Much to Learn About Marketing

May 7, 2012 by Terry

Some of my creepy crawlies are walking into cracks and getting stuck there. With no obvious solution, I’m taking a programming break and reading up on marketing. The consensus among published game developers is that developing the best game in existence isn’t good enough–you also have to market it really well. Here is some of what I have learned.

First of all, my friend Cory recommended The Big List Of Indie Game Marketing, which is a collection of links that go into great depth about every aspect of indie game marketing. If you want to learn this stuff, know that you can’t absorb it all at once, so be patient and just start reading.

A lot of what I have read–on that list and other places–indicates that the most important marketing tools for an indie game developer are a website and a blog. This website has existed in one form or another for around fifteen years–seriously, has it been that long?–so my basic web presence is taken care of. Web traffic is consistent too, with an occasional huge spike when some big-name blogger like Chris posts something about my site. I added the blog last June to try to increase traffic, build an audience for Retrobooster, and get constructive feedback from anyone who wants to give it.

I have also been working to improve other aspects of this website recently, putting a Retrobooster level playthrough video on the front page, creating a page devoted to Retrobooster to give some details about the game, and adding social sharing buttons (Like, Tweet, +1, etc.) to some pages and each blog post. (It turns out a lot of people had already Liked and Tweeted my site even without those buttons. Isn’t the Internet neat?) I also removed the donations page from the screensavers section. The donations have been great and I appreciate each one; they allowed me to get a new graphics card a couple months ago when my old one died. But now I feel a bit weird having a donations page when I’m trying to transition the website from only giving away free stuff to actually making money. Similarly, I removed the Google ads from the front page while leaving them on several other pages because I had read some comments online that my ads on the front page make the whole site look a bit sketchy and untrustworthy.

There is still plenty to work on, like needing to figure out how to use all this new web infrastructure to build hype. And a lot of smaller things like beautifying the social sharing buttons, which are way too bright on this predominantly black website.

The bottom line is that marketing is about communication. I need to do a whole lot more of it in smart ways, such as by getting interviews, previews, and reviews just as soon as I am ready for that stuff (so far it seems like nobody wants to do an interview until you are about ready to release your game), maybe building a discussion forum, etc. It would be great to already know how to do marketing properly, but this is a good learning experience. Please let me know what you think about all this in the comments. Or send me an email if you want to talk about marketing or anything else.

3 Responses to “Much to Learn About Marketing”

  1. Really love this type of game – great graphics (though the ship looks a little low definition in comparison to the rest of the graphics).

    Hope you don’t mind me offering… If you ever need a promotional poster or ‘trailer’ video doing or anything like that, let me know – I love doing this kind of work. Also, I’m pretty good at level design (I did some good new levels for Thrust Xtreme a while back although the author never did post them up).


    Mike Horne

    PS Link to some of my work (mostly theatre work):
    Posters: http://recantha.deviantart.com/gallery/34623140
    Video trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dQVOphhNc2c

    • Hi Mike,
      I just looked at the theater posters on your website. Good work! My uncle has done some posters too. He’s the real artist in the family.

      You’re right about the ship, and I have heard similar comments from testers. So far the work I have put into the ship has been to make it the right size (which directly affects difficulty and other gameplay aspects) and to give it a plausible arrangement of thrusters. But the texture on the ship is junk and will be completely replaced. …just as soon as I figure out what it should look like :)

      Retrobooster will definitely need a trailer eventually. I’ll email you and we can talk about that a bit, but I don’t think you’ll like my zero budget. Right now I just use Fraps to make videos, but I don’t have any video editing software picked out. I was hoping to find some nice open source solution on Linux.

  2. Hi Terry.
    Trust me… Zero budget my specialty :-) Never taken payment for my work, and doubt I ever will! Just do it for the pleasure of doing it, really.
    Love your uncle’s posters – very distinctive. The oriental restaurant ones are particularly nice, but I do like the alternative landscape format Marvin’s Room – really makes you want to _look_ at the poster. :-)

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