Marketing for Indie Devs – A Meta-Analysis (PART 2)


8. Know Your Market: Making Indie Games That Sell

  • Figure out what people want.
  • SteamSpy
  • Puzzle platformers are less popular than action RPGs
  • Graphics define a game’s first impression. You need to be visually distinct
  • Dark Fantasy and crime are the most popular genres
  • YouTube and Twitch are huge
  • Moddable team-based online co-ops games are the most profitable.
  • You can target a specific niche regardless but be sure it’s big enough to meet your commercial goals.
  • “When choosing between your ideas, evaluate them for market fit. Look at the factors that correlate with success and make something unique based on that.”


  • Cloning games
    • Direct copy
    • Inspired by
    • Spiritual successor
  • Standing out
    • Characters
    • Art / Level design
    • Trailers
    • Communication
    • DLC policy
    • Consumer promise – what do you say to customers? “This is what we are going to deliver. This is how we are going to support the game over this period of time.
  • The Market
    • Competitive Edge – what can you do better than your competitors? What is that one feature you can deliver on?
    • Is your game satisfying to play?
    • Customer needs
    • Market size
  • Product Vision – A good vision can summarize your game and make everyone to understand what you’re trying to achieve.
    • SimCity – Build the city of your dreams
    • Gears of War – Marcus Fenix is a total badass
    • “Best strategy in the world” is a bad vision because what people consider “best” is highly subjective
  • Setting the vision
    • Selling the idea internally
    • Easy to understand
    • Good for communication
    • Keeping the vision true
  • Engaging fans
    • Respect & Trust – no matter what your customers might say – be respectful
    • Feedback
    • Mods and used-generated content
  • Passion makes perfect
    • Set your vision and get the team onboard
    • Communicate your vision so fans understand
    • Follow your heart when it comes to design, marketing and business (debatable. Also use available data, knowledge and experience)

10. (Opportunity) Cost Effective Marketing & PR for Indies

  • Marketing is about uniting the player with your game
    • Register on every social network
    • Create a Steam page
    • Create a mailing list
    • Send press releases
    • Go to every event
    • GIFS, trailers, screenshots
    • Podcast
    • Give press enough reasons to constantly write about you
  • Hire a PR firm wherever possible (duh. stop being poor and become Konami)
  • Visual and verbal brand analysis. Be distinct
  • Read comments. Know how people talk about your game
  • SWOT – Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats
  1. Immerse yourself.
  2. Understand your game objectively
  3. Execute what makes sense


How to go to events

  • Apply. Don’t go alone. Take someone with you.
  • Book 2 days before the events so you have an apt amount of time to prepare your booth
  • Book close to the event
  • Participate in parties
  • Promotional material like business cards
  • Film everything
  • You only have around 10 seconds to capture people’s imagination
  • Let people do something. This dev made prints of their character’s outline so people could draw their own versions of the character.
  • Elevator pitch. You have to perfect it because you’re going to repeat it A LOT.
  • Edit our footage after the event and post it on YouTube
  • Write postmortems
  • Events won’t get you sales. They’ll get you awesome relationships. Ditch your friends and talk to ordinary folk who want to know more about your game.

