GameDev Protips: Mobile Game Marketing 101

No matter what type of mobile game you make, you will always need to effectively market it if you want to see returns for your effort. Mobile gaming requires an even more careful eye on marketing because your results tend to be much more explosive; unpopular games will be nearly abandoned whereas the most popular games (most oftentimes with large paid acquisition budgets) will be making millions. Knowing this, there are several tips that can be mentioned that will minimize the risk of your mobile game flopping, even though with a mobile game, the chances pretty darn high.

Mobile game marketing is a combination of paid and organic traffic. Paid marketing involves calculating your lifetime value (LTV) for each player and spending less than that. Once this is calculated, you’ll likely realize that it is much lower than you would’ve liked it to be. Since the cost of acquiring new users runs extremely high in English speaking markets, you’ll either have to add things in your game to increase your LTV for every player or you won’t be able to use paid ads at all.

Organic traffic is those who find your game naturally through any unpaid channels. This will include app store optimization (ASO) so that your game is seen through a search with general game terms. This is why so many games have incredibly lengthy or needlessly descriptive titles like RPG: Quest for the Sword of Heroes; you have many more words in the title so it’s more likely to be found in a search. Good keywords include ones that will be searched for regardless (such as “puzzle” or “shooter”) and ones that are in already-popular titles (such as “Clash” or “War”). You could always market the game yourself through social media, forums, or reviewers, but these will not have a significant impact. The best source of organic traffic is through official recognition by Apple/Google or already being on a top app leaderboard.

General rule-of-thumb says that about 20%, if not more, of a company’s budget should be used for marketing, even in the case of having a small budget. Larger companies can afford to spend money on marketing to multiple channels (including TV, social media, or media outlets), but smaller companies won’t be able to afford this and thus will need to choose their channels carefully. Investing in the wrong marketing channel has a high chance of being an expensive mistake, but there’s a bit of a catch-22 involved in that you really have to experiment with different channels in order to figure out which one gives you the best return on investment. Obviously, you need to do your market research before you begin marketing. If you don’t know where to start, find someone who is making a game in your genre that you can talk to about and see what’s working or not working for them. Regardless of how you communicate with them, the information you receive will be invaluable in the future. You can never ask enough questions either!

Even with a ton of research, it is hard to hit the perfect balance of luck and unknown factors that will cause your game to explode in popularity, and it can’t be planned for as a result. Since you want to ensure that your game development outfit can survive, you have to either make games where people can spend massive amounts of money and play for a huge amount of time (which will increase your LTV and your marketing budget), or you have to make a game cheaply so that very little will go wrong in the case of a few downloads. One of the best strategies is to make a few games that are well-received with a small but steady player base, then using that to get your games featured and catapult your popularity as a result. Don’t be afraid to target a super small niche.

Now, once your marketing plan is in action, you need to ensure that you’re watching the results constantly. You can use the data you receive from one plan to help your efforts in the future, such as noticing that most people are coming from Facebook or most paying customers are from YouTube and thus directing your marketing to those locations. Ultimately, your first mobile marketing plan is a stepping stone for the rest. As you constantly improve your technique through analysis of your plans, you’ll keep reaching new users and growing your revenue for your mobile games for years to come.

Important Takeaways: Mobile game marketing is very hit-and-miss, so it requires lots of planning. First, you should check to see if you can support paid ads for your game, and if you can’t you’ll either have to redesign the game in a way that can or accept that you won’t be using them. Next, you should work on making your game as easily findable through organic means as possible, such as having popular words or generic words in your title. After that, you have to carefully perform market research in one way or another so that you know which channels to market to; failure to do so can result in very expensive mistakes. When in doubt, find another developer or publisher and ask what has worked or not worked for them.

Even if you have a detailed and comprehensive action plan, luck and other unknown factors will likely be the deciders of your game’s end popularity. Because of this, you’ll have to design your game in a way so that it can accommodate potentially not being popular, whether this is through having whales keeping your game afloat or just having a cheap development cost in the first place. Using your successes as advertisements can help increase your popularity as a whole. Once you’ve put your plan into action, you should look at the results and find out where to market in the future from them. Just like your indie game itself, it’s all about the iterative process. Never stop measuring and learning from your efforts. Each marketing plan is a stepping stone for the next, and as long as you’re learning from your mistakes, you’ll constantly find new users and grow your mobile game revenue in the future.

