How would YOU market an indie game?

Discussion in 'Off-Topic' started by Time4Pizza, Sep 6, 2012.

  1. Time4Pizza

    Time4Pizza Mushroom Warrior

    Say you made a good PC game, but you are a small company and do not have a ton of money to spread the word about it. If you had a very small budget, say a couple of thousand, how would you spread the word about your new awesome game?
  2. Time4Pizza

    Time4Pizza Mushroom Warrior

    I'll go first even though I know nothing about marketing besides what common sense would tell you. First, you need to expose players to your game. That means putting it in places where there are PC gamers. A few places spring to my mind: PC gaming review sites, and brick and mortar stores, and sites which sell PC games such as Steam.

    Obviously you would let the major PC gaming review sites play with your game as much as possible (Gamespy, PC Gamer, Kotaku, etc.). You want those sites with your game in their office being played competitively by their staff right? That way they will give you press. So, you give them the game with some sort of non-disclosure agreement.

    I am not sure how sites like steam work, but our game is browser based, so maybe sites which sell games are not a good fit. But maybe there is a way to promote our game effectively on those retail sites, even if we do not sell the game there directly. After all, PC gamers go to those retail sites to find new games so we want exposure there.

    Then there is the brick and mortar stores. Now we run up against our budget. How can we increase exposure in physical retail locations without a budget? Tough question, but we really really don't want to leave brick and mortar stores out because lots and lots of PC gamers are exposed to their games there. Maybe we attach a promotional item from our game to the box of another game? That way this other game gets to say they have some in-game trinket for a cool new game attached, and we get our name on a physical game box.

    Anyway, you guys get the picture. Crowd sourcing is good, and we should help Blue Man come up with creative ways to promote the game since we are killing time on this forum anyway.
  3. brock

    brock Kobold

    I'd say being the favorite game of one of the creators of PAX is an excellent idea :D In the event you're not talking about Card Hunter, word of mouth among gamers is still an excellent method. Contacting independent and smaller gaming sites with information is a good idea. Those writers aren't always on big-time PR lists, so they're happy to get information on cool new games.
  4. Roshirai

    Roshirai Goblin Champion

    I'd need more context for a proper response. :)

    There are obvious things you can/should do for very little money: set up a website, get game or company-specific Twitter and Facebook feeds going, wire up presskit() and Promoter. I'd start talking to the press about a month or two before you want to release. Kieron Gillen's old write-up has a lot of good tips for how best to go about doing that, and any mentions/traffic you get from this should be easily trackable in Promoter.

    For a budget that small, I don't think you'd get much traction from buying advertisement anywhere. The two things I'd consider doing with that money are...
    1. Investing in a small booth at an appropriate gaming show. PAX Prime is the best example I can think of here: if you were to talk to the Indie Megabooth folks, and had a small cadre of friends/volunteers who could help you with set-up and other logistics, this is the sort of thing you could probably swing for a few thousand dollars.
    2. Investing in a nice trailer for the game. Game sites love posting trailers, and it's the sort of thing you can use and reuse at various points in the game's lifecycle: you can put it on your website, use it on your game's Steam or Steam Greenlight page, and so on. Since it'd be the first impression of your game for a lot of players, spending some time and money on it is important.
    Before doing either of those things, however, ask yourself seriously if your game is the sort that either demos well, or could be shown off effectively by a trailer. Card Hunter's a good example of a game that both looks good in a trailer and is visually appealing and satisfying for a random person on an expo floor to play for five to ten minutes. As a counter-example, I love the Gaslamp Games guys to pieces, but Dungeons of Dredmor is a tough game to effectively demo for a random person on a show floor, given that it's a roguelike and the real fun is in longer, repeated gameplay sessions.

    If the answer to that question for your game is "no", maybe save your money for making the next game. Game development is an iterative process, after all. :)
  5. Roshirai

    Roshirai Goblin Champion

    Oh, you're specifically talking about Card Hunter. :)

    Well, I can speak to a few of the additional points you made...
    Blue Manchu are already taking steps in this direction: just look at all the previews and whatnot that got posted after PAX! It's almost a certainty that there will be members of the gaming press in the beta. I feel like an NDA in this case would be pretty silly, though. :)
    The main path for a game like Card Hunter to get on Steam at this point would be Steam Greenlight. It's the very early days of Greenlight right now, however, so Blue Manchu will likely want to wait until closer to launch to consider submitting the game there, if they even want to!

