Indie game marketing is a lot of work. Every day the market becomes more competitive as the barrier to entry is lowered.
The video game industry continues to grow and is expected to be worth over 256 billion by 2025. With such staggering growth, you need to make a great game, stand out and know how to market your game.
However, it can be a challenge to know how to market your game or where to start. That’s why this indie game marketing guide was created.
The goal of this guide is to provide tried and trusted indie game marketing strategies that are simple and used by professionals that deliver results, regardless of whether you’re making a PC, console, or mobile game.
If you’re only looking for particular answers or subjects, just click on any of the topics listed below.
- What is indie game marketing?
- Why do indie games fail?
- What are common indie game marketing mistakes?
- When is the best time to market your game?
- How to start marketing your indie game.
- What are the best indie game marketing strategies?
- Sharing your indie game on social media.
- Using game influencers.
- Showcasing at video game events.
- What are other impactful indie game marketing ideas?
- Create optimized landing pages.
- Community building for indie games.
- Building other online communities.
- Email marketing campaigns.
- Paid advertising for indie games.
Otherwise, let’s dig in.
Want to listen on the go? Listen or Download this guide below.
Indie game marketing is a form of marketing where a majority of independent game developers have little to no budget to market their game.
There are lots of reasons why indie games fail. Here are several reasons that are fairly common.
- The scope is too broad or ambitious
- The game took too long to complete.
- Not having a clear vision of their project
- Not fulfilling current market demand.
- The team wasn’t a good fit for the project
- Technical issues
- Limited or no exposure
- Not creating a commercially viable product.
- Not allocating enough resources
Just from the reasons above, there’s already a lot stacked against indie games.
If you want to increase your chances of success, then understanding these concepts and how to avoid marketing mistakes other games made will steer you in the right direction.
Oftentimes, avoiding common mistakes can make all the difference in starting off on the right foot.
Here are a few marketing mistakes to avoid other game developers usually make.
1. Not writing a marketing plan.
Creating a marketing plan provides you with a framework to determine your purpose, goals, strategies and how to measure results. It also contains market and audience research you conducted, providing valuable information and insight that will aid your marketing strategy.
Too often indie games forgo this essential step missing out on having clarity and confidence in their marketing and business decisions.
2. Not allocating enough marketing resources.
One of the largest problems most developers face is they focus too much time, effort and money on development. Not properly allocating resources into marketing will drastically limit your reach and goals.
What the right balance between budget and time is different for everyone. Devoting up to 50% of your time and resources to marketing is highly suggested. The closer you are to that, then the greater your chances are at accomplishing your goals.
3. Not knowing your audience.
One of the main challenges every indie dev faces is not knowing their audience. Just knowing demographic data and games that interest players is not enough.
If you only knew how old someone was and that they liked your favorite game, would you ask them on a date?
Learning where players hang out allows you to connect with them. This creates the opportunity to stand out compared to other games.
4. Not taking action with intent.
It may not sound like a pitfall, but the truth is most people don’t take action with intent.
See, there’s a big difference between being busy and taking action. Being busy makes people feel accomplished. However, when action is combined with intent, that’s how you get results.
Indie devs marketing their game without intent or fully understanding of how their efforts contribute to their goals fall into the “busy” category.
This is probably the biggest pitfall because most people don’t realize this is happening until it’s too late.
So the next best time to market your game is now.
Honestly, lots of people wait too long to market their game. Regardless of the reasons, marketing your game now creates awareness and opportunities you otherwise wouldn’t have.
That doesn’t mean everything needs to happen all at once either.
In fact, starting with a strong foundation and direction is the best place to begin if you haven’t yet.
As you can imagine, there are a lot of steps to marketing your indie game. However, it doesn’t start with sharing your game on social media.
If you want your marketing to be impactful and efficient then you need to start with foundational marketing first.
Foundational marketing is basically the research and implementation of key elements that will help dictate how to market your game.
Here’s how to begin marketing your game.
- Create a game that has market demand.
- Write an indie game marketing plan.
- Know as much as you can about your game’s market
- Know as much as you can about your game’s audience.
- Create clear marketing messaging.
- Build a funnel “journey” for players.
Let’s break down each step a little further.
1. Create a game that has market demand.
If you want your marketing strategies to have an impact for your game, then you need to create a game that people want.
The hard truth is, with any market, there is supply and demand. Games, in general, are in high demand, however, not all game genres are.
Making sure that your game type is in high demand and has limited supply puts you in a better position to succeed. Looking at the average earnings of game genres is also important to review and can give you insight to the market demand.
If you don’t have a good idea of where your game stands in the market, you need to find out.
Now, if you’re well in development and discover your game has little demand in the market, don’t fret.
Stay committed and finish your game as soon as possible without exhausting too many resources. Just be aware of the potential risks if you decide to market it.
What you don’t want to happen is becoming another indie game marketing post mortems on Reddit that can’t figure out why their game failed.
2. Write an indie game marketing plan
As mentioned earlier, people make the mistake of not writing a marketing plan. Not having this can make things very challenging.
Think of it as taking a huge road trip to a destination without a map or plan.
Sure, you can do it.
But it can make the trip a lot more difficult.
Your marketing plan is basically a complete travel plan for your game’s marketing journey.
Here’s a list of some of the major areas you should be addressing in your marketing plan.
- It provides you with focus.
- Marketing Goals
- Gives you a destination.
- Market and Audience Research
- A complete understanding of your market and audiences gives you confidence.
- This helps you determine how to communicate your game to others.
- Content and Media Assets
- A plan and process for creating marketing content.
- Funnel Development and Implementation
- An outline of how you create awareness and how it contributes to your goal.
- Marketing Strategies
- Channels and platforms to be used to help drive traffic through your funnel.
- Campaign Measurement
- The processes and metrics used to make sure marketing strategies are effective.
- Marketing Timetables and Budgets
- A breakdown of events, resources and budgets.
As you define each of these sections, you’ll understand everything you need to know about your marketing efforts. Even if you don’t know something, that should also be identified in the plan too.
If this seems like a lot, you can download a free indie game marketing plan template to help you out!
3. Know as much as you can about your game’s market
Just because you may be an expert in the same genre that your game is, doesn’t necessarily mean you know everything about the market.
