Marketing is one of the most important elements for indie game developers. There are many ways and means to run a successful marketing campaign. All of them require a significant investment of time.
Promoting a game doesn't always require a high budget. In fact, many indie games are successfully launched through free marketing techniques alone. Indie gamers are very demanding, but if you come up with an effective marketing plan, you too can reach your players in this niche. In this article, we will share a must-follow guide on how to market indie games.
Gaming industry trends you need to know
Increase the diversity of your game
It's no secret that the majority of gamers are men. Although mobile games do seem to appeal to women. In fact, 65% of women in the US play mobile games.
Certain games (such as Animal Samurai) have helped bring more women into the world of console, PC and eSports gaming. Overall, it is estimated that 45% of gamers are women. So yes, the ratio of men to women gamers is close to 50/50.
Like society at large, the gaming industry has begun to focus on representation in gaming. Specifically, developers are beginning to make women and minorities more prominent in the worlds they create.
For example, The Last of Us Part II was one of the biggest releases last year. And it featured a female protagonist.
Early access changes the gaming development process
According to research published by Empirical Software Engineering, about 15 percent of all games available on Steam are "Early Access".
This number is expected to grow significantly in 2021 and beyond, as early access becomes the norm for many developers.
Early access is a win-win for gamers and developers. Gamers love it because they can play games months or even years in advance. Developers use early access as a way to get feedback from actual players. Feedback can ultimately change the direction of the game.
For example, the sci-fi strategy game Rimworld became one of the highest-rated games on Steam, thanks in large part to a development cycle focused on early access. Rimworld sold thousands of copies as an early access game. A few years later, it received rave reviews upon its full release.
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When to market an indie game
Days back to before, you can almost always get by with little or no marketing strategy. In addition to games developed by big studios, there are other unique game ideas that are exciting and novel. In 2021, gamers' enthusiasm for indie games has evolved and matured slightly. They are no longer fresh birds, but they are still exciting.
One thing to remember is that the time to bring your indie game to market may be different than your competition. Don't feel pressured to bring a game to market before you think it's worth it. There is no "right" time to market an indie game; it's more important to conduct market research, test the game, optimize all touch points and create amazing assets for trailers, press kits, social media channels and app stores.
It takes almost as long to market an indie game as it does to create the game itself. To help you understand the key priorities when marketing an indie game, we offer advice on priorities, who to engage with, and the impact of both steps on your game.
Budget-friendly promotion strategy for indie games
1. Start your promotion with ASO
This is really the first step to market your game effectively and successfully.
App Store Optimization is the process of optimizing your game app to rank high in the search results of App Store and Google Play.
With over 6 million apps available for download, the competition is fierce, which is why ASO is so important for indie games, especially in the early days. Your game won't always appear in the app store, either. The other 6 million apps (and counting) all want their time in the spotlight, so the time you have needs to be accounted for.
If your goal is to attract potential gamers in the app store, then you need to optimize the following three things to make them visible.
Title, keywords and description of the game: Keep in mind that Google Play users may use different keywords than those who use the App Store. Use as many relevant keywords as possible in the name and description, but don't repeat keywords.
Visual components in the store: One of the keys to help improve visibility in both stores: A/B testing. It's important to test screenshots in your store, but you should also test icons. Whether you get negative or positive results, don't underestimate the value of testing all visual components, not just screenshots.
App Ratings: Getting as many reviews and ratings as possible seems to be a good strategy. However, with ASO, it's about quality and quantity. Invite the people who interact with your game the most to rate it in the app store, not just anyone. Also, don't just use ratings and reviews to back up your numbers. Read them all, respond (where possible) and note the common markups mentioned.
Remember: this should be the first step in marketing your game. Further efforts will be irrelevant if you do not first optimize for the app store. Also, don't feel that the job is done after the first optimization. Take the time to develop a plan for ASO, as it is an important part of your game's visibility and long-term success.
2. Level up your brand discoverability with community channel
Often, the community plays an important role in promoting games. It is the most powerful source of organic traffic. Also, it's free! In order to reach the largest audience with the smallest budget, you may want to build a supportive community. This may sound easy, but in reality it's hard work.
Minecraft has always encouraged fans to collaborate, communicate, and even offer their ideas to the developers about how the game should evolve. Minecraft immediately realized that every user is a potential media outlet. That's why they've tried to inspire users to create content, teach them how to do it, and make new tools for them from the beginning. In 2013, for example, they announced a partnership with Twitch so that Minecrafters could easily record and broadcast their game streams there.
You can start with social media. Show that you're willing to communicate, share news, retweet fan art and encourage your users to create UGC (user-generated content). Explore case studies of successful games to find some ways that resonate with you. Remember TikTok - at the very least, you can post your game's soundtrack there. For example, there are among us. It's actually fan-posted. If your fans are not ready to do so, do not hesitate to act first.
3. Make social media work: Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube, etc.
According to Statista, the number of social media users worldwide is expected to grow to nearly 4.41 billion by 2025. There is absolutely no way your target market does not fall into this category. Simply put, if your game isn't social media, you're missing out on the greatest opportunity to gain new users and stay in the existing joint.
Identify the social media platforms where your target users are most active. You can start with Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. For example, use Twitter for short news, Facebook for longer posts, and Instagram for concept art or screenshots. Use smart hashtags such as #indiedev, #indiegame or #gamedev.
Make sure your game has a dedicated page with regularly engaging posts to keep your audience engaged. Share game-related tips and tricks in the form of screenshots or short videos. Experiment with the content you share and target content that initiates conversations with potential users.
Even games as big as Angry Birds use Facebook to have regular, enjoyable sticker conversations with their users!
4. Leverage cross-promotion
Cross-promotion is also a great way to get your game discovered and gain new users. There are many industry-specific ad networks that you can use to promote your game to a large audience.
Also, if you have ready-made games with a significant number of players or know other developers who would like to introduce their games to their users, there's no good! Just make sure you're not putting your energy into something that won't appeal to your target audience.
5. Take the power of the Influencer marketing
As an indie developer, your goal should be to appeal to the largest audience in your target market on a very low budget. This naturally means that, unlike games backed by publishers, you cannot spend unlimited advertising to acquire users. One of the ways you can use it to get many discoveries without burning a hole in your pocket is influencer marketing.
Find influencers whose followers belong to your target user demographics. Connect with them and suggest them to check out your game on their channel. This could be their blog, YouTube channel or stream. The idea is to use their influence to convince their followers to try your game.
Case study of indie game marketing
Among Us is an example that says it all. By now everyone knows Among Us is a famous game on the top charts, with a huge community of fans and plenty of Internet mods. But it took the development team several years to get to this point, and they had a rather bumpy road. The team didn't actually promote anything. The game made it to the top of the charts thanks to the occasional live stream by a famous blogger. There are a number of tools that can make the game a faster success. We describe them in detail in this article. The moral of the story: it's best not to rely on luck and plan ahead for success.
Rovio Angry Birds
In 2010, Rovio was just another small independent game development studio in Finland. They released a trailer for Angry Birds, similar in style to Looney Tunes, which tells the story of their brand. At the end of the trailer, they placed two platforms for you to download the game - and it worked well. The game was number one on the App Store in Finland and Greece, followed by other countries. Moral of the story: Use YouTube right and make great videos about your brand and your game.
Game Dawn of Monkey Labor
The game was created by a team of seven people and launched on iOS in late 2010. About 3 months after its release, the team started investing in marketing, referring to various review sites to get featured. As a result, the game was reviewed by Touch Arcade, the top iOS playground. The moral of the story is: knock on the door and it will open up to you.