    If and when they do, however, you'll be able to help them out by becoming active on their Greenlight game page and spreading the word about the game being up there for voting.
    Speaking from past experience, yes, you likely do want to leave brick and mortar stores out: it's a tangled and dangerous thicket out there for an independent, unaffiliated game developer. Thankfully, with a solid product, plenty of word of mouth, and a little luck, Card Hunter should be fine as an online-only title. :)

    All that said, if you want to help Card Hunter succeed, there's a few things you as a member of the community can do...
    1. Stay active on the forums, and be kind, welcoming and informative to new people who arrive.
    2. Tell your friends about Card Hunter! Don't be a spammy jerk, but maybe ship a message to your Facebook and Twitter feed now, and another when beta begins and/or the game launches.
    3. When the game goes live, buy something from Blue Manchu! They need your money for whatever the Australian equivalent of ramen is. :D
    Time4Pizza likes this.
  6. Time4Pizza

    Time4Pizza Mushroom Warrior

    Thanks Roshirai, you're the man. I'm not familiar with Steam Greenlight, I'll have to check it out. I know it might be early, but I do feel like until PAX there were NO previews of this game. I first heard about Card Hunter a week ago, and I love RPGs/Magic/D&D. My gut tells me that perhaps Kotaku, PC Gamer and the like perhaps should have a little more access. If they are only being exposed to it gaming expos right now, I think moving forward they should have playable demos. Those PC gaming sites are going to be Blue Man's bread and butter I think. The more reviews the better! And the more these sites have access to the game the more previews the public gets. Mind you, this is a complete amateur's thinking.

    You are right about brick and mortar though. I do not see a way to make that work. Man oh man though, there are a lot of gamers who like to just walk into a store and buy a game. For instance, I usually research my games before buying, but one day I went to a Best Buy and impulse bought Torchlight. Torchlight was a small game, but it got into retail stores. I realize this is a completely different game, but I feel like there must be a way to get retail store exposure. Maybe one of the rapidly expanding forum community members has an idea.

    And that rings a bell!! What about comic book stores?! Card Hunter HAS to have exposure in comic stores where Magic/DnD players gather. How does an indie game get exposure in comic book stores... hmm, any ideas anyone? And we're not talking about selling the game there, but some way to at least float the name around in comic book stores so dedicated gamers hear about it.
  7. Roshirai

    Roshirai Goblin Champion

    Well, the game was only very recently in a state that Blue Manchu was cool with letting people play. :)

    The beta will likely be preview enough for most gaming sites. I assume that once the current spat of preview stories have run, some of those sites might run a follow-up story when the beta starts, and then perhaps one more when the game launches, whether the launch is "soft" or "hard". Your job (our job!) is to make it so that all the people who find the game stay engaged and come back to play once the game launches. They don't necessarily have to become part of the community, but it'd be nice if they occasionally came back to poke at the website for new info or lurk the forums. :D
    It would typically involve a publisher or other similar such partner, who would likely require some cut of associated sales, or something equally onerous. There's also the question of what you'd actually be selling in a retail store. Since the game is free-to-play, there's no up front cost, so the "retail box" would actually be some assortment of in-game items, like a special campaign and some of the game's microcurrency. That might be less satisfying for a person to impulse buy knowing that they can just wait until they get home to try the game for free. ;)
  8. Sir Knight

    Sir Knight Sir-ulean Dragon

    Hey, comic book stores. I've got a Magic et al. dealer right nearby. What might one do about comic book stores? . . . Anything?
  9. Falk

    Falk Kobold

    In free-to-play models, brick-and-mortar presence usually boils down to cards/top-ups/whatever redeemable for in-game currency. Sure, it's not how people start playing the game, and the distribution cut (typically 30%) is quite big, but you then gain physical on-location exposure for a product.

    This is from my experience w.r.t south east asia where F2P models are prevalent, and a few years ago, though... Online/electronic payment wasn't as easy as it is today. Not to mention we're talking about publishing companies with a whole stable of games with which those top-ups could be redeemable for, rather than for a single game from a niche genre (by today's console 'modern gamer' herp standards)

    More recently, there are plenty of indie games that have been resoundingly succesful without needing brick and mortar penetration. Minecraft doesn't need to be mentioned. Dungeon Defenders moved over a million units in a few months, and that's just two. Sure, there's a veritable sea of free games out there, but word-of-mouth is exponentially proportional to the quality of the experience and Card Hunter is nothing if not polished and fresh. ;)
  10. SQW

    SQW Kobold

    First of all, who else is the dev here on the forum other than the Mushroom (John)?

