How to Market your Indie Game

4th August 2015

So, you’re following your dreams and making your very own indie game. The content is great, the ideas are fresh and the gameplay is thrilling – but nobody knows about it. How do you get people to play your game? Even more importantly, how are you going to get people to pay money for it when it’s complete? We’ve penned down seven easy tips to remember when marketing your indie game.

1. Tell a story

Indie gaming is all about the personalities. You’ve heard it before in a thousand other articles like this one, so we’ll get it out of the way first – the thing that separates you from a AAA studio is that you have a face. Sure, Ubisoft or EA might have a spokesperson and they’ll perhaps even roll out a creative lead or two for press events, but it’s not the same as indie gaming, where the person who replies to your tweet is in fact the same person up until 3am working on a realistic run animation. Turn the disadvantage of numbers into the advantage of personality and leave the door ajar; let your future customers peer inside the development cycle, ask questions, respond to updates and comment on your Facebook posts. Six months down the line they will be far more likely to subconsciously remember your game’s logo when it flies past them on a Steam list.

2. Get people playing it

But don’t just be a public figure, you’re looking to sell your game not become an Instagram celebrity. As soon as you have something playable, even if it’s just a sandbox segment or a single level, get people playing it. Head to local developer meetups and listen to others’ feedback. Be humble and ready to accept criticism – if you adapt your masterpiece as you go along and appeal to the consensus, your game will suit a wider audience when it comes to launch. Sure, you don’t want to open up your first shonky steps up to the greater public, but by seeking the advice of your peers, you will learn a lot about your own work from other perspectives. With your new friends’ advice taken, they will be far more likely to mention the game at future developer meetups in turn further down the line, as they had a hand in its creation!

3. Get a little help from your friends

Indie development can be a lonely place and you’re gonna need all the help you can get. Keep friendly with your wider network of friends and associates, tell them about your project and ensure they understand the gravity of what you’re trying to achieve. Show them what makes your game unique and why it’s going to be a hit. If you can excite and inspire your contacts, then they will rub that same buzz off onto theirs when they come to talk about this great new game they played…

4. Use the community

Indie gaming has come a long way in the last five years. Gamers are getting bored of the same traditional formats and are looking for new and exciting dynamics and gameplay dissimilar to anything else they have seen before. Ascertain what makes your game worth talking about, look at it with a critical eye and then hit the community for feedback. Adapt, shift and show you’re listening to the wider audience’s concerns. If you’re not going to change something, explain why! Show off the unique qualities of your game and highlight them again and again in your public-facing material. If your game has certain themes or a recognisable setting, reach out to communities that are interested in those topics.

5. Put it in the public’s hands

The game has started to come together and you’re in a place where you’re happy with the Alpha build – now’s the time to start placing it in front of the wider audience. Head to expos, small and large and get your game out in people’s hands. Don’t just spend the day standing idly by, peering over their shoulders as you wonder why it’s taking 20 minutes to solve the first, simplest block puzzle in the game. Unobtrusively, ask the gamers how they felt about it. Was it easy? Did you like the sounds? How did the art style sit with you? Perhaps give each gamer a card with these questions on the back. If they send you the answers, they get the chance to win an iPad, a game controller, or similar. Don’t forget to collect people’s email addresses at the event, too. Speak directly to your audience! Ask them if they would like to get an email when the game finally comes out, and then follow up when the time comes without directly spamming them each week with new texture update news.

6. Become part of the conversation

Today’s world is filled with a thousand screaming personalities, all clamouring for their share of social media pie. It’s this same easy-access to self-serve media that has enabled the growth of indie development altogether in recent times, but it can mean you’re fighting a losing battle in the mêlée. Make sure you’re active on Twitter, Facebook and even profiles like Instagram. Post small updates, but don’t simply spam meaningless micro modifications. Where possible, stream your work to Twitch or UStream. It can be daunting to go on-cam, but find an element you’re really confident at, whether that be sprite design, or game code, and talk people through what you’re doing. They’ll be more likely to stick around, or even invite along their friends if your informal tutorial goes well. Reach out to other indie developers working on similar projects and band together to create a sort of online ‘arts festival’ of gaming. Your content is stronger together than alone, but don’t become too reliant on others and don’t just sit back and let them run your messaging for you. Get involved in conversations on Twitter and have your say when appropriate – but be careful not to turn up in the middle of strangers’ conversations, toting your wares – it won’t bode well. Instead reply to recognised media channels, even large brands like IGN, PCGamer or Eurogamer without necessarily mentioning your own product. Your goal right now is visibility, not sales.

7. Show off what makes your game unique

Finally and most importantly, make sure you demonstrate why your game is unique. Indies are famous for innovation, but there are also a number of copycats about. Stand apart from the chameleons by highlighting why your game is different. Pick a handful of key Unique Selling Points and focus the bulk of your marketing about demonstrating those elements and hammering home these messages.
Marketing indie games is hard, if you have a question, just let us know, and we’ll be happy to offer advice! Digerati Distribution can expand your audience from hundreds, to hundreds of thousands and achieve visibility on a global scale. Contact us with any enquiries.