Marketing, Tips and Advice

Marketing 101 for Indie Mobile Game Developers

(1200x600) Marketing 101 for Indie

Pixels, code, and game engines. Three words game developers love. They are the passion driving the mobile gaming industry. Making characters, coding levels, and seeing it all come together in a mobile app – the best feeling ever but, now what? Games are not fun if nobody plays them. A game must be marketed and given a proper introduction to the people. There are so many amazing games, but no one knows about them. Game developers can always use the extra help when it comes to marketing. Here’s the step-by-step guide to market your mobile game.

Attributing Ad Revenue

To do marketing smartly you need to constantly measure the success of your efforts. If your game uses ads for monetization you should check out SOOMLA TRACEBACK – Ad LTV as a Service.

Learn More

EDIT: As we continually find more tools to help indie game developers market their games, we will update this post. Our most recent addition is the Out of the Box Ideas section which showcases the Android App Badge tool.

Table of Contents:

Game Reviews

Word of Mouth

Press Coverage

Press Kit

Social Media

Forums

Blogging

Cross Promotion

Pre Launch Hype

Ad Campaigns

Out of the Box Ideas

Game Reviews

Game Reviews

I remember drooling over the iPhone when someone decided to unbox it on YouTube. Seeing the trendy box, the sweet headphones, and the iPhone light up on video was the deal breaker for me to buy one. The same applies to video games. Gamers love gaming websites and communities. They watch strategy guides on YouTube, view shows about which games to buy, and read the latest gaming news. Your game on these game review platforms is essential. Here are a few places to consider getting your game reviewed:

 

YouTube

There are a few channels that do game reviews. Check them out:

Blogs

Communities of mobile game enthusiasts and tech junkies such as Toucharcade, TechCrunch and Gizmodo review mobile games.

A previous SOOMLA post highlighted the importance of game reviews and provides a long list of places to consider. There’s no need to constrain your studio to this list, but it’s a good start. It may sound easy on paper, but you will need a good selling point when reaching out to different communities and organizations that you want to review your game. For SOOMLA, the selling point is using our SDK in your game. For other organizations, it may be reaching a certain amount of downloads or having an innovative game worth writing about. Some well respected communities with millions of DAU may not consider your game for a review right away. A strong press release and website to hype your game will improve your chances of getting exposure in these communities.

Disclaimer:  If a game is not competitively interesting, fun, or engaging, this strategy can flop and hurt you. Bad reviews discourage downloads. That being said, make great games, pay attention to detail, and the success will follow.

Word of Mouth

Word of Mouth

Perhaps the most underestimated means of marketing. When creating a game, it is easy to assume that the whole development process will take place in front of a computer. Developers and digital marketers, must remind themselves that their is an arena for marketing outside electronic devices. Restaurants pay the guy in the hot dog costume for a reason.

Let’s take a look at Flappy Bird, I remember my friends talking to me about how difficult it was. It got me, and many others, crazy about achieving a high score. The craze was amazing and it spread by word of mouth. Nothing can ensure a game download like a friend telling another friend to download an app. I know a fair amount of apps on my phone were downloaded because someone told me about it. Here’s a chart from App Annie showing Flappy Bird’s rise to fame:

FlappyBirdSo, how can developers encourage this? The viral case of Flappy Bird is still a mystery to many people. Dong Nguyen didn’t do much more than tweet about the game.

What more can an individual do? Attend game conventions or events related to your game. Go on the street and tell people about your game. Tell your friends to post about it. When good games obtain a loyal user, the loyal user also brings in more organic downloads for your game.

News

Press Coverage

If you think word of mouth will help your game, then you definitely want to make the news. Contact different news stations or gaming news websites and tell them about your game. This will get people talking about it.

Local news stations may showcase you as the local video game developer. If your game features a specific city, contact that city’s local station. Headlines could include “El Paso, TX featured in latest mobile game” or “Torreón local creates the next big zombie shooter for iOS.” Reach out to relevant communities for your games. If the game can help people learn Spanish reach out to language learning newsletters. If your game is about race cars, you can reach out to the large communities that support race car enthusiasts.

When it comes to the methodology, you’ll want to convince the news station to report about your game.  Journalists receive a lot of emails every day and will only spend a short time looking at yours. When emailing, be sure to:

  • Keep the message short and to the point.
  • Use a distinguishable subject line that will draw their attention.
  • In the body of the email include a brief reason why your game is newsworthy and mention aspects of your game that make it interesting and fun.
  • Make your email easy to read; use bullets, short sentences, and small paragraphs.
  • Attach a press release and relevant media for the journalists to refer to. You need to be able to quickly convince the journalist that your game is worth covering.

Press

Press Kit

Think of a press kit as a portfolio for a game. It will include all the relevant information that will summarize and sell the game to the press. The press release for every game should be different and should highlight the strengths of the game. Include some of the following to the tell the story:

Dedicated Landing Page

With 3.5 billion searches a day on Google, it is important for your game and website to get noticed. How? SEO – search engine optimization. You’ll want to have solid html, keywords, and relevant content to get noticed. The more backlinks to your website the better. Make sure you provide the url and links to different parts of your page.

PickCrafter landing page

It is also important that a website seems credible to the eye. An un-customiozed WordPress website with brackets saying [Insert Content Here] or large paragraphs of keywords are not the most appealing to audiences to say the least.

A website is an opportunity to showcase a game’s levels, characters and design at its best. It will reflect the branding of a studio. There should be interesting content that encourages people to download the mobile game. Pageviews to a website will not translate to app downloads so easily. One way to convert pageviews into app downloads is incorporating a text-to-download form in a landing page. The website can be provided to a journalist in an offline format or with a URL depending on whether or not developers want the page live at that time.

Press Release

Prepare all the content for a press release. A press release requires a few pieces of key information in order to be successful.

