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TIGSource ForumsDeveloperBusinessHow to market a indie game?
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Neatlent
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« on: August 20, 2022, 12:36:35 PM »

I’am making a 2d platformer which is basically like celeste and super meatboy kind of game. But, I also don’t know how to market it with no followers. And also contacting youtubers is hard because, I have no idea what to say when, I contact them. Any help on marketing?
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Ramos
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« Reply #1 on: August 24, 2022, 09:33:46 AM »

I’am making a 2d platformer which is basically like celeste and super meatboy kind of game. But, I also don’t know how to market it with no followers. And also contacting youtubers is hard because, I have no idea what to say when, I contact them. Any help on marketing?

You can see some case studies for some Facebook marketing I did in the past here: https://forums.tigsource.com/index.php?topic=71871.0

And a case study about email marketing: https://forums.tigsource.com/index.php?topic=73024.0

Hope it helps
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michaelplzno
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« Reply #2 on: August 24, 2022, 03:24:03 PM »

My advice as an old man who as seen some stuff is that you should make a game that you are proud of, that even if it didn't sell one copy you would know you made something great and not waste your time on marketing. That is, the only real way to market a game is to get involved with paying either facebook, or ign or streamers or whatever a lot of money. IGN usually starts at $25,000 to run advertisements.

Only a crazy person will talk about your game just because it is of high quality and they like the game. "I'm a professional" translates to, "I only do game related things for money." For most "professionals" money has to change hands either by sending gifts, or buying presents/alcoholic drinks at parties/etc, you have to do something to get people to respect you in a quid pro quo. Some people expect you to work under their heel for years to get a favor in return.

Of course, once your game is famous, people won't stop talking about it. So how do you go from being unknown to having a famous game? The best practice is to chase the trends and try to go viral on some platform like steam. But being a slave to the current trends is the path to making boring games you have no fun making that if you are lucky make just enough to cover expenses.

Sadly if you want the actual secret to doing it: there are probably 100 people or less in the industry who know how to make a game that lands without spending a fortune in marketing, and I'm not one of them. And if I knew how to make a hit game through some magic trick I'm not sure I would just post the answer publicly. Most of the few who know actively gate keep newcomers. Gabe newel isn't gonna email you and tell you how to make a hit. He knows, but he isn't telling anyone the secret. He'll let you on steam if you pay the $100 but he isn't giving out any tips on how to actually make a buck on his platform.


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Ramos
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« Reply #3 on: August 25, 2022, 05:46:01 AM »

the only real way to market a game is to get involved with paying either facebook, or ign or streamers or whatever a lot of money.


100% not true unless you aim for epic, dark star, viral, bill gates, fallout 5 success.
Just a rough example, splattercat, Yippee Ki Yay Mr Falcon, and many other decent size YouTubers do it for free, the only condition is for the game to be good.
There are tons of ways to do marketing with 0 funding and have decent results and now I am talking straight from experience not theory.



 "I'm a professional" translates to, "I only do game related things for money."


This line is awesome, I will "steal" it and re-tweet it at some point  Cheesy



there are probably 100 people or less in the industry who know how to make a game that lands without spending a fortune in marketing


You only need to invest some personal work for basic marketing, and if you want more advanced marketing you need to invest in networking and if you want epic results sure you can invest the money as well but know that if you have an epic game even basic marketing can achieve solid results

Gentelman  Gentleman






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michaelplzno
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« Reply #4 on: August 26, 2022, 06:31:34 AM »

So there are some things you can do without a huge budget:

My first game to get attention was Kid the World Saver which I did when I was in grad school. My grad school sponsored the IGF which I think is likely why I got into the festival. It wasn't really a pleasant experience because it felt like the shadows on the wall were moving in a pretty pre-set pattern and I didn't understand how they all moved in unison. I wound up dropping out of grad school because it felt really hostile there and they may have been spying on the students for some sort of alternate reality game called "Reality ends here."

I did a prototype of Xanadu which got some visibility when I posted a reddit thread about how there was a sort of similar game that went viral. My post got a chunk of views and my teaser for Xanadu, then called Mayor Max got more visibility than usual. Sadly Reddit has clamped down on random posts of stuff that doesn't come from people who spend a lot of time in the communities. Not sure why this is because if a project is good you'd think their community would want to see it. Gatekeeping I suppose.

I did a bunch of small prototypes for iOS including a match 3 called Hexacide. None of these got any visibility anywhere. One of my prototypes was for a virtual fidget spinner that would later somehow go on to become a trend with those real life things everyone used.

After that, it was the 2012 election and I was working on a strategy game based on Advance Wars and I decided to make it about saying loud soundbites to win presidential primaries rather than fighting with guns. This project was probably the biggest press day I ever had. I made a reddit thread complaining about how no one was writing about my game, and I even chastised Kotaku in a private email saying "how come no one wants to play my quality indie game made with love" They then wrote me up and gave me a big amount of visibility. Later Patrick Klepek interviewed me to see more about what my process was and so on for Giant Bomb.

