Developing and playing computer games, has become a popular way to keep entertained, and even to keep in touch with people during the COVID pandemic of 2020.
Thanks to the rise of affordable game development software and a generation of coders coming of age, many people are now developing their own games and either adding them to their own website and online store or looking to promote it via online communities.
If you have a budget for marketing then great, you can use social media ads and Google Shopping Ads to promote your game. Remember that there are specific prerequisites for some advertising formats. For example, to use Google Shopping Ads, you will need a website which clearly features your returns policy and your contact details – including a phone number. If you are expecting a lot of interest in your game, it might be worth getting a phone answering app or hiring an overseas virtual assistant to handle emails and calls!
Most indie developers operate on a shoestring budget and don’t have the funds available to pay for online advertising. However, if you have time available, there are many free ways that you can take advantage of.
Somewhat ironically, one of the first rules regarding organic marketing is to not be ‘salesy’. Provide value and build a loyal base of followers, or a tribe first and then look to, sparingly, promote your game…
You’ll also need to ensure that your game is good! You can have the best community in the world, but if your game is no good, there is no way a genuine gaming community will help you to promote it.
You Need Skillz
To promote a game for free, it will help massively if you invest in yourself and build skills in:
- Graphic design
- email marketing
- Website development
- Video editing
You can learn most of these skills for free, by following along with YouTube tutorials or by finding free courses on a website such as Udemy.com
Whilst learning all of these new skills may seem like a huge effort – because it is! If you can successfully learn and apply the skills mentioned, your skillset will be in massive demand. Companies are crying out for and offering great salaries and career prospects for graphic designers, video editors and developers! so even if your game is a flop, you may thank your younger self in 5 years when you have a career in digital marketing or development.
Define Your Audience
Any marketer worth his or her proverbial salt will tell you that to promote a brand, product or service, you will first need to define your audience. Once you know your audience, identify their ‘wants’ and ‘needs’ so that you can create content that addresses these issues and interests.
Who will buy your game?
What are they interested in?
Where do they live?
How old are they?
Where do they hang out online?
What problems do they have?
How do they find games? – Youtube trailers, Twitch, online communities, social media?
Build Your Authority
To become an authority in a particular ‘space’ or niche, you will need to find out where your audience hangs out online. If it’s a platform such as Reddit, then contribute to the discussions on there. You should also conduct some research on Google and on the websites that your audience resides, by finding popular topics and searches.
For example, you can use Google’s predictive search function by searching for a particular phrase such as “Indie gaming” and then adding “a” at the end – “Indie Gaming a” – and then look at any predicted searches that Google presents in and below the address/search bar on Google Chrome. Next type in “indie gaming b” and make a note of any relevant searches:
Do this a-z until you get to “Indie gaming z”. another way to research relevant topics, is by conducting a Google search, and then scrolling to the bottom of the search results page and making note of any relevant ‘related searches’ that Google suggests.
Be sure to visit all the relevant online communities and see what people are asking and discussing. For example, on gaming subreddits are there lots of questions regarding a new console, or virtual reality games, etc?
Twitch is another good place to look – are there a high number of streams that cover the same game or topic? Instagram is also a goldmine of information, just search for relevant hashtags and see what images and videos are commonly appearing in the results.
Content is King
Once you have a shortlist of topics, it’s time to make some content. See what content is already available online and consider whether or not you can make your content substantially better. Can you create more visual, more interactive and/or more in-depth content that is easier to follow? Can you create rich media to include in a blog post but also that fits the style of a particular community or social media platform?
You can also create a Youtube channel. Video is the backbone of many social media marketing campaigns. Marketers begin by creating high-quality videos for Youtube and then trim and edit the content into ‘snippets’ of video, GIFs and memes that are suitable for Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Reddit.
By creating great content, the aim is to create a ‘tribe’ of loyal fans and supporters who will promote your work for you. It is important to keep your blog posts and videos regular, say every week and to participate in conversations and comments. Remember the “ASK” rule – Audience Stays King!
Interact with Your Audience
Yes, we are still working with that audience – the one we identified at the beginning of your marketing and promotional endeavours.
To create a base of evangelists, once you have created some thought-provoking content, consider creating a live stream on Twitch, Youtube and/or Facebook.
The aim is to be available real-time and engage in discussions. If you can be genuine and helpful in this environment, you will likely build a growing community of passionate supporters.
Promote Your Game
Now that you have offered some great value to your audience, it’s a good time to promote your game. A good way to do this is to release a beta version and ask for feedback. If you use the feedback to update the game, the audience will feel like they are part of the development process and are much more likely to help you to promote your game.
You can also share your marketing plan with your audience. Again, their feedback can be highly valuable and they will feel invested in its success almost as much as you do! Finally, ask for help once it is released. If you have email subscribers to your blog, for example, ask them to support your content by providing a review, or support your marketing campaign by sharing a Youtube video.
Other quick tips on promoting our game:
- Go to Metacritic and find contact details for people who have reviewed similar games
- Contribute to Reddit & then post about your ‘journey’ not directly about your game
- Ask ‘authoritative’ Redditors, YouTubers, Twitchers if they want to be in or part of your game
- Reach out to relevant journalists on Twitter
Having watched many great videos on how to promote your game, like this one from Thomas Brush not many gamers or developers want to talk to journalists.
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