Indie Game Marketing: Best Strategies to Succeed in 2024
In 2023, when video games are all the rage and publishers are shelling out AAA titles one after another, it can be challenging for an Indie game developer to reach the target audience. But Indie games are just like any other product that will find its consumers if you market it smartly.
What Is An Indie Game?
Before delving into the marketing strategy for indie games, it's essential to clarify the meaning of an Indie game. An Indie or independent game is created by individuals or small teams without large-scale financial support.
Indie games are usually developed on a smaller budget compared to AAA (big-budget) titles. Typically, an indie game development cost range can be anywhere between $10,000 to $50,000. With boundless creative freedom, Indie games are often rooted in tight-knit communities.
Indie Game Marketing Strategies for 2024
Minecraft was the turning point for Indie game developers. Without a big publisher attached to its name and limited resources, the game managed to become a global hit. Statistically, the average game has a shelf life of about 2 years, but Minecraft is still relevant, boasting 163.67 million monthly active players in 2023.
These numbers continue to provide a silver lining for Indie game developers who may find it challenging to stay motivated in an uber-competitive market where 70% of Indie games are commercial failures. This is primarily because most Indie game devs focus on the technical aspects of game development and overlook the subsequent phases in the development life cycle.
Development is only part of an extensive process. A successful game calls for a stellar Indie Game Marketing Strategy. Here are some Indie game marketing tips that may help you find your playerbase.
Build a Marketing Funnel
Marketing becomes easy when you have clear goals and outlets to achieve those goals. From awareness to advocacy, you need to create a trackable funnel to detect problem areas and deliver prompt solutions.
A game Marketing Funnel has four main stages: Awareness, interest, consideration, and conversion.
For example, take this Game Marketing Funnel: Reddit > Discord > Steam Page > Beta > Purchase.
If you succeed in starting a conversation around your game on Reddit but don't have a proper Discord setup, your non-existent Marketing Funnel will tank mid-way. This often happens because developers don't have a complete Indie game marketing strategy.
Before rolling out the game, craft a Marketing Funnel that is smooth sailing. Where does your paid ad lead to? What's the purpose of your newsletter? These are some questions you need to ask before spending a single penny out of your Indie game marketing budget.
Each tile in the funnel must be trackable as well, so you can decipher if players dislike the game or if they even reach the Steam Page. For example, you can track social media awareness through impressions, interest and consideration on ad/post click rate, and action on the number of copies sold.
App Store Optimization (ASO)
Indie mobile game developers might face challenges in getting people to play their games, as it's not easy for indie games to appear in search results. Mobile players don't discover most apps via ads but deliberately type in search terms. This is why more than 50% of the apps are discovered via search. It may not sound as competitive, but another report reveals only 5% of apps accounted for 92% of downloads.
There's no silver bullet solution to skyrocket your downloads on the App Store. Devs often opt for the App Store feature, but it's not a sustainable solution. HBR indicates that daily revenues plummeted by over 75% within 30 days and a staggering 85% within 60 days after the App was featured.
Now, popping out in this market can be tricky, but ASO can help. ASO is basically a play on keywords to get your App to rank higher and be more visible on the search engine. To achieve a good score, make sure your App title, description, and info is keyword optimized. It won't hurt to have similar keyphrases in your image gallery as well.
To make a successful game, you must know what your target audience is looking for. For example, your game is called "Dragon Fight." For a game like this, a player may search for "games about animals fighting" or similar. Integrate similar phrases into the title and other text content.
In 2023, a consumer is more likely to purchase your product if they hear good things about it. Ads make noise, but Word of Mouth makes waves. Fortunately, influencers are more than willing to review your games, play them, and share reviews with viewers.
Some developers may hesitate to embrace influencer marketing because of its high cost, but its impactful results position it as a necessity deserving a significant portion of your Indie game marketing budget rather than just an optional strategy.
Starting with a modest launch, Among Us soared to an astounding 125 million downloads within a few months of Sodapoppin's stream. Starting with a modest launch, Among Us soared to an astounding 125 million downloads within a few months of Sodapoppin's stream. His stream started a chain reaction as more streamers jumped on the hype bandwagon, turning Among Us into a cultural phenomenon in gaming. There were memes, music, and a whole new Among Us "lingo" that ultimately boosted game sales.
Micro-influencers Are Everywhere
Of course, it's nice to aim for what Among Us achieved, but paying a macro-influencer may cost twice as much as your entire development cost. Hiring a streamer like Sodapoppin is well outside an average Indie game marketing budget.
The great thing is that micro-influencers with followers under 50,000 can also contribute significantly to your game's success. You want to have as many eyes on your games as possible. If you have confidence in the quality of your indie game, collaborating with an influencer boasting 50K subscribers can work wonders for your sales.