Knowing as much as you can about your game’s genre and market can put you in a better position than most.
Start by looking at all the popular and best-selling games within that genre. Then check out the games that seemed to do poorly.
What can be really helpful is doing a cross-analysis or comparison grid of these games. Find features, images, mechanics or anything that stood out to you (or didn’t).
Then take that list, and see how you can differentiate yourself from others. That’s one of the best ways to stand out in your market.
Here are some other indie game research tips to help you know more about your game.
- Play other games in your genre
- Read player reviews of other games to identify pain points or what resonates with them.
- Ask questions about popular games in online communities about what can be improved.
- Ask other devs making similar games to share some player feedback they received.
The more research you do, the more confident you’ll be in implementing certain features or messaging choices that resonate with players.
4. Know as much as you can about your game’s audience.
This may be most challenging for game developers. How do you know your audience if you don’t really know them?
You may not know them personally, but there are lots of ways to get to know your audience.
A great place to learn more about your audience is in online communities. One way to determine this is if there is a group or community dedicated to a game genre or popular title.
For example, Reddit is a perfect environment to learn more about your audience just by viewing their posts and comments in game-related subreddits.
You can even explore more and see other communities Reddit users post or comment on. This will reveal other interests they have.
From there, you can start learning things like:
- How they communicate with others.
- What they are passionate about.
- What they dislike.
- What other interests they have and how those interests may relate to your game.
From all of this information, you can start building player personas or types.
Creating a persona gives you the advantage of being more direct and focused on targeting ideal players for your game.
The more you know, the more opportunities you’ll have to stand out.
5. Create clear marketing messaging
Making sure that your marketing messaging is clear and concise is extremely important.
This applies to both text, images and videos.
However, it can still be easy to convey the wrong message about your game if you’re not careful.
Being so close to your project, it’s easy to forget your audience knows nothing about your game. You’ll have full context about the content you share. However, your audience won’t.
Let’s say you share an image that doesn’t look very easy to make out what’s happening in it. You’ll know what’s happening, but your audience may not.
Or you describe your game in a way that someone not familiar with it may think it’s a completely different game.
You can address this by putting yourself in the shoes of someone who hasn’t seen your game before. It’s a great exercise to practice regularly as it will help you develop empathy for your audience.
Once you get a direction with your messaging you can test it on others. There are plenty of developer communities that can provide helpful feedback before you put it out into the world.
This is a great way to start testing the waters, but before you start sharing content, let’s discuss how to build a game marketing funnel.
6. Build a funnel “journey” for players
When you build a funnel, you’re basically creating a journey for fans and players.
Funnels can be fairly easy to create but can also be very intricate, however they don’t have to be very detailed to be effective.
Lots of times, players may not even know that they entered your funnel. Regardless, it’s your job to know how they entered it and what actions they are likely to take.
In addition to having players take actions, funnels are also a means to create an experience for players that aligns with your game.
Let’s take a deeper dive in understanding exactly what a game marketing funnel is.
What is a game marketing funnel?
A game marketing funnel directs players down a path where you want them to take a specific action. However, marketing funnels can come in all different shapes and sizes.
In most cases, you’ll create awareness that will drive traffic to a specific destination. When players take action, they’ll either continue to move further down the funnel or convert.
Here are some examples of indie game marketing funnels.
- Social media post > website/landing page > email list > Discord > playtest > purchase
- Influencer coverage > Steam page > follows game > Discord > playtest > purchase
- Ad campaign > Mobile landing page > Installation
- Ad campaign > Prelaunch page signup > crowdfund pledge
- Browsing Steam > wishlists game > purchase
This can give you a good sense of the different paths that marketing funnels will create. Some are short and long. Others may overlap.
What’s important though, is each step of the funnel requires a clear call to action (CTA). This tells people what you want them to do. It’s how you drive them further into the funnel.
Without a clear CTA, your funnel may still work, but won’t be effective in delivering results.
What is the player’s journey?
The player’s journey is part of your funnel, but takes it to a more immersive level.
Basically, it’s creating a thematic experience for players which helps align their expectations with the gameplay experience.
Let’s break this concept down a little more.
Say your game’s main theme is relatable with a lot of people and you have other game elements that resonate with them too.
You should try your best to incorporate your game’s theme and elements in your marketing materials and messaging. Elements can consist of many things such as inspiration, emotions, or feelings that your audience can relate to.
What is an example of the player’s journey?
As you find creative ways to do this, your content will be better at connecting and resonating with your audience.
This is called experiential marketing, and it will take time to get great at. But understanding and having empathy for your audience and players will only help you get better at this.
Adding this level of immersion to your marketing funnel can be difficult to do, however, it will greatly impact how you stand out compared to other games.
Now that we covered a lot of the foundational elements of your marketing strategy, let’s get into one of the core elements your marketing will be focused around. Your marketing content.
Create shareable content
Everything you do with your marketing relies on your content and media assets. That’s why you need to make as good as possible.
To do this, your media assets need to have strong visual context.
Visual context means showcasing media content with clear visual information that can be interpreted without additional messaging. This makes things easier to understand for people who have never seen your game before.
Below are the different media assets this applies to and what may happen if visual context isn’t applied to them.
Mostly gameplay images should be very clear and a good representation of your gameplay. Poor captures can cause confusion or make your game look boring.
- Promotional Art
This consists of channel or storefront banners, capsule art, and other branding assets. Make sure the art aligns and conveys what the game experience is like.
- Video/GIF Clips
Like screenshots, make sure it’s clear to people what is happening during gameplay.
Trailers are more effective at telling a story than individual clips or images. It’s important to use clips that support visual context so your trailer can better “show” and not “tell”.
As you create your assets, keep them organized with helpful naming conventions. Using categories like characters, levels, actions, etc. allows media to be easily identified without viewing them, saving time.
How to create game marketing assets
Creating marketing assets may seem simple but creating great content requires work. Again, the goal is to create assets that clearly show what the game is about. Here are some steps on how to create media assets.
