Three lies and one truth about indie game marketing

Three lies and one truth about indie game marketing

There are a lot of articles giving advice and dispelling myths about marketing your indie game. If you’re new to getting your game out there, this can all be pretty intimidating, especially as the landscape of this industry changes daily. 

So, we here at Game If You Are wanted to talk through some of the misconceptions of best marketing practices, and let you in on a truthful secret: there is no ‘right way’ to market your game.

Keep in mind that – if you thought any of the below was true, that doesn’t mean you don’t know what you’re doing! We’re not here to tell you off or call you mean names. This list is to reassure some common worries and hopefully set you off into the journey of marketing your indie game just a bit more confidently.

❌ “Indie games don’t get coverage” 

Not true! Although AAA game news does get a large portion of coverage from leading outlets, it’s not impossible to get your indie game covered by them – all you need is a clearly defined message accurately targeted to the right media. We talk more about how to use the personal approach when it comes to the gaming press here.

Over the last week (17-24th March):

  • Rock Paper Shotgun covered 23 indie games or indie development related news
  • Polygon and PC Gamer covered 15

Not to toot our own horn, but the last five PR campaigns run by Game If You Are (all ran within the last month or so) achieved coverage of a minimum of 11 outlets, with an average of 17, and the highest number being 36!

Largely, this misconception springs about organic coverage – AAA titles in comparison to indie have to do less individual, personalised reach out to outlets. If Half-Life 3 comes out, you’ll bet that every outlet will cover it, whether they’ve been sent press materials or not. However, with indie games, outlets are less likely to create a piece about it having only seen it published elsewhere. Indie games do get coverage, but it requires a bit more work, and a lot more personal outreach.

❌ If your game is good, your community will make itself”

This is super super rare, and usually only happens if your game taps into an incredibly niche community that somehow manages to find it without you seeking them out – or your game is a follow up of a previous highly successful title.

Communities have to be formed and nurtured. Players won’t make themselves places to congregate – you have to establish that for them and help it grow. Your game may be good, but if you post un-hashtagged, inconsistent posts to your social feeds, no-one will find it.

To explain in terms of a previous Game If You Are social media campaign (toot toot 🎺) – we recently took over a Twitter account with no hashtags, interactions or outreach to communities. It posted content specifically made for social media, with great, clever captions. This content itself was top-tier – because the source was a title that now has over 1,600 Steam reviews and is ‘Overwhelmingly Positive’ – but no-one was interacting with it, there was no community because prospective community members had no idea it existed. 

After taking over the account, adding hashtags to relevant interests, reaching out to similar accounts, actively engaging with others – the number of weekly impressions (people who saw the tweets) went from 1.1k to 26.9K in 7 days.  

A community can be formed for your game, and they’ll be invaluable to your development – but it rarely happens through sheer luck.

❌ “Press don’t mind if they get an unfinished copy of the game” 

No. Noooooo. 

Unless your game is explicitly being distributed as an alpha or beta build – which still needs to be heavily polished, and everything inside that build needs to be completed.

Your game needs to stand out in the journalist’s inbox – it needs to be the best it can be and the news about it needs to be relevant. Game journalists are very busy people, and have a lot on their plate to track – if your news isn’t relevant within a month of your email, it’ll most likely be deleted. But don’t just take it from me, take it from the Editor of the Indie Game Website himself, Jason Coles.

When asked how many indie games he received a week, and how he feels about receiving unfinished games, he had this to say: 

“Maybe 30 a week via email, and if the release date isn’t in the next month or so I try an email to ask for an update closer to release. 

It’s rare that I’ve got spare time to keep an eye on things, and I’ve got a memory like swiss cheese and a toddler, so it’s a lot more useful to know when things are releasing soon, rather than the end of 2021 🙂.”

✔️ “There is no ‘best’ way to market your indie game” 

There isn’t – there is no one size fits all. The indie game marketing scene is changing every single day, and your game is a new entry to this shifting market.

You need a specialised strategy specific to your game, your budget, your needs and what your game can feasibly achieve – but most importantly, that strategy needs to be able to be adapted with the times, with a dedicated strategy team constantly checking in. 

At Game If You Are, we check in with our clients at the minimum once a week, and bookmark multiple points throughout each campaign to check-in, review and update our strategies – ensuring you know at the beginning what is guaranteed, and what is flexible and adaptable. 

Indie games marketing is a tricky beast, and there is a lot of advice out there – but just remember that PR and marketers in this industry know to keep themselves learning, improving and updating their techniques to give indie games the best chance at succeeding once out the door. If you’re open to learning, adapting and trying new things – then you’re already over the hard part!

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