GameDev Protips: How To Sell More Copies Of Your Indie Game

If you’re new to marketing your games, attracting an audience can be an intimidating prospect. People are constantly bombarded with advertisements and sales pitches and tend to be receptive to only the most effective marketing strategies. Even if you do get the attention you want, how do you ensure that interest from potential customers turns into sales for your game? Below are a few ways to attract an audience and develop a future customer base.

Try to stand out from your competitors. It is important to position your product and brand to fill the needs of your audience. To succeed at this, your product must be better than those of your competitors, or you must be able to meet a previously unmet need. There is no way to get around the necessity of being the best in your specific niche, or to create a new niche for yourself. If you cannot do either of these things, your audience will just go to your competitors. When making a game, ensure that your game has the potential to be one of the best in its genre, or so unique that it practically creates a sub-genre of its own.

Identify any missed opportunities. What are some potential products that your niche may be interested in? What are some unsolved problems they might have? Is there anything that you could be doing that your competitors aren’t? Identify some ways your product is different from others in your field to help you narrow down your opportunities. Another factor worth considering is the existing audience. Do you want to sell to people who are already in your field, or do you want to bring new customers in from the outside? What your product looks like will differ depending on whether you’re selling to insiders or outsiders.

Kickstart your audience. You’ve done a lot of background work and market research and you’re ready to move forward. Now you need to attract the attention of potential customers. Find out where your audience is; you need to go to them and then bring them to your landing page (with an option for them to opt into your mailing list) or Steam store page. Since you’ve already done your demographic research, you should visit the websites or social media outlets that they’re on and try to get them to check out your game. If your initial advertisements appeal to them and manages to generate leads, then ask your audience to check back in with you for periodic updates via email or social media. Once you’ve got a few hundred fans or so, then you should start sending emails frequently in order to keep them engaged and interested. You may be asking yourself, “How can I get that many subscribers?” There are two main strategies for attracting readers: Guest-posting and utilizing paid ads.

Guest-posting is easy. By conducting market research on your niche, you might be familiar with some of their favorite websites or blogs. Ask the owner of said websites if you can write guest posts for them. The purpose of this strategy is to get people acquainted with your brand and to get them interested in your own business. Make sure to post content relevant to your audience’s needs and only post content you would already be posting on your own site. You can also do paid ads. If you have a larger budget along with a strategy to scale up, paid ads are the way to go. For as little as a few hundred dollars of marketing spend, you can get as many as 500–1000 new readers per month if you play your cards right. Always continue to grow your audience. You want to frequently email your fans with pure value. When it comes to gamers, you’ll want to send them news about the latest updates to your game.

Looking for more ways to engage with your audience? Start a development blog and create content. You want to make sure to establish guidelines for what your blog as well as marketing materials will cover. If you’re having trouble getting started, take a look at what your competitors are doing. What are some great ideas you can mimic by some of your top competitors? It’s tempting to dive right in, but planning out your marketing strategy in advance will help you avoid missteps and will ensure that you will have enough content available. Remember to also set a schedule for your posts should you decide to go down this route. Once you have some ideas flowing, you need to post content consistently. This will not only get you in the habit of posting regular updates but will also give your audience something to look forward to.

Gradually, expand to social media, and keep the flow of updates constant. People tend to have other things going on in their lives and they might forget about you. Don’t let your audience forget about you and your game by consistently providing valuable content to your audience. For example, if you’re making a roguelike game, a large portion of your fanbase might be developers who are making their own roguelikes. Create content that caters to them, then convert your followers. If you built a relationship with your followers, you can now head on to the next step. Try not to push your product too much though, or you will come off as annoying. Simply bring attention to your game either with a catchy lead or through one of your blog posts. If you’re already driving traffic to your site, draw more. Build your subscriber lists and make sure your readers understand what differentiates your game from other products on the market. If your game is just a clone of another one, no one will really care. If someone is really interested in your offering, they’ll more than likely purchase it after knowing of its benefits. Your aim should always be to convert people who may be interested in your game, into people who will buy your game.

Important Takeaways: Even if you have a stellar game, without an audience, it’ll be fruitless. Also, even if you have an audience, that doesn’t necessarily mean that you have a lot of customers. There are four important steps in making sure you attract an audience and develop a future customer base: Standing out from competitors, continuously growing your audience, and converting your followers into customers. In order to stand out from your competitors, you must tap previously untapped potential or have a better or more unique game than your competition. In order to grow your audience, you need to pull your audience directly from similar audiences in your niche.

