on their front page and allow developers to secure paid feature spots to increase their games’ visibility.
2. GetJar, an independent app store specifically for iPhone users that garners over 3 million downloads from its platform a day.
3. SlideMe, often known as the next best alternative to the Google Play Store. They also take mobile security very seriously as all listed apps are scanned thoroughly for viruses and loop holes.
4. Builds.io, catered for Apple iPhone users, the store receives over 100,000 apps every month. Users can also install iOS applications onto their devices directly from the Safari browser. Builds.io also actively checks and rejects over a third of applications due to security issues.
5. 1Mobile, another free alternative app store for Android users. Users would need to install the 1Mobile APK on their mobile devices to access the store. Currently, over 800,000 apps is already live and ready for download, garnering over 100 million+ installs. Only free to install apps are accepted on this marketplace.
Discord is a multi-functional platform designed for creating communities in which users can communicate with voice calls, video calls, text messaging or share media and files in servers. This platform is increasingly popular among the gaming community, and you can use it to your advantage by opening your own Discord server to promote your game and provide regular updates to your audience.
In addition, you can join Game Dev League, a Discord server with over 40,000 members to connect with other indie game developers and indie gaming enthusiasts.
Snapchat is ranked as one of the top most-used social media platforms in the world. Not only does it allow you to connect with a younger demographic, Snapchat users were found to be 60% more likely to make impulse purchases, signifying a high volume of user and sales traffic on the platform.
You can launch an advertising campaign to promote your game on Snapchat starting from $5 a day, by posting photos or videos accompanied by a link to your website and encouraging your audience to share them with their friends.
TikTok, a video-sharing social networking app, is one of the most downloaded apps in the world in recent months. Using TikTok as a marketing platform, you can potentially reach a broader audience through creating your own channel and videos for your game. TikTok is the king of viral content. With the right hashtags, it is possible to gain an absurd amount of likes, views and shares for your game and make it go viral.
13. Universal App Campaign by Google
Google’s Universal App Campaign (UAC) is an automated advertisement in Google Ads that helps advertisers generate more app installs through machine learning to identify best performing ads and show them to the most relevant users.
Using the app campaign as a marketing tool for your game is simple. You do not have to create the advertisement. Instead, Google will create your advertisement with your digital assets (e.g., images/videos from your Play Store listing). However, you will have to manage your daily budget, target cost-per-install, target location and target languages and the campaign start date manually. Your campaign budget depends on your campaign objective. Cost-per-install attracts as many new app users as possible, and Google would recommend a budget at least 50 times greater than your target cost-per-install. On the other hand, cost-per-action find users that are more likely to complete an in-app action like a purchase, level up, etc., and Google would recommend a budget at least 10 times your cost-per-action.
UAC allows you to advertise your game on Google’s largest ad network, including Google Search, Google Play, YouTube and Google Display Network, which would tremendously increase its discoverability and potential downloads.
14. Partnerships & Co-Marketing
For indie developers, having the opportunity to partner with another party is a boon. A game publisher or a more experienced indie developer would possess a wider array of marketing tools and experience to help with promotional activities and lend credibility to your game. It would be a beneficial learning experience to seek out such opportunities to form partnerships with stakeholders in the gaming industry.
15. Publicity Stunts
The most unorthodox, yet attention-grabbing marketing strategy in all of gaming is publicity stunts. Typically, the cost for such a marketing tactic is low. If the idea of a publicity stunt for your game is creative and well-executed, it would generate plenty of media coverage, hype and interest.
3. Prepare the essential marketing materials before launch
You’d need to prepare different marketing materials catered to each marketing channel as each channel requires a different shape, form or format. For example, reaching out to micro-influencers would require you to have your website, an email pitch and game keys. While the Universal App Campaign channel would require clips of your game, preferably shots of game play.
However, there is a laundry list of essential items that you’d need to prepare no matter which channels you eventually pick to advertise on.
Here’s the list:
- A press kit containing information about your studio – namely, your logo, name, biography, location, contact, website and social media links and game details such as the title, its release date, retail price.
- Teaser trailers about your game that’s to be launched
- Gameplay/Demo videos
- High quality screenshots – In-game, or cutscenes
- High quality artwork about your game
- Concept art of your game – such as its environment or characters
- Highlights of your game’s unique selling propositions
- Promotional merchandise and memorabilia – such as action figures or plush toys of your game’s characters
4. Evaluate what marketing channel works, and what doesn’t
As with all marketing campaigns, the tracking of key campaign metrics that are unique to each marketing channel or activity is vital to its success or failure. Every marketing activity is trackable, and you have to diligently track metrics before, during and after launching any paid marketing activities. Once you know what works for your game, you can then focus your remaining budget and energy into scaling up that particular channel.
