Marketing and Promotion
This page is intended as a quick summary of the various different methods that you can use for marketing & promoting your released & work-in-progress games. Please take this guide with a pinch of salt as I am only providing you with my own personal knowledge, as well as some theoretical solutions & I'm not giving you a play by play guide on how to do this or that, but you can feel free to use Google for that as I'm sure there are plenty of guides & videos on how to best utilize the various services I am mentioning below, if you are willing to put in some effort & do a bit of searching for them.
General Rules for Marketing and Promotion
Before I start delving into the main topics, I just want to go over a few basic rules when it comes to marketing & promoting your games.
Always Know Your Target Audience
This rule is really important as it's pointless trying to sell your game to people who have zero interest in it. You do this by advertising in places where you know they are more likely to appreciate the game.
Research: Google is your Friend
Well, not just Google, but all search engines in general, such as: Yahoo, Bing, & DuckDuckGo, etc. Instead of immediately asking for advice on a forum or reddit, consider checking out a search engine like Google, or a video service like YouTube, because more often than not you will find a load of other people have already asked the same thing before, or someone has posted a video about it. The same thing goes for research. Search engines & YouTube are just king when it comes to finding out information about most things.
Plan, Plan, and Plan Some More
Before you commit to a certain marketing & promotion strategy you should plan things out first instead of creating content on impulse as sometimes it can be taken the wrong way, which leads to you potentially getting impacted negatively, which could result in you being blacklisted & shamed by various gamers & social media influencers.
|Quick note: yes I consider Discord as a social media platform as it can be used for both marketing & promotion if used correctly.
Discord is actually a VOIP (voice over internet protocol) & chatroom app, but it's actually so much more than that because of all of the features it contains. It's a really powerful marketing & promotion tool because you can use it to provide your potential consumers with updates on the progress of your game, host Q&A nights via stage or voice channels (the latter allows you to stream your desktop or specific app windows, &/or your webcam, etc. & engage in voice discussions with your consumers). You can also ask your consumers questions &/or setup polls to get feedback on what they think of your game project so far or to find out if they like specific ideas, mechanics, puzzles, etc. Just think of it as a more hands on approach to interacting with your consumers & a way to make them feel like they are a part of the creation process of the project while getting some feedback on your project in return.
Personally I absolutely hate Facebook, but unfortunately it's one of the most used social media platforms on the planet (*sigh*), which means that it's also a great place for promoting your games & work-in-progress projects. They have the pages feature which you can use for setting up a page for promoting & sharing news about your game/project, & they also have plenty of user created groups related to game development & promotion that you can use for promoting your game.
I am not super familiar with Instagram myself as I don't share photos & videos of myself online - actually I really hate having my photo taken. Anyway, you can use it for sharing screenshots, videos, & gifs of your games & work-in-progress projects. I have zero clue how effective promotion would be on something like Instagram, but it's another platform you can use to let people know about your product.
Reddit can be a bit of a toxic place, but it does have some useful groups that you can use for promoting your games & work-in-progress projects like indiegames, or gameDevClassfieds for promoting your freelance game development related services.
Twitter can be really useful for promoting yourself via, but it can be hard to promote yourself if you don't know how to correctly use #hashtags. On Twitter, it's all about impressions which are the amount of people who have viewed & potentially interacted with your tweet by liking it &/or retweeting it. The biggest problem with Twitter is that it has a 280 character limit & hashtags & links are also counted in the character limit, which means that you need to plan out your tweets before creating them.
The reason why hashtags are so important is because people & bots actively monitor for specific hashtags & may like & retweet your posts that contain specific hashtags. A bunch of those accounts have a decent amount of followers which means you potentially could earn a few new followers yourself each time one of your tweets gets retweeted by one of those accounts. As they say, or as someone once said... "every little helps".
|Quick note: NEVER generate random #hashtags for your tweets, because you have no idea if anyone is monitoring those hashtags, & thus could potentially be wasting precious character space that could be used for verified hashtags or additional relevant content.
Here are some things you should consider doing for your tweets.
◻️ Only include relevant information.
◻️ Only include relevant hashtags.
◻️ Include a fancy image, gif, or video to make your tweet stand out.
◻️ Consider using a well-known URL shortener to reduce the amount of characters the link is taking up.
Here are some popular hashtags that you can use: #gamedev, #gamedeveloper, #indiedev, #indiegamedev, #pointandclick. You can feel free to include those hashtags whenever you like. & now below are some hashtags that have enforced rules & can only be used under specific circumstances...
◻️ #madewithvisionaire - only use this for tweets about your released or work-in-progress Visionaire Studio developed games.
◻️ #adventuregamefriday - friday only & must include an image, gif, or video of your work-in-progress game (used to generate interest & potential followers).
◻️ #screenshotsaturday - saturday only & must include an image, gif, or video of your work-in-progress game (used to generate interest & potential followers).
