In the early days if indie games, it was enough for your game to be good in order to be noticed. There was no competition, so your game would stay on the New Releases list for days. Today, that is not the case. 100s, if not 1000s of games are uploaded to various marketplaces every day with new indie developers emerging all the time. So how do you stay ahead of your competition?
Follow Our List
We’ve created a nice little checklist to help you out. We realize most indie game developers have never marketed anything, and typically don’t have the funding to hire a marketing team. So, here’s a checklist, just for you.
Game Marketing Needs
Before publishing your video game, these are a few things you definitely need:
- Development Blog
- Facebook Page
- Twitter Account
- Playable Demo
Indie Game Website
Whether your website is for your studio or your game, you should have a section of your site, or a sub-domain completely dedicated to your game. Ideally, having one website for your studio and another website for your game would be best, with a second-best being a subdomain of your studio website for your game.
This allows gamers, reviewers, and anyone else who plays or writes about your game to be able to identify you and your game. It also helps with Search Engine Optimization, which in simple terms is a Google search ranking.
Your Game Development Blog
Having a blog is essential. Not only does it help make you and your game have the ability to appear more often in Google or Bling searches, but it creates a trust between you and your fans. Once a week, or once every other week you should write up a 2,000 or so word article about the progress you have had with developing your game. Your fans want to know more about you as a dev, and all fans are curious about the magic of making a game.
A Facebook Page is a great way to start your social story with your fans. Create one for your studio and/or your game and share your blog posts. Share screenshots of something funny that happened with your code when it didn’t work the way you expected it to. Share your story or a picture of your development once per day to keep your fans involved and excited about your indie game’s release.
Everyone is on Twitter. Developers and fans alike, love to talk about games. Whether your sharing some dev tips to your fellow developer friends or sharing an update to your fans, you should have an active Twitter account for your game and your studio. Stay active and set your alerts for when people comment on your posts so that you can respond quickly. Try and post at least twice per day.
Video Game Trailer
People want to know what your game looks like. As you get a little closer to finishing your development, you should screen record yourself playing your game and edit a video into the more exciting parts of your gameplay. Really get your fans excited to play your game. Upload your video to YouTube or Vimeo, embed it in your website, share it on your social media and make sure you have your alerts active to respond to your fans.
Don’t forget to be descriptive when you write out the details of your game, focusing on the keyword actions, type and style of game that you created. This will help people stumble upon your game when doing searches on YouTube or Vimeo.
Video Game Demo
Publish a demo for people to play. Give them a taste of your game and how awesome it is. Whether you demo it based on time or restrict the demo to a level or two will depend on you and your game’s needs. Share it on social media, place a link in your details description for your game trailer and share it on your website.
This should also be something that you send to live-players, video game press, and anyone else you want to review your game. Get it out there!
Your Press Kit
Game journalists would prefer to download everything in one file rather than click through a bunch of links to find what they need in order to write about your game. You will need a page on your website with all of this info available, as well as a zip file that contains all of this info for the press to easily download. So, let us get your press kit ready.
- Relevant Screenshots
- Press Coverage
- Game Info Sheet
- Fact Sheet
- Logos and Awards
- Use presskit()
Relevant In-Game and Cut Scene Screenshots
Screenshots should showcase the very best your game has to offer. Don’t bother with any still shots of your User Interface, Menus, and Game Over screens. Those aren’t what’s exciting about your game. Instead, capture your game’s most significant and exciting moments, like a boss fight or a complex puzzle.
Your Game’s Video Trailer
You can include more than just your trailer video, but really, at this point in your game production, all you need is the trailer video. Most press kits include embedded YouTube videos, although some contain links to high-resolution downloads. As with screenshots, your videos should display critical gameplay events. Show off the game features that make your game special.
This seems crazy since the point of this is to gain press coverage. How do you fill out this section if you don’t have any press coverage? The simple answer is that you don’t. Consider this section a work in progress. Every time someone writes a favorable blurb about your game, update your kit. You can almost think of this section as a “customer review”. When someone reviews your game, highlight a positive review quote here, with a link to the full review.
Game Info Sheet
This is a one page summary of your team, or you if you are a single dev team. Keep it concise, full of facts, and casual. Talk a bit about the history of your studio, what other games you’ve developed (if you’ve developed any in the past), and your current project. Break this sheet down into small sub-sections like “Description” and “History”.
