Almost a year ago, we turned to our Indie Mavens to find out what the best practices were for marketing their games and what tips they'd offer to other developers.
But December 2016 is a lifetime ago in the mobile games industry, and with everything moving so quickly, advice given 10 months ago might not carry the same weight as it does now.
So we returned to our friendly indies to find out what has changed in the world of indie marketing over the last year and what advice they'd give if asked today how a developer should market their game.
Specifically, we asked:
- How has indie marketing for mobile games changed in the last 12 months?
- What advice would you give to an indie looking to promote their game in the current market?
There's a simple answer to the first question. It's got a lot more expensive!
As with user acquisition costs for in-game ads, most of the other vaguely effective new forms of advertising (such as influencers etc.) seem to have started the upward spiral too as more of the big players start using them.
Being active and actually playing with/interacting with your players can be pretty effective.Aaron Fothergill
For the super small indies like ourselves, I think it's getting to the point where we're getting priced out of the market for any sort of paid advertising, made even more difficult by the challenge of getting any sort of feature/review space in the remaining games press due to the sheer volume of new titles.
We're feeling quite glum about it all really and seriously considering other options such as teaming up with a publisher again.
These tips really only suit the super small indie outfits like ourselves. Those with actual marketing budgets might have better options.
Firstly, look for any kind of advertising/marketing niche that might fit your game.
You might have more chance of a breakthrough post going viral (or at least enough interested players for the conversion rate to be decent enough to impact chart position) from smaller blogs and events that don't cost much.
Being active and actually playing with/interacting with your players can be pretty effective too.
Secondly, the one thing that's been keeping our iOS sales vaguely alive is Apple's Search Ads. They take a lot of messing with and tuning, but so far, the CPA has stayed lower than what we make per sale.
The only problem is they don't really seem to scale up well, so they're great for keeping a baseline tick-over of sales, but fairly useless for kicking off a new game.
I don't think anything changed drastically in the last year.
If you have a clever and well-made game, you'll always find a way to promote it a bit easier.Pierre-Luc Vettier
There's just more and more games, and it gets harder to reach top of the charts. Nothing surprising. And it will not change until the day something new and/or innovative will happen in this industry.
But if you have a clever and well-made game, you'll always find a way to promote it a bit easier than if you are making something more generic. It's as simple as that.
Make a good game, then show it and speak about it as much as possible everywhere: press, forums, events, etc.
That's the cheap but most effective way to have a chance to promote it without spending lots of money in user acquisition.
Your game is the key. If you are making something niche or very innovative, it will help promotion.
I feel like the caveat to any game marketing advice article should be that the most elusive part is having anyone give a s**t in the first place, no matter what you do.
I don't think I want every single successful game to be designed by whatever gif gets the most likes.Kepa Auwae
Since and including Punch Quest, I've been focusing on having games be immediately recognised as unique in a trailer and gifs, ideally in the first 10 seconds.
The problem with this is that not every game can do this – it works for stuff that Twitter or Imgur or whatever likes.
I don't think I want every single successful game to be designed by whatever gif gets the most likes and retweets.
That said, the idea continues to affect the design of my games. Here's a recent thing I posted, and it's my most successful tweet ever, so I have to finish making this now or I'll lose my game dev license and get banned from Twitter:
Important Twitter poll:— Rocketcat Games (@rocketcatgames) September 16, 2017
RETWEET if you want us to make this game about making the perfect fish boyfriend
LIKE if this is bizarre/horrifying pic.twitter.com/j6KMbqgNVj
I've also mostly switched strategies to PC-first, with mobile ports after. Mobile players seem to really love PC ports. That way they know what they're getting and it avoids some stigma that mobile-first games still get.
I stopped showing at conventions/events for now. Haven't for a year or more, really. Maybe will try again later, but I don't know.
Aside from the usual crowding of the market, I would say that not much has changed.
Making sure your game has a few big hooks in it that will draw players in will reduce your UA costs significantly.Dan Menard
I would advise that any indie trying to successfully launch a game keep a significant portion of their budget for marketing activities (trailers, paid ads, influencer marketing).
As mentioned previously, prices are going up, and I think it's really tempting to spend any spare cash on the game itself rather than on marketing, which can be a fatal mistake.
Having a launch partner, like a publisher, can be a great way to offload that burden if you're not comfortable managing it within the studio.
Making sure your game has a few big hooks in it that will draw players in will reduce your UA costs significantly. That usually means delivering an experience that the players can't get elsewhere, or they didn't even know they wanted.