In today's Gamasutra feature
, Spilt Milk Studios iOS developer Andrew J. Smith (Hard Lines
) writes that appealing to the platform holder has as much to do with success as connecting with players.
"Your customers are not your audience," writes Smith. "Or, to be less confusing, stop asking who your audience is. You need to ask a different question: 'Who controls your potential audience's exposure -- and access -- to your game?'"
"Your target audience is the platform holder," he writes.
"The fact is, without the permission of the platform holder, you simply cannot effectively market to potential customers. The platform holder (Microsoft, Nintendo, Apple, Sony, Amazon, Google, Steam, whoever) guards the keys to your success."
He suggests making your game appealing to the platform holder by taking advantage of specific system features that are being pushed -- i.e. back touch on the PlayStation Vita or Kinect on the Xbox 360.
"Align your game's style to that of the platform holder. Aspire to be a second- or first-party piece of software in any way that you can and all of a sudden you'll find yourself contributing to the platform holder's message -- you match their tone, stance and content and it becomes sensible for them to bring you into the fold."
The result? "A simple thing like a promotional spot on the front page of their system's shopping front end will do more for your sales than anything you could manage by yourself."
Of course, this can feel like "pushing your game in directions it never would have been if you didn't need to. But there's the rub. You do need to. You can always bet the farm on being better than everyone else but most of us simply cannot achieve this, not in the early stages of a company's growth at least."
The full feature, in which Smith discusses building an audience of players and other ins and outs of the marketing and PR cycle for independent developers, is live now on Gamasutra