By now, you’ve probably heard of games like Shovel Knight and Minecraft. But what you may not know is that both of these successful programs have roots as indie games. An indie video game is a game created by an individual or smaller development team that lacks the financial or technical backing of a large game publisher. In short, they’re pretty far behind the Nintendos and Playstations of the world.
In the gaming world, indie games are hit or miss. According to VG Insights, more than 50 percent of indie games on Steam have never made more than $4,000. However, the top 1 percent make more than $7 million. This leaves the question: how can my game get to that 1 percent?
The answer: marketing.
While marketing your game correctly may not make you Super Smash Brothers overnight, smart, tactical marketing can help build an audience and fanbase to your game. And with every new prospective player, comes a new step toward indie video game success. That being said, here are 5 tips for successfully marketing your indie game.
1. Get smart with budgeting
There’s a general rule of thumb when it comes to your marketing budget: you should only be using 25 to 50 percent of what it costs to create the game for your marketing strategies. This ensures that you don’t go overboard on marketing, and don’t get less than what you put in. These funds can be spent on paid advertisements, help from a third party, or programs to aid in your marketing development.
However, it’s important to keep in mind that there’s a ton of marketing strategies that can be executed without a budget–or really, any money at all. It’s all about what works best for you, your game, and your strategy.
2. Establish your brand
Branding is one of the most important aspects when it comes to building a business, and even a video game. On-brand graphic design and asset creation are essential for marketing your game: they establish the vibe and overall impression of your game, and the first impression is always the most important. To get inspiration for your game’s brand, look at competitors’ assets and find what makes your game unique. From there, you can enlist the help of a graphic designer (if you need it) to create custom assets to use on social media, print, or anywhere else you can market.
3. Social media is key
Thanks to the digital age, social media is now one of the most valuable tools when it comes to marketing. It’s (mostly) free, low stress, and can be handled with the help of a small team. Establishing a social media presence is key to building an audience for your game. Before the initial launch of your game, it’s smart to begin teasing the release on social media channels like Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter. This way, audiences will be intrigued and follow your account, creating an eager audience ready to play your game.
Beyond social media posts, game influencers are also a valuable marketing tactic. With the gaming industry as big as it is, professional gamers have taken to social media to showcase their talents and connect with fans. Reaching out to some of these gamers and offering them your game for free or reduced-price in exchange for promotion is a great way to not only promote your game but to network with those in the industry.
4. Build the hype
One of the best ways to generate an audience is to build anticipation around your game. In the gaming industry, tactics like game trailers are extremely popular and common when it comes to generating excitement for a release. Very cinematic, intense, and exciting trailers cause audiences to turn their attention to your game–just like a movie trailer.
Find some of the most exciting points in your game (but not all of them, you don’t want to spoil the fun) and market those to your prospective audiences by uploading to YouTube, Vimeo, or any social media channels you have.
5. Always optimize
Since a majority of marketing is mobile-friendly, it’s important that your game marketing strategy is the same. Within your social media promotion, include a link to your game’s website. On the landing page, you can further describe what the game is about, the team behind it, and other visual assets that will catch the eye.
To ensure that your website generates traffic, it’s essential that it’s mobile-optimized. Typically, if you’re using a website-building service, this is already taken care of. However, simply testing to see how your site looks on a laptop compared to a mobile device will show you exactly what your audience is seeing.
Having your indie game make it in the industry can be tough, but it’s not impossible. With the help of smart marketing, you’ll already have a level up on your competitors. Who knows? Maybe, over time, you’ll have the next big gaming phenomenon in your hands.