    I have a bit of marketing background (although not in gaming) and would love to chip in. There's a lot more to professional marketing than a launch promotion so bare with me if I start to ramble.

    1. Like Roshirai and Time4Pizza said, it's critical to get the word out but because Blue Manchu has limited manpower (and no dedicated marketing personnel), you need to know where to target. As awesome as CH is to us, a RPG, turn based CCG in the tone of D&D is definitely not for everyone. PAX has given CH a LOT of glowing review coverage but youtube's main CH search result (their promo clip) hasn't had a spike in views nor did the facebook page jump in subscribers. (Dev, has there been a spike in the website's traffic ?)

    My suggestions: Rock Paper Scissors, PC gamer and youtube personality like Totalbiscuit has tremendous influence on their readers, are friendly toward CH types of indie games and most importantly, has a bucket load of readers. Find the leadership sites/personalities and lesser websites and bloggers will pick it up without you emailing the entire internet.

    There's not much point in engaging brick n mortar store for promotion because A: number of eyeballs per store is limited vs effort needed to manage your promotion with each individual store owner and B: retail chains like EB will cost you more time and money than you can afford. Unless you personally know the owner of course.

    2. Look into the real-life table top gaming communities and forums. I think one of the dev is an ex-dungeon master? I'd advice against having an outsider promoting his product to an existing community but if you have a known and respected person in that community, by all means milk him for all he's worth. =) Something physical, like a nostalgic dripping plastic in-game monster or hero might be good to leave lying around as a reminder.

    3. While it's important to actively engage the community, everyone on this forum and on their facebook are salivating at the prospect of Beta so not exactly a hard sell here. =P I'd suggest restart the dev diaries and give us something to advocate CH to our friends with. Weave a good yarn and put down some geek-addicting lores on the CH blog - breeze life into your world so CH will draw player in like a Tolkien-isk grand adventure instead of a 2D Diablo 3 loot simulator.

    4. I'd even create some comic/animated shorts using the game engine - the goal will be to get players to emotionally invest in a character.

    5. Because marketing is also about post sale management, tie whatever you are doing in #3&4 within your game. Maybe use the characters in the shorts/comic as an NPC or a side quest hinted from a blog post? Go wild and make a twitter account for those characters if the idea gains traction. Make sure players are thinking of or engaged with your game even when he/she's not playing. Boom, integrated marketing! =P

    6. To prevent end-game rush/rage a la D3 or The Old Republic, allow for user created dungeons and incentivize them with a unique public badge or vanity titles (explore, cartographer, Columbus etc). Again, it's about keeping the community engaged and talking outside the bounds of the game itself. (might clash with your payment model though).

    If you finished read all THAT, thanks and I'd like some feedback too. Gaming is really the black sheep in marketing despite how much money's involved.
  11. Sir Knight

    Sir Knight Sir-ulean Dragon

    I am amused by calling some game a "loot simulator." That really describes a lot of gaming, doesn't it?

    But otherwise, wow, that's a lot of marketing possibilities. I'm so glad I'm not on the marketing side of my own endeavors.

    I can see you got a little sucked into a specific scenario toward the end there: sort of engaging the audience with "mascot"-like characters and story-like advertising. It's amusing, but just yesterday I got painfully jaded toward this. Have you ever seen Mike and Ike candy? I was in a grocery store, saw some Mike and Ike boxes, and noticed they wanted me to CARE about their "Mike" and "Ike" characters having an argument. Across the print of their own packaging. And they wanted me to go on social media sites and CHOOSE A SIDE.

    Every new product has another new mascot for me to ignore. Insurance mascots are the new cereal mascots, and this is horrifying. Don't ask me to follow your "novelty" Twitter account: one of the primary things that makes me HATE your product is if you think I'll LIKE your mascot.

    (Rudolpho the Twittering Mule is just a content aggregator, so it escapes scorn.)

    But anyway, advertising that includes actual characters from the game is still a cool possibility. Just think how knowledge has spread about Greenfang. Quick question: how many of us non-PAX goers want to fight Greenfang now? Hands up. (This is me putting my hand up.) Yes indeed, the "emotional investment" has begun, and it's more rich and complicated.

