Free & Cheap Online Game Marketing Tactics for Indie Developers

Free & Cheap Indie & Mobile Game Marketing Tactics for Developers

While I have always had an interest in games, my marketing background comes from mostly non-game projects, some of which you can find here. I still receive inbound inquiries for non-game marketing projects, and I will take on those project on occasion. One benefit of doing so is that it allows me to view various channels (search, social media, paid, etc.) from a fresh perspective, and then apply those new insights to game marketing.

 Here is a recording of the above presentation I gave at the 3rd Power-Up Digital Games Conference. Skip ahead to the 5:00 mark in the below facebook video:

Using Social Media to Promote Games:

I recommend that you at least try to be omnipresent on Social Media. You should test each platform to evaluate what it will take to grow on that channel, and evaluate if it will be worth the cost to proceed. The key is to recycle content (video, images, etc.) and utilize automation tools like Edgar to save time and energy.

The three main platforms you should focus on to reach gamers are:
1. Facebook can be a difficult platform to achieve results on organically (free), but by sharing native videos (not YouTube links) across groups, you can be seen. FB ads also start at $1/day, which grants you the chance to test out different creatives before investing into a launch campaign.
2. Twitter has a very active game development community, and most of your activity can be automated.
3. Instagram: You can not automate IG anymore, but you have more hashtag options and high engagement. Recycle your photos and videos, which you will have to manually post over time from a touchscreen device. Be sure that the link in your profile bio goes directly to the game that you are promoting.

Here are some tips from other game industry marketing specialists:

Jesse Collins, CEO, Zettabyte MPR:

  • “Networking is key. It doesn’t matter what you know or who you know, but who knows you. You aren’t doing this alone and you never will succeed if you try to go it completely alone. This includes people that can help with the game all the way to people that will talk about your game in the media.
  • The loudest person is nearly always heard. When all of the devs are shouting, it pays to stand out in your marketing or even unique features in your game.
  • You can do everything right and still fail (Just like the Kobayashi Maru, from Star Trek, where who matter the way you go about it, you lose.). You can’t let that discourage you. Trudge on. It’s just an obstacle. This is a difficult industry to be in when your peers are all doing the exact same thing. See above: Be the loudest.”

Marcus Howard, Founder, Project MQ:

  • “Counter-intuitively, the most effective marketing has nothing to do with what you sell. Focus on relevant content that is entertaining for (or valuable to) your audience.
  • Generally speaking, video content gets more engagement than static images, and static images get more engagement than plain text. 6-second MP4s are best.
  • Collaborate with others to help create valuable content that your combined audiences will enjoy .”

Daniel Doan, Co-Founder & Chief Growth Officer, Black Shell Media:

  1. “Post on popular groups and forums such as gaming and game development Facebook groups as well as reddit’s /r/gaming and /r/gamedev. Tell a story with your post. Explain your journey in an honest and authentic way. The last thing you want to do is to jump in with, “PLEASE CHECK OUT MY NEW GAME!” — No one is going to bite, and you’ll probably get hit with the banhammer pretty quickly.
  1. Release your trailer and make sure it gets posted on social media accounts in the right way. When it comes to Twitter, make sure to use 2–3 hashtags with every post. When it comes to Instagram, make sure that the call to action is crystal clear (tell them to click the link in your bio). Note that some platforms such as Facebook will penalize you if you link out, so when it comes on making FB posts, upload the actual video file onto FB and make a post on your game’s page, then share that page to relevant groups.
  1. If you already have a developer blog, great! Keep it updated. Otherwise, make sure to start a developer blog. With every post, make sure to syndicate it across all major social media channels to drive as much traffic as possible. Even if you don’t have a lot of followers or friends, the backlinks will help.
  1. Find a way to email press, YouTubers, and streamers with game keys. You can either do your own research and reach out personally, reach out with a mass email, pay a PR firm to send out the emails for you, or any combination of the above. In my personal experience, the most traction comes from being real and making sure it’s worth your time. For example, if you’re trying to reach out to 100 YouTubers but you have to manually write and send off every single email, that’s going to take way too long and won’t be efficient. However, if you just outsource it entirely to some marketing company, you won’t be nearly as authentic with your marketing. Find a good middle ground.
  1. Don’t forget the niche forums. For example, if you’re making a roguelike, don’t forget Facebook groups for roguelikes or reddit’s /r/roguelikes. In addition, make sure to scope out games that are similar to your own game and figure out where they hang out. Then, dive in! When I was working on SanctuaryRPG I would always be on forums related to Diablo and ADOM, participating in the community. After I warmed up with these online groups, dropping a shameless plug here and there isn’t too big of a deal. Remember, always seek to provide value first before asking for anything in return. It’s the best way to go about things.
  1. Reach out to other developers with a similar reach and ask them if they’re willing to engage in some kind of cross-promotional activity. This is a great way to leverage an existing audience to your advantage. Remember, for this tactic to work there has to be mutual exchange of value. If you don’t have similar reach, find another way to give them value.
  1. Get on Twitter and tweet at YouTube influencers. Tell them about your game’s launch and ask them to cover it. Now, don’t immediately go after Markiplier or Pewdiepie… aim for the 1,000–100,000 subscribers range. Tweet at them and seek to provide value of some kind. A common thing I’ve noticed is telling them that you’ll be glad to give them a bunch of keys to use as a giveaway, but YMMV. I personally have had a lot of success hitting up influencers by Tweeting at them with pure value.”

 

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