In the age of fast internet and free broadcasting, one would think that success for a game developer would come right after you upload your final, polished and bug-free build to the store. In reality, there is an intricate and challenging process of making sure that your audience crosses your game’s path and stays connected with it. Let’s explore!
There are numerous tools to help you with getting the word out – like active advertising, game promo videos, dev diaries, email lists, etc. With the following 5 pragmatic tips, we’re here to help you find the best approach to making your new product sell.
0. Laundry List
Let me remind you of a story I’m sure you’ve already heard. There is this company called CD Projekt Red that released the game Cyberpunk 2077, and it was a disaster, putting it mildly. You don’t get a second chance to make a first impression.
That’s why it’s absolutely critical to make sure your game is properly stress-tested, all critical logic is covered with logging and players will be able to easily report bugs in the future.
Ideally, you’d want a person in the support team on standby 24/7 to address issues as fast as possible and show players that you’re there for them. However, realistically that’s not something every indie company can do. You’ll probably have to make it your own priority to answer support tickets and bug reports as fast as possible. Nobody likes to pay for a product and get neglected the very first time they encountered a small problem. This shows professionalism more than anything.
This is your most loyal ally in the weeks and months before launch. A foundation for a long-term relationship with one’s audience and a devoted fanbase is an absolute necessity for any product in its initial stages.
Don’t hide your unfinished mechanics – instead, build up trust on Reddit and Discord servers by showcasing new features. Grow your numbers, get early feedback, and give back to the community with dev diaries and future discount codes. What gamer doesn’t like to influence a future game with their ideas? A win-win for everybody.
Talk about what the future holds for your project and you’ll be surprised how many people are willing to help free of charge. These small communities are often filled with industry professionals just looking for kindred spirits to talk to. Their timely advice can assist you immensely in avoiding pitfalls early on, and they may even take your attention to detail to the next level. Great minds think alike!
A picture is worth a thousand words. And a video is literally thousands of pictures put together! However, much like an adventurous journey, a game promo video should not only showcase exciting game mechanics but also convey a sense of mystery and discovery. After all, isn’t that what got us into games in the first place, back when we were just kids?
When choosing the style and length of your video, remember there’s no need to run a full-featured game trailer and pay huge sums of money – you’ll hit the nail on the head if you showcase 15-20 seconds’ worth of engaging gameplay experience and ask an influencer to talk about why people should love your game. Less is more.
However, we would also recommend considering having multiple short game trailers, since that way there’ll be lots of narrative angles available for you later on when choosing where to post. While one community might prefer a fast-paced demo of game mechanics, others are looking to spend time playing games with friends and family, which your game also provides. Show them that!
After you get your videos delivered, think about ways you can reuse them later for various purposes. For example, there are a multitude of small YouTube channels with loyal followings where gaming industry influencers and enthusiasts communicate their thoughts. Providing them with ready-to-go material will make your collaboration much more professional-looking and easier for both parties.
Here everything depends on how passionate you can be about spreading the word – give it all you’ve got! Advertising tools to consider:
- Social Media Marketing
- Paid Social Media Campaigns with relative keywords
- Facebook and Instagram Advertising
- Teaser and banner ads with retargeting, partner network programs, etc.
Whatever its form, your advertising will be crucial right at the moment your game is launched. Also, search for independent journalists in the industry and negotiate ahead to bring out an upcoming article about your game. Their blog posts will attract their audience’s attention, which is a free source of relevant traffic for you.
Tons of money can be spent on active advertising: that’s what giant companies like Electronic Arts usually do, and it works. But for indie developers that’s obviously not an option. Plan your budget ahead and remember that usually 80% of advertising doesn’t find its target at all – that’s just the reality of this business. When targeting people with your ads, think about converting them to active members of your already established communities. Attract people with quality, not quantity.
Like at the end of an intense blockbuster movie, everything starts to happen all at once when you get close to release day. It’s crucial to create an avalanche effect to support virality upon game launch.
People love new and shiny things that everybody’s talking about, and you have to make your game appear like that. So use the power of the tools mentioned above to convey a sense of urgency and relevance for your game. From showcasing game promo videos everywhere you can to sending direct messages on Discord – do whatever it takes to spread the word.
In the weeks and months after the game launch ignites your audience’s passion, you should still keep building hype around your work, as an inspired artist.
Patience is key here since at first, not everybody’s willing to speak their mind and let you know what could have been improved. And hundreds of gamers with a couple of decades’ worth of experience in your genre always have something to say.
That’s why another tool in your toolset for promoting your game is gathering feedback since users really appreciate it when their complaints are heard. In no time they’ll be eager to recommend you to everybody they know as the greatest game developer they’ve ever encountered. Wouldn’t that be cool?
It goes without saying that the next step would be generously rewarding the most active contributors among your fanbase.
Gone are the times when games were silently developed for years and then released on CD, never seeking feedback or new ideas from the community. The modern games market is a place where a smart audience chooses developers who care, innovate, and take the industry to new horizons by integrating ideas and wishes from their loyal player base.