Last year, we surveyed our community The State of Independent Game Development report was the result.
In our last edition, we looked at how we market indie games. Now, we need to see how we actually sell our indie games.
Let’s get to it!
How Do We Sell Indie Games?
The last, and arguably most important, part for any professional independent game developer is the commercial success of their game(s).
We’ve looked at why and how developers make their games, how they market them to increase awareness and discoverability, and now we’ll see how they turn all that hard work and effort into commercial success by getting players to purchase their games.
We mentioned earlier that the market for indie games is tough; there are a lot of games vying for attention, and most sales are attributed to AAA games.
Platforms and Storefronts
The platforms that independent games are featured on are two-headed beasts as they’re both a mechanical and technical challenge for the developers. However, they’re also a marketing tool as they provide players with more choices when it comes to buying and playing games.
The most open and accessible of these platforms is PC as there are multiple storefronts for the digital distribution of games. Nearly two-thirds of developers have their games available on Steam (65.8%) and Itch.io (63.8%) with a minority (33.5%) making their game(s) available on Game Jolt.
There are more barriers to entry when it comes to developing for and distributing on consoles. Developers not only have to develop specifically for these platforms or port their game to them, but they also have more hoops to jump through to ensure that their project is approved or certified for distribution on said platforms through compliance testing.
A smaller minority of developers have managed to get their games on PS4/PS5 (25%), Xbox One/Series X/S (25%), and the Nintendo Switch (20.4%).
Promotions and Sales
While an online presence and multi-platform availability can help developers increase visibility and sales, indie devs have a few other tricks up their sleeves when it comes to marketing their game, increasing awareness, or boosting sales.
What are they and do they work?
A huge proportion of developers (88.2%) suggested that participating in sales or discounting their game led to more sales.
A smaller majority (58.8%) suggested that featuring their games in competitions or giveaways also led to increased visibility and success.
While certainly a marketing strategy, as playable demos will play a major role in a player’s consideration process, it’s worth including them in this section on selling independent games.
After all, by the time a potential player has their hands on a game’s demo, they’re already aware of the game and are probably on the storefront of where they can buy it.
While a demo can certainly be a technical nightmare and time-consuming for devs, we believe that they can play a vital role in the purchasing process by alleviating any doubts or concerns potential players may have about the game’s quality.
As an interactive medium, how you play a game is an important part of it. Screenshots, trailers, and other marketing materials can certainly make players aware of your game and generate interest, but without being able to try it for themselves, players may not be willing to take the risk on a product from a developer they’re unfamiliar with.
In our survey, we found only a very slim majority (52.3%) offered a playable demo for the indie game.
Are Our Indie Games Successful?
The last and most important survey we conducted yielded the least surprising results.
We already know that making games is tough, that the market is full of competitors, that consumers spend more money on AAA games than on indies, and that there’s a worrying tendency that independent developers aren’t marketing their games as much as they can, even on limited budgets.
While we can’t define success for indie devs – everyone has their own motives and what they want out of game development – we can ask devs to determine, by their own standards, whether or not they believe their game to be successful.
So, when we polled our followers on this, we were purposefully vague because an indie game is only successful when the developer thinks it is and the criteria will differ from developer to developer.
Sadly, we found two-thirds (65.5%) of developers to be unsatisfied with their projects’ success.
We would have loved for this to be the inverse, but we had a very strong feeling when we started polling for this report that it would all lead to this.
Find Out More
In our next article on our State of Independent Games Development report, we’ll be looking at the big picture and bringing together all the insights we’ve garnered from our wonderful community.
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