- How to create screenshots
1. Determine what type of moments you plan to capture that represent your game in the best way possible.
2. Set up or “stage” the moment or action you plan to take a screenshot of.
3. Use in-game screenshot tools. There are similar screenshot tools for mobile too. These should be easier than using standard screenshot tools.
- How to create promotional art
1. Have an idea or vision of what you want your promotional art to convey.
2. Browse or use your network to find contractors that align with your vision.
3. If you have no budget, use a screenshot of your game, branding overlay, has high resolution and meets required dimensions where it will be used.
- How to create video/GIF clips
1. Follow steps 1 and 2 of “how to create screenshots”.
2. Use in-game or other video capture tools.
3. If cleaning up clips, use free editing software like Davinci Resolve.
4. If converting video to GIF, use EzGIF.com or Gfycat.
5. Keep clips 5 to 15 seconds in length.
- How to create trailers
1. Watch amazing trailers and determine what made them great.
2. Start with an idea and vision of how your trailer is going to tell a story.
3. Capture video clips of gameplay and other key moments.
4. Import captured video to your editing software.
5. Hire a composer or get royalty-free/YouTube licensed music.
6. Edit trailer so you have a hook, build-up, climax and end.
7. Keep the length around 90 seconds or less.
How to create shareable media assets
Part of making indie game marketing media assets is making them so people are excited to share them.
However, that’s only half the battle. Making media assets shareable also means making them easily accessible.
Here are some ways to do this.
Create an easily accessible press kit
When you’re reaching out to press, influencers or others interested in your game, putting all of your best media assets into a press kit is essential.
Whether you’re using your website, a Google Drive or PressKit to share your marketing media assets, you want them organized and easy for everyone to obtain what they want.
Having these assets in specific areas or folders in the following categories is super helpful.
Different sizes of hi-res images of landscapes, characters, wallpapers, etc.
Different sizes of hi-res images of all logos.
Different sizes of hi-res images of best shots of gameplay or key moments.
Video files and/or links to video content on YouTube.
At least the most current trailer and/or links to video content on YouTube.
It’s important to remember some media assets in your press kit can be more helpful to some people than others. For example, YouTuber SplatterCat stated press kits providing materials to create thumbnails is essential.
“…have a banger presskit with all the materials needed for making thumbnails: HD wallpapers, key art, and logos in various sizes.”
He then explains the importance of thumbnails.
“Thumbnails are incredibly underrated, but 90% of making a video stick is having a rad piece of art to show off. It can mean the difference between 15k views and the algorithm picking it up due to high clickthrough and pushing it out to hundreds of thousands. It really is that impactful.”
So tailoring your press kit to best serve the intended audience will not only have an impact on your content’s exposure but will help increase its shareability too!
10x your content marketing strategy
If you want your content to stand out, impact others and be more shareable, then you’re going to want to follow these steps.
1. Conduct competitive research.
This is a key step when creating a marketing plan. Go to social sites like Twitter or Reddit to find out why other game content gets shared or goes viral.
2. Have your media assets tell a story
Even though your trailer is better at telling stories, a GIF or screenshot can still tell a story with little context. Being creative with your approach can turn an image into a story that resonates with your audience.
3. Learn more about your audience
You know the importance of knowing your audience. So learn more about their interests, values, opinions etc. so you can create content that appeals and stands out to them. Let your media communicate to them in ways other games don’t.
4. Get your community involved
Once you have a community, create engagement activities that promote user-generated content and share it. This establishes trust with other prospective fans because it’s like an indirect referral from a player.
When you share user-generated content, other potential fans will notice how you take action to show you care and appreciate your fans.
5. Inspire others
If your game’s story or theme is something that can resonate with players, why not use that to inspire others? Showcasing this type of content can be very impactful and show how authentic you can be.
When people are inspired by something, they typically like to share it too.
6. Create something that’s easily relatable
People share experiences all the time. Traffic, long lines, computers crashing. Why not share some of those experiences by communicating them through your content?
7. Use sharing buttons
If part of your game marketing strategy is driving traffic to your website, it may be worth considering using share buttons on your site. Make it easy for your visitors to share your content with a click of a button.
There are a lot of indie game marketing strategies you can use. However, some are more effective than others.
The list below is what other developers and industry veterans consider to be the most impactful from a results-focused standpoint. Click on each section for details and why these methods are crucial for indie game marketing.
- Sharing your indie game on social media
- Using game influencers
- Showcasing at video game events
When combined with foundational and experiential marketing, these strategies will be very effective and compound your results.
Now that you know the importance of making your content amazing and shareable, we’re going to discuss how and where you can share it.
There are over 3.78 billion social media users. Which means there are a lot of different social media channels to choose from.
However, depending on what your goals are, some deliver results better than others.
Whatever platform you start using, it’s highly recommended you start using one first. Learn everything you possibly can about it and become an expert.
This will give you more confidence and the ability to create greater awareness.
When you’re ready to move to another platform, repeat the process. You’ll be able to carry over what you learned to the new platform with greater results in less time.
Below are the platforms most game industry veterans leverage when promoting their game with some basic steps to setting them up.
Promoting your game on Reddit
Believe it or not, the main Reddit user demographic is nearly the same for indie games. It also has an extensive growing number of game-related subreddits too, making Reddit a great place to engage with players and create awareness.
Even though not all subreddits allow promotion, Reddit provides indie games great opportunities to connect with players and learn valuable information from them.
If you plan on promoting your game on Reddit, then follow these steps.
- Create a Reddit account
- Join subreddits that relate and indirectly relate to your game.
- Learn about all the promotional rules in each community you join*.
- Participate in your targeted subreddits and learn what type of content goes viral.
- Test and experiment promo posts on platforms like Twitter first to see how they do.
*Reddit has a 1/10 promotional post sitewide rule. This means for every ten posts, you can only make one promotional post. This is flexible in some subreddits, but do your best to abide by this. That’s why it’s important to test your promotional posts first.
Market your game on TikTok
TikTok has the potential to create a lot of exposure, however be mindful that it consists of a younger user demographic. As long as that aligns with your game’s audience, TikTok can be a great opportunity.
With the user base growing extensively and content having the potential to reach hundreds of thousands of people, this is one of the reasons why TikTok is such a great community to leverage.
