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Opinion: An indie marketing story

Opinion: An indie marketing story

February 1, 2012 | By Kyle Kulyk

February 1, 2012 | By Kyle Kulyk
More: Smartphone/Tablet, Indie

[In this reprinted #altdevblogaday opinion piece, Itzy Interactive's Kyle Kulyk discusses the difficulties of finding an effective way to promote an indie game, looking at his experience marketing an Android title.]

Last year there was a great disturbance in the indie development community, as if millions of small developer voices suddenly cried out in terror, and were suddenly silenced.

In a move that severely hobbled the Android development community, Google had removed the "Just In" category from the Android Marketplace, eliminating the indie developer's best friend, a way to get their apps noticed without spending a bundle.

Currently, I'm working through a marketing campaign for our first title, Itzy3D, which is available on the Android Marketplace and seems to be in some state of limbo awaiting review and approval on the Apple App store.

I thought I'd share some of the marketing I'm currently undertaking in an attempt to get our little game noticed. Later on, I'll follow-up with the results from our marketing endeavours and what we learned, in an effort to help others of the development community who may be struggling through the same thing.

Action: Blogging
Impact: No idea

Everything I've read about marketing your indie title recommends building a following through regular blogging, and so early on in Itzy3D's development, I started to write regular blogs which I posted up on our website.

I'm sure this generated negative hits to the website, as traffic not only refused to increase, but left a hit deficit that future generations may have to contend with. Blogging on our site obviously wasn't the answer. It's like playing hide and seek when no one is looking for you.

So, I began to reach out to the blogging community and post to other blog sites, and it was during this process I found #AltDevBlogADay. So, here I am. I can't see that it's generated any sales for me at this point, but certainly it hasn't hurt our exposure, and the opportunity to converse with other developers from all walks of life has been invaluable to us during the course of creating our first title.

Action: Facebooking
Impact: No idea

I had also read that it was a smart marketing move to establish a Facebook presence. We were able to put up an early, beta demo to gauge feedback and built a company Facebook page.

All the way through our development, I posted quizzes, looked for input, kept the page updated with screenshots and art, and again the result was a like hide and seek without a seeker. We still sit at around 60 "likes" for our page, which consists almost entirely of our own friends and family.

Itzy3D itself incorporates Facebook features as well, offering to share game achievements by posting cute little sayings and original artwork to the users Facebook wall to help raise awareness and bring users to our game site. Hopefully this will prove useful in the long run, but currently the results of our efforts are hard to quantify.

Action: Twitter
Impact: No idea

Over the past eight months of development, I had also been tweeting regularly. I attended a talk at a developer conference last spring that taught how to use Twitter for marketing by establishing a personal presence while finding creative ways to tie in what we were doing to current trending topics.

So far this has proved a great tool for networking within the industry, but not so much generating sales. Still, following the adventures of Drunk Hulk always brings a smile to my face. Oh, Drunk Hulk! What will you say next?

Action: PR Releases
Impact: No idea

So how do you get your game noticed? You have to tell people, and PR releases do exactly that. This is the phase that I'm currently the most focused on. After researching examples of PR releases related to game launches, I wrote our PR release for Itzy's launch and away we go!

I'm currently sending my release to as many gaming sites as I can possibly imagine in the hopes that they'll either review our title or pass along our release to the public. So far I have no idea how effective this has been.

Action: Throw money at it
Impact: Oh hey! There we go!

Bootstrapping a project like this has been stressful, to say the least, but in for a penny, in for a pound. Installs of our free, ad and in-game purchase supported little game were dead on arrival on the Android Marketplace, and how could it be otherwise when there's no way for users to find our content unless they were specifically looking for it.

As an experiment, we've now clicked the "advertise your app" option on the Android Marketplace, and through Ad-Mob, our initial $50 investment magically turned into almost 1000 installs.

The problem is, how much do you need to invest to get noticed on the Android Marketplace and make any money? I'm sure this is exactly the reason why the "Just in" option was removed. So in order to be noticed, developers would have little choice but to spend money to do it.


The task of getting our product noticed is one I can't see ending anytime soon. Unlike programming, there's really no way of gauging how effective each marketing action is, which is understandable but certainly more than a little frustrating for a programmer accustomed to seeing immediate results from his hard work.

It's certainly discouraging at this stage not being able to measure the impact of your work, but the hope is it'll all be worth it in the end. Or at the very least, we'll know better for next time.

[This piece was reprinted from #AltDevBlogADay, a shared blog initiative started by @mike_acton devoted to giving game developers of all disciplines a place to motivate each other to write regularly about their personal game development passions.]

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