Zero Budget Marketing for Indies

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Marketing is an annoying and boring task…at least for most of the indie game developers. However, you have to admit, marketing helps. It raises awareness among the potential audiences and possibly boosts the sales of your game.


The problem is, indies have limited budget, so it is impossible to practice the marketing skills which AAA companies use.


As I went through the process of developing and publishing my first mobile game – kQq, I learned some basic marketing skills by reading tons of marketing articles as well as trying everything possible. Though it wasn’t a big success in marketing kQq, I think I should still share what I’ve learned from marketing kQq with zero budget.

Start Marketing ASAP

There is a common mistake that people start marketing only after their product is completed. They think marketing should better be done when the project is in its perfect shape. This is far from the case, marketing should be started AS SOON AS POSSIBLE. As long as you have something to show – characters you’ve drawn, game mechanics you’ve thought of or programmed, some in game screenshots, or simply anything interesting – you should start marketing.


By marketing early, you would not only gradually accumulate your audiences but also receive useful feedback which you may adopt to improve your game.


Still, there’s a downside to early marketing though. Many of your graphics and design may be ugly and unpolished during early marketing, so potential players may lose interest or stop following your game if they dislike your graphics. Ways to tackle the problem may be:

  • Make sure your graphics have some degree of completion before marketing. (Since the aesthetics give your audiences the first impression of the game.)

or

  • State clearly in your marketing materials that “It is just the prototype or mechanics testing, the true graphics would be way more better than this crap!”

It is easy to see that the later method is strongly NOT recommended, since you can’t wipe out the first impression of players for your game from their minds. On top of that, if the unpolished screenshots of your game aren’t deleted, search engines would very likely show the ugly screenshots upon searching your game title even if other beautiful and polished graphics have been uploaded. This would be a total disaster.


Now you know when to market your games, let’s move on to where you should market your games.

Social Websites

This is the 21th century. Social websites occupy a significant amount of time for everyone. People meet new friends on them, browse them aimlessly when they are bored, debate politics and insult others on them, and most importantly, get new information on them. The vital task for us – the indies – is to make our games as the new information they get, and preferably, the stuff they could browse when they are bored. Furthermore, social websites is the place where you could speak to your audiences and get feedback from them directly, and if you are lucky enough or your game is good enough, the “sharing” button on social websites may make your game go viral.


Creating a Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and maybe Tumblr account is a must-do for indie game developers. Make sure to have a appealing avatar picture, and a detailed and clear description stating what types of games or which game titles you are developing. And most importantly, post your marketing materials and answer the feedback of people frequently.

Reddit

Reddit is another good place to market your game, but it works rather differently. There are many game design related sub-reddits, and each have its own rules and guidelines for posting. I’ll list a few here:


/r/GameDev - This is the largest community on reddit where game developers discuss their thoughts, share their experiences, and receive feedback for their games. There are weekly threads on Game Dev Subreddit where specific topics could be discussed. For example, Screenshot Saturday is where you could share the screenshots of your game, Soundtrack Sunday is for soundtracks, and Marketing Monday is for marketing materials. The community consists mostly developers, so do not treat them as your target audiences. Ask them for feedback, and make sure to give other developers your feedback.


/r/GameDesign - This is the place to discuss game design related topics exclusively. By this, I mean you shouldn’t talk about art, programming, or marketing here without a good reason. However, there’s a weekly show-off thread where you can post the marketing materials of your games.


/r/DevBlogs - This serves as a collection of links to development blog articles mostly for indie game developers. Whenever you publish a development article, make sure to leave a link post here.


/r/GamedevExpo - This is also a Subreddit where you can ask for feedback. However, no direct commercial link is allowed.


Game Engine Specific Subreddits - If you are developing your games with game engines. You could share your works on game engine specific Subreddits such as /r/Unity2D, /r/Unity3D, or /r/unrealengine.

The Reddit 10-1 Rule

When self-promoting on Reddit, make sure to abide the Reddit self-promotion rule:


“It’s perfectly fine to be a redditor with a website, it’s not okay to be a website with a reddit account.” -Confucius


Confucius is really a smart guy with forward-looking insights. But aside from that, what this rule implies is that you should participate in the community as a human being rather than a spamming robot.


An explicit guideline of this is that 10% or less of your posting and conversation should link to your own content, which is often referred to as the 10-1 Rule.

Game Trailer

Like movies, appealing trailers make people want to play your games. Recording and editing a game trailer may be tiresome, however, it is totally worthy of doing so. Since games are interactive entertainment, static screenshots are not enough to show how your game works. By showing your game in video clips, players would be more willing to play the game since they can understand more details of your game. In addition, videos always attract more attention than pain pictures.


Your trailers shouldn’t be long, a 1-3 minute video is enough. Make sure to include every main features and innovative elements of your game in it.

Contacting the Press

You’ve set up some social website accounts, recorded a fascinating game trailer. Now, it’s time to contact the press. Below are some sites and people which you should send your marketing materials to:


Game Review Sites or Blogs - As gaming becomes more and more popular, there is an increasing amount of websites or blogs which serve exclusively for game reviews.


Local Press - People are always enthusiastic about games made in there own countries, especially if you live in small countries. Make sure to grasp the opportunity by sending emails to the local press.


Youtubers and Streamers - Though most of the famous youtubers and streamers demand a not-so-cheap pay if you want them to play your game and post the gameplay on their channel, it is still worth trying to send them emails since it is a good way to expose your game to a wider audience if your games are streamed.

Give Promo Code in the Email

When sending emails to the press, always include a set of promo code. Though it’s impossible that all the recipients of your emails would try out your game, if you don’t give the promo code, none of them would try.

Include Screenshots and Trailers

You have to impress the press. Screenshots and trailers always serve better than pure text in showing your game. On top of that, videos and pictures would definitely capture the attention of a person when they are reading emails full of text.

Act like a person

You are an indie developer, so be like one. Introduce yourself and tell the press what is the initial idea of your game, how do you create your game, and why do you think your game is special.

Conclusion

Hope this article helps and have a good time marketing your games!