How Do We Market Indie Games? | The State of Independent Game Development

Towards the end of last year, we put together our report entitled The State of Independent Game Development.

In our last edition, we were discussing how we make indie games and now it’s time to look at how we market our indie games once we’ve finally finished them.

We’ve already established that most of the devs in our community are working alone or in small teams so there were some interesting responses in how we market our indie games.

How Do We Market Indie Games?

Of all the data we gathered during these polls and surveys, the information and insights we gained about how indie devs generate awareness for, market, and promote their games were definitely some of the most enlightening and could go some way to explaining how indies perform.

Most games on Steam are indies (96%), but most of the revenue is going to AAA development – only 40% of sales and 30% of revenue is attributable to indie games.

Independent developers are already facing an uphill struggle to stand out, but is marketing their game to overcome this issue a priority?

Our survey says… No.

We know that around half of developers are making their indie games for fun and don’t necessarily need to concern themselves with sales. Even though they might have their games on a storefront, commercial success isn’t their main goal so it’s understandable why marketing might not be high up on their priority list.

However, for those with commercial ambitions, the story seems to be no different – which is quite surprising.

As we found, nearly 80% of independent developers are marketing and promoting their projects, but we get the feeling that some would rather just be making games.

A slight majority (55.9%) reported that they don’t enjoy marketing their projects. General concerns included the amount of time marketing consumes, how little it seems to work, and fears of showing off their work to be met with negative reviews or feedback.

It isn’t all bad, though. Those that enjoy marketing their games cited artistic opportunities to create promotional materials and engage with interested players through communities and social media.

You don’t have to like marketing to do it, though.

So are developers doing enough to get their game seen?

The results seem to suggest they’re not.

Online Presence

We’ve already seen how many indie games there are and how few of them are succeeding commercially.

The results of a lot of our polls suggest that not every developer is doing everything they can to ensure their game is discovered, purchased, and played, with many relying on little more than a storefront and one social media channel to drive all the sales of their game.

Websites

There are a few things we think every indie game project with commercial ambitions should have and a website is one of them.

Websites serve as official destinations for fans and should work to funnel potential customers to the places where they can buy and play the game.

However, we only found that a slight majority (57.6%) of developers or studios had dedicated websites.

Social Media

Without social media, it’s almost impossible for indie devs to make players aware of their games or engage with them regularly, especially when working with a limited or non-existent marketing budget.

Barring paid ads and promotion, the main social media platforms are completely free and can be used without a budget.

Keep in mind that since all our polls were conducted through Twitter, we imagine that social media presence on other platforms may be underreported as we were asking an audience on a specific social media platform.

However, the numbers still weren’t great.

The majority (60.3%) reported having no Facebook page for their game or studio, with a slimmer majority (51.8%) having no Instagram account, and nearly three-quarters (73%) not using TikTok.

Again, polling users on Twitter might misrepresent the real numbers on these platforms, but you’d still like to think that most developers would want to use as many channels as possible to find audiences for their game, especially when these channels come at no financial cost.

We also found that user opinions of these other platforms were also quite negative. For sites like Facebook, there were ethical concerns related to user data and reports of limited or no interaction, which led to developers abandoning the platform.

Those who spoke positively of Facebook mentioned benefits in terms of SEO, having a broader presence online, and increased discoverability for projects through having multiple channels.

For platforms like Instagram and TikTok, developers cited difficulties creating popular content for the channels and gaining traction for their projects; an issue that’s typical of every social media platform.

YouTube was the one platform we found the majority (57.6%) of developers to be using. Many reported using their YouTube channels to post devlogs, updates on their projects, and trailers for their games.

However, only a slight majority of developers (55%) reported having a trailer for their game, which surprised us. This is surely one thing that’s a must-have for any budding indie game developer, right?

Most developers (62.4%) don’t have a Twitch channel for either their game or studio. That said, many developers are happy to leave this kind of content creation to dedicated streamers and look for them to stream their projects.

Find Out More

Next time, we’ll be looking at how the members of our community go about selling their indie games.

We’ve also been discussing how to market your indie game and these will soon be available on our YouTube and our podcast.

For early access to these sessions, support us on Patreon.

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