indie game marketing

Indie game marketing : How to market your indiegame with 13 advices for success

With over 700 games released every day, the real challenge is not how to make a game, but how to get it to players. In this article we’ll look on Indie game marketing, and How to market your indiegame with 17 advices that will hopely lead you to success.

Also, According to VG Insights*, over 50% of indie games on Steam have never made more than $4,000, but the top 1% have made over $7 million.

If you are working on other platforms (such as consoles), you will probably face the same numbers that are apparently running against you and your objectives of making a successful game.

It’s been an uphill battle for indie games, but over the past five years, freelance studios and developers have taken advantage of advances to create console bestsellers that rival games produced by the big studios. This should be an inspiration to developers looking to make an indie game this year, but how do you know if you’re ready to release that game?

Around 85% to 90% of indie games fail to recover the investment made in creating the game. There are a lot of reasons why these numbers are here, and in this article we are going to see some of them.

What is an indie game?

An indie game is a video game created by an individual or small development team that does not have the financial or technical backing of a major game publisher. The term was coined in very early 2000s, and in the 2010s, it has become a common way for indie developers to refer to their own video games. Indie games are often made available for download through PC-based digital distribution platforms such as Valve Corporation’s Steam, but also through other means such as through online marketplaces and indie game stores.

The term “indie games” can be used for any video game that is made by a developer who does not have the backing of a major publisher.

Why do indie games fail? Two possible pitfalls

So why do indie games fail, and how can you avoid them? Are there some indie game marketing strategies that could be useful? Here are two of the most common mistakes and how to avoid them.

Not looking a game development as a business

Companies don’t make games “for fun” or “to play their dream game.” They may be having fun or making their dream game, but their goal is to make money. If you want to make money as an indie developer, you need to approach it like a business. Here, from my experience, are some of the basic steps you need to take to be successful.

  • Draw up a business plan. Before you start, before you invest anything other than time and research, make sure you have a proper plan. Importantly, don’t do it half-heartedly.
  • A business doesn’t make money from its products. It makes money from selling the product. It is important to invest in the right business relationships. Go to industry unions and hold meetings and make calls. Learn how to talk to other business people and how to get contracts. Go to conventions and don’t attend any part of the convention – spend all your time in satellite meetup groups and fish for customers, publishers and potential contacts.
  • Spend a lot of time in public relations. Even a crappy game will sell with the right PR, and even a great game will not sell without PR.
  • Make sure your product (and plan to make more than one product) and costs (employees, office space, overhead) don’t exceed your initial money before you try to make a profit. Game development is a slow process. If you expect your first game or contract to take three months, make sure you have at least six months of funding in case it fails. Better yet, have enough for a year or two.
  • Your first product is unlikely to be a big success, and the same goes for your second and third. Statistically speaking and as an example, the break-even point in the mobile sector is about 10 games: companies that have made more than 10 games have consistently made more than $30,000 per game in the app store. By comparison, the average revenue for the first game is about $200, and the average for all games is about $1,000 per game. In other words, it is better to get used to it than to learn from it.

In short, if you want to make money as an indie developer, you need to think about how to run a profitable business, not just about turning your big game into the next blockbuster or to be the next Kojima. The same happens in other industries – you may be a great chef but your restaurant won’t be successful, you may be a great reader but your small bookstore won’t make money.

Not taking seriously the marketing part of game development.


Before you start your game, you are probably wondering how much you can spend on marketing your indie game. First of all, there is no “right” amount and success is not tied to a specific budget. A high budget does not guarantee success, and a low budget does not guarantee failure.

A successful marketing strategy starts with a thorough analysis of current trends and, more importantly, the people behind them. Specifically, we consider what your potential competitors are doing and what your potential customers are looking for. If you know your game genre or niche, be sure to analyze what the current niche leaders are offering and how the biggest titles in that genre are performing. This information will be invaluable when fine-tuning your game to meet the needs of your users.

There are a lot of misunderstanding in relation to marketing in video games, being the first and most common, that you would need to have your game fully finished before starting to think about marketing. This was probably true 15 years ago before the rise of indie games, but now, you don’t need a finished product to think about your promotional strategy. Moreover, you need a plan that constantly reflects the current state of the industry.

The number one mistake from studios around the world, is being a couple of months away from the game launch, and not having yet started their promotional campaign. No matter what you have heard on the Internet, there is no last-minute miracle solution to not having done correctly your marketing. Promoting any product, especially a video game, is not something that can be dispatched in a weekend. On the contrary, most of the games you like were marketed for months before you first heard about them. Bringing a new title to market is a painstaking process that can take six months to a year or more. When you factor in the time it takes to build a community, you can see why you should have started already.

