Marketing ideas for your indie game
The thoughts and opinions expressed are those of the writer and not Gamasutra or its parent company.
Update: A few of you asked if we managed to release the game on iOS(link). As for Steam, the game is going to be released at the end of May.
I've been working really, really hard on my last game, for the last 6 months, together with other 3 friends. Last week we finally released it on Google Play Store. I want to share with you my marketing ideas and experiences so far, what marketing decisions I’ve made in order to promote my game as an indie and newbie in this industry.
When I first met my team, last summer, to discuss some ideas for our game, I had no marketing experience at all. In fact, none of us had. We previously released only one game which gathered only 186 downloads in a year. Encouraging huh? So we knew that there is a jungle of apps and games out there and we need to get out of obscurity somehow.
- First bad decision
Looking back, I think that we took a very bad decision with our game right from the beginning. Why? Because we didn’t include any marketing plans in this process. We just wanted to develop the game, because we are programmers and who cares about marketing, right?
Our game is based on the countryballs comics (geopolitical satire), where all countries are represented only by balls with the colors of the flag and big funny eyes. There is a huge hype that Polandball cannot fly in outer space and because of that, all other countries make fun of it. Our idea was to create an upgradable rocket to help Polandball fly to the moon. And we said, let’s make the best game possible and the community will certainly help us and not worry about marketing at all.
Score: 0 good - 1 bad decisions.
- The friends experience
After a few months, nobody knew about our game or that we are developing a new game. We were afraid that maybe someone will steal our idea and create or release the game before us. So we decided to keep it top secret. That was the second bad decision that we have taken chained with the first one.
After a few months when the art was ready and some core mechanics were there, we decided to show the game to some friends. We were so proud of our game and we thought that everyone will love it.
The first reactions were: I don’t know what to do in this game? I don’t like this and that! Why there are so many balls? How do you move? I don’t understand what’s happening here?
We were so upset at that moment. We worked for 3 months and the game was crushed by our friends. But also our friends provided us with honest feedback and they gave us new ideas on how to improve the gameplay. Have we learned something then? Maybe...hmm not really. We still decided to keep it secret and only a few friend knew about our plan
Score: 1 good – 2 bad decisions.
- The Game Jam experience
We went to a Game Jam in November 2015. Because we didn’t have any artist with us at that time, we decided to use the mechanics and the art from our game to create something new there. We isolated ourselves in a corner all night long, working on the game, and we didn’t talk with other people at all. That is the third bad decision and mistake that we did. Game jams are all about networking. There are marketing people, game journalists, other good programmers which are open for discussions. We should have talked to them, share our idea, share contacts, etc.
In the end we only took some feedback on our graphics and gameplay, which is cool, but we didn’t create any relationship, which is wrong.
Score: 1 good – 3 bad decisions.
- The website experience
Back home, I was very happy about the feedback I received from the game jam. Next day I was searching about game jams on Google to check if someone has written about us. Didn’t find anything, however there was an article that opened my eyes.
I told to my team that I really want to create a website for our game no matter what they say. Their first reaction was “You are mad bro? Why do you spend money and time building a website”? After I explained to them the importance of the website, they changed their opinion and they finally agree that this is a good idea.
We didn’t want to spend too much time on our website, so we quickly decided to use a WordPress site with a WordPress theme. We spent like 100-120 bucks on domain, hosting and the WordPress theme.
The website it’s like a visiting card, people can always find information about you, what are you doing, what are your plans, etc. So we finally made a good decision. But guess what? We didn’t want to share the website until the game is ready so we didn’t create a game blog. The forth bad decision.
Our website now: http://polandballcanintospace.com/
Score: 2 good – 4 bad decisions.
- The Amazon T-Shirt experience
Recently Amazon launched a service where you can upload a picture and they print and ship T-shirts with your print all over the world. I found about this service, from a good friend of mine and I quickly decided to create some t-shirts based on the game graphics. I created 4 pictures and uploaded them on the website. Didn’t share them at all, but somehow I managed to sold about 10 T-shirts without even spreading the word. I think any indie can try this service, it’s free and it’s a good promotion for your products. I think this is another good decision.