Just take indie game studio StrayFawn’s account for example. They have only recently been super active over the last few months and have had at least one post over 200 thousand views and a few others over tens of thousands.
Creating content relies heavily on videos. Generally speaking, better performing content involves having someone in the content paired with popular or catchy music.
If you want to market your game on TikTok, here are some basic steps to follow.
- Create a TikTok account.
- Browse via computer/app to become familiar with the platform.
- Search and follow other game/non-game creators using keywords and hashtags.
- Get ideas on how to approach your own videos.
- Regularly test and experiment.
Like most platforms, using TikTok is an iterative process. However, with time and dedication, the chances of your content going viral will increase with each video post.
Build your indie game network with Twitter
With nearly 39% of its user demographic being between ages of 25 – 35, it would seem like the ideal social media channel to market your game.
But there’s a catch.
Your main audience typically isn’t using Twitter to engage with you or indie games. It’s because most people use Twitter for news or follow influencers.
In addition to this, it seems Twitter doesn’t like posts with links in them and throttles down their reach. It’s because they want people to stay longer on the platform.
So why consider Twitter?
Remember how people use Twitter for news and following influencers?
Well, gaming press and gaming influencers are probably the main reason why gamers are on Twitter in the first place.
Not only that, but publishers are also on Twitter because they know indie devs actively use Twitter.
Between gaming journalists, influencers, publishers and other devs, Twitter is a great place for you to reach and connect with some pretty helpful people.
Twitter may not get you directly in front of players, but it can put you in a great position for other opportunities.
If you want to build your indie game network on Twitter to better leverage your indie game marketing, then follow these basic steps to get started.
- Create a Twitter account
- Browse via computer/app to become familiar with the platform.
- Search and follow games journalists, influencers, publishers and some game devs.
- Be selective with who you follow and engage with them regularly to stand out.
- Participate in weekly events like #screenshotsaturday and other events.
- Test other social media posts on Twitter first to see how they perform.
- Pin a tweet to your feed that has a CTA link.
- Include any additional important links in your profile and/or keep DMs open.
Create awareness with Imgur
Like Reddit, Imgur also has a similar audience and characteristics, making it an ideal place to post and create some impactful awareness.
Despite its similarities to Reddit, like any platform, it has its own nuances that you need to be aware of if using it to create awareness for your game.
The first thing to be aware of is if you’re new to Imgur you have to go through a validation period. What this means is your posts will be limited in providing a call to action with links in them.
They do this because they want their users to add value to the platform and limit the number of spammers on it. So be sure to engage on the platform with posts first.
Also, know that a lot of people use Imgur for sharing memes. This can make it a challenge to strike the right approach with your posts. However, it’s still important to be mindful of that.
Remember, you want to cater to your audience and how they use the platform.
This concept can be a little challenging to understand. Thankfully Imgur user Randwerk shows how they quickly created some awareness over the course of several posts.
It’s also important to note that all of the content Randwerk posted used either a video or gif.
There are lots of other styles of posts you can make on Imgur so there are lots of options you have.
The point is as long as you’re catering to the audience and optimizing how you post, you should have a good shot garnering some attention on Imgur.
Thinking about leveraging Imgur, then follow these basic steps below.
- Create an Imgur account
- Browse via computer/app to become familiar with the platform.
- Search and engage with posts by searching for related keywords and tags.
- Get ideas on how to approach your own videos.
- Regularly test and experiment.
Again, it goes without saying that using Imgur is also an iterative process, as you can see with Randwerk’s posts.
Just keep on testing and you’re bound to find something that will stick.
The main reason why so many game developers rely on game influencers is that they know established content creators have a strong devoted community.
This can have a significant impact for indie game developers and why leveraging game influencer marketing is so important.
Let’s discuss some of the best ways to leverage game influencers.
What’s the difference between game streamers and content creators?
Most game influencers are either streamers or content creators, though there definitely is overlap.
Streamers mostly stream the game they’re playing, where content creators may stream the game, but also create gameplay content people can view later.
If trying to decide between reaching out to streamers or content creators, you may want to stick with content creators first.
While both content creators and streamers can have large followings and generate some great awareness for your game, content creators typically get more views.
Why? Because content get’s more views over time compared to streaming gameplay.
Unless a streamer has multiple play sessions of your game and uploads the gameplay to be viewed later, your game’s long-term exposure is reduced.
That’s why being mindful of the platform and how it’s used is very important.
What are the best ways to find game influencers?
Finding game influencers that are a good fit for your game can definitely be a process.
There are generally two paths you can go to find game influencers though. Using services or doing the work manually.
In either case, having the right approach, information and making sure the influencer has access to play your game are the main requirements when reaching out to them.
Game influencer services
Game influencer services can be hiring someone who can find and reach out to influencers for you, or using influencer platforms you manage and simplify the process by paying fees. Hiring someone to do the work could be a freelancer or a PR/Influencer agency.
If considering using a service platform, recently it seems a lot of these service platforms aren’t as effective as they once were for a variety of reasons. Below is a list of some platforms you will likely run into or see.
Before you engage with any platforms, make sure you do some research and see if what they offer aligns with your campaign objectives. In doing so, you may find you’re better off manually finding and managing your own campaigns or working with an agency.
Manually finding game influencers
When you’re manually looking for game influencers, there are a few ways to go about the process.
One, you can use Twitch or YouTube directly and apply filters to refine your search.
While this method can help you find relative influencers, it can be tedious. Especially if you’re looking for influencers with a certain number of followers and views.
To make this process easier, these tools are often used by many other devs to reduce the amount of work involved.
When using these tools, you generally want to go after influencers that have a good size (not huge), loyal following. Going too big starting out will likely get you little return for your efforts. Also, you still want your efforts to have an impact on your results, so don’t go too small either.
If you find you’re not getting any responses, then try focusing on smaller influencers with loyal followings. This is a great way to start building some traction. You may also want to review and optimize your approach too.
As you look for influencers, part of your process should require you to find out more about their channel.
Are they variety streamers? Do they only play specific game genres? Do they only play indie games?
Some influencers may be exclusive to mobile, PC or AAA games.
Regardless of what they cover, make sure you know. You don’t want to waste their time, or yours.
