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When developing your game, don't underplay effective promotion

When developing your game, don't underplay effective promotion

November 25, 2013 | By Kris Graft

November 25, 2013 | By Kris Graft
More: Indie, Design

It's advice that can't be stressed enough: If you want your game to get the attention - and sales - that it deserves, promotion is key. Just look at this case from notable indie game funders Indie Fund.

Here's how the story goes, in a nutshell: The Splatters, an Independent Games Festival Finalist, launched on Xbox Live Arcade, but sales weren't anything to write home about. Indie Fund saw more potential in the game, and in 2012 funded Super Splatters, a Steam follow-up.

"The interesting part for us, other than helping a fellow indie of course, was to see whether a focus on design could meaningfully change a game's financial destiny," Indie Fund's blog post reads. "If it did, it could have implications on the way people set priorities while making games, but we did not end up seeing the results we were hoping for."

Both versions of the game together have brought in $100,000 as of now, and while it did recoup Indie Fund's investment - four months after launch - it wasn't enough to fund Spiky Snail's next game, which was a prime goal.

Super Splatters is a good game, certainly better than The Splatters. So when a good game like that doesn't sell, what's the culprit? Indie Fund and Spiky Snail suspect it all comes down to ineffective promotion.

"In order for a game to have good word of mouth going at launch, you have to first build a community around it that is excited for the game's launch," Indie Fund states. "If you do that properly, the community will become your game's strongest advocate and you will have successfully implemented a grassroots PR campaign.

Spiky Snail did the bare essentials of promotion: Social media, press releases, trailers, press outreach, IGF, Indie Megabooth. But more needs to be done in terms of promotion, and that's on top of actually making the game itself. And promotion needs to start several months, or even a couple years in advance.

Indie Fund notes that Capy, developer of games like Superbrothers Sword & Sworcery and the upcoming Super Time Force has a good handle on indie promotion, and recommended the video below, from Capy's Nathan Vella. Read more at the Indie Fund blog.

Asked if Indie Fund would give any additional marketing and promotional support going forward, 2D Boy's Ron Carmel, one of the founders of Indie Fund, told us in an email, "Promoting the game is still up to the developer, though we certainly arm them with as much knowledge as possible. We've been nudging developers to take pre-launch promotion more seriously for a while now.

"The main reason for us not to unload the burden of support from the developer is that we're trying to help developers get and stay independent, and this is a skill they're going to have to learn if they want to be making games in a financially sustainable way. Or they can rely on luck, and that also works sometimes :)"

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