But you want to pick the influencer and the platform carefully. Avoid marketing an Indie PC game on the channel of a Mobile game streamer. Choosing the right streamer and approach is a task in itself, and lone developers may not have the time to hunt for the perfect streamer. In this case, opt for websites like Lurkit, where Indie game streamers are categorized neatly and are available to review, market, play, and talk about your game.
On Lurkit, you may connect with macro and micro streamers who already have a viewer base and would enjoy your Indie game. Instead of spending your entire budget on a Twitch bigshot, go for micro-influencers with followers under 10K. This can be done through a third-party platform, but on Lurkit, you'd save a big chunk of your hard-earned money. Instead of paying the influencer directly, you can set up organic key campaigns for a lower price.
Similarly, choose a platform where gamers are active. Around 79% of brands prefer Instagram for influencer campaigns compared to 36% who use YouTube. However, your gaming audience is on YouTube and Twitch. Opt for Twitch or YouTube streamers to make your game pop.
Gamers Are On Social Media
Social Media can be the difference maker in determining the popularity of your game. Per X Marketing, there has been a 75% increase from 2019 in gaming Tweets for a total of 2 billion Tweets, and 60% of people who use Twitter describe themselves as gamers. Gaming groups on Facebook have over 230m+ users. These numbers prove social media is where your target audience is at.
While crafting your Indie game marketing plan, don't overlook the significance of social media. Use each channel for a set purpose. For example, most gamers come to Twitter to see other gamers' opinions and reviews, Facebook is typically used for news and trailers, and Instagram is used for background action.
However, just hopping on to social media and posting isn't enough. A data-driven strategy can do wonders for your product. A report suggests that short-form videos are the most exciting content, with 79% of respondents finding them engaging, and images are the second most engaging content format. Live videos, blog posts or articles, long-form videos, and infographics are found to be the least interesting. While the data may fluctuate, conducting even a small amount of research can steer you toward posting the right content on social media that attracts gamers.
Following the above-mentioned data, you should post GIFs, memes, and shorts in 2024 to rope in more eyes on social channels. Be relevant and use the target audience's voice to take them to the next medium in your Marketing Funnel.
Pre-launch Marketing Phase
Marketing starts months or years before the launch. You can't expect your game to top the charts without creating awareness and FOMO (fear of missing out) ahead of the launch. This can be achieved by creating a social media marketing strategy that resonates with the audience, engages them, and creates a strong culture.
Take Poppy Playtime as an example here. The game's trailer wasn't dropped out of nowhere, instead it was followed by cryptic VHS, images and teasers. The narrative prompted a small community to create theories, headcanons, and fan art. Forums like Reddit were buzzing with lore and ideas, creating a sense of FOMO. More players hopped on the hype train because they didn't want to miss the launch.
Build a small but invested community through social channels that spread positive word of mouth, leading to a decent launch. This is possible by creating a storyline of your game online through teasers rather than just posting a trailer straight away.
Trust The Process
Marketing a game is often the most challenging part of the process for most Indie developers. The indie game market is massive but uneven. Over 95% of games on Steam are indie titles, but they make up only 40% of Steam sales. Even 40% of sales come only from popular Indie titles, whereas 70% of those games are commercial failures.
So, breaking it into the top percentage, accumulating millions or at least thousands, is a tall order. Sometimes, you will do everything right, but the game may fail to blast into the stratosphere in the first few weeks or even months. However, if you're confident that you've developed a great game, proceed with marketing and have faith in the process.
For example, Among Us had a slow release, but it took off almost a year later in 2019. During the whole process, the devs continued to roll out updates for the smaller playerbase even though they had their reservations.
“It didn’t release super well,” programmer and business lead Forest Willard told Kotaku.“By December , we started to pick up enough players that the game would stay alive 24/7, and that was, you know, good enough. We stuck with Among Us a lot longer than we probably should have from a pure business standpoint. We tried to quit and should have quit several times."
In 2019-2020, Among Us was on top of Steam charts with the help of top Twitch streamers who discovered the game. Now, influencer marketing does come into play here. Even though Among Us' chartbreaking success was mostly organic, it proves just how crucial streamers are in an Indie game's success.
Among Us popped up on the feed of top Twitch streamers because smaller influencers in Korea and Brazil were already playing it. This proves that influencer marketing at a smaller scale can also be highly impactful. But, most importantly, you need to be patient and trust the process.
The Indie game industry will only grow in 2023, and marketing is the ultimate key to standing out. These Indie Game Marketing tips may help you get started with your Indie Game Marketing journey and hopefully make enough money to fund the next project!