What’s a good strategy to approach game influencers?
When approaching game influencers you want to stand out, be concise and provide helpful information they can easily review.
It’s also a huge help if you put together a template to make the process easier.
But before you start blasting influencers with a templated email, here are some great strategies that will help you stand out compared to everyone else.
Stand out by connecting with influencers
Do you take notice when someone follows your game or gives you a compliment? Of course you do!
The same goes for influencers.
Most are grateful and notice when they receive engagement or a new follower. So if they always notice these things, there’s a strong probability that if you engage with them regularly, they’ll notice you.
These types of actions show you care about their content and can establish a relationship.
By connecting with influencers this way, you create the opportunity to stand out to them.
So when it comes time to reach out to them to cover your game, you already have an advantage over everyone else.
Be short and sweet
Influencers are super busy. Between emails, direct messages, and the content they’re creating, they don’t have time to read a long pitch.
Here’s an outline you can follow when crafting your next influencer outreach campaign.
- Create a straightforward and catchy subject line.
- A brief introduction (about a sentence)
- Personalize – Something that resonates with them (one sentence).
- Game description – (A sentence or two).
Getting to the point with a brief introduction and a logline or short compelling description of your game is typically the best approach.
It’s also ok to personalize your email a little too, but keep it short. The extra effort can make a lasting impression and helps you stand out more.
Make it easy
In addition to keeping your message concise, you also want to make it super easy for influencers to get all the information they need.
Here’s how you can do that.
- CTA – What do you want them to do?
- A great screenshot or two. It will give them a clear idea of what your game is like.
- Links – Steam page/landing page and press kit.
Having these three main things makes it easy for influencers to consider your game. If you make it a challenge for them, they likely will move on to the next request.
Do I need a budget for gaming influencers?
The short answer is no, you don’t need one. However, it really depends on a lot of factors and how you want to tackle your influencer campaign.
In most cases, having a budget for influencers can go a long way in producing results.
Influencer services can add up, especially when trying to get as much reach as possible.
Some influencers with a large reach may be worth the money.
Also, paying for gaming influencers can often lock in coverage, prioritizing your content over others which can be very helpful if you’re releasing your game or help other campaigns you may have running.
Some people spend as little as a few hundred dollars, whereas others can spend thousands.
Regardless of what you decide to spend (or not), just make sure you determine what’s going to be the best use of your resources.
Reaching out yourself saves money, but spending the money can save you valuable time and deliver impactful results.
Events are probably one of the most impactful ways to get exposure for your game. However, it’s important to consider that not all events provide the same opportunities.
For example, some events may be more business-focused like GDC. Others are more consumer-based like PAX. Steam events are more targeted at potential buyers.
Regardless of what the event is, you need to be aware of the audience they cater to, their costs, your goals and other factors. At the end of the day, you want to make sure you’re able to recoup your investment.
Physical events vs virtual events
Since the outbreak of Covid 19, there has been a decrease in physical events and virtual events popped up everywhere.
This has created a huge opportunity for developers who haven’t been able to attend physical events.
As physical events make a slow return, it’s still important to consider the differences between the two and how they can contribute to your game’s reach.
Physical game events
Physical events provide a great experience for developers. Meeting players in person and getting valuable feedback can be very motivational.
While there are lots of other benefits, it’s always important to look at the bottom line and evaluate how physical events contribute to your game’s goals.
When thinking about showcasing at a physical event, you’ll want to consider the following costs.
- Booth cost
- Travel/lodging/food expenses
- Promotional materials
- Additional related costs
Once you have a rough idea of what these costs will be, do some research and reach out to other developers that attended physical events.
It’s important to find out what their goals were for attending and what kind of results they received.
Now divide your estimated costs by your estimated results. If the cost to obtain your results are too high in comparison to other marketing efforts, it may not be worth attending physical events.
There can be lots of beneficial factors from showcasing at physical events that don’t have a tangible value associated with them such as networking and playtesting.
When considering these “non-tangible” values, just remember there may be other ways to achieve this without attending a physical event.
Virtual game events
While there are a lot more virtual events now compared to a couple of years ago, the virtual event landscape has made it more accessible for game devs to showcase their game.
On the flip side, virtual events lack immersion that attendees generally look forward to.
Despite this, it still makes events more accessible for attendees.
While virtual events have the potential of a greater reach, the exposure your game receives could differ greatly depending on the event.
If you are thinking about participating in virtual events, here are some questions to ask yourself.
- How are games being featured?
Being featured can help your game get a lot of exposure. Find out how this is being done to determine if the event is going to be impactful for you or not.
- Are there streaming events
Will showcased games be featured as part of a streaming party hosted by the event on Twitch or other platforms?
- Is the event being featured on Steam?
In addition to getting exposure from the event, if it’s featured on Steam, or Steam has an event-related sale, it will give your game extra visibility on the platform.
- Does the event feature specific types of games?
If the event caters to indie games or specific genres of games like wholesome games, this could provide a great opportunity to stand out more.
- Does the event feature a specific group of developers?
There are a growing number of events that feature women developers and developers of color. Another great way to stand out while promoting advocacy for these groups.
- How has the event performed well for other developers?
Ask other developers what virtual events they showcased at and which generated the best results.
What are the best gaming events to attend?
It can be a challenge to determine what are the best gaming events to attend, especially if you haven’t participated in them before. Each one can provide different results based on a lot of factors.
As mentioned before, it’s important to do your research before attending. Finding the event that will best meet your goals should always be top of mind.
Here’s a list of gaming events that come highly recommended from teams that have showcased at them and received a great amount of exposure.
- Steam Events and NEXT Festivals
- Future Games Show
- INDIE Live Expo
- Day of the Devs
- Guerilla Collective
- PC Gaming Show (E3)
- Indie Showcase and Rising (PAX)
- Tokyo Games Show
- The MIX
- IGF (Indie Game Festival – GDC)
- Indie Arena Booth (Gamescom)
- DreamHack Beyond
Outside of these events being great, they’re so impactful because they usually get a Steam featuring on the front page. This definitely helps get extra visibility to your Steam page.
While somewhat related, there has been an increase of themed sales events on Steam and at times those are featured as well.
