Many indie game developers have very little, or no budget when starting out. Indie game devs typically can’t afford to hire an agency to handle the marketing for their indie game. Many times, marketing is passed off as a very passive part of the game development process, if the dev even does any game promotion marketing at all. Many indie devs also get so caught up and focused on game development, that they totally forget to do any marketing.
Marketing is important. It is quite possibly the most important part of your game development process. You’ve seen, played and bought games that were advertised as amazing blockbusters, and then turned out to be garbage. But why were they so successful? They had marketing for the game’s development all the way through its launch.
If you can afford it, you should definitely hire a marketing team to help you out. This will allow your game to be more likely to be successful and allow you to devote all of your time towards the game development. But, it’s probably a good assumption that you didn’t win the lottery and go into game development with yourself already financed.
Below are 7 tips to help you promote your game yourself. Just take about an hour of your day, and devote it to this marketing. You’ll get some fans, start a conversation about your game and hopefully lead to your game be a success in the marketplace when it’s launched.
1. Embrace Your Story
You have a story to tell. You weren’t born a game developer, you decided to become an indie game developer. Tell your story in a blog, a forum press releases or whatever. People want to know why you decided to become an indie game developer. Talk about your passion of why. Also talk about why you are creating your own game. Maybe you were working for AAA studios in the past and just got sick of the assembly line style of game development. Or maybe you have this great new breakthrough in VR for your game and want to become an experimental game dev.
Talk about it. Let the press know. They love stories like that. It gives hope to other game devs and creates a bond with you and your fans. If you don’t have the funding to own a website, you can start a free website with Blogger, WordPress or Wix.
Remember, no one can talk about your game like you can because no one knows the games like you do. So, show your uniqueness off and share with the world how interesting you are.
2. Get Social
That’s right kiddos. You need to at least have a Facebook, Twitter and Google+ account. People have their faces staring at their phones for a very large portion of their day. Why? Because they want to see what everyone else is doing. You need to start being social, or at least pretending you are.
In general, you will use Facebook as a platform to update daily. Basically, you create a Fan Page for your game or studio (or both) and write a single post with a picture every day. You can share a post from your blog, share a screenshot of your gameplay, share a video of your gameplay or maybe a selfie of you working at the office. Whatever you want. Just post something to hopefully start a conversation with your fans.
Don’t have any fans? Invite your friends (and co-workers if you have a day job) to like your page. If you don’t have any friends, go make some.
Basically, Twitter is a place to sort of speak your mind. So, you can use Twitter to update hourly office photos, add gif animations of your WIP, start a discussion about the game you’re working on. Maybe you will be attending an expo and need directions? Start a conversation about finding your hotel and maybe it will present the opportunity to talk about your game or studio. Maybe, you’ll make a new friend to network with.
Talk as much or as little as you want on Twitter. However, do try to be civil and don’t feed the Trolls.
Google+ is not much of an actual social network, but it is a place for you to share your blog posts to create linkbacks to your blog content. This is good for SEO (Search Engine Optimization), which will basically bring people to your website and hopefully create more fans for your game.
Also having LinkedIn, Pinterest, Instagram and YouTube would help, too.
This is where the professionals hang out. When you write a post about game development or your game, share on your LinkedIn feed. Just follow the instructions to create your LinkedIn account and fill it out as best you can. Make sure to ad your website link to create another backlink. Join any indie developer or indie game fan group pages. Talk to other people in those groups and hopefully you’ll create some new networking pals and fans of your game.
These are social sites to share photos and images. Instagram you can use to update photos of yourself working, going on trips to game expos, hanging out with other game dev friends or whatever. Posting images about you having a good time with life allows your fans to see that you are a cool guy or gal to support. It also creates the wanting of people to meet you. This sense of mystery kind of turns you into a small celebrity.
Pinterest is more for posting pictures of your concept art, any infographics you create, image tutorials or whatever. Pinterest isn’t just for bored housewives and hipster crafters. Professionals use it for marketing. So, you should too. This is also a Google program, so adding a link back to your site on your images would help your SEO, too.
