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If you are a serious gamer, it probably doesn't surprise you that Steam, the popular digital storefront, is pushing 20. From a simple portal to a global gaming hub, where you can buy, review and contribute to the development of a game, no surprise that Steam has helped evolve the gaming industry.
Although the industry has evolved significantly since 2003, with even more games and studios on the scene, the reality is that not every game is a success on Steam.
In fact, according to VB Insights, more than 50% of indie games on Steam have never made more than $4,000, but the top 1% make more than $7 million. The numbers tell a story, but not the whole story.
For those who are new to the industry, an indie game is a video game created by individuals or smaller teams that don't always have the financial or technical backing of a larger publisher. In case you need an example, here's a game that needs no introduction: Minecraft.
Another date to bear in mind when it comes to gaming: Minecraft is officially 10 years old. Whether you've been playing since the official launch or became a Minecraft fan later in life, the truth is that Minecraft isn't just a good example of indie game success...it's arguably the most successful indie game to date. It even won a Guinness World Record for best-selling video game aka 200 million sales as of May 2020.
An impressive record for sure and a game that hasn't lost its charm. With new technology like 5G and cloud gaming changing the industry, it's fair to say that indie game creators and developers want to be part of the action. Before any new launches, it's important that aspiring indie game enthusiasts understand how to set a marketing budget, the marketing must-haves for indie game success as well as why App Store Optimization is so important for an indie game. Let's look into this further.
It's understandable that budget will and should be a factor before an indie game is officially created or launched. However, the above is a good general rule of thumb when it comes to setting that budget. Imagine that your game costs $50,000, then set aside 25 to 50% to market that game. This is not a set-in-stone rule, but it's definitely a good one to use as a benchmark.
Don't feel discouraged if you aren't rolling in cash in the first or even third year of development. While you work out your budget and marketing strategy, utilize free channels - like social media and newsletters - to share details about your game. Generate a buzz from the beginning and keep interested gamers updated about the game's development. One thing to remember: your game, even if it's a success, will always need some marketing behind it. There might be some luck involved but an effective strategy will carry you further, especially in the beginning.
Speaking of social media, there are two platforms that will really make a difference on your path to indie game success: Twitch and YouTube. The former - another notable platform that launched in 2011 - officially has seven million followers (according to Twitch) and the number is growing daily. This platform allows developers to engage with viewers and streamers through campaigns, gameplay, and in-game incentives.
Here's another helpful recommendation: don't just mark Twitch down as a good platform for launch marketing. Make your game Twitch-friendly in the development stage. One way to do this: incorporate Twitch's API in your game and make friends with Twitch streamers. Developers can even invite them to test your game and provide input and thoughts on features.
YouTube has been around a little longer but the same approach should be applied to your indie game marketing strategy. As you research the best influencers on YouTube, don't get stuck on influencers with the largest followings. It's more important to identify streamers who enjoy the genre that a game aligns with and that play games on your chosen console.
Understanding what your future audience wants and needs from your indie game is vital. However, social media is only one piece of the marketing puzzle. Here are three other must-haves for your strategy to ensure that you have everything you need to effectively market your game.
But how do you know when it's time to market a game? Although it might be tempting to push play, remember that there is no 'perfect' time. Marketing efforts should match those used to actually create your game. in case you are new to indie game marketing, here is one component that is essential: App Store Optimization. It really is the first step to marketing a game effectively and successfully. If your goal is to reach gamers in the app store, here is a helpful cheat sheet:
Overall, indie game marketing should include this essential philosophy: be creative. Be creative in your marketing efforts and be creative in your game creation efforts. There are so many great indie games available which means that competition can be fierce. Use talent, creativity, and innovation that fueled your initial game idea to showcase a game's value and worth.
And if you need even more inspiration for indie game marketing, check out this infographic that has even more information and takeaways.
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