Whatever event you do consider showcasing at, be aware that each event has different requirements. Understanding these requirements in advance is essential, especially if you’re looking for opportunities to get featured.
One last important thing is to make sure you apply once registration opens and don’t be afraid to follow up. Managing an event is a lot of work, and at times things may fall between the cracks.
Don’t get frustrated, but make sure you’re active with following up.
We covered a lot about how social media, game influencers, and events are considered the most impactful types of indie game marketing.
Though they’re effective, there are still many other marketing strategies that can compound the results of those efforts.
When it comes to indie game marketing, you need to think about how to take a holistic approach and be aware of every aspect of marketing.
However, that doesn’t mean you need to do everything. Knowing what you don’t know or are not doing is better than not knowing anything.
It’s up to you to decide how much marketing you want to incorporate. This all depends on your team size and what resources you’re willing to invest.
With that said, here are several other strategies you should consider being a part of your indie game marketing.
Regardless of how you’re creating awareness, at some point, you’re going to direct players to a landing page.
A landing page is basically a page designed specifically to convert. Whether it’s your website, Steam page or app store page, a landing page is where you’ll want visitors to take some type of action.
To help make sure they do, you need to optimize your landing pages.
Below we have gone into each type of landing page, their importance, and how to make them more effective to generate results.
Website page optimization
In most cases, when people are directing players to their website or a specific landing page on their site, they want them to take action. In a lot of cases, this entails signing up for a mailing list.
What most people don’t know is that landing pages have the highest average conversion rate of all signup forms on a website at 24%.
In order to achieve this percent on your site, it’s important that your landing pages follow conversion rate optimization (CRO) best practices.
CRO is basically a process that helps you design your landing pages to convert as many people as possible that visit your page.
There are a lot of different ways to address this, but here are some quick CRO tips to use.
- Know how people are visiting the page
Keeping your player’s journey in mind, you want to know how people got to your page. If they are engaging with the content you promoted, make sure that the page aligns with the content and messaging.
- Focus on one conversion type
Having multiple conversion types is distracting for people. Having an email signup, Discord link and other conversion points are more likely to reduce results.
Make signing up for your email list irresistible by offering an incentive. This could be a special offer, alpha/beta access, demo or other types of lead magnets.
- Know your data
Using Google Analytics (GA) can help determine where people are coming from, their behavior and if they are converting based on goals you set up within GA .
Steam page optimization
Like a website landing page, you’ll also want people who visit your Steam page to take action. However, how you go about optimizing your Steam page is a little different than optimizing your website landing page.
One way to approach this is think of Steam as a search engine like Google, but just for games. So in addition to optimizing your page, you also want your game to be optimized for Steam search results too.
Most of this happens in the store page interface in the Steam partner portal. It’s there you have control over content, how your game is categorized and other areas of how your game is listed.
Whether you started creating your Steam page or already have one, here are a few tips you should consider to start optimizing your game’s page.
- Have great capsule art
Having great capsule art that properly conveys your game can help increase your click-through rate (CTR) to your Steam page.
- Have great screenshots that provide visual context
Remember how we discussed visual context earlier? The same applies especially to your screenshots on your Steam Page. Typically, people review screenshots over trailers because it takes less time.
- Be clear with your short description
Being clear with your game’s description is crucial. Create one that identifies the game’s genre, story element and objective. Here’s a great example from Hades by SuperGiant Games.
- Choose your tags wisely
Picking the right tags that properly describe your game is essential. Choosing over-populated tags like “indie” or vague tags like “design & illustration” don’t help you stand out.
These are just some quick tips that you can easily address, however it’s suggested to become a pro on the subject so you can optimize your Steam page as much as possible.
App Store Optimization (ASO) for Mobile Games
Now even following ASO best practices, you need to keep in mind it’s not the only thing that will improve your rankings in the store search results.
For example, having an app name that’s keyword-focused and relates to your game is very important.
Outside traffic is another factor that will help increase your app’s rankings. Your social media promotional efforts or paid ads all provide helpful signals to the platform that aids in how your app is shown in search results.
But without proper ASO, even with the help of the latter can be an uphill battle to get exposure in the marketplace.
Whether you have optimized your app store page yet or not, here are some ideas that you can implement fairly quickly.
- Create a clear description
Clarity is king. Make sure your description is clear and concise, so players aren’t confused about what your game is about.
- Targeted keywords
Research keywords that are relevant to your app and focus on ones that have decent search volume. Doing so can help increase your click-through rate (CTR) and traffic.
- Stand out with a great icon
Having an icon that stands out among others is essential. Creating one that conveys what the game is about can help reduce friction and increase CTR.
- Videos and Screenshots
Videos and screenshots will help players fully visualize what the game is going to be like. Make sure these have great visual context.
These tips will put you in a good position but making additional updates and continuing to send traffic to your page will help it.
Community building is a significant component of indie game marketing. The reason why it’s so important is it provides you with additional support and momentum for your game.
A community of passionate members can help amplify your game’s reach or aid in a number of different ways too. They do this by spreading the word about your game, creating word-of-mouth marketing.
This can become a very powerful tool.
According to Nielsen which is a leader in audience insights, 92% of consumers rely heavily on trusting recommendations from people they know. While this data may be old, the impact word-of-mouth marketing has is still highly effective when compared to other forms of marketing.
While a lot of game developers understand this, sometimes they question how to start building a community that creates word-of-mouth marketing.
The short answer is to start by creating awareness for your game. You can’t build a community if people don’t know about your game.
That said, how and where people engage with your community should be determined as well.
There are lots of ways to build your community. While all require a lot of dedication and work, it’s best to focus on platforms that provide you with the most control and leverage.
The one we feel does the best job at that is Discord.
Building a Discord community
Though Discord has only been around since 2015, it has quickly grown into one of the largest and most active gaming community platforms. Targeting tech-savvy gaming enthusiasts, Discord is the ideal place for any indie game community.
With around 350 million users and each user spending about 280 minutes a month on the platform, it’s no wonder why it’s the perfect place to engage with gaming fans.
Regardless of its stats, Discord provides you with a direct line of communication with people in your community. This is a great way to establish trust with fans by regularly engaging with them.