To do this effectively, you must first sieve out the engagement metrics that matter. Marketing, specifically digital marketing, is filled with endless amounts of metrics and data – and this can get overwhelming in a very short time.
For example, to evaluate how well your website is doing, you’d want to do the following:
Google Analytics will need to be set up on your website the very moment it is live. It is important to have it from the get-go as Google Analytics will not be able to backtrack any website data before its installation. This would mean the loss of data if you have it up late.
9 key indicators on your website that you should be tracking:
1. Bounce Rate: Crucial in determining if there is anything wrong with your website. The higher the bounce rate, it indicates that your visitors are turned off by what they see upon landing on your web page. First impressions are everything in the digital space, and you have roughly 5-8 seconds to capture their attention before they close their tab. Aim for a bounce rate of below 55%.
2. Average Session Duration: Tells you how interested a website visitor is with your website’s content. The higher the session duration, it means that a website visitor is sticking around your website for a longer time. They are intrigued by your content and are interested in reading more. Anything above 90 seconds is great.
3. Click-Through Rate (CTR): This is used in combination with Google Ads or Google Search Console. A low CTR indicates that visitors aren’t very interested in exploring your website although it is showing up on Google search engine or in a Google Search Ad. You’d have to then work on your website’s page Title Tags and Meta Descriptions to make them more enticing. A CTR of more than 2% is considered great.
4. Pages Per Session: This metric tracks how many website pages do your visitors browse while on your website. It analyzes which pages are leading your visitors deeper into your website, and which do not. The more pages per session, it indicates that your visitors are very engaged with your website content and are seeking out more of your website. For a video game owner like yourself, you should aim to have your visitors eventually land on your install page. Anything above 2 pages per session is good.
5. Exit Rate & Top Exit Pages: This takes into account which of your website pages are visitors leaving your website from. It then allows you to zoom in and analyze them to see if there are any issues causing the visitor drop off. Ask questions like, is the website speed too slow? Do these pages lack a call-to-action, ie. an install game button of sorts? An exit rate of less than 35% is good.
6. Returning Visitors: This metric tracks how many of your website visitors come back again to view your website. The higher the number of returning visitors, the bigger your group of engaged people. This is a good sign for brands trying to build a long lasting relationship with its customers. A good returning visitor rate is 30%.
7. Time on Page: This metric gives you an idea of the quality of website visitors you are attracting to your website. If you are getting a large number of website visitors but they are spending only a few seconds on a page, that is a key warning sign that your advertising strategies may be wrong. You can also make your website content more engaging to lengthen a visitor’s time on page. This can be done through the use of interactive visuals such as infographics, videos, gifs.
8. Dollars Per Visitor: This is an important metric as it informs you whether your visitors are actually spending money on your video games by buying them. Setting up proper backend tracking allows you to track how much a visitor is spending on your products, and whether your advertising spend is paying off.
9. Conversion Path: This is not really a metric per see, but it gives you a visual understanding of the steps on your website which people take to purchase or install your video game. Knowing the conversion path will also let you understand which pages have higher than normal drop-off rates, and thereby enabling you to act on them.
Now, identify and list down the metrics from your chosen marketing channels that matter. Then, plan out how you’d measure its advertising effectiveness.
5. Key takeaways from planning and executing a marketing campaign for your video game
The key takeaway from this article is that planning and developing your marketing plan, as early as possible, is pivotal to your game’s success. Marketing in gaming should not be regarded as a singular process. Instead, it should be planned and implemented in multiple phases. While this article primarily focuses on the marketing before development, during development and post-development/pre-launch, you should know that marketing efforts should not just come to a halt after launching your game.
Retaining and growing your fanbase through game patches, updates and sales is absolutely important to preserve the momentum. Continuing to engage with your community and maintaining the rapport established with other indie developers can potentially engender opportunities to elevate your game’s success, and open doors to future projects and collaborations. In addition, submitting your game as an entry for gaming awards is a sure-fire way to renew interest and gain more exposure and credibility.
To sum up, preparation is key. Do your research on the various marketing platforms and channels, identify which would maximize your return on investment, and undertake cost-effective and efficient marketing strategies. Planning and developing your marketing plan early, even with a limited budget, will put your game in a favourable position to succeed.
Wishing you all the best in your video game’s launch!