It is no secret that indie studios and solo developers generally struggle with marketing. Not only is it hard to reach beyond your own bubble on social media, but unknown games have a harder time getting the attention of streamers and YouTubers which otherwise provides a sort of grass roots solution for those of us who can’t spend a ton on CG trailers and teasers.
So, what can indies do to get over this hurdle? We can work with brand recognition and instead of promoting a title you can promote an IP. Here we could actually take some pages from the AAA-playbook: We can do sequels, DLC: s, port to different platforms, sales, bundles, etc. All of these are valid strategies to create a long tail for your game, and it works both for Call of Duty and an indie title like Shovel Knight.
There are a few problems with this approach though: DLC: s will only be profitable if the original user base is large enough. It varies from game to game of course, but for most titles the adoption rate is somewhere between 5-15%. So, unless your game is already out on the market and has sold a fair share most of the examples above don’t apply.
But there are other things you can do to promote your IP before and after you launch the initial product. Here are a few things that we and other indies have tried, with varied success.
*Audio Short stories
*Orchestrated twitter war between in game characters
*Game Character blogs
*Bug/humor videos and gif: s
Before you jump on doing one, or all, of these think about two things: What is it your audience appreciates about your game/IP? And (just as important) where does your team’s core strength lie?
The goal is to find a type of promotion where these two areas intersect. If your fans love the setting of your game and want to know more about the world a short story or a wiki might be a great idea. But what if your team consists mostly of artists and no one feels up to the task of writing a story? Maybe you can do an elaborate world map instead, or a short comic that illustrates the world. As long as you can combine the things that people love about your work with the areas that your team loves working on you can make something great, and it might be things that AAA either can’t or won’t do because of secrecy or bureaucracy. Use that to your advantage!
My final point is this: If you want to create an IP that spans different mediums and possibly includes sequels etc., make sure you are doing something to stand out. Take the time, do your research and don’t copy something that is already available at a much higher production value. Saying you are going to make the next DOOM or GTA isn’t only unrealistic but it’s a hard sell to any consumers. You don’t have to be completely unique, but you have to have something about your game/IP that your target audience can’t get anywhere else. Basically, a compelling reason for them to care about what you are doing. Find that, and you are well on your way to breaching that barrier that prevents you from getting attention from press, YouTubers and future consumers.