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Indie Devs, Please Market Your Games!
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Indie Devs, Please Market Your Games!
by Mike Rose on 12/06/10 11:39:00 am   Editor Blog   Featured Blogs

The following blog post, unless otherwise noted, was written by a member of Gamasutraís community.
The thoughts and opinions expressed are those of the writer and not Gamasutra or its parent company.

 

I received an email in my IndieGames.com inbox today that made me sigh in disbelief. It was from an indie developer, and it epitomizes how the average indie dev goes about their marketing. Rather than quote bits, here is what I received in full (with names removed as not to embarrass the sender):

Hi Michael,

My name is ****. I am the founder of the ****, a small indie game development studio.

I am just curious if you have ever come across the game titled [game name]?

I have been reading about all kind of indie games on Indie Games Blog and I have never seen our game being mentioned on the blog.

Is there any particular reason why [game name] has not been mentioned on your blog?

We would really like for one of the editors to play it and if they think that the game deserves to be mentioned on the blog, we would like to see an outline or review or something about it. If it's possible at all.

Thank you for your time.

Cheers,
****

After reading this, I immediately checked back through my saved mail to see if I'd heard from this dev, or indeed anything about their game, before. I hadn't. This was the first email I had ever received regarding the game.

I then went searching on Google to see what I could find about the game (as you'll notice that the email didn't even include a link to the game's site). Other than finding the site itself and a page on IndieDB, there was absolutely nothing else on any other site about this game (apart from a couple of personal Blogspots).

Which brings me to the question: does this developer believe the Indie Games Weblog editors to be psychic? Should our Indie Senses have tingled as the game was released? Should we have been scouring the darkest corners on the internet and randomly come across it?

Now, this is an extreme example of the lack of knowledge that some indie developers show when it comes to getting their games out there - of course, lots of developers know how important it is to get the word out, and if you're reading this and nodding knowingly, then you're most likely savy to what I'm getting at. For everyone else however, please heed this warning: If you do not email games sites about your games, then there is a very high chance that anything you release will disappear into a sea of indies.

We talked with Ichiro Lambe of Dejobaan Games on the IndieGames podcast this week, and he told us that he reckons Dejobaan spend around 25% of their time marketing both the games they have already released, and the games they have in development. That's not to say that every indie developer should be aiming for this mark, but it gives a rough outline of how other developers are handling their wares.

So indie developers, ask yourselves: Have you emailed everyone worth getting in touch with? Are you talking about your game in the correct light? Are you building a presence on Twitter and Facebook? Have you marketed your game enough? If the answer to any of these questions is 'no', then you may want to consider your priorities.

If you haven't gotten in touch with us at IndieGames.com yet, then make sure you do so: You can get in contact with all the editors at editors@indiegames.com. If you need tips on what to send us, try reading my Indie Marketing Guide on Gama.


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Comments


Nathan Fouts
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I think this is a good "yes, it's okay to email media about your game" start for new indie devs. Your full blown "The Idiotís Guide to Marketing Your Indie Game" on your blog should be a great help too for many devs!

Martin Crownover
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The link is down because you included part of the permalink twice. This is what it is:



http://www.gamasutra.com/blogs/MichaelRose/20101206/6566/blogs/Mi
chaelRose/20091212/3798/The_Idiots_Guide_to_Marketing_Your_Indie_
Game.php



And this is what it should be:



http://www.gamasutra.com/blogs/MichaelRose/20091212/3798/The_Idio
ts_Guide_to_Marketing_Your_Indie_Game.php

Mike Rose
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Yeah, but when I try to replace it, it simply adds the same link again. No idea why...

Rick Kolesar
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I mentioned this a bit ago here when everyone was up in arms with MS moving the Indie Channel on the dashboard. As an Indie Developer, you can't assume anyone is going to promote your game. You have to do all the work, you have to build the community (and reward the community with beta invites, art work, something to make them feel special). Talk to other indie developers and see if they will mention your game on their site. Communication like that leads to stuff like this http://www.indiegames-uprising.com/

Stephen Northcott
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Of course the flip side to this is often the lack of response from many many so called "indie web sites" to the emails they get from indies. And yet some of those same sites will happily publish news of trending games from established non-Indie publishers seemingly day after day. I could name names and cite examples but I'll save people the embarrassment... for now. ;)

Mike Rose
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Hey Stephen,



if you've emailed any sites about a game, and they haven't gotten back to you, it's probably due to:

a) Your email wasn't great

b) It just so happened that on that day, the email completely past all the editors of the site by

c) Your game isn't great



Again, my marketing guide (http://gamasutra.com/blogs/MichaelRose/20091212/3798/The_Idiots_G
uide_to_Marketing_Your_Indie_Game.php) explains points a and b, but if the answer is c then you're on your own, I'm afraid :)

Stephen Northcott
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To be honest we do just fine doing all the things that we all know need to be done to promote a product. I am not complaining from a standpoint of not being able to eat. Just that some indie sites are not "so indie". I think it is more a case of producing what the Indie publications perceive as trendy or interesting to the market.



Has it got zombies? Check.

Is it an homage to a SNES game? Check.



Where as if it's a WIP, and based on IP that is a little more complex than say, Angry Birds, then the Indie publications tend to have a luke warm response unless nudged repeatedly, or your particular project hits the inbox of the right guy or girl.



You expect big publishers to focus on where the money and the traffic is.

And whilst I don't expect Indie sites to publish every fringe or amateur project that comes their way... a little more imagination and support from some would not go amiss.