Once they’ve been pulled to you, ensure they stay for the ride with periodic updates. If you want to continuously grow your audience, you must ensure that you consistently put out content that will keep the attention of old followers and also pull in the occasional new follower. Lastly, once you have a large enough audience you can begin converting it into a customer base through an honest presentation of your game’s unique selling points. As long as your audience knows why your game is different from others on the market, and why it’s legitimately good, it’ll stand a good chance of surviving and thriving in the marketplace.

GameDev Protips: How To Effectively Promote Your Indie Game By Targeting Advocates, Peers, and Big Fish

The indie game market today is rough, to say the least. The best indie games can go unnoticed while the cheap clones get all of the fame and the fortune that comes with it. As a result, knowing how to properly market your games is a key factor in the success of your games as a whole. The best way to do this is to cater to three specific types of people.

Advocates are the loyal members of your brand that will retweet anything you Tweet and like every Facebook post you post. These are also the people that will spread knowledge of your game to friends and family. Obviously, the more loyal members you have, the more well known your games will be, so it’s strongly encouraged to provide value to these members on both social media and email. Creating or updating a weekly newsletter or blog roundup is a good way to start. With regards to email, include links to your social media and experiment with ways of asking your subscribers to share the content; after all, when a fan becomes a beacon for other potential fans your game will become well known much quicker.

Peers are those people or brands in your field that are attempting to capture the attention of the same people that you are. From my experience, we’ve found that when both parties are marketing to a similar audience it’s effective to work with these peers as your potential audience size is increased and it’s good business practice due to mutual benefits. The “partner” conditions could be as simple as agreeing to share each other’s content on social media or cooperatively writing a blog post and as in-depth as creating free resources to share among both parties which will capture the attention of your audience. Starting a partnership is rather easy as it starts with a simple message to the content manager or social media manager of the company you’re interested in working with a few valuable partnership ideas and the benefits that come with them for both parties.

Last but certainly not least are the Big Fish. These are the people or companies that have a powerful and wide-reaching influence that can easily promote your game. Despite how useful they are, connecting with them may not be as hard as most people think it is. After all, at the end of the day, they’re still just human like you and me. The only difference is the audience they have amassed as a result of years of hard work. There are a few basic principles when you are attempting to connect with an influencer. First and most importantly, you have to provide value for them. Why would they help you if there’s no benefit? In terms of behavior, expect nothing in return, be polite, and simply act like a genuine human being. As long as you are on friendly terms with them and are making it worth their time, this relationship will build up over time into one that is both mutually beneficial and trusting.

Important Takeaways: Today’s market can be frustrating for many as marketing is everything. Even if you have a better game, the game that is better known might still come out on top. Fortunately, you can solve this through proper marketing which involves catering to three specific groups of people: advocates, peers, and the “big fish.” Advocates are loyal members of your brand that will spread information that you send out whenever they can. Since this is a valuable trait this group of people should receive particular attention and obtain value for their loyalty. Peers are people or brands that are looking to market to the same audience as you. Because of this, partnerships have the potential to work out so you should attempt to create one for mutual benefits. Last but certainly not least are the “big fish,” which are those people or companies that have a powerful, wide-spread influence due to the time and work they have put into doing what they do. If you want to catch a “big fish,” you have to attempt to reach them and provide value for their time as well as act in a generally friendly manner. This way you can hopefully create a relationship over time that is worth the effort and time for the big fish and enormously helpful to you as well.

GameDev Thoughts: Marketing Your Indie Game The Right Way

Marketing plays an integral role in getting your game out there, and making sure that you see a return on your investment of making indie games. You might be thinking that marketing is simple, that you already have a ton of friends and family signed up that all want to play. This may be true, but whilst aiming at your closest peers is a very intuitive idea, it will only get your game so far. Even if you have 5,000 friends on Facebook who are all generating some good “buzz” about your game, it will still take a lot more creative thinking and genuine effort on your part if you really want your game to have a chance at being a success story.

When beginning to market your game, one of the first things to consider is the type of game you have. Your friends and family members may buy your game because they know you, and they like you, but how long will they realistically play it? Is your game’s ROI platform based on in-app or in-game purchases? If it’s the latter, even your closest buddies who likes your game may not feel compelled enough to spend real money inside the game. This is exactly why you need to market to your target audience.

