Ramblings: Marketing your Game
It has come to my attention that I do not have a “ramblings” series yet on Sip Read Repeat, so I have decided to create one, commencing with this particular article. In this series, I am going to be discussing different aspects of game development, and my personal experiences with them. Today, I will be focusing on marketing – everyone’s most hated part of game development.
Being the gaming industry, there is more than a lot of competition. It is very hard to be original. I’m going to use one of my games, “Reeding Blast”, as an example. It started, as all games do, with an idea. I built up hype around the game before Beta 1’s release, and Beta 1 through 3 did very well, to my standards – at least. Anytime, as a small indie game developer, you get someone play your game – it is always awesome, and it is really awesome when you have a small but active community surrounding your game. My players really enjoyed the early days of Blast, and I enjoyed developing it. However, I became demotivated and didn’t have the motivation to work on Reeding Blast, partly because I had a lot of responsibilities building up and I just wanted to come home and relax. This isn’t to say development wasn’t fun for me, it was, but for a period of a couple of months, it became sort of a chore. So, I took a break. This is what kind of killed the game’s hype. I went from making a Discord announcement to at least 3 people (not much, but good by my standards), obsessing over every detail to no one. This is an issue I kind of still experience to this day, leading to the first tip – stay active. Don’t go radio-silent for a couple of months, people will lose interest.
Another key aspect of marketing is turning the Twitter feed viewers – or the Discord members – into players. I’m not going to pretend to have mastered this practice myself, in fact – it only seems to be my older games that do better than expected. Taking a look at my analytics, it seems to be that my jam games get the most plays, even 7-8 months later – and even that isn’t as many as you’d expect. I should mention that my intention here is not to moan but to be realistic with other developers, who are also relatively “struggling” to market their games. I will say, that this second tip has to be to post every single day on Twitter about your game, with hashtags about everything to do with your game. I personally use: #indiegame, #indiedev, #madewithunity (assuming you are using unity), #2d (or 3d), #gamegenrehere.
These have delivered a modest amount of traffic to my games, with indie game twitters with other 6K followers retweeting my tweets about my newest project: “Track Day 2”. Therefore, tip number two has to be – tweet, tweet, and tweet!
Personally, I don’t really pay much attention to trailers, but I really should – as I have been told by many developers in the past. A trailer can make or break your game, so it is really important. You want to not be me, and put a lot of time and effort into making your trailer. If you are not versed in video editing / creating but have a decent budget, you can always hire a video editor. Most video editors do game trailers at a very reasonable price, and they are very easy to find over Twitter or any other social media site. You have to give them time, so give at least a week between finishing the game and releasing it, to get your marketing done. I, personally, am not very good at this – as I stupidly put myself on an unrealistic timeline, but it is something I will be doing in my 15 games in a year challenge which has, I suppose, already started with the release of my new game, “Track Day 2”. So, I suppose the third tip of the day is – get a good trailer, and share it everywhere you can.
Usually, I find that my biggest weakness is my game’s polish. Reeding Blast is fun, I’ve been told, but it lacks a certain polish that I am yet to add. Personally, I always find that I try on too big of a project for my own ability. I can pull them off, sure, but not to a degree that necessarily makes me feel like: “Yeah, that’s the best game on itch.io”. You need confidence in your own project. If you don’t think that upon release of your game, it is either the best game on the site or it is your best game yet, it probably isn’t ready. It doesn’t have to be the best game on the site objectively, it just has to make you proud to think, “Yes, this is going to do well.” Also, don’t talk yourself up in your mind expecting a game to do well. I have done this many times and have been bitterly disappointed when it doesn’t perform to my expectations. You aren’t realistically going to be the next Flappy Bird or the next Minecraft – it probably isn’t going to happen. Not to say that it certainly won’t, if you have an absolutely amazing game, you could be, but your chances are so slim that you might as well not be trying. Set goals relative to you. Personally, if I see my game has thirty plays, I am happy with the game’s performance. If you are a bigger studio than me, you might expect to get onto the front page, or just get into one of Itch.io’s “new game” tabs. So, tip four is – set realistic goals for the game, and set realistic expectations for its performance.
Some games will perform awfully for you, and I have typically found that the smaller, simpler games – ones with very simple gameplay – have done better than my games with complex gameplay, where you have to manage loads of systems. As a player, I always find that a game with a massive learning curve and a lot of reading never interests me. Unless your game is a simulation, like Flight Simulator X or Kerbal Space Program, I shouldn’t have to read five huge text-boxes in the game just to understand the game. Yes, some games have a very steep learning curve, but the gameplay has to be simple enough to ease you into the gameplay. I hate it when I download a large game, and it just shoved information in front of my face before settling me in. Portal is a perfect example of a game that has a steep learning curve but is simple enough to ease you into the mechanics. Portal slowly teaches you the mechanics, and as has been demonstrated by many video essays on YouTube or elsewhere, it teaches you the mechanics in a realistic, story-progressing manner. So, the fifth and final tip of the day is – make it simple but polished, and slowly ease the user into your gameplay.
So, I suppose that does it for my first rambling session. I really enjoyed writing it, as I hope you enjoyed reading it. Be sure to keep a lookout for my next rambling session, which I assume will be live very soon. I hope I helped you out a bit!
Indie Game Developer also a writer for Sip Read Repeat. Aviation and space enthusiast, has a bit of a thing for coffee.