That's about all you really need to know about Twitter, but before I move onto the next subject I would just like to give a small shoutout to the Tweetdeck provided by Twitter themselves as it's much nicer to use than Twitter itself. You can easily compose new tweets, or like & retweet other peoples tweets too, but the reason I like it is because you can create columns that show tweets from specific users or that contain specific #hashtags & in that regard it's super useful & makes using Twitter so much easier & faster because everything you want is listed on a single page.
YouTube can be used for promoting yourself via video content for your released & work-in-progress games. You can upload & share game development video logs, game trailers, teasers, news, or even do live game development streams if you have a decent enough internet connection & pc.
|Quick note: you need to be careful when you upload your videos that they do NOT contain any potentially copyrighted music in them - this includes music playing somewhere in the background of your house/flat as any sections of your video containing copyrighted music may be muted by youtube themselves if your video gets reported & flagged for having copyrighted content in it. Having said that, youtube provide a load of free music that you can safely add to your videos.
Live Content Streaming
Live content streaming is very popular these days & is actually one of the things that makes up for most of the overall internet traffic each & every single day - well, technically it's watching videos in general, but streaming is a large part of that.
Anyway, I'm not going to tell you how to stream - you can use Google to figure that out - but I am going to give you some pointers, on the sort of content you could be streaming.
|Quick note: do not expect to have millions of people watching you when you stream - even if you promote yourself to the best of your ability you will still more likely than not only have a handful of people watching. All of those popular streamers have spent a long time cultivating their viewer count through marketing, promotion, & collaboration with other streamers & most of them tend to have big personalities or personas they put on while they stream. If you are boring, then you are just boring. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
Arts & Crafts
You could consider streaming the creation process of your graphics, animations, music, sounds, etc.
You could consider streaming how you take the resource files that you yourself or others have created & show how you put them all together in the game engine & turn a bunch of random files into a playable game.
Questions and Answers
You could consider doing a live Q&A session while you work on your game, or even find a blogger or podcaster to do a live interview with.
Something you could consider doing is creating a game development blog on your website where you post screenshots & videos & updates about your progress on the current project you are working on. People love to know how your projects are progressing as it assures them that it's still being worked on & isn't just something that's going to end up rotting away on a scrap heap somewhere.
Another thing you will likely want to do is try to get popular game bloggers & game news related websites to post articles about your game. They may come to you, but more likely than not you will have to contact them first, which means you are going to have to dust off Google, or whichever search engine you use to find the contact information for as many of them as you can.
The good old classic tried, tested, & true way of spreading news about your game projects, yes that's right... forums. They are kind of like dinosaurs these days, but plenty of people still use them & there's lots of forums related to game development that you can probably stumble your way into & use for promoting your game projects.
Another thing you can consider doing is trying to get popular YouTube content creators to play a demo of your game or even the finished game if it's already released, but you will have zero control over what they say or do. I would consider it a bit of a risky move, but if they have tons of subscribers then there is a chance it might generate some interest in your game.
The question you need to ask yourself is: "is the cut of all of your games profits the publisher wants in exchange for their promotion services & brand popularity worth it?". This is a difficult question to answer because it's technically possible to promote & market & self-release games without a publisher, but on the other hand an established well known publisher might guarantee you a bunch of sales just from their brand name alone. It's a game of weighing up the pros & cons. Also not all publishers will give you money, & the ones that do may want some say in the direction your game takes, so that is also something you have to consider when it comes to publishers. Also say no to unknown publishers or relatively unknown publishers as it's most likely a waste of time as you have no way of knowing what their marketing & promotion skills are like, & it could even be a scam meant to make easy passive money for them in exchange for very little to no work on their part. Make sure you read the small print on contracts & never sign anything you aren't sure about.
Crowd & Patron Based Funding
To be honest crowdfunding is not really as viable these days because all of the crowdfunding platforms are oversaturated with people trying to get their work-in-progress games & game ideas funded & there's too many for the generous people on them to chuck money at each & every single project; also it doesn't help that a number of funded campaigns have stained crowdfunding & made people think twice before chucking money at a project that they have no idea whether or not it will ever end up getting released.
If you are working on a non-nsfw game then Kickstarter is probably the place you will want to use for trying to get funds for your game, but I will warn you now that you should lower your expectations on how much you will receive - if you even get funded at all. It's very hard to get funded via crowdfunding platforms these days, unless you have a very unique game or something you know people would really like to play - unfortunately point & click adventure games are a dime a dozen on Kickstarter, which makes things even harder.
Anyway, before you even consider making a Kickstarter campaign, you really need to do your research & plan everything out because you really need to know your target audience & you need to put on a dog & pony show to impress said target audience. Also don't just think you can set a Kickstarter campaign going & leave it running by itself & expect it to get funded, as Kickstarter is all about interacting & engaging with your potential backers, which means creating update posts & answering their questions; oh & don't think you are done once the campaign is over (if successful) as they will still constantly post questions & ask for updates long after a campaign is done to remind you that they gave you money & expect something in return.