Then I made Composition J which was sort of a weak game imo from the actual "Game" pov. It was sort of confusing and not really too easy to play, but it had a really nice gif of the game looking like a Piet Mondrian work come to life. So I guess kotaku took pity on me and used my gif to get some clicks.

After that I did Don't Shoot Yourself based on a prototype I did back in grad school where I was sort of miserable and dodging my own bullets trapped in a little circle. This one I got a small mobile publisher for named Ayopa Games and they actually managed to get apple to feature the game. Its unclear if we marketed it correctly and the pricing was also a question, I wanted to charge a few bucks for it rather than just 99 cents. But because Ayopa had a relationship with apple we could get that slot.

Then I was more on my own with a project Speedway Heroes which was sort of a proc gen mario kart with not as good graphics. This one got no press, though I didn't really try to do much marketing. I posted a link to it in some reddit groups and got some nice feedback. I tried to get some streamers to play it and they sort of just sneered at it. I guess it was too boring of a concept. The game had a horse as a racer, and actually someone made a demo of a game where a horse just pushes a ball around that made it on the evening news around when I launched my game. That stung, like if I just put a ball on the track I would have gotten on the news?

Then I started on the Matchyverse which was really designed to be commercial. I spent a few years making Matchy Star and then to hype it we did a free game on steam called Matchy Gotchy which got a chunk of views on steam because it was free. Sadly we tried to do a paid version of Matchy Gotchy and it never really was finished, and also Steam I think marked us as spam so the game kind of died. We have still not released Matchy Star proper.

We revisited DSY and made a new version for XBOX and actually some of my marketing for that got some virality when microsoft pushed my tweets. Then the war in Ukraine started.





And so it was that I decided I would have to start my own network if I ever wanted to get anywhere and eventually we launched https://swgio.com which is a backend for a lot of .io games I made that run in browsers. Lately we've been pumping ahead with Xanadu which is the project from earlier that I finally am working on again.

After all of that, I still am not making enough income to truly consider myself successful. And I am still bitter that there is a large chunk of gamedevs who do not consider me a "real" person as a game maker. It is what it is sadly.




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kason.xiv
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« Reply #5 on: September 28, 2022, 10:04:05 AM »

Only a crazy person will talk about your game just because it is of high quality and they like the game.

Not sure I agree with this part. My friends and I constantly share games we come across with one another. Sure, I'm not going to bring up RandomIndieGame2022 in a real-life conversation with some acquaintance, but if I come across a game with an interesting art style/mechanic/etc you can bet I'm going to share that in some sort of group chat. Maybe that just makes me crazy?


As for OP's question, though, I think "content marketing" is currently the best approach for indie devs. This is basically where you try creating and releasing content that is related (even just tangentially) to your game and getting peoples interest that way. This could be:
  • devlog youtube videos
  • a devlog here!
  • streaming similar games on twitch
  • writing game reviews on a blog
  • releasing your games music on youtube and soundcloud, and promoting that
  • sharing your games art on instagram (and whatever the modern equivalent of deviantart is  Shrug)

As you gain some views through the above ventures, you can funnel those through to an email campaign about your game or a discord server. The key here is providing content that people enjoy beyond merely being sold on your game, and getting them invested in your community that way.

This kind of approach to marketing clearly takes a lot more time and effort, but I think it's the best zero-budget strategy.
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flowerthief
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« Reply #6 on: September 29, 2022, 09:20:37 AM »

^ Can anyone vouch for that approach working? Speaking personally, I almost never read devlogs. I don't care how your hamburger was made, I'm only interested in consuming it when it's ready to be consumed.
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michaelplzno
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« Reply #7 on: September 30, 2022, 04:30:49 PM »

I've posted stuff to my youtube channel for years, and my twitter, and my instagram. I get a few followers a week, tops, on all of those and that's that. I don't post click bait or get engaged with the big dumb debates about crap so maybe I'm doing that wrong. Facebook is even worse for visibility. They tell you you are doing a great job when you get 4 likes instead of 2, 200% that week! The big stuff I got was because some authority decided to give me approval, but its not like any of my content is lower quality, its just without the framing of a big name saying you are ok you are sort of effed in the A.
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kason.xiv
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« Reply #8 on: October 03, 2022, 10:36:23 AM »

I've posted stuff to my youtube channel for years, and my twitter, and my instagram. I get a few followers a week, tops, on all of those and that's that. I don't post click bait or get engaged with the big dumb debates about crap so maybe I'm doing that wrong. Facebook is even worse for visibility.

