If there's one thing that most indie game developers have, it's passion. It's what motivates us to spend countless hours designing, coding, and debugging our games. And it even gives us the energy to do some of the other necessary parts of game development that we may not be as keen to tackle. And if you're anything like me, one of those things is promoting a new game.
It's the part of the process that — I suspect — lots of developers dread. After all, I know I'd rather spend my time playtesting and tweaking things like an NPC's AI than try and evangelize my work. But I also know that if I don't, I'll be dooming my game to poor sales and myself to eating more instant ramen than anyone ever should.
The thing is, though, that I've figured out a handful of ways to promote a game that are fairly simple to accomplish and even useful from a game design perspective. And to help other developers with a similar distaste for self-promotion, here's what they are.
Don't be Afraid to Release Unfinished Media
One of the easiest things a developer can do to promote a new game is to show off screenshots and gameplay clips. But it's never easy to decide when your game's refined enough to show off to potential players. And it turns out that — in my experience — the answer is the moment you've got something that appears anywhere close to finished, you should start showing it off.
For example, you can share screenshots of in-game events, even if you're not sure they'll make it into the final game. As long as you add a disclaimer and let your audience know that it's a work-in-progress, nobody's going to care (except for the handful of picky gamers who are going to tear apart your finished product even if it's perfect).
The only rule here is that you should be as transparent about your progress as possible. So, if you're sharing screenshots and gameplay videos on social media, let your audience know where your game's development stands at every point along the way. And, if you get a particularly positive reaction to something you share, but later have to remove it from your game, make sure to tell everyone exactly why you had to do it.
Stream Your Playtesting
These days, it's a common game marketing strategy to partner with known Twitch streamers to help get the word out about your new game. But, it's not easy to find streamers that will feature your game for free, so most indie developers wait until right before launch to do it. The thing is, it's possible to start building an audience for your game on Twitch far sooner than that — by streaming your playtesting.
First of all, this works because the people watching Twitch are there to be entertained. And what's more entertaining than seeing a game's physics break or an in-game character clipping through a wall? Turning those unexpected moments during playtesting into entertainment is a great way to get people interested in your game.
And the best part is, this tactic even works if you don't already have a huge following on Twitch. All you have to do is do a little research to find some tips on how to get more viewers on Twitch, and once you get the ball rolling, the rest will take care of itself. Before you know it you'll have built an audience that's invested in seeing the progress you're making with your game. And you'll even get to share a few laughs along the way.
Host Multiple Q&A Sessions
Last but not least, one of the best ways you can promote your new game is to host Q&A sessions with prospective players. They give people a chance to ask you about your development process, as well as about aspects of the game that matter to them (that you might not have thought were all that important). And if you're lucky, your audience may even give you some valuable early feedback that can shape your game into a winner.
The easiest way to do this is to host an AMA on Reddit. This is because Reddit's a site that most gamers frequent, making it a natural fit for a game-focused AMA. And there are endless ways for you to do it, too. You can start your own subreddit for your upcoming game, and use it as a meeting point for interested players. Or, you can be extra ambitious and cross-post your AMA to a relevant subreddit to try and pull in a bigger audience. Just as long as you follow the rules of the subreddits you're working with, most mods will be happy to help you.
But — and it's a big but — you should only do this if you're prepared to hear negative feedback. Unfortunately, there are always people who join an AMA just to be contrarian or try and get under your skin. And you can't ignore them all. The trick is to be yourself, be authentic, and don't get rattled. If you do, you'll find that the people there that want to hear about your game will drown out the troublemakers and help you make the most of your time on the site.
Game Marketing Made Easy
As far as game marketing goes, the three tactics detailed here are about as painless — and cost-effective — as it gets. As long as you're willing to maintain your sense of humor along the way, they're all things that any developer should be able to handle doing. And the best news is, that all of them will help you to build an audience for your game organically without having to resort to paid media and other hard-sell options. Plus, they'll connect you with the kind of players that share your passion for gaming and who see the value in your work. And at the end of the day, that's what being a game developer is all about, isn't it?