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The Best Indie Games Marketing Strategy for Solo Developers

by Kenneth Tran on 09/13/17 09:20:00 am

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.

 

Well one of the best. Because hey nobody truly knows the best route. This is an ever changing industry and ever changing marketing landscape. My advice here, however, is timeless because it’s old fashioned.

The best marketing strategy for a solo dev is actually to find a marketing partner immediately. I mean immediately. I mean, once you have the concept art done or general idea of what you’re going to build, you should find someone who can do the marketing whether it be an expert or passionate amateur. There many reasons, but before we do that lets answer what’s on your mind.

How much equity am I going to have to give up? I don’t want to give a marketing guy 50% because I’m doing most of the work. Well, first off, you’re not doing most of the work because marketing is a lot of work. In fact, you’re only doing most of the work if there’s an exceptionally long development lifecycle and you have constant iterations and updates after release. Any indie developer who has released a game before will tell you just exactly how difficult it is to get exposure and users for their game.

But they only learn that lesson after they’ve released their game.

Can anyone guess how much money AAA game companies spend on their marketing? It certainly rivals how much they spend on development, I can tell you that. So why exactly do indie devs bring on marketers only when it comes time to launch? Or maybe they find someone when they’ve hit beta, beta meaning they’re like 2 months or 2 weeks from launch. Where did they learn this strategy that’s sure to bring them failure?

They learned it from AAA.

Now in AAA development, you have lots of developers building. You see an announcement from the company that they’re going to release a game, and then you don’t hear about it again until close to the release date. That’s because AAA companies don’t hire marketing teams and community teams and PR people until it’s only a couple of months before launch.

Why can they afford to do this and indie devs not afford to do the same thing? It’s because AAA studios have massive budgets so they can spend huge amounts of money on an advertisement blast. It’s literally an explosion. Like they gather a pile of money and burn it all at once in a short amount of time. It’s not like they spend a dollar here and a dollar there at a consistent rate. That’s what gets people through the door in crowds on a single day.

Now ask yourself… do you have that kind of money as a solo developer?

So why should you do the same thing? Now ask any marketing professional how long it takes to build a fanbase. Ask them how long it takes to get traction and exposure. And they will tell you a long time. Unless they just want to rip you off and take your money, then they would tell you immediately. You can get famous immediately. Silly.

So the marketing needs to begin as soon as possible. So when is as soon as possible? It’s now. Right now. You got your concept done. Lets get that marketing going. But you know what, you’re too busy putting in the massive amount of work it takes to ship a title as a solo dev so you need to bring on a marketer as your partner in crime.

How much equity should you give them? Well if it’s just two people, I believe that a fair rate would be between 15% up to 35%. No more than that for a marketer. It would be lower if you plan on bringing an artist or other person on the team down the line. These are percentages for someone who’s going to be with you the whole way. Unless of course, you get a marketing God. Like this guy a celebrity Twitch streamer who’s got a million followers and he’s gonna do my marketing. Then you give them whatever they want. Adjust based on their skill level using your own judgment.

That seems fair and reasonable does it not?

Now what exactly are they going to be doing during this long development lifecycle as part of this crazy marketing strategy? Well I don’t go into much detail here, since this is an article and not an entire strategy guide, but I’ll give a few examples.

They need to create the social media accounts and website and then go share that concept art you just made. They need to go announce that hey, we’re beginning work on this game. It sounds ridiculous, but is it really? They need to be there to tweet and post for every piece of progress you make.

They need to go and shake hands and make the right connections. What do I mean by that? They need to go and talk to publishers, affiliate marketing companies, bloggers, and most importantly streamers. They need to build a database of PR contacts. All the outlets that you plan to contact, all the hundreds of people you need to call and email, they need to go get that stuff done ahead of time.

They need to prepare the crowdfunding campaign if you plan to go that route. That means the rewards can be built into the game before you build them. Like hey, when we crowdfund, I want to give this as a reward, can we build that into the game? Sure why not, sounds like a good idea!

Put that marketer to work. You work hard on your game and so should they.

A lot of devs are put off by having a lazy marketer on the team that they brought on after launch. The marketer often abandons the mission after meeting some hurdles. Whose fault is it? It’s both people’s fault. The dev should have brought them on sooner and the marketer shouldn’t be so lazy. Yes I’m calling you out lazy indie game marketers. We all know who you are.

These are all things that you can do for zero dollars.

So the best strategy is simply to have a marketer early on and have them working just as hard as the developers do. I don’t need analytics or data to prove that.


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