Another major part of your marketing plan will be to ensure you create a solid fan-base. Your game is nothing without a database of customers and potential customers who will rush to buy your game once it is released. If you have an established studio, this should be easy, but if not, this may be a bit of a challenge. If you are just starting on the first stages of production for your game, or even if you are right in the middle of it, you can still get started on marketing on your game. In fact, this is a great thing to do to get a head start on your marketing initiatives.

One effective way to build hype for your game in the early stages is to create an email newsletter. If you have a website, you can easily create a sign-up option as soon as people visit your site. You can offer your audience a small incentive in return for giving you their email address. This might be a free e-book, access to exclusives, or maybe even discounts on your game or other products you may have in your inventory. By offering something upfront, your audience will get the feeling that you are genuine about creating and fostering a relationship with them, and you are not just interested in spamming them about your game.

Once you have started collecting some email addresses, it’s a good idea to start storing them in a secure database. Categorize your list by people who have bought from you before, those who open your emails, and people who just do not feel interested. That way you can proactively target those in your base more effectively. For instance, those who have purchased from you before are most likely to purchase from you again. Perhaps they might even be interested in additional add-ons and exclusives meetups with the developers, or some other extras. Whatever it may be, these group of fans need to know that they are appreciated, and that’s the way you generate repeat customers.

On the other hand, there are people who avoid all your emails. They may even be thinking about unsubscribing. Maybe their initial interest and enthusiasm in your product has waned. One, quick-question survey is your best bet. What would make the experience better for them? If you can find any way to engage them, do it, and do it fast. Time is of the essence for these people, and the possibilities of repairing this relationship may be destroyed before it even begins.

Important Takeaways: Marketing is one of the key parts of your game development process, if you wish for it to be a success. Those developers who simply think they can rely on their friends and family will find it much more difficult to get their games into the hands of the wider audiences. Take a look at various marketing methods, such as newsletter emails which can be used to great effect at creating hype for your game’s launch.

GameDev Protips: 5 Basic Yet Highly Effective Marketing Strategies

Indie developers are mostly brilliant when it comes to constructing their game but when release time comes many are often left with the question: “How do I get people to notice my game?” There really is no secret. The ones that find the most success are usually the ones with the best presentation and marketing alongside a solid core gameplay experience. Here are a few tips on how to get your game out there to the masses the right way.

Get on social media. The number one thing any and all studios should have is a social media presence. Set up a Facebook, Twitter, Blog, Website, YouTube channel, etc… anything and everything that can be used as a tool to broadcast your ideas, get on it! You do not know how many times indie game developers come asking for our marketing services without even a website for their studio or game. It really is super simple to set up, and the time invested in interacting with the community goes a real long way in getting word out about your game. “But I am not very social!” is an excuse that comes to mind when I state this but you need to make the effort to reach out to your community or else who will know about your product? Word of mouth only goes so far, and even then you have to establish the word to begin with.

Have a good design sense. Once you have set up your social media accounts for your studio you should keep it consistent as to what is posted and what imagery you use. You have to brand yourself with an appealing logo that is simple enough to be easily identified yet unique enough to be instantly recognizable. Use a color scheme between all platforms and keep the layouts fairly consistent. I think a lot of people underestimate the importance of a color scheme. Using a complementary blend that is appealing to the eye really gives off a look of professionalism and goes a long way to establishing your presence.

Post, post, post! Anything and everything about your game, post! People enjoy quality content and the more you post, the more people will be hungry for more content. Post things that tell the players what your game is about, post early concept art (people LOVE concept art!), take some time and create a few short videos showing off gameplay or your story or even behind the scenes interviews with your developers. Post everything you can because the more content you post, the more buzz will be generated by people over your social media platforms in anticipation of your release.

Emphasize your website. So you have your Facebook, Twitter and YouTube accounts up and running, now move on to making your website. This part is very essential in linking all of your social media outlets together on one, readily available space. There is nothing more frustrating to a journalist than stumbling upon the Facebook or Twitter account of a studio that is creating an interesting game only to not have any more information on how to contact them. Your game’s website is the number one place any journalist will go to first when considering your title, so make sure you have at least something they can get at that has all your contact and press information easily accessible. Make sure at the very least you have a contact email address, links to your social media pages, and a press kit that includes all the information a journalist can use without having to ask you questions about your project. Be sure it has screenshots, logos, banners, bio about your studio and bio about your game.

