Here’s One Reason Why People Buy Indie Games (Part 2)

In the post few days ago I covered one reason why people won’t buy indie games. I wanted to show how most developers are 99% focused on developing game, and 1% focused on “how to sell it”.

I understand very well why portals take up to 70% (or more) of the profits. It’s pretty simple: they do all the really hard work. That’s quite a big statement – I know – but it takes much more effort to sell anything than it does to develop something.

I can prove it pretty easily.

First of all: I’m pretty sure there’s loads of guys who read this and strongly disagree with me. People who think that development is much harder than selling. These guys might think about this paragraph “you are so wrong here”.

And that proved my point: It’s hard to sell – even a new idea. Now, just imagine how much more work it is to get people give money as well.

Anyway, back to the point.

The reason why indies have hard time selling something is mainly because most people haven’t thought about this at all. Developers just think that they put the game out and people will buy it.

Their marketing efforts looks like this:

  • Wait for people to find the game site.

Their marketing efforts could use some from this expanded list
They could add for example this sort of stuff in the list:

  • Find a publisher/portal/distributor and let them handle sales (if you don’t want to do anything else than games, then go for this route). This might be pretty close the only thing you need (in case direct sales & marketing isn’t your thing).
  • Test & tweak your website (you are currently losing sales, did you know that?)
  • Track where the traffic comes from, apply tracking codes and promote more where things work (Google analytics – free tool – is a good friend of yours)
  • Set up Twitter, Facebook (and possibly other accounts) and link these from your blog (takes practically no time and can automatically build your links)
  • Set up a mailing list and start collecting leads (especially good for games that are under development such as mine)
  • Start promotion early (my Dead Wake game has already got good amount of traffic, and I’ve done very little marketing)
  • Use the indie game press distribution to get the news out.
  • Learn to tell stories and build anticipation…
  • Give cool videos (about the game and also about you, the developer)
  • Get interviewed!
  • Blogs are good.
  • If you decide to build a community… keep it fresh and active and get some evangelists to spread the word (give your players tools to promote the game)
  • Make your community members “own” the game (credits, special avatars or recognition)… then help them promote the game.
  • Get familiar with community marketing campaign ideas
  • The more often you release (whether it’s a screenshot, rumour, concept art, video, trailer, sounds… or anything) the more interest you’ll gain
  • Set up cool contests – these draw traffic
  • Apply some of the more than 100+ (and growing) marketing tips

There’s tons of things developers can do to market their games. My own plan has been pretty simple for Dead Wake:

  • Announce news (or new stuff) frequently (with minimal effort, focus being in development – not in marketing)
  • Get people’s emails (to grow my audience and make sure people who found the site will come back) and remind them about the game’s progress to build a list of buyers when the game is available for purchase.

I have done very little marketing work for Dead Wake for the reason that my first priority is to get the game out. Now it’s 95%+ development, 5% marketing/community. When the game is out, I expect that the ratio goes almost the opposite at least for this year. The good thing is that while I’ve done some promotion (PRs, sent emails, and that sort of stuff), I’ve actually got more interest than ever (the fact that it got featured in PC Gamer by they coming to me was one of the pretty nice highlights). People are eagerly waiting to see the new versions and want to know when it’s out.

And that’s just one guy doing a tiny bit of marketing.

Juuso Hietalahti


  1. I don’t think selling a game is harder than making one. I think it’s harder for indies because they’d rather be building the next game. It’s subjectively harder to indies because the passion for the activity isn’t there, and many avoid it and their games go nowhere.

    That’s why 70% of the take is ridiculous. At best, it should be 50/50, with a little more going to the dev because they are the primary reason the relationship exists.

  2. Yeh, the anticipation factor is amazing.

    I’ve *never* got this much great feedback and support for my game. Sure, the demos so far have been just that – demos, but players have been really positive about it and when I’ve told stories about “how the dog started to run away” I’ve got people to email me “hey, that dog acts like dog mine!”. I’ve got into PC Gamer (which I think was awesome, taken into account I did pretty much zero work for this – and the game is still under development)… but one of the best was happening when I got somebody else mention Dead Wake in playing Zombie Master mod (he didn’t realize I was the developer).

    Now there’s already pretty good list of people who want to hear about the game… so things look very positive.

  3. It almost looks like a marketing recipe. I like your approach. The anticipation factor is very important. It helps to connect with the consumers and the people that will talk about your game like the review gaming sites.

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