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  • Writer's pictureTaylor Rodriguez

How To Market Your Indie Game (5 Free Tips + 1 Paid)


indie game showcase

5 Free Tips To Marketing Your Indie Game (Plus 1 Paid)


Lets face it, your passion is in creating awesome games, not marketing them. When it comes to any entrepreneurial adventure, we typically don't see the full picture before jumping in. We get super excited to quit our corporate day jobs, follow our dreams and begin work on what we love. But, what isn't revealed to first-time game developers is the reality that if your passion is to create your own game, you have about a dozen other responsibilities as well. You become your own boss, meaning, you take on all the other roles that are involved with launching a successful game - marketer, designer, programmer, accountant, HR and/or manager (if you have a team), social media coordinator, community manager, and more!


Hello darkness, my old friend! When it comes to all the different areas it takes to launch a successful indie title, I can't provide insight into all of them. However, I can at least share with you some of my marketing experience, as well as some tips and tricks, so you don't have to go through the same headaches I went through when I was starting my own business over a decade ago.


When it comes to marketing, there are 6 main categories you'll need to remember. Each category is either completely free or may involve a small to large investment depending upon your budget. You could probably guess, utilizing the free methods takes up more of your time than investing in paid alternatives. The more of these categories you can put effort into, on a long-term consistent basis, will lead to greater results.


*Credit for these categories goes to my old business coach and mentor, Jason Phillips - CEO of the Nutritional Coaching Institute.


Earned Media

Earned media is the audience that you grow by the value you provide to the public or to those in your circle of influence. This is accomplished by making valuable content, sharing it, and those that see it begin to follow you or stay in touch with you. This method cannot be cheated or forced. It takes time and must be performed consistently. If you show up inconsistently for your audience, they will begin to tapper off.


Owned Media

Owned media is the next step up from earned media. If earned media is essentially your followers on social media; owned media is the portion of those followers that you move onto a platform YOU control such as your newsletter subscribers or even contacts in your phone. Both forms of media are essential to spreading game awareness. If your favorite social platform shuts down tomorrow, how will your audience find you or how would you connect to them?


PAUSE *HOT TIP* - During the development phase, you should be consistently providing updates about your game and showing behind the scenes footage. This will attract individuals to follow your content on social media (a platform you're renting space on basically), then when it gets closer to launching your game, you can market to your owned media audience that are subscribed to your newsletter. If someone is subscribed to your newsletter, they are bought in more to your game and more likely to purchase than someone simply following you on Instagram to see pretty graphics.


Paid Media

Self-explanatory. These are your social ads, billboards, YouTube sponsor ads, etc. If there was a cheat code to advertising your game, this would be it. However, due to the overall amount of advertisers nowadays; the cost of running social media ads, specifically, has risen tremendously over the last few years. It's important to also note that you don't NEED to pay for ad placement to get your game seen to the public. Advertising organically through these other methods does take time and hard work, but is very rewarding when done well.


Also note that "Banner Blindness" has become a real thing nowadays due to the influx in ads everyone sees on a daily basis. We have automatically tuned our brains to recognize ads, then ignore them, almost on an automatic basis. So this needs to be considered before opening your wallet to show an ad that would just get ignored depending on the platform it's ran on.


Referrals

Most of us know was a referral is - a personal recommendation from a trusted source. These are the individuals on Discord servers and various gaming communities asking for ideas on new games to play and their connections make recommendations. How do you encourage individuals that HONESTLY have tried your game, and enjoy it, to talk about it? One of my favorite "tactics" I use is providing incentives to my audience.


Occasionally, I will make a social post or an email asking my audience to share my content or write a review. You can arrange this to however you see fit but a lot of the times I'll give out $5-$25 gift cards to individuals that perform certain tasks as previously mentioned. Ex: whoever tags the most amount of people to my promo post in the next 24 hours gets x, y, z gift. The barrier to entry to get said gift is incredibly low (takes 2 seconds to tag a bunch of people) and it increases engagement on my promo post so more people know that my game just dropped!


Partners & Affiliates

Similar to referrals, this can be considered "word of mouth" advertising. However, the biggest difference with this marketing category is the time-span involved as well as the potential compensation agreement behind party discussions. Look at the recent "Halo 3 Refueled" playlist that was added to Halo: Infinite in November 2023. That was a partnership between 343 Industries (or possibly Microsoft) and Mountain Dew (Pepsi-Cola Company). Both parties reached an agreement that consisted of product placement ads - Halo: Infinite logos and special codes on MD soda bottles as well as MD having a custom map added to the rotation and custom suit armor options. This partnership also expanded into an off-season Halo tournament for semi-pro to pro players for additional exposure.


Now, between huge brands such as Microsoft and Pepsi, more than likely your indie game won't have an in-depth advertising partnership such as this, BUT, you can spend some time between design sprints to form collaborations with other indie developers or try to get showcased on one of Xbox's ID@Xbox Digital Showcase or various other digital showcases that happen throughout the year. Can you reach out to your local game stores or esports facilities to put on print ads of your game on the windows, doors and counter tops? You'd be surprised how many business owners I speak to that are more than happy to leave your marketing materials in their stores!


PAUSE *HOT TIP* - Another idea is to reach out to all the various YouTube gaming-related content creators. A lot of them have small podcasts or simply looking for more content to upload. Having you on to speak about your game development journey would probably peak a lot of interest plus provide you an organic and free way to market your game - (don't sell short the power of your own experience and story!).


Outbound

Outbound marketing is the category that consists of doing all the actions that we typically don't enjoy doing to individuals we don't have a prior connection with. This is the cold calling, the cold emailing, the cold DMing, etc to spread awareness of your game. Out of all the categories, this one as well as the paid media are the two I use the least in all of my marketing efforts since most consumers have negative emotions tied to them. To be fair, there are marketers I know of that strictly use cold messaging and they are successful. However, we must perform the methods we are most comfortable with. I'll also add that outbound sales & marketing efforts have the smallest ROI (return on investment) at typically 1-2%.


I hope this was helpful for marketing your indie game. I wish you nothing but a successful launch! Organizing all of these marketing efforts into your weekly calendar can seem really daunting. But, I've developed a 90 day strategy that shows you exactly how and when to perform these tasks. If you'd like me to write about this in my next blog, let me know by leaving a comment.


- Taz 🥃

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