Not long ago I was brainstorming for a visualization how important marketing should be during the early stages of development and came up with problems writing blog entries about theoretical approaches every developer should consider. There are many games that are greenlit but still considered financial failures. Why is that? Can we learn from them? I came up with a template that takes the most influential factors for marketing success or failure and applies them to forgotten games to show what developers could have done better and what you have to keep in mind when designing your marketing strategy.
This is in no way a criticism of the games themselves (quite the contrary, I’ll try to pick up games that look polished and could have filled a certain niche with better marketing)
I will try to review games that did an extremely good job at their marketing every now and then but focus primarily on mixed campaigns to highlight common struggles.
Criteria for game selection:
- Games with less than 100 reviews but have majority positive impressions and could have filled a niche with more awareness
- Recently released (trying to capture the game industry and its environment as it currently is)
- Quality games in general (marketing can’t help shitty games, at least not if they’re indie and self-published)
- Pc only; no mobile ports
- No genre specification
- No “troll” games like “Shower With Your Dad Simulator” (these games tend to draw more attention due to Youtubers picking them up –an interesting and perfectly valid niche though)
- Has to be released (greenlit) in order to judge every aspect of a campaign
Points of interest:
The game itself:
- Is the game well made, do people like it, do they have complaints?
- What did Youtubers/press say about its gameplay?
- Review scores
- Layout of landing page (similar to the template by IndieGameGirl-)
- Content (every written word like blog, press kit and little info about developer)
- Trailer (first impression is important)
- Is social media linked?
- Any form of mail subscription?
- (Does it look SEO optimised?) – only if enough content is available
Social Media presence:
- What channels are covered?
- How well is the community responding to posts? (community fostering)
- Did they target smaller subsets? (Pinterest/Instagram/Tumblr/rss/subreddits/indie forums)
- How well done is the content posted? (including content on steam greenlight)
- Is the blog engaging/does it help the cause?
- Regularity of posts – does it look like they have a content plan like the one below in place?
- Do I get an overarching message of a content strategy by looking at their history?
- Was there an effort by developers to hand out free copies? (ideally before release)
- How well was game perceived
- Did Youtubers cover it? (In which form? Let’s plays? Reviews?) (What was the sub average of Youtubers that covered the game?)
- When did the coverage happen? (Right before release? After release? Or even during early development?)
Booth presence at conventions and gatherings:
- Did the developer go out to show his game directly to potential fans and press?
- (accuracy might vary because of lack of information I have access to)
- Was there a Kickstarter?
- If so – successful? How well done was it?
- Was it simple and engaging enough?
- Does it link to everything important?
- Only looking at greenlit games
- How well made was the site
- How did the developer respond to comments during the greenlight phase
- What could have been better
Post release marketing:
- Hotfixes and patches
- Community fostering post release in forums (Was there an open dialog?)
- Press coverage after release
- Time of release
- Other obvious missteps
- Price tag
With this, I hope you’ll gain a better overview on what you yourself have to keep in mind.
It’s certainly not easy and actually not realistic to do all those steps perfectly while developing the game and although those are the most important factors, it will never guarantee a financial success or the next big indie hit. This maximizes the odds though, which are stacked against you without any marketing and outreach.