The most important thing to know about crowdfunding is that you will only get paid if the campaign is successful, which means you at least need to meet the initial base goal that you set, otherwise you will get nothing; however if your campaign is successful then you will more likely than not start edging into stretch goals, but nothing is guaranteed & as I said you need to lower your expectations & also probably set the lowest possible initial funding goal that you can instead of being greedy as your campaign is more likely to fail that way, because as I already said... "point & click adventure games are a dime a dozen on Kickstarter".
Patron based funding is not a viable solution for non-nsfw games, but it can be lucrative for nsfw games because people love to chuck money at adult content & in the cases of sites like Patreon & SubscribeStar (warning: nsfw only patron platform), an indie game developer or small studio can easily make $1000's per month if they market & promote themselves properly & learn what sort of content people actually want.
Anyway, the biggest difference between crowdfunding & patron based funding is that crowdfunding is a one time thing & usually requires the campaign to at least reach the initial goal to be classed as successful & guarantee you get funded, whereas patron based funding uses a content or subscription based payment system where you will get paid each time you upload new content or once per month by all of the patrons who are supporting you. Both platforms however use the same tier based approach when it comes to rewards, so don't expect to get money without having to provide your backers/patrons with something in return.
I'm not going to tell you how to export your games & release them on Steam, GOG, Epic, Humble Bundle, etc. You can use Google for that, but what I will tell you is that you should not pin all of your hopes & dreams on Steam by itself, & the reason for that is because most pc gamers are scrooges - myself included. What do I mean by that? Well, it's quite simple...
When it comes to pc gaming there is so much choice & the average gamer can't afford to pay full RRP (recommended retail price) for every single game they own, which is why most of us buy heavily discounted games & bundles, or from legit third party key sellers, like Fantical, Gamesplanet, Green Man Gaming, & Humble Bundle, etc.
So what I am saying is that you should really consider getting your game onto as many platforms as possible, such as: Steam, Epic, GOG, & itch.io because not everyone likes to buy their games from Steam & it's nice to provide people with choices. Also I'd like to point out that it's free to generate Steam keys, & the places I mentioned in the previous paragraph usually take a much smaller cut than Steam does, which means you can sell the games for less on those stores or do regular discounts & still make more money than you would via sales made directly on Steam.
|Quick note: I would just like to point out that I own about 1500 games on the pc & if I were to have paid full retail price for them, then I could have bought a brand new car or put down a large downpayment on a house. Just to hammer home how expensive it would be to pay full RRP games, my wishlist on Steam which has just over 100 games on it says it would cost me just over €2300 if I were to buy all of those games at full price, & as I said I have about 1500 games on pc, so do the math.
Ok, so this will be the last marketing technique I will be providing you with. Staggering involves releasing for specific platform groups only instead of releasing your game to all platforms on the same day, the reason behind this is simple & you could even call it greedy, but unfortunately most people are quite glutonous. The general idea behind this is that you release for let's say desktop (pc, mac, & linux) then you wait a month or a few months & then you release for phones/tablets/handhelds or consoles, & so on & so on. Again, but why? If someone really likes your game then they might consider buying it on more than one platform, also the staggered releases allow you to generate extra interest in your game, by making it look like you've been working hard on porting it to x device, when in fact you might have already been able to release to all platforms on the same day, but shhh! It also gives you time to iron out any bugs that went unnoticed in the initial release or implement some quality of life features into it, etc. You can use that time for whatever you want.
Beware of Scammers
It's very common whenever you start posting about games you are working on, or games that you are about to release, that the cockroaches will come crawling out of the woodwork. You will most likely at some point start receiving emails &/or private messages from random people offering to publish or market your game. I highly recommend ignoring them, or at least doing some research on them first to see what other people have said about them on places like Reddit - or you can ask on our own Discord server & see if anyone has any experience of the supposed service. Never base your assumption on the website belonging to the service or the testimonals on it because all of it can be faked to make them look legit. Another thing is if someone asks for a small fee from you &/or wants you to generate & give them a load of steam keys, just say no as it's a scam.
Yes, I know I haven't covered everything & it's all kind of vague, but it's not my job to give you a step by step solution for every single little thing. & as I have said multiple times throughout this page... "Google is your friend", but at least I've hopefully provided you with some ideas & insight into how you can go about marketing & promoting your game.
- 1 General Rules for Marketing and Promotion
- 2 Social Media
- 3 Live Content Streaming
- 4 Blogging
- 5 Forums
- 6 Let's Plays
- 7 Publishers
- 8 Crowd & Patron Based Funding
- 9 Distribution
- 10 Staggering Releases
- 11 Beware of Scammers
- 12 Final Notes