According to experts, very few indie developers make a profit from their products. Bigger studios account for about 80%+ of sales, thanks to their name and previous achievements.
But the niche’s newcomers and small teams have a lower chance of getting significant income. Roughly a little more than 1% make it commercially beneficial.
But that doesn't mean you can't succeed. Most failures can be traced to a poor indie game marketing campaign. And this is the key to success. It doesn’t matter what game you have: Steam-based, online, or mobile. No one will play it if it stays in the shadows. Even if it has revolutionary visuals, mechanics, and characters!
You have to let people know about it. There's lots of self-promotion strategies. We’ve compiled a list of the most relevant ones to help you make it.
Best Ways to Promote an Indie Game
1. Study Your Audience
Figure out who'll potentially like your title. This'll save you a lot of money when building an overall promotion strategy. Say you decide to scatter your attention on everyone. You’ll pay for ads (to bloggers, YouTubers, etc) to attract clients.
But if you pick the wrong audience, you’ll waste your finances in vain. It’s better to narrow them down and focus on certain groups.
It’s easy when you have data and statistics from previous experience. But what about beginners? Here are some tips on where to start:
- Write down what features make your adventure unique.
- Think about who might be interested in this kind of content. Study cases of already established companies and video games.
- Join forums where people discuss similar titles. Participate in conversations to see who they are and what they like.
Piece by piece, you’ll build the puzzle together and understand your audience.
2. Try a Soft Launch
Before making the project public, give access to a small group of people. Such invite-only availability serves 2 purposes:
- Testing the functionality of the product. You’ll check if everything works, get info about technical bugs and fix them.
- Receiving feedback about the general impression, arts, plot, mechanics – anything. This data is vital to improve the most critical aspects in time. Namely, before letting it out to a broader audience.
3. Use Free Gaming Portals
If your digital game runs online, promote it through specialized websites. They have warmed-up audiences who are looking forward to diving into fresh entertainment options. For example, post your creation on Webgames.io, Kevin Games and dozens of other gaming sites for free.
Watch its popularity grow. All thanks to the portal’s existing fan base and in-built tools to attract players!
Let’s imagine that you have an online playable demo. You can choose the path of Melvor Idle and publish the limited browser title. If users get hooked, they’re invited to try a full Steam version for more features.
4. Reach Out to Influencers
There are a lot of Let’s Play celebrities on YouTube and Twitch. They have many followers ready to listen to their recommendations and try yet unknown adventures.
But don’t hurry to focus on big gaming channels. Micro-influencers may be of greater help if they specialize in your niche. If their audiences get interested in your creation, the retention rates will be higher.
So, pick suitable channels and make a short presentation of your project. Write a brief letter about what you have and why it’s worth their attention. Skip any irrelevant information to show your respect and ability to stick to the point.
Remember to offer something in return for an honest review of your product. Such as a free key, branded merchandise for giveaways, etc.
5. Get Recommendations
It’s great to be appreciated by someone big in the sphere. This is sure to build a trustful attitude from other players. But before you come to that, start small. Your narrow circle of friends and relatives can actually set the ball rolling. Let them write comments, publish posts and share the link to the title.
Underrating word-of-mouth marketing is a common mistake. But it’s free, effective, and easy to implement. It increases the chances that other people will get interested and give it a try.
6. Ask Journalists to Cover Your Story
First of all, go for local newspapers (both paper and digital ones). People living in your city/area might be intrigued to see what their neighbours are up to. So, they’ll read an article about you.
Also pay attention to famous press release platforms, tech news websites, and review blogs. They may make a separate publication or add you to the review of promising projects.
Secondly, prepare a press kit with useful information about your creation. Some basic stuff such as:
- Release date
- Supported platforms
- Social media and website links
- High-quality visuals (logos, screenshots, promotional art)
- Game and developer’s fact sheet
This will help authors make interesting articles. As well as avoid mistakes due to poor research or misunderstanding.
7. Start a Developer’s Blog
Players are always interested to see the production stages. Share your desperate/happy moments. Keep your fans up-to-date about what you’re doing right now. This will build a feeling of belonging and participation.
The sooner you start, the richer your collection will be. Post raw drawings of characters, screenshots, behind-the-scenes, trailers, demos, promo videos, etc. But most importantly, keep in touch with those who follow you. Ask their opinion and use their feedback to improve your product.
8. Be Active on Social Media
Create accounts on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, set up your Discord server, etc. These are powerful tools to draw attention and gain audience. Prepare a rough plan of what you release and make it public. Estimate development stages and what materials you’ll post at different points.
The marketing of your indie game through media requires a lot of dedication and patience. Join groups, participate in discussions, and post relevant content. Use correct hashtags and other targeting mechanisms to market your game.
A tip: take part in #screenshotsaturday. It’s a special day when developers can show their work at early stages. They get feedback both from amateurs and their colleagues.
9. Talk Actively on Forums/Communities
Pick a place where users participate in discussions relevant to your topic. There are lots of options to choose from depending on your genre and style. The most universal one is Reddit.
There are 3 things you can do there:
- Join the Screenshot Saturday thread in /r/gamedev (the same event as on social media).
- Participate in game development conversations. But pay attention to how you present yourself. Avoid advertisement-like or spam messages. Make it personal each time you write (no ready-made templates for massive sending out). Be more creative: dive into a conversation and carefully nudge it towards your project.
- Create a subreddit and post materials regularly.
10. Launch Cross Promo
Use your previous products to advertise your freshly-born game. It’s especially effective if you target the same or similar audiences. For example, your previous app can show short ads. They’ll encourage people to try other adventures you make. It’ll work because they already know you and expect high-quality.
If you’re a first-comer, partner up with your colleagues. For example, have a look at DizzyTroopers. When you open it, you see a clickable banner that leads to other digital worlds. Set on mutually beneficial terms and advertise each other to get more players.
11. Make Yourself Known Through Events
It can be an online or offline meeting where people share their ideas. Check out this conference guide to stay tuned. Pick the get-together you like and study the format guidelines. Such as what it is, where it’ll be held, and when.
You’ll get feedback and practical advice. But most importantly, you’ll build a network of useful acquaintances and friends. Knowing the right people is crucial in the promotion business. Check out how it helped a student who went this way.
12. Invest in Ads
There is no universal set of ad platforms that will be ideal for you. You’ll have to find it out for yourself. If your budget is limited, choose a sum you’re ready to spend every month. Pour it into different resources and compare which one works the best. Then focus on the most effective channels to get the maximum from your financing.
One of the popular ad networks is GameAds.io. It’s a special platform that allows you to buy traffic. As well as exchange or sell it.
13. Keep Building Hype
Never expect right-away results. Go on communicating with players to find out what they’re thinking. Continue testing your digital world to fix bugs. Follow the trends and introduce new features to lure users for more. There is always room for improvement.
These are the basic instruments that will help you promote indie games. But mind 2 important things:
- Only 1 method is likely to lead to poor results. Stick to a complex approach and deploy several/all of them: the more, the better. It may seem complicated. Well, it’s a thorny journey that will get clearer and easier with practice.
- The right marketing is gold. But nothing will help you if the content sucks. Check out 5 tips on making a viral project.
Master all the tricks a promoter needs to show the product from the brightest side. Stop relying on mere luck when it comes to creating hits. Make it to the top with hard work and an effective strategy.