I also heard that, there are other companies which can provide these kind of services. Even on mugs and other objects.
Score: 3 good – 4 bad decisions.
- The Credits page experience
During this time, I was helping a friend with some advices on a physics engine. When he decided to make it open source, he asked me and a couple of other people if we want credits on his GitHub page. I noticed that some people were happy to be mentioned there. So I immediately got the idea to put a Credits page on our website. People love to be involved in your project so listen to them and give them credits. In this credits page I put websites links to support other games or websites, YouTubers channels, communities and of course people. Everyone who help us will end up on our Credits page.
Score: 4 good – 4 bad decisions.
- The Social Media experience
We finally created our game Facebook and Twitter pages. These are super important tools for marketing because you can post more often about game updates or screenshots. You can remind and keep people informed about your project.
Beside Facebook and Twitter I suggest to share content on Reddit, Tumblr and Imgur. This helps you create a small game fanbase.
We didn’t share anything. We decided to share some content only when the game is ready and published. In my opinion that is another bad marketing decision.
Score: 5 good – 5 bad decisions.
- The video trailer experience
Steam and Google Play wants to show some video to users. Just before Christmas we decided that it’s time to create a video trailer too. Luckily my friend had some experience with movie editing and we manage to create a good introduction/trailer movie. I think that the video trailer it’s much, much important than the website because it will have a greater impact on the user. The only reproach here is that we should done this earlier. And maybe create more videos or multiple gifs with our game.
Score: 5 good – 6 bad decisions.
- The Steam experience
Between Christmas and New Year’s Eve we decided that we should try porting our game on Steam to gain some experience with Steam Greenlight. Some friends asked us if they could play our game on the computer so we decided to give it a try and this became a secondary objective for us. Other mobile ports are doing very well on Steam, so why not give this a try? Of course this is a mobile port and not everybody loved the idea based on their negative votes and comments. However, if we pass Greenlight we will add more stuff to our game. Until now we are at 60% to be Greenlit in 7 days: http://steamcommunity.com/sharedfiles/filedetails/?id=593849534&tscn=1452973957
This also introduced lots of people to our game, so if you have a mobile-PCish game you can publish it on multiple stores and platforms.
So 6 good – 6 bad decisions.
- The Google Play experience
I have to admit that we didn’t do our homework here. Why’s that? Well we didn’t put any relevant information and keywords in our game description or screenshots. I talked with a friend who published a few games on mobile and he told me that it’s all about the description, keywords, screenshots, people’s reviews and most importantly the title and . We immediately begin to add a good description and other screenshots in Google Play.
On 15th January we had 864 total installs and about 310 uninstalls.
Score: 7 good – 7 bad decisions.
- Youtubers and websites
Out of 100 websites only 5 of them replied to us.
Don't expect big websites like IGN or Gamespot to write about you. It's not impossible but it's very hard to get there. Some website asked us for 200 $ to make a review. My advice is to check those websites on Alexa Rank to see their position rank. Those website were on position 4 million on Alexa Rank. That's like 20 views per day.
From 70 YouTubers only 5 replied.
I think that it's a very good idea to talk with YouTubers to make a review for your game. My advice is to talk with small YouTubers at first, it's really hard to get in contact with a big YouTuber. Try to get them on Social media, there is a much higher chance to see your message. Also if the YouTuber's main focus are only PC games it's a very small chance to look over your mobile game. But you can try, no one stops you :).
Score: 8 good – 7 bad decisions.
The next step in our plan is to release it on iOS as soon as possible.
In conclusion, I think that the most important thing is to include a marketing strategy for your game even if it's not ready or published. Let people know about you and your project.
Good luck with your marketing decision
Sergiu Craitoiu, writer at http://in2gpu.com/
Follow me on Twitter: https://twitter.com/SergiuCraitoiu