12. Marketing Indie Style

  • Start thinking about your marketing campaign as early as possible. From day one. Integrate it into your gamedesign
  • Fundamentals
    • Release Plan – broad strokes
    • Four P: Price, Product, Place, Promotion
    • Platfroms, Channels, Timing
    • Who’s your game for?
    • Your game pitch
    • Release landscape
    • Who will drive marketing
  • Developing the plan
    • Announce. Only announce when you have all your decks in a row. Only when you have something to show and then start to build momentum.
    • Two-3 months before the expected release
    • Final 2 weeks before launch
  • Creating the plan
    • Developing the plan
    • Announcements
    • Asset releases
    • Trailers
    • Shows
    • Game previews outreach
    • Game reviews outreach
    • Release date / activities / support
    • Post launch
  • The Marketing Mix
    • PR
    • Audience development
    • Events
    • Promotions
    • Playable codes
    • Channels
    • Videos
    • Awards
    • Paid
    • Social Media
    • Early Access
    • Game Jams
  • ICJ’s main Points
    • Socialize and relate to people
    • Add value to people’s lives
    • Cultivate mentos
    • Be persistent and resilient and tenacious
    • Pursue visibility
    • What works for them
  • Have an elevator pitch
  • The Plan
    • Business plan
    • Marketing Plan
    • Mentors
    • Determine the audience for each platform
    • Visibility mechanism on each platform
    • Market research
    • Personal story and how it relates to the game
  • The Journey
    • Moving from [some place] to [that other place]
    • Partnering with Gamespy, IGN, College, Team
    • More mentoring
    • Creating a game that captures attention emotionally
    • Use your personality to articulate your marketing story
  • Training
    • GDC demo space
    • Press training by pros
    • Press junkets
    • Pitch session with IGN
    • Defining and redefining our target market
    • Pitching to your mother
  • Hustle
    • Showing at multiple events
    • Pitching
    • Building rapport with indie friends
    • Building a thick skin to rejection and failure
    • Second Kickstarter
    • Freekey fridays
    • More shows
    • Final push
  • Final Takeaways
    • Begin thinking about marketing immediately
    • Tenacity and flexibility
    • Networking, relationship building, persistence
    • Develop plan for mix of vehicles and tactics, including post-launch and sustaining
    • Marathon, not a sprint

13. $0 to $1 Million: the raw numbers behind indie success

  • Goals – growing skills, long-term sustainable company, personal growth
  • No overtime. Avoid long hours. Strive for a better work/life balance.
  • Diversify – better have several smaller sources of income than one big (unless you’re Supergiant)
  • Burn rate – the amount of money you spend in a given time frame. Most burn comes from salary
  • How do companies re-invest in their employees?
    • Slow and steady raises/inflation indexing
    • Employees get 10% of profit from games (once you make your money back, 10% of the profits is going to be split)
    • Game performance leads to bonuses
    • Bonus money. everything above the baseline is a bonus
  • Revenue sources
    • Steam sales
    • Other PC store sales
    • Consoles
    • Contract work
    • Investments
    • Loans
    • Merch
    • Crowdfunding
    • Bundles
    • IP licensing
    • Regional publishing
    • Royalties
    • Tax credits
    • Grants
  • Steam was the biggest source of revenue (90%), Humble Bundle – 5%

14. Making the World Give a Damn About Your Game in 2018

  • Less that 7% of studios survive their first game release
  • What’s exciting about your game?
  • [this one is a repeat of the ‘Marketing On 0 Budget’]
  • “This cool thing” (The Hook) is procedurally generated (The Kicker). Thumper as an example. “Thumper is rhythm violence: classic rhythm-action, blistering speed, and brutal physicality”. (The Hook) “You are a space beetle. Brave the hellish void and confront a maniacal giant head from the future.” (The Kicker).
  • Side-effects of suing Discord
    • Official base for your community
    • Boosted Steam wishlist
    • Boosted day one sales
    • Positive Steam reviews
    • Plenty of complaints/issues get sorted without you
  • Let’s Plays don’t increase sales. Good trailers, social media, Bundles and discounts help
  • Don’t rely on luck
    • Create a community
    • Use it to approach platforms
    • Make other companies have an interest in your success
    • Scratch some backs.
    • Look for deals
  • XBox can give you free devkits. Just keep asking. It’s not impossible

15. Build Your Own Fan Club: How to Use Your Email List

  • Awareness -> interest -> desire -> buy
  • Mailchimp, Convertkit, Aweber
  • 4 reasons why mail is good
    • You are not dependent on a big corporation who doesn’t have your interests in mind. Don’t let corpos control your fanbase (or anything for that matter)
    • Social media actually isn’t very good at getting your fans to act and buy your games
    • You have more functionality with mail
    • Install base
  • Email is a dominant strategy. Social media is important but don’t generate as much revenue
  • Drive traffic to your list -> Build a relationship -> Market your game
  • Give-Give-Give-Ask. Don’t sell your game immediately. build a relationship first
  • Be genuine. Communicate with people in a kind way (no matter what they say). Connect
  • Keep it short. Be concise.

