The everyday growth of the video game industry opened space for indie developers to enter this competitive market and start creating their titles without the help of big companies.
However, it comes with the necessity of an effective marketing strategy to guarantee the game’s success among numerous titles released daily. From mobile games to console titles, the indie game industry generates hundreds of millions of dollars every year, and marketing strategies are also responsible for those numbers.
Differences Between Indie Games and Other Types
With the indie game market growing so fast, it is common for people to need help in understanding the differences between these and other games.
The indie game genre is usually projects of a single developer or a small team, without the financial help of any publisher.
Most of the time, no publisher is involved in game marketing, so many indie games fail to sell the desired number of copies or even achieve industry recognition. The indie game development can find several problems during the project’s execution, like a lack of resources.
The Importance of Indie Game Marketing
As previously mentioned, the indie game industry grows significantly more every day. This creates considerable difficulty for a game developer to make its title recognized among many others.
That creates the necessity of marketing efforts to generate hype and desire. You can do that through various activities, such as social media channels or a game trailer.
Everything will depend on the game’s target audience and the indie developer’s budget to spend on a marketing campaign, increase the game’s visibility, and make all the difference in sales numbers.
Why Marketing an Indie Game Is Different
When planning strategies and deciding details about them, you must know that indie game marketing strategies differ from what you would do with other video game titles. There are several reasons, from budget to the place it will be launched on. Here are some of the differences in the indie game marketing world:
The main difference between an indie game project is the money involved in it. The budget can be hundred times smaller than the one involved in a AAA video game title, and consequently, the game marketing campaign will also be different.
Many devs skip the market research step to save money for other actions like influencer marketing, which is not advisable. Understanding how much you can spend and choosing the right marketing plan considering your budget is essential in indie game marketing.
Putting the lion’s share of your budget into a collaboration with a huge influencer may not be the best idea, as you may spend the funds on a campaign involving numerous smaller influencers that still can boast about great engagement rates.
Another characteristic of big video game studios is the presence of a sector dedicated to publishing actions and marketing. This is a factor that most indie games lack.
This causes the indie developer to choose between doing the marketing materials on their own or collaborating with a specialized indie game publishing company, which will be responsible for the marketing assets and every other aspect of this process.
Huge Presence on Mobile Game World
Another characteristic of the indie game genre is the enormous mobile market presence. This creates the need for a whole different video game marketing process, from social media platforms to app store pages.
Additionally, more than just promoting your game effectively, it has to be optimized. The mobile industry has two big stores with different needs and strategies, Google Play Store and App Store.
If you want your indie game to be downloaded thousands of times by Apple users, you must have good App Store optimization, from the developing process to the eventual updates. The app must be programmed to run perfectly on all devices that it will be launched.
A good performance on devices makes people play your game much more often. The same works for Google Play Store for Android users.
Indie games are often debut projects of game dev.
This causes game marketing to be even more necessary. Since it is your first game, convincing people to buy your product and play it may take a lot of work.
Connecting the dev to its potential fans and generating hype is challenging in debut games, but it is possible. A recent example of this is Stray, a game where you control a cat lost in a cyberpunk world. Thus, the gameplay revolves around exploring, meeting new friends, and finding your way back home. It was the first project of a small indie studio that created a lot of hype around it.
The release was a success, and its marketing could be seen around all social media platforms. The company responsible for the campaign created videos of gameplay, screenshots, and even backstage footage of the developers’ routine at the company.
The title turned out to be a great game, winning the best indie and best debut indie categories at TGA. Not just because of the incredible story but also thanks to the marketing campaign that allowed the title to reach a huge part of the gaming community and convince them to give the title a shot.
Steps on Making a Good Indie Game Marketing Campaign
Now that you understand the main differences in the marketing process regarding indie titles, it’s time to start creating your own marketing strategy. Here are the steps to create a successful campaign that will attract more users and boost your game’s look and visibility on app stores and marketplaces.
Understand Your Game and Its Public
Before marketing your product, you need to understand your public and its needs. This information will dictate everything you do, from the landing page structure to the social media posts.
Everything must be adequate for the people you want to reach. A good strategy must be based on what the consumers want to see and hear. Be sure to understand the audience of your indie game before starting the marketing development process.
We clearly see this kind of well-structured strategy in Hades, for example. The title created by Supergiant Games took all the elements people love about rogue-like games and incorporated them into an impeccable narrative.
They also took great care when choosing which elements to put into the campaign. A big part of the marketing actions were thought out after the title announcement, thanks to the players’ feedback. This helped the publisher to understand what to focus on when releasing new gameplay videos and screenshots.
Don’t Skip the Market Research
If you want to market your indie game effectively, you must complete the market research step. Many small teams and devs skip this part of the process to save money, but doing so can lead to some of the most common mistakes in this industry.
Many details about your title can be changed due to the results of this research, like the art style or the soundtrack. This is why this in-depth analysis must be done even before you start the first designs.
Each Platform Needs a Different Strategy
When creating strategies for the game’s campaign, you must know that each platform may need a different way of marketing. For example, the mobile games universe has a different environment than a Steam page.
Knowing the characteristics of each one and how to extract the maximum of its potential can be a total game changer for your marketing actions. Be sure to study these websites and market stores to understand how to effectively generate interest in each one.
Create an Appealing Landing Page
In the digital world, an appealing visual is indispensable. People visiting your landing page most likely had heard about your game elsewhere and showed initial interest. Now, your job is to make them stay.
Nowadays, visuals are hotter than ever. Thus, a well-developed landing page full of graphic elements, with short videos and relevant keywords, can be the perfect way to retain and attract more players, especially in the game’s early stages.