The goal of the marketing is to understand if your game is unique enough to stand out. preferably before you start dedicating resources to it , and have some appeal the game audience.

Speaking of audiences, this first step cannot be completed without explaining the structure of the consumer market. We are usually grouped as ‘gamers’, but the group of people who can buy your game can be divided into multiple categories. We will cover this in more detail in the first two points of our advices and in the point related with creating communities and social media.

Indie mobile game marketing will be probably the same as for any other indie, with the difference of some specific different tools like for example ASO ( application search optimization).

13 things you need to do to market your game.

  • Understand the size of the game industry and the games ecosystem
  • Niche down and understand the players in it.
  • Make a game that players want to play.
  • Understand the game you are making
  • How to describe your game
  • Make an epic trailer
  • Build a marketing funnel
  • Network with platform owners and other developers
  • Optimize your funnel
  • Using festivals, press, streamers, and social media to get your wish list
  • Launching your game
  • Game updates and discounts
  • Prepare your next game

Getting ready to launch your indie game


In the early days of indie games, you could get away with very little marketing strategy. The idea of having a unique game outside of those developed by the big studios was exciting and fresh; in 2021, the same excitement that gamers have for indie games has evolved and matured a bit. They’re no longer “new”, but they can still be exciting.

One thing to keep in mind is that the timing of your indie game marketing may be different from your competitors. Don’t feel pressured to market your game earlier than you think is appropriate. There is no “right” time to market an indie game, it is more important to conduct market research, test your game, optimise all touch points and create compelling assets for your trailer, press kit, social media channels and app shop.

Marketing an indie game takes almost as long as creating the game itself. To help you understand the key priorities in marketing an indie game, we’ve included advice on what to prioritise, who to engage with and the impact these two steps can have on your game.

Preparing your indie game marketing before starting development

0. Have a plan a tools to control its progress

The first thing you need is to define a plan for your marketing activities, what would lime time frame, what will be resources ( people and materials), when will you start And most importantly, you need a way to track your progress and make sure that each step is being executed as intended.

But how do you actually plan a marketing campaign? This is big question, where the daunting of its size make post indies abort, or look for the advices of other people that will probably know more about it.

But, it is really not that difficult to do, if you have a clear understanding of the purpose of a marketing plan: Before and while developing your game, understand which people likes to play your type of game and how can you make them get aware of your game as to have enough of them buy it and recover your effort. In reality the activity will also continue after you have delivered the game to your players, but it will basically be the prolongation of the same activities that you will be doing while developing it.

By the definition, we can see, that there are iterative tasks that starts before the game is actually being developed, and that continues while the game is being bought by your potential players.

So that means that you can define your marketing plan in different elements that will help you define the different activities and control they effectiviness and results.

  • Stage – What is the current stage of development. As new features are added and the game becomes more sophisticated, you can tweak your content accordingly. Concept, Preproduction, Alpha, Beta, Release Candidate, Gold Master/Launch.
  • Audience/community – Define your audience, and what is the level of awareness of the game. Are they reading about the game, are they sharing material about the game, are they engaging with your studio to know, is there fan art, etc… Is your audience definition the right one, is it changing? Are you testing your game with focus groups to check the expectations of potential players?
  • Media/Influencers – Sometimes the two sections are merged into one, showing what you are planning with media and influencers. Do you have a big ad planned or a set date to start sending out keys? Maybe you are planning a series of sponsored posts or rounds of influencers. These all need to be listed here.
  • Platforms/Digital Stores – This is another community-related item, but it includes what you plan to publish on the various distribution platforms where you publish your game: are you working on a blog or a big community newsletter for Steam or another store? Be sure to track your progress here.
  • Promotional Activities – What festivals are conventions are you attending, what awards are you applying your game, what are the results.


As said previously, The content of the marketing plan is iterative and should be continuously revisited. However, think of it as a list of possible ingredients for success that you should make yours, and hot as a rigid recipe. It will probably contain items and procedures that are appropriate for your game and your game studio, and it may be quite different from other games or other game studios.


Is a plan 100% success guarantee?


A plan and its timeline is less about its structure than about what it prompts you to do, which will determine your ability to run a successful campaign. By writing down, in advance, your steps and the scope of your activities, you are training yourself to think ahead and imagine the path to your final goal.

If you use this method successfully, you can minimize risk and ensure that everyone on your team is on the same page.

By sharing the marketing timeline with with your team, you will ensure that all content is prepared and no one is left out of the loop, reducing delays and potential obstacles to the campaign being implemented. Finally, a proper timeline detailing your marketing plan is the minimum requirement to start reaching out to the press and influencers and other stakeholders in the communication process, which will allow you allow to estimate the required effort for the activities, and if it is something that you can do, or for which you will be needing external help hiring for example an indie game marketing company.

