As an indie developer, I am currently experiencing the growing pains of getting the word out on my 1st app. It's been an interesting couple of months and although I worked on a marketing plan, I find myself going of course at times.
I am not complaining, I'm just stating that there are various ways to go about marketing a new app. At times it takes some trial and error with certain strategies.
I do have limited funds for a marketing budget, but it's the excitement that keeps me going.
I would like to start a discussion with fellow indie developers so that we can share tips, ideas, feedback and problems that we face. That way we can stick together and work as a team. After all, we're competing against giants that have first dibs on the Apple app store, review websites and even forums.
I have very little experience with getting a game out in front of customers.
I imagine that what would work best is a polished game with a well thought out marketing strategy on a platform which has exposure to a large audience. Let the polish and quality of a game sell itself.
One lesson I learned in university is this (similar to occams razor): When you compare a 'technically challenging' game against a 'simple but highly polished' game, the simple but polished game will always win.
The end user doesn't give a shit about what's happening behind the scenes or what novel technique you used. Does the game work? Is it fun? does it look nice? If yes, you win. I always have to remind myself of this lesson because I tend to get mired down in technical problems which should NEVER matter and shouldn't even be worked on. I remember a project I started with the best of intentions to create a 'simple' 2D side scroller game, where you fly an airplane around, shooting bullets and dropping bombs at airplanes and ground targets, respectively. I got my airplane to fly, and it looked great. Then I gave the ability to control your speed. Now, players could slow down their plane until it stopped. Obviously, planes don't stop in midair and keep flying, so I had to create some "stall". So, when a plane slows down too much, their nose starts dipping towards the ground. Yet, it still didn't feel 'realistic' enough because you have to slow down to land on a runway and it would be a pain in the ass to land properly if your nose dips down when you're trying to land. So, I had to investigate how 'stalling' works in real life. Hours later, I'm reading about how the shape of a wing and the 'angle of attack' and air speed are all related to stalling, and that the actual 'stall factor' is empirically measured in wind tunnels. Don't forget about wind shear at the wing tips! Then I thought to myself, "Shit, this is adding in a LOT of unnecessary complexity and turning into a major rat hole to get lost in. Will the end user really care if I'm calculating stall based on wind speed and angle of attack? Of course not..." I wasted a good day or two before I scrapped the idea. Due to inexperience, my 'idea filter' isn't finely tuned and I find myself working on technically challenging problems which should have been trashed.
"It's not a masterpiece when there is nothing left to add, but when there is nothing left to take away."
Polish, simplify, polish, simplify, and then iterate.
Hopefully, you'll end with a highly polished and easily playable game which will sell itself. I mean, shit... Angry Birds doesn't sell a million units because they cracked the code on the latest tech on multiple platforms, they sell because the game is polished and accessible to a wide audience.
(I say that here, and I know it to be true, but I guarantee that in my next project, I'll probably forget it and start another manhattan project)
I did this by releasing beta on my site, updating it through the development, getting some positive reviews, then closer to the release, contacting Valve, and releasing on Steam.
With regards to technically challenged vs polished, programmers tend to see 'polished' as some quality on top of having a game, as if a game was already a completed game if it was not polished. That's wrong. The polished means 'it actually works as a game'. Everything that is in the game must work.
Also, there's a zillion of highly polished simple games, that never make good sales. You haven't heard of those games, but you heard of bejewelled, angry birds, and such. edit: to clarify. You can not substitute anything for 'polished' or substitute 'polished' for anything else. Polished is something that your game absolutely must be.