Game Fact Sheet
In this section, you should provide links to your website, dev blog, Twitter, Facebook, and whatever other accounts for your game that you have. Don’t forget your email address so they can contact you with any questions, or maybe an interview. List your previous game releases, if you have any, with links to each game’s homepage. This information should be presented as a sidebar. It is used to show your validity in the industry. Keep it short, but brag about your game dev accomplishments.
Game’s Logo and Awards
This one’s fairly self-explanatory. Reviewers need your logo, and if you have submitted your game demo to any awards or competitions, you want the press to know about it. Display your awards as a simple list near the end of your kit. It just adds to the validity of you and your game.
presskit() is an excellent, free resource for indie game developers who want to assemble a press kit, but don’t know where to start. The program was created by indie developers for indie developers. And it’s free!
Who Do You Send Your Press Releases to?
You need to take the extra time to go out and spread the word about your game. Press and other game reviewers are not very likely to go out of their way or even accidentally find your game. There are tons of games out there, and they receive 100’s of press releases every day. Here we’ve listed a few bigger names that you probably already know to help you start your press release contact list.
List of Game Reviewers:
- Rock, Paper, Shotgun
- Indie Games – The Weblog
- PC Games N: Indie
- Indie Gamer Chick
- The Indie Mine
This is one of the biggest and more reputable gaming websites. But, unlike most big-name video game websites, they actually take the time to review indie video games. They especially like to promote games that are featured on Kickstarter. They are a PC-only site, so don’t send them mobile or console games for review.
Gamasutra is more of a website for game developers. They do offer a guest post blog section. You’ll need to create an account with them, and then you can write up a blog post about the development of your game or a post about how your game studio started and how it got to this publishing title. If the staff like it enough, they will feature it on some of their other sister sites, as well as on Gamasutra.
Kotaku is great because they like to write articles on delicate and controversial subject matter. So, if your game is a little on the edge or something far from your typical gameplay, they might want to review it.
This is one of Gamasutra’s sister sites that specifically focuses on indie games. They tend to write about a lot of the games submitted, so send a PR Kit to them.
GamePress isn’t a review site, but it is a place for you to upload your PR Kit. This website is a database of press releases from all sorts of game developers and publishers. Many reviewers come here looking for some cool news or the next big game. Get your PR Kit uploaded to this site.
There are tons of indie games that are reviewed on this website. They seem to prefer games entered in the Independent Games Festival. So don’t forget to submit your game into the competition before requesting a review!
She seems to ignore PC games, but she’s such a thoughtful, insightful writer that landing a feature on her site would be well worth your efforts. Just don’t submit a crappy game, for she is merciless.
This is a website database of all the game developer studios in the world. Submit your studio to this site. It will add recognition to the games you create and show that you are a legit studio. Not everyone is accepted, but it costs nothing to try.
Other Game Marketing Techniques
Contacting the press and sharing your blog posts on social media is the bare minimum of what you should do to market your game. You should also look into the list of other techniques to help get your game noticed by fans.
List of Other Game Marketing Techniques:
- Indie Databases
- Game Conventions
- Game Jams
Sites like Kickstarter and Indiegogo are great places to get some funding for your title and they are a fantastic way of raising awareness about your game. Placing a campaign on these heavily visited sites is a virtual guarantee that thousands of gamers will, at the very least, know you exist.
Indie databases like Indie DB tend to be flooded with titles, but you should place your game on one anyway. Remember, anything that helps with public awareness even a little bit is still worth doing.
Reddit has a subreddit called Indie Games. Use it to link to your YouTube trailer, website, and press release. The only downside is that the channel is flooded, so make sure your description stands out from everyone else.
If your budget and time permits, get a booth at an event like PAX or even a smaller, more local game convention. You’ll meet plenty of other developers, and potentially thousands of gamers, all looking for their next favorite game. Get people to visit your booth by doing free giveaways and SWAG (Stuff We All Get, like stickers or pins or some other promo item) and make sure to have a playable demo ready to roll.
Submit your nearly finished game or demo to a variety of contests that recognize outstanding indie games. The IGF and Dream, Build, Play come to mind as some of the biggest, but there are plenty more popping up every day., just for fun, competitions as well.
Participate in a local game jam. Game Jams are fun as well as another opportunity to tell like-minded individuals about your game. The biggest one in the world is Global Game Jam, and an online one that happens 3 or 4 times a year is called Ludum Dare.
Getting the Press Kit Ready
It seems like getting your game reviewed is a lot of work. You’re right, it is. Truly, once you have your game demo ready, you should take a step back and focus on getting the word out about your game. After all, these days it’s all about the marketing.
These techniques are just a few ways to market your game. If you have any of your own, tell us about them in the comments below.