We’re often asked by developers: when should I release my upcoming indie game, from a marketing perspective? As you can see from the breakdown below, the answer is ‘absolutely never’.
Everyone is broke after Christmas. Journalists and influencers stagger around in a daze, intolerably full of mince pies and cheese. It takes until the very end of the month before people regain their human forms.
Six billion indie developers all release their games simultaneously, because everyone told them February was the quietest month to launch into.
Between PAX, GDC and EGX Rezzed, the games media’s attention is largely taken up by the coverage of major events. No one has any time to play indie games.
All the huge titles that slipped from Q4 last year release at once. No one cares about indie games.
The internet rumour-mill begins around what will be announced at E3. Someone’s heard that Hideo Kojima will be announcing a collaboration with Steven Spielberg to remake ET as a 70-hour-long epic set in a post-apocalypse where ET is the only living thing left in the universe, wandering the desolate wastelands and spouting monologues for all eternity. No one cares about any game that already exists.
It’s E3. No one on the planet is talking about anything else.
It’s the Steam Summer Sale. Not a single full-price game is sold all month.
It’s Gamescom. All the indie developers that couldn’t afford to take their game to E3 flock to Cologne, ready to show off their swanky release build to the mass of global journalists in attendance. The journalists, instead, all flock to the least German pub they can find and drink pint after pint of mediocre Guinness until 3AM.
Triple-A season begins! No one cares about indie games.
Triple-A season continues! No one cares about indie games.
Triple-A season reaches MAXIMUM STRENGTH as fourteen thousand long-awaited masterpieces all land at once, selling twenty billion copies each despite their average Metacritic user score being 2.8/10. Journalists and influencers, upon being asked to cover an indie game, emit a shrill shrieking sound. To begin with, you think someone is attacking your cat, but then you realise the journalist/influencer has curled up in a ball and is sobbing uncontrollably, only able to stammer the word “d-dealine” over and over again.
Hooray, Triple-A season has ended, there’s finally a dearth of massive games coming out, and it’s time to release your indi– oh, wait, everyone’s clocked off for the year. See you in January!
…all of which is to say, of course, that there’s never an ideal time to release an indie game. This is a crowded market, and it’s easy to get drowned out. But in our opinion, the best way to get around this is not to obsess over picking the absolutely perfect release date, but rather to ensure there are no huge clashes, then work in advance to ensure you have a big enough groundswell of support that you will be one of the few to cut through the noise.