16. 30 Things I Hate About Your Game Pitch

  1. Is the game worth making and can we make it?
  2. Fuck backstory. Get straight to the point. Straight into action. Like in Star Wars
  3. Fuck inventory system. Just don’t explain standard features
  4. I’m not going to design your game for you
  5. Pillars are not hooks. What is the hook? That one thing that’s going to help the game stand out
  6. You never explain to me what the player does. Describe mechanics
  7. “In the real world nobody can double jump.” Don’t excuse design desition by saying “It doesn’t happen in the real world”
  8. It’s a game show. If it’s a cool mechanic – you don’t really need a deep story
  9. “It’s a parody.” Is it a parody or just a crappy game
  10. You never mentioned your glaringly obvious tech risk
  11. Your proof of concept doesn’t proof anything. concentrate on the things are unique and actually hard to implement
  12. Having lots of shitty art doesn’t make it less shitty. Create one stellar image
  13. I can’t tell what’s placeholder and what’s not.
  14. You polished too early. Concentrate on mechanics first.
  15. Your sample dialogues suck. If your game is about story – show me some good dialogues
  16. You’re pandering to the latest tech craze
  17. You just pitched a phone game to a console publisher
  18. Gone Home already exists. Wanna make a copy – fine. But make is distinct
  19. “Can you help us negotiate a license deal with Marvel” or something along the lines. If you’re small and new – no.
  20. I know more about your monetization than your mechanics. Game goes first. Otherwise you’re going to get Avengers or EA’s Dungeon Keeper
  21. You have no idea how much money/people/time you need to make this thing
  22. You don’t have a team
  23. Your business plan is based on outliers. Pick a middle-of-the-road title. One that has a moderate success
  24. You seem like you’d be a huge pain in the ass to work with. It’s a relationship. You’re going to work with others for months and years. It’s stressful and there are lots of money involved
  25. You expect me to know who you are
  26. You’re annoyed that I’m asking questions
  27. We’re trying to watch the pitch on your phone. Bring a laptop
  28. You brought a laptop but no headphones. Pitching often happens in loud, public venues so come prepared for this
  29. You’re hungover/drunk/high …
  30. Don’t trash other games/companies/developers. Developer relationships are stressful. Be respectful
  31. You need to take a shower
  • Be enthusiastic
  • Be honest
  • Sell your hook
  • Know your scope


  • 30 minutes for a pitch
  • “Here are the people we have. Here’s what we can do” and then talk about your high-level creative vision. That’s how you pitch
  • The further along you get your prototype and the more complete it is the easier it is to sell it
  • Contact publishers. Show them what you have
  • If you have precious accomplishments – don’t forget to include them
  • How to find a hook. Take the base mechanic/something that already exists and push it in an unexpected direction. Become a contrarian for a while. Everybody’s doing brown military shooters – make something colorful. RPGs with only 3-4 choices – create Disco Elysium. Take a mechanic and invert it. Cool visuals might also help you. After all, I started doing all this because of Sable. The game looks amazing but completely empty and unrewarding in terms of exploration of its open world. If they’d add goodies in difficult to reach places – the game will succeed and gain followers.

(Also visit Stirring Storm because I copy-pasted from them. Hope they don’t mind. Thank you, Stirring Storm)

17. Empathizing with Steam: How People Shop for Your Game

  • What the hell are Steam shoppers looking for?
    • Screenshots and videos
    • Players are genre focused
    • The tricks of marketing during sales
    • Friends and word of mouth are the most powerful motivators
  • Empathize with actual customers and see how they use things
  • “Discovering the unexpected is one of the primary reasons to do user research” – Nielson Norman
  • You don’t know what you don’t know
  • People skim short descriptions and completely skip the long ones
  • Poisonous tags – metroidvania, horror
  • Screenshots and Trailers, Tags, Description, Reviews. NO CINEMATICS
  • Show gameplay and UI
  • Descriptions should be about what you do (verbs) NOT setting or story.
  • It takes 90 seconds for an average user to figure out either or not they are going to buy your game
  • Know your audience’s kinks and put those kinks on full display. Be clear what you are and tell everyone loudly and proudly
  • When putting yourself on sale
    • Post an update
    • Notify everyone
    • Theme your capsule image
    • Post an announcement
    • Upload a small patch
    • Comment in the forums
  • or steamdb to look up the sales history
  • Please make more than 1 game