Reach out to the press. This part can be exhaustive but it is probably the most important job that needs to be done. Create a list of press contacts (websites, bloggers, youtubers, etc…) and send out press releases about your game. When you are closer to release, have some review keys ready to send out to reviewers or even a beta build that can be played by journalists. Nothing is worse for a journalist than when they receive a press release about a game that has no playable build handy. They simply cannot review something that they have not had a hands on experience with.

In the end there is no quick, guaranteed way for getting your game out there to the masses. You have to be willing to put in some extra work in establishing an online presence and interacting with your potential player base. You may be an incredible developer that has created something that is potentially ground-breaking but if no one knows about it then what have you accomplished? Having a marketing plan is vital to any games success and it’s not even that far-fetched to even say in some cases marketing is the key factor to making a game successful. Take some time and research the marketing campaigns of some older games that did find success. See what they did on social media and look at their online presence in different communities. The far majority of the time you will find that successful games become successful not only because of the content of the game, but because of the developers willingness to interact with people and the studios ability to reach a vast audience.

Important Takeaways: Get on as many social media platforms as you and your team can handle. Be consistent in your branding (don’t be afraid to hire some help for logo design). Once you’re on social media, don’t be afraid to keep posting — as long as what you’re posting is valuable of course. Think… awesome screenshots, epic gifs, and exclusive sneak peeks at the development process. Also, don’t neglect your website — again, don’t be afraid to hire some help. A sloppy website is a horrible website. Finally, reach out to some press. As of this writing, it’s pretty difficult to get coverage if your game doesn’t stand out as something truly unique though. Make sure your game is worth marketing in the first place.

GameDev Protips: How To Get Your Indie Game Covered By The Press

With the indie game market pretty darn saturated these days, it’s very hard to stand out. You’ll need to have something that differentiates you from the crowd. Here are a few quick tips.
Firstly, tell an interesting story. With many AAA games coming out, gaming magazines and websites simply do not have the time to cover all indies, so if you want to stand out, the best way of actually doing that is to make an interesting story about your game which is short but comprehensive. You need to show why they should cover your game, and what features set your game apart from the myriad of me-too indie games already out there in the market. Remember, no journalist wants to cover yet another clone, or some kind of student project. Tell something interesting about the development process, the team involved, or just something that isn’t simply, “I made an indie game, please check it out.”

Get in contact with the right people. There are way too many gaming sites, so if you want the proper media coverage, you need to access the right sources to do that. Each gaming website tends to focus on different genres nowadays, so try to find the one that caters to the genre of your game and send it there, as this will increase the chances for your game to receive coverage. For example, if you’re making a retro shmup for PC, don’t accidentally send a bulk email to a website that mainly covers RPGs.

Remember, when it comes to the press release, keep it short and concise. You love the game you created and can talk hours about it, but let’s face it, if you want to have the best outcome, you need to say more in less time. Bring out the exciting stuff first and spark interest with the help of your game’s stellar features, as this would help you get the results you seek. When it comes to the pitch, don’t bore journalists with an overly long history of your game world. Instead, focus on emphasizing key selling points that they might be interested in. The last thing a journalist wants to read is three paragraphs of backstory about the lore in your game.

Launch at the right time. Some months are more filled with AAA game launches, so you need to see what big games are appearing in that period of time and avoid them, instead try to reach out to journalists during a time period that makes sense. Journalists usually will want to keep up with the latest releases, and so your tiny indie release has much more chance of slipping under the radar. Also, If you want coverage, then ensure that the journalists actually have a way to cover your game. A good way of doing that is to provide a key for your game. If your outreach email doesn’t contain a way to download the game, chances are, it’s going right into the bin. It also helps to be ultra responsive. Press people might have questions for you about your game, so make sure that you respond to their questions promptly. This will help get your press coverage faster, even if it might catch you at a bad time. No one likes waiting too long to get a reply back. If you find yourself too swamped with emails, a short email back will suffice.

Of course, at the core of it all, you just have to make a great game, because in the end this is all that matters. A good game will have a much better shot at press coverage and recognition, so it’s crucial to ensure the quality of your game is top notch. Try not to cut corners, and instead devote at least a good three to six months minimum to polish it before releasing into the wild.

Important Takeaways: Tell an interesting story when reaching out to press, or whenever talking about your game in general. Get in touch with the right people, and double down on your game’s niche. Actively seek out communities that will actively play your game instead of simply promoting the game to other game developers on social media. Launch at the right time (ask other game developers about their experiences) and most importantly, make your game’s vertical slice as polished as possible. Remember that first impressions are everything it comes to indie games — don’t rush anything.