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How NOT to Market Your Indie Game

By Dushan Chaciej (aka. ANtY) | Published Oct 27 2013 04:32 AM in Business and Law
Peer Reviewed by (jbadams, CRFaithMusic, Bacterius)

indie games marketing indie games video games promotion press release game developers indie developers advice tutorial tips pr

There are so many of those ‘How to market your indie game’ articles written by more or less successful developers that I decided to write about this from a different angle. From the angle of someone who failed at marketing. My angle.

I have a long record of failing at marketing and PR and you can easily check that by looking at my name/nick and not recognizing it. Thus you can trust me on what I’m going to say.

Warning: the following list might be filled with things so stupid that you wouldn’t ever imagine doing them, and yet I did all of them at some point, often multiple times. If that’s the case you can as well just make fun of me since you’re already here.
  • Don’t accidentally forget to put the links to your website, Facebook and Twitter under anything you post about your game.
  • Don’t post detailed stuff about your game that only the most eager fans would be interested in. Especially when your game isn’t finished yet and doesn’t have any fans.
  • Like this very post we’ve posted a few days ago. Who the fuck could care about the backstory of one of the political parties in one of the playable races in our game that no one knows about?
  • Don’t casually accost random editors that've never heard of you on Twitter or Facebook.
  • Don’t fill your email’s title with tons of buzzwords. i.e. (Steam-punk MMORPG with a vast world to explore and innovative storyline, also a spiritual successor to XXX). Despite the amount of words it actually doesn’t say anything about your game.
  • The same goes for Reddit posts.
  • Don’t release the screenshots that you took 5 days into the development, they will stay in the Internet forever and haunt you. (Press posting about your game and using a year-old screenshot as a news header would be the best example)
  • Don’t try to be funny if it doesn’t come to you naturally. It’s the most pathetic thing ever.
  • Don’t send a press release to 20 editors, putting their email addresses in ‘To:’ instead of ‘Bcc:’.
  • In fact don’t send a press release to 20 editors at all! Send each of your emails separately, with some consideration as to who you’re talking to.
  • Don’t believe them when they say that the press wants to write about your game.
  • You have to do EVERYTHING that is in your power to make yourself and your game look outstanding in the crowd of other developers and their games.
  • Don’t post your updates in the middle of the night. Do your research on when’s the best time to post. Facebook’s added a cool feature recently that lets you check the hourly activity of your fans.
  • Don’t wait with spamming the press until your game is released. Email them right now. They need to know about the awesome project you’re working on, even if they don’t reply or post about it on teh websitez.
  • Don’t send an email titled “We’re making a game, it’ll be fun”. They’re not gonna make a story about it. They’re not gonna post about it. Unless you’re Notch, of course.
  • Don’t ask reviewers if they want a review copy of your game. Throw it at their faces. They weren’t gonna buy it anyways.
  • Don’t visit Twitter and forums only to post an update on your game’s development. If you’re not a part of a particular community, it’s better to not spam there at all. (Some may not agree with this, but IMO it’s kind of a scumbag move.)
  • Don’t miss out on #screenshotsaturday.
  • Don’t hate everyone that is more successful than you. It’s not good for your health. There’s simply too many of them.
  • Don’t use your blog as a weekly list of all the sprites you did in the past days and all the little bugs you’ve fixed. No one cares about that. Don’t bore people to death for deciding to read your stuff.
  • Don’t play the ‘Top-secret project’ game! If you don’t show how cool your game is, then no one will know how cool your game is. Unless you’re already a successful developer, but then you wouldn’t be reading this, right?
  • If you don’t reveal your secret ultimate feature then no one’s gonna know about it. Dang, even if you reveal it most likely no one’s gonna know about it.
  • Don’t use ‘6 playable characters’ and ’20 enemies to kill’ as your key features. Trust me on this one.
  • Google ‘USP’ and think harder.
  • Don’t trust yourself on how good your gameplay is. Your opinion is ultimately biased.
  • Don’t make a game similar to a well-known hit if you can’t make yours better. People would rather just play the original.
  • Don’t skip on the pre-production phase, and don’t skip on thinking of your target group of players. (There has to be one!)
  • Look at your game! And I mean: look at it like you’re looking at other games. Make your friends look at it. Make strangers look at it. Don’t say anything more than what you have on your website/in your posts. Accept their feedback with gratitude. Change the way you’re presenting your game when you still have time for that.
  • Even if you’re making an awesome, innovative and original game in an entirely new genre, it may still look generic in your presentation, or in the way you’re describing it. Think about that.
  • Don’t try to make a game for both casual and hardcore players.
  • Don’t make the art in your game look inconsistent. It’s better to have bad but consistent art than a few good pixel-art assets mixed with good 3d renders, and so on.
  • Don’t skip on polishing the game!
  • Don’t insist on adding more content instead of polishing what you already have in the game.
  • Don’t have your website look like shit.
  • Don’t have your Facebook fanpage outdated and looking like shit.
  • Don’t expect people to think too much! They don’t find your game worthy of such a drag. Make everything obvious and in front of their very eyeballz.
  • Don’t be a dick if no one plays your game. It sucks. Deal with it.
I hope that helps : )

Now get back to working on your game! Don’t waste your time on reading articles like this one. It’s not like you’re gonna believe anything that someone else says, before you make the same mistakes as them. At least that’s my case. And yes, I’ve read thousands of those articles.