This is where you can create a video blog, screen captures of your gameplay, video promos of your game, a commercial of your game or whatever else you want to post. You can have multiple YouTube accounts, too. Maybe a personal one, and one just for your indie studio. And, once again, Google owns YouTube. So, fill out the description of your video with keywords about your game and a link or two back to your website to help with your SEO.
So, if you don’t have any social media accounts because you think you are somehow fighting “the man” by not using one, you need to suck it up and get one. The only thing you are doing in your fight against “the man” is hurting your fan rating.
If you don’t have any accounts because you’re afraid “they” are watching you, you’re right. They probably are watching you. The second you walk outside into anywhere on “the grid”, “they” are watching you. It is not very likely “they” are hunting you and you are probably not who “they” are looking for. Or maybe you’re afraid your identity will be stolen. You need to find a way to get over your fear. This fear only hurts your possibility for success in the game dev industry.
Just remember, if no one knows you and your game exist, no one will buy or play it, either.
3. Start Your List of Press Contacts
Marketing agencies have lists of 1,000s of journalists and media companies. You probably do not. So, start Google searching for indie gaming blogs, podcasts, YouTube Channels or any other news media outlet. Your local newspaper or news channel would be a good contact as well. When you get to their websites, look for their contact page and add their contact information to your list. You should probably do this in Microsoft Excel or Google Sheets so you can easily search for contacts and easily export the data as necessary.
Then you will write a Press Release about you and your game. Make sure you write the press release to the media outlet you are writing to. If you know the name to whom you are writing, then use it. It helps your press release stand out from the others. Just remember to keep your PR letter to about a minute or less of reading. When you are done writing it, read it out loud to yourself to make sure it is less than a minute.
It is recommended that you send you PR to quality over quantity. Once you’ve identified the media that would be interested in your story, aim to get a list of about 20 key journalists that will act as influencers and help you spread the word. Just remember, it’s better to have strong relationships with five media outlets than 100s of strangers’ email addresses.
4. Promote Your Key Milestones
Your game development timeline will have key moments when something big happens. Whether it’s a Kickstarter campaign announcement, some new screenshots, a soft launch, or an update, plan your PR campaign way in advance. That will allow you spend the time identifying which media outlets you would like your story to appear.
The best way to get your milestones in order and keep track of your development is your Game Doc. So, get your game doc ready. This document also serves as a reminder for you, so you know how you want the game to turn out. It also helps you remember the stuff you want in your game. So, get your game doc ready and create your milestone markers and prep your press releases.
For more info on a Game Doc and Project Mangement, check out Eim-Games’ post here.
5. Serve Your Game to the Press
The press contacts you email receive tons of emails every day from other game developers trying to get their game out there, too. You need to stand out, and also not irritate the press. It’s quite the scale balance, but a lot of it should be common sense.
Don’t make it hard for them. Include links to your YouTube videos. Include contact info so they can give you a call to schedule an interview. Don’t write an email that takes longer than 1 minute to read. Their time is limited, and they will most likely only read the first minute of your letter anyways. Make your subject inviting so it stands out. For example, “Shirley, I thought this might interest you”. Send no more than 3 screenshots. They aren’t making a photo album of your game and will most likely only be using one of the pictures you send. And keep your email to the point. Don’t talk about your Aunt’s most recent heart bypass surgery. They don’t care.
6. Use Your Tools
There are lots of software tools out there to help you along the way. From helping you automate your blog posts with Buffer (click here for more info) to helping you keep track of your time spent working, “there’s an app for that”. Most of these tools are reasonably priced or even free. Don’t forget to use Google Calendar to keep you on time and Google Alerts to inform you when people are writing about you.
Click here for a list of game dev tools from #YGD.
Wrapping It Up
Game development is super fun, but it’s also a lot of work. To be successful, you’ll absolutely need to market yourself. So, get on the web, make a few accounts and start posting!
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Youngstown Game Developers is a free game development resource center and indie game development network to help you meet other indie developers and give you the resources you need to help you get your game into the market. If you ever have any questions about game development, ask us and we will write an article just for you.