What Is Video Game Marketing?
If you have ever seen a trailer for a game, movie, or show (and the chances are good that you have), then you have taken part in the marketing process. But how?
Marketing is the culmination of the different practices and strategies to advertise a product or brand. While you may see the finished product, like a trailer for Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War, there were many more steps before the trailer’s actual airing.
More than anything, marketing harnesses information, and the video game industry has a ton of it. Video game marketing takes trends, popular game mechanics, and more and harness it into an effective advertising campaign.
Video game marketing is no longer limited to magazines like Game Informer or sites like GameSpot. Video games have been advertised during large events, and we could potentially see popular games making up the commercial lineup to the Super Bowl.
The Importance of Marketing Your Games
While marketing doesn’t exactly sound like an appealing prospect, especially when you’re trying to sell a game, it may very well be one of the most important factors, other than video game funding.
You are going to be competing with triple-A titles that have astronomical budgets. Since you don’t have hundreds of thousands of dollars (yet!), this means that you need to wield video game marketing in creative and innovative ways.
You are starting at a disadvantage, so use that disadvantage to your benefit.
Marketing your game is effectively the blueprint for delivering your product to the consoles and computers of gamers.
Marketing and selling a perfect product don’t guarantee you success in the industry. That’s why indie marketing needs to be harnessed to the fullest extent of its ability to get your game to the masses and maybe, make a profit in the process.
Why Do I Need to Market My Game?
The simple answer: So people will know about it and buy it!
Where Do I Start With Marketing My Game?
Although it’s natural to be intimidated by this herculean task, this is actually the most vital position you can be in. This is where you do some reading and research to hone your marketing skills.
Here are some marketing activities you should consider:
This is the heavy lifting of the indie game marketing process. Where larger studios like Rockstar or Bungie can take out huge ads on TV and in magazines, you will need to hit the ground running.
Use Steam as a social tool, get on the multiple subreddits that cater to marketing and indie game marketing.
This refers to generating interest in your game through interviews, media releases, and more.
We all know Steam has unbeatable sales. You can get on Steam one day and pay $10 for a game that usually retails for a steep $60. This is an excellent method for promoting your product. Offering a discount can pique the interest of curious gamers.
This is the method of video game marketing in which you directly reach out to groups and individuals about your product. You can do this by making posts online, emailing potentially interested parties, and more.
Basic Marketing Plan for Indie Games
Let’s form a basic outline of what the primary plan for indie game marketing should be for you and your project. What video game marketing comes down to are these main things:
- Form your goals
- Find out who the game is for
- Distribute your game
- The importance of apps
- Make a great website
- Release a demo
- Maintain quality
What Are Your Goals?
Before you really dig in, take a step back, and examine what you are trying to accomplish. While it is definitely exciting to start developing your game right away, you might be in big trouble if you don’t map out your indie game marketing strategies, video game funding, and more.
Write out your goals and ideas about what you want your project to accomplish.
This is the blueprint.
A simple yet effective method of completing and outline goals is to create deadlines, both large and small. A great way to do this is to get as specific as possible.
Instead of limiting yourself to outlining goals and deadlines to years, consider making deadlines for each week or month. This will break down larger video game marketing projects and make it more manageable.
Who is your target audience? Are you creating your game for a specific subset of people?
Think of your ideal demographic to cater to. This is one of the pillars of indie game marketing. The audience should ideally be a dedicated and passionate fanbase. With the enthusiasm of a small subset of gamers, you have an unexpectedly powerful tool in your arsenal.
This is where the importance of forums, websites, and other communities comes into play. A passionate fanbase can easily sway the chances of future success in your favor. There have been thousands of successful Kickstarter campaigns fueled solely on the anticipation and interest of fans.
Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night, created by one of the original developers of Castlevania: Symphony of the Night, Koji Igarashi, achieved an impressive funding drive. In part, this was due to the long-lasting and resounding success of Castlevania and the beloved legacy it has.
Recently, Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night passed a million in sales. “This is a remarkable milestone for any game, but it is especially sweet considering the humble beginnings of the project. Bloodstained wouldn’t exist without the passion and faith of the many Kickstarter backers who made the game a reality.”
Having that goodwill in the community built upon past successes or appealing promises and features can mean the difference between success and failure.
Distribution – Where Will You Sell Your Game?
A benefit to the Internet is that you can also distribute your game to a ton of different outlets. You basically have your pick of the litter. Which will you choose? Steam? Physical copies?
You should consider what works best for the execution of gameplay and ease of access before you jump into one distribution method. There is also a surprisingly large amount of indie game publishers that will be interested in your project.
The Website – Get Players to Download Your Game Demo
You should always want to lead potential players towards a demo download. This can give them a valuable taste of what your game is all about. This is where all of your impressive materials should be exhibited—the trailer, cool screenshots, and the demo.
The Demo – Give the Players A Taste of Your Game
Demos are a fantastic and effective way to market your game. Demos can be found on Steam, the Playstation Store, and more outlets that deliver games right into gamers’ hands.
The demo is a critical opportunity for you to showcase some of your game’s most exciting aspects. In a successful demo, you can include breathtaking set pieces, addictive gameplay, and more.
Choose wisely, as this is the best way for a player to purchase your game. Include exciting and captivating game mechanics so that by the end of the demo, the player feels the need to continue gameplay.
Maintenance – Make Sure The Players Are Happy
If there’s one thing you don’t want to do, is to get lazy. A lot of people believed in the potential of your project. This is where you double down on the passion that you have for it.