In case you would like to see more of my epic failures with your own eyes then you ought to follow me on Twitter.


COVER.jpg


And if you like games that you find awesome you should follow my game’s fanpage on Facebook, it’ll exceed your expectations.



About the Author(s)


Sleeping during the day, at night becomes le indie game developer. Creator of Rune Masters, now working on Glorious: Companions.

https://twitter.com/DushanChaciej
http://spiffygoats.com


License


GDOL (Gamedev.net Open License)




Comments

Eheh funny and very true!

Thank you for these helpful notes  =)

"Don’t make a game similar to a well-known hit if you can’t make yours better. People would rather just play the original." - The one rule that is broken by major companies constantly :D

I can very easily see how one can break some of those rules.

You've been working hard on writing a decent email to send to some reviewers, it's late, as usual the time is closer to morning than to evening, your brain hates you and it accidentally puts the e-mail addresses in the 'To:'-textbox.

I can very easily see how one can break some of those rules.

You've been working hard on writing a decent email to send to some reviewers, it's late, as usual the time is closer to morning than to evening, your brain hates you and it accidentally puts the e-mail addresses in the 'To:'-textbox.

exactly, and also the fact that you hate waiting with sending/posting stuff so you send it immediately ^^

 

I can very easily see how one can break some of those rules.

You've been working hard on writing a decent email to send to some reviewers, it's late, as usual the time is closer to morning than to evening, your brain hates you and it accidentally puts the e-mail addresses in the 'To:'-textbox.

exactly, and also the fact that you hate waiting with sending/posting stuff so you send it immediately ^^

 

I think we all make some of these mistakes every now and then. :P

Overall a nice list -- My one real critique would be that not all of these are marketing-related, some are more design-oriented mistakes with marketing implications; for example, "Don’t make a game similar to a well-known hit if you can’t make yours better. People would rather just play the original". Which I really like as advice, but if you discover that when you start to think about marketing near the end of a project (as most people do), then you're already hosed. Actually, I'll donate one item to your list -- "Marketing isn't just for finished products. You should keep marketing in mind during design and development too."

 

I'd consider splitting the list into a few sections, where each section is a phase of development -- during design, during development, during polish, or after the game is content-complete -- even consider the time when the product has already launched: how do you sustain a fan base through marketing, how do you market extra content like DLC, expansions, or micro-transactions?

I'd agree with Ravyne that this could probably benefit from being broken up into a few logical sections, but other than that great article! :)  Sometimes it's helpful to look at things from the other angle, and the personal experience of having made these mistakes yourself may help to better reach some readers.

 

If you're up for a challenge, how about a follow-up piece that links to some of those excellent articles you mentioned that address how each mistake listed can be avoided, and what the better alternatives are? :)

And yet I looked at your nick and I recognised it. I totally agree with your points and I wish you the best with your new project ANtY.

The important thing is to learn from your mistakes and keep improving!

I'd agree with Ravyne that this could probably benefit from being broken up into a few logical sections, but other than that great article! smile.png  Sometimes it's helpful to look at things from the other angle, and the personal experience of having made these mistakes yourself may help to better reach some readers.

 

If you're up for a challenge, how about a follow-up piece that links to some of those excellent articles you mentioned that address how each mistake listed can be avoided, and what the better alternatives are? smile.png

I'd recommend this http://www.gamasutra.com/view/news/198381/How_to_talk_to_the_video_game_press_in_2013.php and browsing this huge list  http://www.pixelprospector.com/the-big-list-of-indie-game-marketing/

I am not a Facebook user... so forgive me! :), but is the point regarding not posting during the middle of the night simply because of the lower chance of being noticed by your fans?

I like your sarcasm

I am not a Facebook user... so forgive me! smile.png, but is the point regarding not posting during the middle of the night simply because of the lower chance of being noticed by your fans?

exactly, that's the only reason, but it also applies to forums and twitter, not only facebook.

 

Not being a 'Facebook user' doesn't release you from the responsibility to promote your game ;)

I buy what you say... I know what your saying I posted a game demo to good game(the abc show about video games). No Idea why I even did that lol.

 

exactly, that's the only reason, but it also applies to forums and twitter, not only facebook.

 

Not being a 'Facebook user' doesn't release you from the responsibility to promote your game ;)

 

*nods* Agreed!

Thanks for that, marketing information is gold dust, very difficult to obtain or even pay for. I really lost time trying to figure this out.

Haha soo true!

Thanks for the tips!

Very funny and informative article.

I noticed that the title is 'How not to'... and it's content is all about what not to do. In general, for as helpful as this information is, I wonder how this article would read in a positive light? 

Great article. It's interesting how much this applies outside of gaming as well. I especially love how you've included your own blog post from a few days before this article's post.

I read the whole article and agree completely. People will read it and still do it just to have the failure still so I ran out and did all of them;). One thing I don't agree with is the "Don't make the web site look like shit" and the reason is, the site should be an extension of the game so it should try and follow a theme similar to the game (if possible) and in this regard the game may be shitty so the site looks shitty ;). Okay that last part after (if possible) was a sad attempt at joking. Great article.

Hmmm.... I think this(50 easy steps to indie success) artilce is worth reading

 

Anyway a great article but just remember that no matter what mistakes will happen.


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