Including important information like the available platforms and hi-res images can be a great way to market your indie game without spending on bigger studios just for the campaign. This is a well-known practice used by games of all types and budgets, being even more effective if it’s a new game in the development stage, where people can enter and understand more about the title.
Don’t Forget the Store Pages
Even after creating a perfect landing page, you still need to pay much attention to the stores where you are publishing your game. Be sure to constantly update the vital information, whether it’s a Steam page or a Google Play Store page.
When managing these pages, keep information like release date and game’s synopsis up to date. You should also include test screenshots and videos of the game.
The review section on these pages can give you valuable feedback on what can be improved in both the game and its communication. Seeing that the dev team constantly improves the game can also be a great way to skyrocket your sales.
Team Up With Influencers
Another great strategy for creating campaigns for indie game marketing is to team up with gaming influencers. Giving them early access builds of the game to play live or for a YouTube video can be overwhelmingly positive.
This allows people to see the gameplay and also makes them want to try it as well. This strategy is also very common in all sorts of games and has proven that these influencers are one of the best marketing channels available.
Even though the budget of indie studios is limited, you can still create successful influencer campaigns. Remember to pay attention to the influencer’s engagement rate rather than their number of followers. Commonly, smaller influencers have a greater bond with their audience, making their followers more likely to follow their recommendations.
Press Kits and Giveaways
Another strategy commonly used by indie game devs is creating special kits with limited items for journalists and critics, giving them the opportunity to try the game and possibly write about it. For indie studios, it is a great strategy to do giveaways of special game editions, with collector items, for people on social media.
This helps create engagement and make people interact with the game’s profile on social media. It is a frequently seen strategy that can have an enormous positive impact on your title’s campaign.
Be Active on Social Media
Another indispensable part of a successful marketing campaign is to be active on your social media profiles. Interacting with fans and answering their questions can help a lot in generating engagement and the marketing funnel strategy.
Having someone responsible for this task is encouraged since it can help keep the same language on all platforms. Also, places like Twitter and the game’s Discord Server are great for receiving feedback from players, especially in early access steps.
However, there’s no one-fits-all type of content, so make sure to tailor it according to the platform. For instance, short, viral videos are great for TikTok, whereas a YouTube channel might be a place for longer videos, such as gameplays or walkthroughs.
Interact on Forums and Communities
Another great way of generating hype and engagement for your game is to be active on forums and communities regarding indie games. This way, you interact directly with potential buyers and help answer questions about your project.
Several communities around the internet can be great places for doing that. From Reddit to Steam’s community page, most platforms will have the perfect space for you.
The hype train that can be created by doing this is a great marketing tool without spending a single penny on it. Most developers do this in their spare time, resulting in a significant impact on their titles.
Participate in Events
Participating in events is also a great way to market your indie game. You don’t have to be the main attraction or the biggest stand of it. A small place for people to try the game or even just hear about it can be the key to gaining more visibility and fans.
Letting people try it before the release or even after it is an excellent example of how to create the desire for your product. Most games that do this kind of action on events greatly enhance the number of visits to the game’s store page.
Best Social Media Platforms for Marketing Your Game
Choosing which social media channel to focus on when marketing an indie game can be challenging. From posting screenshots to making live streams and answering questions from fans, there is no wrong or right direction to follow.
With this in mind, we separated some of the other devs’ favorite platforms for you to decide which ones are the best for your project. Along with that, we will add some great examples of indie game profiles on these platforms as well.
Regarding platforms for gaming groups and official video game communities, Discord might be the most famous place. The platform is great for building a unique space for your community, where not only can you discuss various topics but also send almost any kind of file for your fans, from PNG to even less common types.
You can also address links, which is a great option when doing giveaways, or you want to send a post from Twitter to cross-promote content. There are hundreds of tools for developers to build the perfect space for their community.
Check Annapurna Interactive on Discord.
Another well-known platform for gamers and devs to talk about games and promote news about title releases is Reddit. You can easily create a community for your fans to hang out and talk about your games, what they want to see added to them, and all kinds of feedback.
Reddit also offers a bunch of different tools for mods and community owners to see the daily growth of their community. This can be a great way of promoting your titles and content without paying for ads.
Check Genshin Impact Official Community on Reddit.
Even though YouTube’s focus is not text or screenshots, it is also an excellent place for doing marketing without having to pay for it. You can post lots of content regarding your indie game, like gameplay, interviews, backstages of the production, etc.
It is also a great place to attract new fans and make them know about your projects. YouTube is used daily worldwide, so it is definitely the right place to gain visibility.
Check Devolver Digital on YouTube.
Another great social platform to promote your game is Twitter. There you can find thousands of official game profiles dedicated to posting news about a game’s development and future updates.
The platform counts millions of users daily using the app. It is an excellent place to create an official profile for your projects and post updates, screenshots, and other curiosities.
Check Acidnerve on Twitter.
Conclusion on Indie Game Marketing
Creating marketing campaigns for indie games can be a tough task, especially with a short budget. The key to creating a good campaign is interacting with your public and creating communication that matches it.
Be sure to keep your social media accounts active and constantly updated. An appealing visual can also be a game changer for your sales.
The indie industry is growing fast, and the number of titles released weekly is massive. Be sure to follow these steps to make your game shine among the others.
From your landing page to your game’s synopsis, everything must be well-thought-out before execution so it can be effective for your game marketing.
Don’t forget that contracting a publisher is also an option. It can be an extra expense, but it will also increase your chance of success.
SEO specialist with over eight years of professional experience. A/B test and Data-Driven Search engine optimization enthusiast. In his work, he focuses on the development and implementation of a strategy that achieves predetermined, specific goals. Privately, a fan of mountain biking.