    And it means there is no "maybe" in "maybe use the characters in the shorts/comic as an NPC or a side quest"; I think they can get people very interested in actual game content. The "D&D module" format, with named villains to fight, lends itself to easy communication like with the Greenfang example.
  12. SQW

    SQW Kobold

    Unfortunately, a lot of marketers are just old blokes with a Facebook/Linkedin who think they are suddenly social media 'experts'. Even Coca Cola and Woolworth made some cringe worthy social media promotions so I'm not surprised that you hated the idea of mascots and tweeter - that has more to do with the ham-fisted way some marketers did their job than the actual tool itself.

    The most cost effective promotions these days for entertainment goods are through social media and viral marketing. The trick is do it engage the audiences naturally and not shoving a 'Like ME' sign in everyone's face. I wouldn't chuck the baby out with the bath water on this one so to speak. =)
  13. Ystin

    Ystin Orc Soldier

    This is also me raising my hand for fighting Greenfang. I don't really know much else that BM could do on the marketing side of things at this point. Getting their game previewed on so many different sites is definitely a step in the right direction. I feel like getting the game on it's feet, letting people try it out in a beta environment, will promote the best form of marketing there is, word of mouth.
  14. Kaerius

    Kaerius Orc Soldier

    Kickstarter is of course another great promotion tool. In itself, and to fund further promotion. It has in many cases been less of a kickstarter than a kickender. Where a finished, or nearly finished game has used it for promotion, or just finishing touches on an essentially complete game.
  15. SQW

    SQW Kobold

    I'm pretty sure BM knows about Kickstarter already though. :D

    I think the people active on PC side of Kickstarter overlaps with the ones reading gaming site/ least with for the bigger projects. Unless BM suddenly ran out of money or has a pile of swags lying around to give away, Kickstarter doesn't seem to fit the profile of CH at this stage of development cycle.
  16. Ystin

    Ystin Orc Soldier

    I don't know. If BM can sort out how it's going to earn money from it's customers, this might be a good way to sort of pre-order the free game. I think it would be less about the money, and more about trying to keep the game in the public view for as long as possible. If the rewards for backing were good, I know I'd probably spend a good chunk of change. If the rewards ended up being not so worth it, I'd still back, just to a lesser extent. Also, what could Kickstarter hurt? So long as they don't set the goal too high any success of funding will be positive in the public view. I guess there could be the worry that they fail to reach their goal, and that would be a pretty large negative, but the risks they want to take are definitely up to them.
  17. SQW

    SQW Kobold

    Kickstarter is like a pre-pre-order for indies that usually don't have the funds to start developing the game. Basically you are 'borrowing' your day 1 sales and fund your early development. It's really more of a funding tool than a promotion platform.

    Basically those who will fund a CH Kickstarter are those who will be buying the game anyway (I'm happy to be proven wrong on this). Hence, unless BM needs extra cash injection right now, posting CH for funding really wouldn't reach any new eye-balls. Let's be honest, we don't spend time on Kickstarter looking for projects to fund, we usually fund those we already heard about in the first place. Secondly, BM's staff are industry veterans with a more traditional business model; I'm pretty confident that BM budgeted their project fully before they even started coding.

    The OP asked for promo ideas and I just don't think CH really needs Kickstart this late into its development cycle. Kickstarter's a good tool but I personally think there are better, less man-hour-intensive way of promoting CH atm.
  18. Ystin

    Ystin Orc Soldier

    Good points, you're right. Never mind about what I said...
  19. neocow

    neocow Kobold

    I'd just do what MxPixel Dev did and release it on TPB.
    But before release, submit it to PA, Kotaku, TIGsource, RPS, even CAD, anyplace related to gaming, for free. Or a demo.
  20. SQW

    SQW Kobold

    The Pirate Bay? Really? MxPixel did a smart (and controversial) thing by putting it on TPB and generated a lot of free press but that's because it's a throw-away wacky 'game' that actually fits with the craziness.

    Would you spend years crafting a proper game and drop it in TPB where the majority of users are ones who literally would rather break the law than pay a dime? MxPixel is to CH what a 5min youtube clip of a dude getting his balls kicked is compared to the Lord of the Ring trilogy - both are entertainment to different people but I sure wouldn't be paying an for the cheap laughs of the former.

    CH is F2P game with micro transaction as form of income. It has a more serious, long term business model than hoping some kid would pay $5 one time for the lulz and move on after a couple of days.

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