Indie devs are constantly falling into a trap. Forums are filled with developers asking “When do I start game marketing?” Chances are, if you’re asking the question, I can assume the following two facts about you:
- You have no idea what marketing is.
- You’re already too late.
Unfortunately, you’re asking the wrong question. We need to talk about your development process.
Game Marketing starts on Day 1, whether you want it to or not. It encompasses everything from your game’s genre and topic to your casual conversations about your game with friends and acquaintances. Your post asking about marketing, oddly enough, is also marketing.
Step out of your game developer’s hat for a moment and just imagine an example product which we are going to tackle the marketing for. The product is a shoe. How would you design, produce, and sell a shoe? There’s two approaches that answer this question.
- Approach 1: Make a shoe that you really want. Design your dream shoe and then figure out how to sell it after.
- Approach 2: Find a gap in the shoe market. Figure out what the customers in the gap want, and are willing to buy. Make that shoe and sell it specifically to those customers.
With Approach 1, you end up with a product you really like. It’s high quality, but will it sell? No one knows. At this point, you can assess who the audience is and try to sell them the shoe. It might work out, or you might have spent 6 months making a pair of shoes for no reason.
If you follow Approach 2, you’re guaranteed to create a shoe you can sell. You know who to sell it to, where to sell it, and how much it should cost. However, you may not be in love with the shoe you made – it might be really nice, but not your dream shoe.
Most indie developers follow Approach 1. They make a game they really want to play, then try to figure out how to sell it. There’s nothing wrong with this approach if you’re a hobbyist. But if you want revenue, then you need to realize that you didn’t build a product, you bought a lottery ticket. And the best promotional game marketing in the world might not save you at this point.
Try to switch your mindset to Approach 2. Find a niche community that will play a game if someone made it – this can be a difficult and time consuming task. Once you find your target community, ask them what kind of game they would play. Then make the game they ask for.
Does it guarantee success? No.
But it does guarantee that the community you asked will be interested in your game. You still have to make a fun, quality game and release it on a platform that they will use, at a price point they will purchase it (check out The 4 P’s of Marketing). From there, you can promote it to groups with similar interests and start building up some hype. All the questions of when, where, and how to promote will almost answer themselves.