1. Understand the size of the game industry and the games ecosystem

The games market has been growing at a rapid pace and reached $175.8 billion in 2021, according to research firm Newzoo.

Indie Game marketing - Global Games Market to Generate $175.8 Billion in 2021; Despite a Slight  Decline, the Market Is on Track to Surpass $200 Billion in 2023 | Newzoo
Indie Game Marketing – Global Games Market to Generate $175.8 Billion in 2021 via Newzoo

The games ecosystem is vast and intricate, with developers, publishers, platforms, retailers, and consumers all having a role to play. Understanding the size and complexity of the games industry is critical for anyone looking to enter the market or invest in it.

Some of the games being released every year are so big and with so much resources that trying to get through the waves of their marketing is almost impossible. In the sameway, most of the games being released every year falls largely in the same know and successful genres, as First Person Shooters, Racing games, Third Person Action games, etc… Because they are associated with great results and because most of players wants to play them.

None the less, the number of players and their demography have been drastically changing over the recent years, which means that there are players for just about any genre of game, and probably some of them have a very low number of games available.

One tool that can help understand this reality is by using the SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats) a strategic tool that allows you to analyze how you are ranking against your market.

SWOT analysis is used by all companies, including game development, to self-assess their current position as a company and to understand the likelihood of achieving certain goals. A SWOT chart is usually presented in the form of a matrix, which is able to hint on what the company is good at, what it is not good at, what it can capitalize on, and what it can fail at.

Let’s look at each block independently.

  • Strengths: As you can imagine, strengths include things that your people are simply good at. Whether it’s the unique style of your art department, the skills of your coders, the expertise of your QA team, or the great PR contacts that you’ve collected over the years, this part of the matrix contains everything you can use to achieve your goals. But there is more to it than that. In order to get a complete picture of the company, the strengths section should also include any unique resources at your disposal and any past events that the community might view as positive. So if you’ve already accomplished something as a studio, it’s a good idea to include it here.
  • Weaknesses: As the saying says, the weak points section should contain details of things that your game studio typically have problems with. For example, are you known for falling behind in certain parts of the development process like quality or innovation, or project management? Is your online presence almost non-existent? These are all very important points to consider before starting a new project. Along with your studio weaknesses, project-specific weaknesses should also be included in this category. For example, if you are trying to make the next successful RPG game, but your artists have never modeled 3D Characters before, you may want to highlight the problem and invest in solving it.
  • Opportunities: Far from the discomfort of understanding your limitations, the ‘Opportunities’ section covers any external environment that supports your efforts. There are an infinite number of opportunities that a game development studio can receive, at least if you know how to look for them, so we will not give any examples here. Before we continue, however, let’s remember that this and the next part of the SWOT matrix are dedicated to external influences. For internal influences, you can group them under the categories of ‘strengths’ and ‘weaknesses’.
  • Threats: Finally, as the last stage in the strategic process, threats are exactly the name hints at. competitors, dangerous situations posed by weaknesses, changes in trends – these are the variables you should keep in mind before moving on to the production stage. Threats, due to their unpredictable nature (or not), are usually the most difficult element to assess in a SWOT analysis. There is no magic formula for correctly assessing threats, but you should try to be as objective and honest as possible. And remember, it is better to be prepared for what will not happen than to be caught unprepared for what will happen.


2. Niche down and understand the players in it.

People will find you, it’s your responsibility. When you are just starting out in the game, you are like a sailboat in the middle of the ocean. Nobody knows you are there and nobody knows how to find you. They don’t even know that they should find you. Your responsibility, within the boundaries of marketing, is to make sure that people know you exist, which if you are proud of your game, being your evangelist should not feel disconfortul for you.

Start to think of new possible genre of games, or games that could be associated with other type of players interest, like for example, people that like to see grass grow, or people that like to play tomato throwing wars, or puzzles of siamese cats.

This will be a niche market. That you can use to try to leverage your efforts of making games for.

As defined in the wikipedia, A niche market is the subset of the market on which a specific product is focused. The market niche defines the product features aimed at satisfying specific market needs, as well as the price range, production quality and the demographics that it is intended to target. It is also a small market segment. Sometimes, a product or service can be entirely designed to satisfy a niche market.

The more narrow you will think of the interest of the player, the best possibilities you will have to find a type of games that some people are looking for, but no one is making games for it.

You can use tools like google trends, or google suggestion to try to find those possible niches.

Once you have found something, try to think on what are the interests of the people playing those games, what they are are like, what are their hobbies, where they usually look for information, what they would like to see in game that matches their interest, etc… This is important to match exactly the content that you will be making to fit their needs.

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