Eric Schwarz
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It's true. The only real indie games that ever receive much attention from anyone are those with good marketing pushes... or those that go on Steam/XBLA sales, I guess. Braid, Eternity's Child, World of Goo, Super Meat Boy, Amnesia, and perhaps Aquaria are all good examples of how to get people to find out about your game on a budget. You need to get the word out early on, and keep fans updated about the game's development. Adding a community element to what are generally perceived as "homespun" games can be a huge benefit, and a decent-sized fanbase will be able to sell far more copies than you can alone.



And while I do hate to point this out, a lot of indie games I see just aren't that good, either because they have terrible art designs, undercooked mechanics, little to no depth or replay value, etc. The best ones innovate on a core mechanic and do all they can with it. If you've just made Tetris with pies replacing the blocks, well, nobody's going to care much about your game even if you do market the hell out of it.

Rick Kolesar
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@Eric Agreed



If you want to see how it's done, go check out Super Meat Boy's Facebook feed. They had tons of updates, lots of pictures and videos. They make you feel special, like you're in some special club seeing the game before it's done. Closure, Spy Party, and Monaco also do this very well.

Attila Bihari
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Nice post, thanks for it.



I have a small(10 people) game dev company with a very successful online game title in CE Europe.(2 million MAU)



We are planning to launch our game on facebook in english.



Could you help me/us with some more relevant links, where to send our introduction email after launch?



1. IndieGames.com

2. ?

.



Thanks in advance,



Attila

Attila Bihari
profile image
Thanks, finally I've found the answer in Idiot's Guide. :)



The list for other "idiots", like me: :)



RockPaperShotgun

IndieGames

TIGSource

Play This Thing

Pixel Prospector

XNPlay (for Xbox Live Indie Games)

Tim Carter
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Marketing is not the job of a developer.



The job of a developer is developing games. If they get caught up in marketing, that's a fundamental waste of their abilities and talent.



But they need to be prepared to talk business, to deal and compromise, if they want to get external marketers behind their games.



However, it's Business 101 that marketing is extremely important. I guess that means many game developers, for all their development talent, fail business.

E Zachary Knight
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You are right, a developer should develop games. Yet, many indie developers do not have the budget to hire an external marketer so they are left having to do marketing on their own.



This can be done relatively easy by using many of the tools listed here and the linked article:



A Website, Twitter, Facebook, Emailing indie mags with updates and playable demos/alpha builds etc.



All this is cheap and can be done in an hour or two a day.

MaurŪcio Gomes
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Actually, it cannot be done with a hour or two in the day :/ To get people to bother to test my game, I had to spend 60% of the time marketing. The game dev itself actually got mostly frozen after I started to bother with marketing (now I think that I should have just spent some money to pay some testers or something instead... Although I dunno how I would have done that, since I have no money)

Tim Carter
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Just do a co-production or publishing deal. Split some of your company with the marketing entity.



Marketing is so important, it's worth doing that.

James Hofmann
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The #1 thing I've learned is that you have to coax the project's most marketable features forward throughout production. Marketing effort in post-production is necessary but not sufficient, because the process doesn't work itself out just by sending emails; making the game feel newsworthy is key. And doing that isn't a question of production values or trendiness, so much as sticking to the product's focus. If the focus is clear from the outset, and production achieved the focus, marketing can be simple, if it's not then you'll be lost.

Tim Carter
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Right... BUT... You, game developer, should not be so focused on these things. That's the job of a marketer.

Luis Blondet
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Check out the game I'm making at www.Lutopia.TV :)

Luke S
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While slightly off topic, the lack of good marketing extends to many big name publishing houses as well. Marketing budgets seem to be a good indicator of the success a publisher believes a title will have, which then becomes a self fulfilling prophecy in many ways.



Just by coincidence, yesterday I finally learnt that Jane Jensen's Gray Matter was A) released in Europe for PC and 360 and B) has a demo I can play. Jensen is not a EU developer, but these EU studios seem to not want to share the existence of this game until the busy North American rush is over. So hopefully we will see something crop up in January.



Has Jensen blogged since March 2010 about her game being released after seven years of work? No.

Point: It's not just the Indie devs, and it's not just about who should be responsible for the marketing budget. But *someone* needs to get the ball rolling.

Kassim Adewale
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We canít blame some Indie especially those that feels they have done their homework and release the game, only to find disappointment in sales. This can lead to some irrational steps to address the poor sales, like mass mailing that some people felt is spamming.



This is one of the articles that give me inspirations that nothing can swallow Indie. Itís a dark side we tread, but there is a light ahead of the tunnel.



I guess most indie in Gamasutra know now that when their game comes out they can let Indiegames know.

Tucker Abbott
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Mike- I'm surprised at how this indie developer contacted you honestly... I cannot think of a situation where I made a game and I would feel it acceptable to write with such an attitude towards someone that could help me market a game...



Last week I was at an IGDA discussion with Ben Walsh (Big Huge Games, Bethesda Softworks) and he is now working on a small team, casual, Facebook game called My Pet Rock. He talked a lot about the marketing involved with this new game, and how casual or indie games have a much different marketing system than full-team productions. He had a surprising method that relied on the developers telling ten people about their game each week. These people could be family, friends, people on the street, anyone. The devs told people to play the game tell 10 new people. It was crazy to hear that in a few months they had hundreds of people playing.



Indie marketing seems to be an exponential process. Like Luke S. said, someone needs to get the ball rolling. Once the ball is rolling, more people begin to tell more people that tell more people, and eventually someone in the right position will get their hands on it. In an industry where thousands of great games go unnoticed, it can definitely be frustrating to get your game out there in the open. Just remember that thousands of developers don't market their game correctly. Even halfway decent marketing seems to put certain games an infinite number of steps ahead of others.

Mike Rose
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I really love that 'tell ten people' idea! I think it may be interesting to come up with a list of free, experimental marketing ideas for indies - I bet some developers have incredibly clever idea such as this one that they're keeping to themselves!


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