In doing so, you’re more likely to create brand advocates, or fans that are more likely to willingly promote your game.
What exactly is Discord?
For anyone not familiar with Discord, it’s basically a platform that provides servers or “places” where different communities reside, mostly associated with gaming.
Those servers are set up and operated by communities or groups of people that usually have a common interest. Within the servers are channels or specific “places” where users can engage with each other.
How to set up a Discord community?
Managing a Discord community can be a lot of work, however, following these basic suggestions can make it easy to set up and manage once you create the server.
- Plan and structure your channels
Having a vision of the types of channels you want is important. Keeping things simple while providing value to community members should be the focus. You can always add more channels later and starting out small is easier to manage.
- Invite others
With a rough channel structure, you’re ready to start inviting people to your server. When you do, make sure to create an invite link that doesn’t expire. Failing to do this can cause confusion and limit community growth.
- Keep people engaged
Once you have people coming into your server, keep them engaged. Give them a reason to stay by asking questions, talking about their interests and what they like about your game.
- Promote your Server
As you start to grow your server, start to promote it more. Having a small active community is more welcoming than an empty one. No sense in promoting if new members are greeted by a ghost town.
- Get Help
When you’re ready, one of the best ways to scale your server is by having moderators. Moderators can often mitigate a lot of the trivial elements associated with managing a server. It also allows you to be more focused on other areas.
This really only scratches the surface with what you can do with your Discord server, so it’s worth considering referencing this complete Discord setup guide.
Building other online communities could be in the form of a YouTube channel, subreddit for your game, blog, social media account or even a podcast.
These are all other great ways to create a secondary or sub-community. You can also use them to establish that you’re an authority figure in your space if that’s a direction you’re interested in taking.
Think about Thomas Brush’s YouTube Channel and how he caters to help indie devs.
However, these types of communities don’t typically provide you with the same level of influence or direct contact you would have with a Discord community.
This is important to understand as sometimes game developers will put a lot of resources into some of these platforms thinking they can become a community they can rely heavily on.
Most of the time, it’s not the case.
Yes, your awareness efforts on social media and other platforms will naturally help build communities in these spaces.
However, because of how people use these platforms, they don’t create the ideal environments for people to become fully immersed, engaged, and influenced by you or your game.
If you feel otherwise, just make sure you ask yourself this:
“How does this generate results and contribute to your goal?”
If you’re not sure, chances are it’s not doing well.
Email marketing isn’t necessarily a type of community, however, it can help drive community engagement and other types of actions you want people to take. This in turn can help drive people further into your funnel.
Using email marketing is still a very effective strategy providing multiple opportunities and benefits for game developers.
To start, anyone who joined your email list likely did because they’re interested in your game.
As long as you clearly stated your intent on how you plan to use their email, people that signed up gave you the ok to reach out to them directly.
This increases your ability to influence your fans into taking specific actions.
This can be in the form of:
- Directing traffic to a website.
- Making sure people received and engaged with updates.
- Joining your Discord.
- Collecting feedback.
- Increase sales or wishlists.
Create awareness for events or other campaigns.
More importantly, this allows you to regularly stay in touch with fans, providing them value by sharing exclusive content about your game.
While there are a lot of benefits associated with email marketing, one of the best reasons is that you own your list.
This matters because you don’t have to worry about the information only being accessed through a specific platform or if an algorithm change affects your reach.
By owning your list, you are in complete control of it. You even get extra benefits too.
This includes getting help from crowdfunding agencies or creating super-targeted paid advertising campaigns that can hone in on new fans that are similar to yours.
Overall, email marketing provides a level of influence with fans you generally don’t have with any other form of marketing.
This makes it a worthwhile investment that delivers results and provides more ways to engage directly with your fans and a means for them to take action.
How to set up email marketing for indie games?
There’s a lot of different things you can do with email marketing, but what does it take to set up an email marketing campaign for your game?
Let’s start with the basics.
- Sign up for a free email marketing account.
There are lots of free email marketing services. Sign up for the one that best meets your needs.
- Create an automated welcome message.
Once you create an account, you’re going to want to create a welcome message for when people sign up for your mailing list.
- Add a signup form to your website or landing page.
Create a signup form from the email marketing service you chose then put it on your website or landing page.
- Create an email marketing plan.
Determine how you’re going to communicate with your list and the frequency you’ll engage with them. Creating an email template helps!
- Create an automated campaign (Bonus)
An automated campaign automatically emails newcomers with several emails over a period of time. This increases engagement, can help further drive action while saving time. Please note, most automated campaigns are only available in paid plans.
Once you have your account and your campaign set, you’re well on your way to further engage with your community and influence them to take further action.
If you’re looking for a way to create impact then leveraging paid advertising will do just that. Of course, this all depends on your goals and objectives.
Believe it or not, paid advertising can help in a lot of different ways than just creating awareness or sales.
One of the most beneficial offerings is how fast you can gain valuable information and honest feedback on your marketing materials.
For example, if you’re running an ad that does great and generates results, that’s a clear indication that your targeting, messaging and creative (media assets) resonate with your audience.
Now, if the opposite occurs, it’s your job to determine which one of those elements doesn’t resonate with your audience.
Whether your ads work or not, this shares valuable detailed insight you typically can’t get from making a post on social media.
This information can be super helpful in how you approach other marketing campaigns.
But before you start running ads to “learn” how your messaging resonates with your audience, remember this is just a byproduct of what your focus should be.
That focus is getting a return on investment (ROI).
How to figure out a return on investment (ROI) running game ads?
When running a paid advertising campaign, you want to make sure the results you generate for your game will be the same or greater than the costs of your advertising campaign.
Let’s break this down with some examples.
Say you’ll be running a crowdfunding campaign and you decided to run ads with a $1,000 ad budget.
Assuming the average pledge amount is $25 and your ad campaign generated 100 backers, that campaign generated $2,500.Your ROI is $1,500 and your return on ad spend (ROAS) is 250%.
- Steam wishlists
Ok, so you decided to run ads to increase your wishlist count. You have a budget of $1,000 and were able to generate about 1,000 wishlists (cost per wishlist at $1.00).Let’s estimate of the 1,000 wishlists generated, 10% will buy the game on release.