Actions with biggest effects

  • Make a good game
  • Develop a plan for word-of-mouth marketing
  • Put your game on sale
  • Eventually put it in a bundle
  • Wait for people to finish all those other, sexier and kinkier games

18. Konsoll 2013: Marketing Indie Games on a $0 Budget

  • People don’t market their games. That’s why they fail
  • 95% of indie games are not profitable (too bad I can’t add the same cheery girly typefont)
  • Marketing can increase your chances
  • “You must concoct a structured, coordinated marketing plan”
  • Must Haves
    • Trailer
    • Screenshots
    • Press release
    • Landing page
    • Dev blog
  • Best practices for trailers
    • 90 seconds or less
    • Attention-grabbing intro
    • Music/sound-effects
    • In-game footage
    • Reviews
    • End with next-step (Always have a call to action)
  • Best practices for screenshots
    • High resolution
    • Excellent composition
    • Well lit
    • Engaging scene
  • Press Release
    • Grab attention and summarize theme/important info in first paragraph
    • Use quotes
    • Company and contact info
    • Send with screenshots and trailer video
    • Use in-text hyperlinks
  • Landing Page – the only purpose is to convert visitors to customers
    • Remove navigation
    • Grabbing headline
    • Social sharing icons
    • Strong call-to-action button
    • trailer video
    • screenshots
    • Testimonials/Reviews
    • Contact and press kit buttons and links
  • Dev blog
    • Post x1 times per week at least
    • Use images
    • Link from home page
    • RSS
    • Email subscription
    • Social subscription
    • Social sharing button
    • Promotion at posts’ end
  • Getting in touch
    • Find their contact info
    • Get in touch
    • Thank them for answering
    • Keep in touch
  • Make your game easy to discover
    • Create social accounts and post daily
    • Become active in forums
    • Participate in events
    • Get involved with the local gamedev community
    • Start a crowdfunder
    • Respond to questions and engage in discussion
    • Ask and incorporate fan input if possible
    • Be respectful and professional
  • Create a road-map

19. It’s Not About You: A Scientific Approach to Effective Indie Game Marketing

  • It’s not about you. Marketing is about calling strangers for favors
  • Find the right people -> Provide them with compelling reasons to buy your game -> They buy it
  • Target market – a group of people who share similar traits that make them most likely to buy your game
  • Standard format – for [TARGET MARKET], [GAME] is the [COMPETITIVE ADVANTAGE] among all [GENRE] games because only [GAME] is [COMPELLING REASON]
  • Do competitive research. Dig deeper to understand your target’s needs and craft your positioning

20. How to Consistently Make Profitable Indie Games

  • What are the game’s Hooks?
  • Viability of the market
  • How can you describe and promote the game?
  • You need hooks – some interesting bits of info about the game that compels people to try it and/or discuss it
  • You need every facet of your game to be unique and compelling in some way
  • What the spark?
  • Play games, examine their hooks and use it to your advantage. Research great games and bad games
  • Study trends
  • Development and promotion should go hand in hand
  • Your booth needs to stand out
  • Still some luck and timing involved


  • Start early
  • Keep it short. 1 minute or less
  • Show the most exciting stuff and leave them wanting for more
  • Get straight to the action
  • Use your awards, accolades, and choice quotes
  • Think hard bout music
  • Be creative
  • Hire professionals
  • Your game has to be playable even before you release it in Early Access. Release a slice of your game that is polished and playable
  • The name of the game should be easy to remember and the artstyle should correlate with what’s happening on screen (This is where I disagree. ‘Member Happy Tree Friends?)

3 thoughts on “Marketing for Indie Devs – A Meta-Analysis (PART 2)

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