The new difficulty in the game industry

With all the new tools and the game engine war driving costs down to the Unreal engine costing only 5% back-end royalties, game development has become much easier.  Due to that greater ease of creation and better tools there are more new games appearing every day in the App stores and on Steam.  Which brings up the new problem, getting the attention of potential customers.

I have an old marketing study from the late 1990’s where they attributed 69% of all video game sales to word of mouth. That means, despite all the effort spent back then making ads, buying space it all came down to your buddy recommending a game to you. But, how did your buddy find that game? We now face an overabundance of games, both old and new on digital distribution platforms and the competition for customers is fierce. So, how do you break out and capture an audience? My thoughts on the solutions are still a bit scattered, so I’ll try to lay out what I think the paths to success are:

1. Target a specific audience.  The more specific the audience, the better. The smaller your niche, the more likely it isn’t under siege from multiple other developers.

2. Build one unique feature / game element.  This is the core of your marketing plan, this feature needs to be your go to point when anyone asks “why would I play your game vs the thousands of other games out there?”

3. Get people playing it. You need to get the game into the hands of your target market and watch them play it. Use this to tune the game and at the same time formulate your “pitch” on why people should play the game. Watching people play your game and then asking them questions after can really give you a leap ahead understanding how to market your game.

4. Talk about it. Tell everyone you know about your game and why it is amazing and why they should get it. Start early on with friends and family. Watch how people react to your “pitch” and tune it accordingly. After pitching about 1000 people on your game you;ll be able to tell what excites them and tune the pitch accordingly. Now you are ready to speak to the press.

5. Build a press pitch. Build up some key art assets to sell your title. You need good quality title artwork and at least a few solid art assets, including quality screen shots. You should also have some well written information about your game, such as the main appeal and why it is fun.

6. Get some help. You might be tempted to go it alone and directly e-mail a number of journalists and you might have some success, but probably not. Find a PR agency, ask them about their rate for a few months of work for an indie developer. They can get you the press contact and ensure your pitch gets looked at.

7. Start the messaging. Plan for at least a month before launch and a few months after launch to start promoting your game.  Keep hitting the messages you want through every channel you have and get review copies out through your PR rep.

8. Keep promoting.  From now until the end of time, keep promoting your game.