If your game is priced at $25, then your campaign generated $2,500 in revenue.Your ROI is $1,500 and your ROAS is 250%. Factoring in Steam’s 30% cut, your net ROI is $1,750 and net ROAS is only 175%.
- Mobile user acquisition
Mobile gets a little tricky depending on the monetization strategy. The above examples can apply to mobile sales in general if selling a premium app.
However, if you have in-app purchases, before running any ad campaign you need to install the SDK (software development kit) for the ad platform you’re using.
If not, you won’t be able to properly attribute your results or calculate your ROI and ROAS.
Running ads in general can help provide you valuable insight. Regardless of that, you need to track your ad campaigns efforts to ensure they’re generating a positive ROI.
If they aren’t, then you should optimize your campaigns or determine if using a certain ad platform is a good fit for promoting your game.
Now you understand the importance of getting an ROI, let’s focus on which ad platforms typically provide the best results for indie games.
Facebook ads for games
When it comes to running game ads, Facebook is one of the best advertising platforms out there for a few reasons.
One of the main ones is the majority of Facebook’s user demographic matches what most indie games are targeting.
Outside of that, here are a few other reasons why it’s such a great advertising platform to leverage.
Out of all the other platforms, Facebook has a fairly extensive list of game-related interest groups to target. This is really helpful when narrowing your targeting.
You can also create custom and lookalike (LAL) audiences.What’s great about LAL audiences is they are based on your custom audience (such as email list). This means you can target new people that are similar to your email list.
Another great thing about Facebook is they offer a robust option of campaign objectives and ad types.
Generally, most indie games focus on driving traffic, generating leads or conversions objective types.These options allow you to really cater your campaign to your specific needs and most of the ad formats that fall under the latter objective types work great for games.
- Social Influence
One thing that most people miss as a benefit with using Facebook ads compared to other ad platforms is the social influence.One common behavior when people comment on ads is they tag their friends.
This isn’t quite like someone sharing your ad, but more of an indirect call to action.Comments in general on ads can be viewed as social proof and can help further validate your messaging.In some cases, it can also reveal potential flaws in your ad’s messaging.
Being able to get in front of your ideal audience is always important, and with Facebook ads you’re definitely able to do so.
If you’re considering using Facebook ads to promote your game, then consider these steps when setting up your account.
- Approach your ads as a learning experience
Whether you’re new to Facebook ads or not, treat it as a learning experience. Changes happen all the time on the platform and what you learn can be applied elsewhere.
- Know the platform
The Facebook ad platform is accessible but can be cumbersome if you’re new to advertising on it. Take some time and learn it before diving in.
- Know your audience
Make sure you do your research and know who you’re targeting and what targeting options you have available. Don’t be too broad or too focused either.
- Know your objective
Knowing what results you’re focused on will help you determine the right campaign objective. Not knowing this can sometimes provide poor results.
- Have lots of creative and ad copy ready
Having lots of media assets and messaging allows you to test which performs better. This helps you optimize your ads so you can focus on ads that provide the best results.
If you want to set up a Facebook ads account, learn more about ads, and view some case studies, then check out this Facebook ads for games guide.
Reddit ads for games
Though Reddit ads targeting isn’t as advanced as Facebook’s, one of the biggest benefits is it allows you to target specific communities or subreddits.
With Reddit having such an active and passionate user base, it makes it all the more worthwhile advertising platform to leverage.
While you can still promote your game on Reddit organically, it can be frowned upon by the Reddit community if you promote it frequently. This can have a lot of repercussions if you’re not careful.
So what’s awesome about Reddit ads is you can advertise to multiple subreddits at once. This even includes subreddits that don’t allow organic promotional posts.
Another bonus is because Reddit isn’t as large as other advertising platforms, Reddit’s bids are generally lower than other platforms.
This means you can stretch your advertising dollars further by driving more traffic compared to other advertising platforms.
What’s the best way to advertise on Reddit?
This really depends on what your goals and objectives are. Reddit does offer a few objective types, ranging from creating awareness to driving traffic.
Even after you decide your advertising objective, you need to be aware that Reddit is a different environment when it comes to advertising.
You just need to be a little more creative. And one of the best ways to do that is to really get to know the types of people in the communities you plan to target.
After you have set up an account, here are some tips if you’re considering using Reddit ads for your game.
- Research subreddits
You may find a subreddit that seems perfect to target only to find later it isn’t. It’s also worth researching affinity subreddits too. Do the work and research your audience.
- Cater your ads to Redditors
Reddit has a certain vibe to it that’s different from other social media platforms. Understand your audience, be creative and don’t just copy ads from other campaigns.
- Consider focusing on CPC objectives
Reddit has a few bidding objectives, but the cost-per-click (CPC) ones may be better suited for driving results, where CPM and CPV models are more impression-based.
Ultimately you want to create an ad that resonates with Redditors. One of the easiest ways to do this is to target subreddits that your game relates to.
But it’s also worth going a step further by doing some extra research to see if there are any trending topics or pain points you could use creatively in your ads.
Doing this is a sure way to stand out.
While these examples below aren’t game-specific, it shows how these brands got creative in their approach, just by better understanding the audience.
Again, like anything else you do with your ads, it’s an iterative process. However, the more information you learn, the better you can optimize your ad campaigns.
What’s the best way to stand out with indie game marketing?
We really hope that this guide provides you with the necessary insight into all the different processes and steps you need to consider with your indie game marketing.
Having the right mindset, understanding and approach will impact your audience, maximize your efforts and increase results.
However, regardless of what indie game marketing strategies or approaches you use, none of them will amount to much if you don’t do one important thing.
Yes, you’re tailoring your marketing materials for your audience, but not adding your own personal touch, tone or flavor to the mix is a disservice to your audience.
Between your passion and commitment, there’s already a lot of you and your team baked into your game.
Those elements help differentiate your game from others. That also needs to be present in some way with your marketing.
Not being yourself is extremely hard for anyone to buy into. That goes for you and your audience.
Your audience will see through it, and you won’t believe in your efforts.
So in addition to all the insight, you have now, the best way to stand out with indie game marketing is to be yourself.