5 reasons why your game will not succeed

You have prepared killer concept, awesome graphics, mind blowing gameplay. The launch day has come. You hit the big red button and... Nothing. Crickets.

This post is part of the series about marketing for indie game developers. If you'd like to read more articles like this, join my weekly curated game dev newsletter at 100% free, no strings attached.

You have prepared killer concept, awesome graphics, mind blowing gameplay. The launch day has come.

You hit the big red button and...

Nothing. Crickets.

Does this nightmare haunt you over and over again? If so, read what mistakes should you avoid (or rather: mortal sins, from the marketing point of view) to secure a successful start of your upcoming title.


1. You do not think about marketing from the start

At a crowded, highly competitive gaming market the advantage must be built from scratch. How and where to promote your game - this should be a part of your development plan from day one. This strategy is particularly important for mobile games, which can no longer rely on paid distribution model, and are based on in-app purchases.

How to do it right, since I do not have any finished product, you may ask. Here are some tips:

  • identify what is special about your product and polish it (graphics, gameplay or maybe setting) - the unique selling point is helpful in dealing with the media and customers;
  • graphic materials are your greatest weapon - collect the best screenshots, cut scenes, gameplay elements beforehand;
  • consider whether you can build any social functions into the game to help the viral spread - e.g., sharing the result, inviting friends, etc.. The fans themselves will promote a good game - for free!


2. No one knows your game before the launch

Unless you have widely known game studio, sending press releases, even the best in the world, will not result in press coverage. It takes more than that to interest the media.

That is why game launch is the worst moment to start a PR campaign. Your product will be attractive to a journalist only a few days after the official start, so you have a very narrow window to exist. Window shared with thousands of other players, I should add.

Starting the promotion, reaching the reporters and potential players early is important. Wonder why I mentioned media first? For smaller, little-known game studios presence in the press is often the primary channel of customer acquisition. Reach the press and you will reach the players. Hatred, the most discussed game of 2015, was controversial on purpose - it opened doors to the biggest online media. 

That does not mean you need to create a game about killing innocent people to secure a publication. However, you have to learn one thing from the Hatred - that the project should be widely discussed before it hits the shelves, and not only during the premiere.

Your job as a marketer is to:

  • reach the players - to build a relationship with them and gain interest, and then sustain that hype until the release;
  • reach the media - not necessarily to ask for publication before release (little chance, if no one knows you), but to establish contact and to increase the chance of getting the review afterward. 


3. You think that a good product is enough

Competition in the gaming market, especially in the mobile one, is so fierce that it is just impossible to notice all games. Have you seen how many new titles come out on Steam every day? Or on Google Play? Exactly.

Games have become so popular that winning the players' hearts is harder than ever, especially if you run a small indie studio. Did Minecraft need a promotion? No, but Notch has taken the first step - he put the information about it on the game forums. Was Monument Valley, the award-winning game the only such idea in the store? Certainly not, but its creators knew whom to write and where to show it to be noticed.


4. You are not on the web

It may seem a cliché because almost every game now is sold either through Steam or app store. But in the era of social media, you, as the creator of the game (and your game in general) must appear where your customers spend most of their time - on the net. And I am not talking about sending press releases, but about discussing on online forums, social media, etc.

Why? Because a close, personal contact creates interest in who initiates the contact, and consequently also its product. A close friend will not refuse when you ask him or her to download your game - either personally or through an ad. 

It is also crucial to have your professional place on the web. A website, Facebook or Twitter profile or even a well-designed landing page for your newest title. That will help you gather customers, media, partners in one place and show them one, strong message.


5. Your game is not good

These tips do not mean anything if your game is simply not the best you can do. Of course, everything can be promoted, but this requires campaign that only AAA studios can afford.

Good game, unique idea, great gameplay and beautiful graphics are essential. In indie games, there is no room for mediocrity.


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