Although keeping a game maintained isn’t easy, appeasing the masses of gamers that believe in you and your product, you need to make sure everything is running smoothly.
This means that fixes, patches, and more will need to be regularly added. Wait too long, and players may abandon your game entirely.
Certain games have negative reviews on Steam merely for the fact that the developers left the project. Actions speak louder than words in this case. You not caring about the wellbeing of your game may translate to gamers dropping off the hype train.
No Man’s Sky was universally seen as a massive disappointment in 2016. Instead of merely taking in peoples’ money and running away, the developers went right back into the studio and started working hard.
Years later, the developer has released a ton of free updates, filled to the brim with unique content. While many players hated what happened to No Man’s Sky in 2016, the game’s state is so utterly different that it proves that all games can be maintained and improved upon.
Refinement – Don’t Be Afraid to Change the Blueprint
If things aren’t working, or things aren’t falling into place exactly as you imagined they would, don’t be afraid to change your video game marketing strategies.
Marketing On A Budget
How Much Should You Spend on Marketing?
A good rule of thumb is a well-known practice called ’25-50%.’
This is a rule in which you take anywhere from 25-50% of what you spent on game development and dedicate it solely to video game marketing. This is a great jumping-off point, as it gives you a rigid set of rules to follow and can clear up confusion right from the start.
However, if you’re not rolling in the dough (you’re not), this could be a massive ask. In this case, you’re going to need to either be a video game marketing expert or become one.
If you’re really serious about indie game marketing, it may benefit you from taking business school courses or classes related to marketing. Where there is a lack of indie funding for marketing, the main effort goes into learning the ins and outs of video game marketing.
Make A Trailer
Making trailers is an art form. You bring together impressive cinematics and other visual elements to communicate the idea of your game. It sets the mood and lays down the groundwork for your project. You can easily make a trailer if you have experience with certain pieces of software.
Trailers are what draw thousands of people to movie theaters every year. The same applies to games, so you have to make your game trailer captivating. Tell a story, show gameplay, or tease some great action that is to come.
Include Awesome Screenshots of Your Games
This is where your inner artists come out to dominate. We all love to see cool screenshots of games. With specific software, you can create fantastic, cinematic images to entice gamers to view your game.
The Ghost of Tsushima, a big release on PlayStation 4, includes an in-depth and customizable camera mode. The player has tons of options to modify the scene and can upload it to the Internet.
The sheer number of possibilities and potential for style can draw gamers who don’t have the game into what the game represents.
Post Weekly on Your Dev Blog to Keep Your Community Engaged
Let the players know that you’re still out there!
They’ve purchased your game, communicating that they’re interested in this project and the future improvements and successes. You need to keep the community updated as much as possible.
Mount and Blade II: Bannerlord was released much earlier than anticipated. Many fans of the franchise were concerned that the game was rushed. Instead, the developers entered Steam Early Access and promised constant updates.
Ever since their release in the spring of 2020, the developers have released countless fixes and patches to improve gameplay. While players would undoubtedly prefer a finished, polished game, having the developers be so invested in a project is a promising sign.
How to Publish Games on Steam
How Much Does it Cost to Publish a Game on Steam
“In order to get fully set up, you will need to pay a fee for each product you wish to sell on Steam. You can pay this fee with any payment method supported by Steam in your region.
This fee is not refundable, but will be recoupable in the payment made after your product has at least $1,000 USD Adjusted Gross Revenue for Steam Store and in-app purchases. Payment of revenue from sales and repayment of the fee may be withheld if deposit payment is charged-back, refunded, or otherwise identified as fraudulent.”
Hopefully, saving money on marketing will give you enough for the Steam submission fee.
Is it Worth it to Put My Game on Steam?
Releasing a game on Steam is a fantastic choice in the video game marketing process. This is where the majority of gamers will see your product. This is also a crucial time to make sure all of your designs and promos are in order.
“Focus on solid branding for the store page. What I mean is that if you’re on Steam, make sure any front-facing assets (logo, box art, screenshots, trailer, etc.) that are on the page are pristine and polished. The store page is what’s going to be influencing people to buy the game, and it’s vital to ensure that it’s as neat and polished as it can be.”
How Much Money Does Steam Make per Game?
The usual rate that Valve collects from selling the game is around 30%.
How Do I Publish A Game on Steam?
First, you are going to need the Steamworks fee of $100.
List of Indie Games Communities
Some beneficial and generous indie game communities will give you valuable feedback and tips on your video game marketing journey. Here are some of the most notable places. Predictably, there are quite a few subreddits dedicated to everything indie:
- Reddit Indie Gaming r/IndieGaming
- Unity Forum
- IndieDB: Rockin’ Indie Games one pixel at a time
- Gamedev – game development, programming, design, writing, math, art, jams, postmortems, marketing
- Play My Game – A place for indie developers to share their games!
- Indie Games – discussion, news, dev blog updates, releases, demos, teasers, reviews
Indie Game Funding
How Do Video Games Get Funding?
Many video games get funding through different publishing companies. Recently, there has been an indie game boom in which the developers themselves pay for the game’s development or acquire Kickstarter donations.
How Do You Kick Start A Video Game?
You need to outline your project, make it appealing, and gather the hype for your potential project. Upload your idea with screenshots, goals, incentives, and more to pull people in.
How Much Money Do Indie Games Make?
It depends. They don’t make too much after the fees paid towards the publishers and Steam, but if the developer is dedicated to the game’s success, they can get comfortable. You need to find a valuable balance, as releasing games actually cost money.