Yeah I'd expect facebook to be pretty doodoo on this front. I can only speculate but maybe the key to getting the ball rolling is to engage in discussion on other peoples projects and games more widely? It's not too hard to pick up twitter followers here and there if you're engaging in discussions actively, then when you make a blog post or video you can tweet and you get a bit of exposure that way.

^ Can anyone vouch for that approach working? Speaking personally, I almost never read devlogs. I don't care how your hamburger was made, I'm only interested in consuming it when it's ready to be consumed.

I can't speak from personal experience but ThinMatrix on youtube (https://www.youtube.com/c/ThinMatrix) has a great formula. He has a somewhat popular dev log on youtube and through that did pretty well on his last game.
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flowerthief
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« Reply #9 on: October 09, 2022, 08:06:27 AM »

All right, I'll assume everything you say is right, that advertising on Facebook, Twitter, Youtube can actually work. I don't think I could ever make myself do it though. I despise everything those platforms stand for--the corporatism, the censorship, the waste of time. How everyone is able to make themselves prostrate to kiss corporate ass in order to get a few seconds in the spotlight I cannot understand. "It's just the way it is" is not a rationale that flies with me.
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michaelplzno
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« Reply #10 on: October 11, 2022, 02:45:00 AM »

I don't think I could ever make myself do it though. I despise everything those platforms stand for--the corporatism, the censorship, the waste of time.

This is a good point: I'm not even so upset about the corporatism, but the idea that your independent effort depends on facebook/steam/twitter/youtube, "corporate platforms," it means really that those giant corporations control your fate. If they think your game doesn't deserve to be seen, either because they consciously mark it as spam, or just because some algorithm hasn't flagged you as "show to people" or whatever, you are SOL. If I have to bend my content to be what platforms like those want, then why not just work at an AAA studio and do what they tell me? If being indie means you have to manicure everything you do to be just what corporate platforms want then why be indie?
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kason.xiv
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« Reply #11 on: October 26, 2022, 12:55:36 PM »

All right, I'll assume everything you say is right, that advertising on Facebook, Twitter, Youtube can actually work. I don't think I could ever make myself do it though. I despise everything those platforms stand for--the corporatism, the censorship, the waste of time. How everyone is able to make themselves prostrate to kiss corporate ass in order to get a few seconds in the spotlight I cannot understand. "It's just the way it is" is not a rationale that flies with me.

Yeaah I get what you're saying. Part of me thinks they're just a platform and how they get used is up to us as users but I know that's at least a little naive. Of course you could always do things in a less mainstream fashion and stay off the beaten path, but that's always going to be a harder and more volatile path I think.

That's the path Minecraft took, the first exposure Notch had was on this forum. From there he started getting some views on his simple youtube videos. But yeah, I agree, the internet was a less soul crushing place back then.
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failbetter
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« Reply #12 on: November 08, 2022, 04:34:41 PM »

How to market as an indie?

1. Before you start the project, do some research and ask yourself what is unique about your game? Why would someone play it instead of the leading competitor? Don't settle for an idea that doesn't have plausible answers.
2. Build the game really well. REALLY WELL. Amazing artwork, great style, a visual feast. Fun, snappy gameplay. Depth. I'm talking hours of engrossing gameplay. Solid, performant, virtually bug free.
3. Along the way build moments into the game that really stand out, that would look hot in a gif, that would pique someone's interest if they heard about it.

--- most people get it wrong before this point ---

4. OK now you're ready to start marketing to people. It's easy, just tell them about your game. How? Break the game along different dimensions. The story. The game systems. The emotions players will experience. etc. For each of these, break them into smaller blurbs. You now have dozens of things to share, start recording gifs/video/screenshots to support what you've written. Now start posting to social media. If someone finds your Twitter profile and scrolls through, they should come away understanding what your game is and why they want it.
5. Next go to Twitter, Reddit, YouTube, websites, etc. and find the top accounts that cover / discuss games like yours. Follow them. Interact with their posts/communities. Especially keep an eye out for opportunities to share your work with them.
6. Advanced: come up with some marketing moments. E.g. announcing your game with a launch trailer, revealing the release date, releasing a demo, your launch day, etc. Put these all on a calendar. For each date, work backwards ~2 months. Coordinate social media posting, email with press/influencers using those dates.

I apologize if this sounds flippant, but it's really so so so hard to get steps 1-3 right. People delude themselves into thinking they're on the right track simply because making games is incredibly, super hard. It's outrageous how much work it takes to make something at all. But no one cares about that. Another reason I think people fail, myself included, is we tend to make very safe, hackneyed games. How many of us are guilty of making a game set in a vaguely DND/Tolkien world? <<raises hand>> That's tired. I know someone still manages to beat the odds every year, that's survivorship bias in action. Play with a stacked deck, make something truly original.
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