PressRelease

Headline

“Rodolfo’s latest game, Wreck Racers, gives a whole new meaning to road rage by blending racing and fighting. Free demo inside.”

Imagine scrolling through social media or reading through a newspaper. What headlines draw attention? What can be said about a game in 18 words? Why is your game special? Get the point across in your headline.

Introduction

Use the dateline format here and grab the attention of the reader with some captivating sentences. Engage the reader and build interest. Include the most important highlights about a game here.

An example PR emphasizing dateline format and a catchy first sentence.

Description

Elaborate on the gameplay, the features that make a game unique, and continue to develop enthusiasm for the game. Mention specific challenges in game design and how they were overcome. Suggest the importance of the game and how gamers will benefit from it. Encourage the readers to witness some features on their own and play.

Quotes

Include relevant quotes from fans, other news sources, or your team. This will emphasize the potential for positive reception. You can even quote a character in the game if it will contribute to the release.

Call To Action

The end goal of marketing campaigns is to obtain more downloads for a game. This section should encourage the reader to download the game. This should also inspire interest for journalists to visit the website and get access the exclusive content.

Contact Information

This should include information about the studio such as size, amount of projects, mission, goals, and years of experience. Moreover, it should include all means for someone to reach the studio: full studio name, email, mailing address, website, phone, Twitter, LinkedIn, and/or Facebook.

Design

Place the most important information on top. This can be a game description, the history of your studio, a background on game development, or anything that you think will help you sell the game the best. Choose appealing images and logos to catch the attention of the reader.

Media

The press kit should include high quality videos of behind the scenes work, interviews, and gameplay. Incorporate screenshots of interesting moments and key elements in the game. Include biographies of the team members and pictures of your team working together.

Many developers use presskit() to help facilitate the process of creating a press kit.

 

Social Media

Social Media

Facebook

Facebook has a ton of groups and millions of users. This is not a platform you can overlook. Here are a list of Facebook groups to join (of course only post in groups that are relevant to your game):

It is important that a studio makes their presence known on social media and maintains an updated page. Nothing says “I lack credibility” like a social media page that has been abandoned for months. Moreover, social media has a way of knowing which users are more likely to play your game. Take advantage of this when you’re launching your app and trying to get more users.

Pirate Kings Facebook page.

Twitter

They say marketing has become getting a famous person to retweet you. Twitter is a great platform to engage with users, answer questions and promote your studio. When tweeting it’s important to use relevant hashtags. To help find hashtags that are pertinent to your game use tools such as Hashtagify.me, SproutSocial, and Tagboard. Some hashtags we tend to use are:

  • #gamedev
  • #f2p
  • #freetoplay
  • #indiedev
  • #indiegame

If you use a game engine such as Unity or Cocos2d-x don’t forget to tag them. This might help you get premiered by them and opens up their network of followers.

Here are a few other places to check out on Google+ and LinkedIn.

Google+

LinkedIn

If you’re able to post on all these social media sites, you will reach a variety of people and really market your game to a diverse group.

Forums

Forums

Forums are where huge communities of gamers live. Thousand of forums exist online and focus on everything from game design to user retention and more. This is a very specialized platform where you can find users that love to play and maybe even test games. Some forums to check out include:

Blogs

Blogging

Many young gamers out there are hoping to make their very own video games when they grow up. Similar to the special features section of the War of the Worlds DVD, blogs can provide audiences with cool facts about your game. This will build your credibility with your existing users and help you with SEO. Yaniv Nizan, SOOMLA CEO, wrote an article about the importance of blogging for startups in general. Be a guest writer or build your own blog for your game. Many game studios have their own blog. Check these out:

Cross Promotion

Cross Promotion

Cross promotion can also help market your game and reach your target audience. There are plenty of ad platforms where you can share, barter, or have direct deals and cross promote your game in other apps and mobile games. As an indie developer you can drive installs and user acquisition at a relatively low cost with the right tools and platforms. For example, Chartboost was the first to offer a direct-deals marketplace and several other ad networks followed soon after.  Tapdaq offers install trading with other games in its network.  

It should be noted that mainstream in-game advertising forms will usually show ads from big publishers with huge user acquisition budgets.  The developer risks losing users to other games created by these well established gaming companies.  These types of companies wield superior analytics and marketing strategies that will likely keep the user in the company’s portfolio and therefore you’re more likely to lose that user entirely. 

Pre Launch

Pre Launch Hype

Mobile game marketing campaigns work the same way motion pictures have trailers, websites, and social media pages before their release. Chances are a lot of this was done when the press kit was generated.  Prelaunch.me helps developers pre launch their games by allowing users to register, providing potential beta testers, and receive scores for their game.

PreLaunch

The pre launch campaign will hopefully inspire many users for day one of the game.  The first few days of a games life are the most important and most crucial in determining the success of the game. We covered this observation in our e-book of mobile data reports. A pre launch campaign will improve the chances of a game thriving in the long run and create enthusiasm for its gamers. This can lead to a community of people anticipating the release of your game.

Nintendo did this well with Super Smash Brothers Brawl. Even though it’s a platform game, the pre launch campaign brought in a huge amount of enthusiasm for players. Nintendo announced a new character for the game every week until the game was released. Players waited in anticipation to learn about new aspects of the game. Nintendo sold 874,000 copies the first day in North America alone.

Ad Campaigns

Ad Campaigns

Disclaimer: Not for studios with small wallets.

The game is launched, everything is set to go, but the studio spent all the money on the license for the Adobe Creative Suite and new MacBooks. Now there’s the expense of ads. Ads can be pricey, but they are rewarding if utilized efficiently and measured with the right tools for ad revenue attribution.

Obviously, but not so obviously, you will want to target gamers, or people that will give your game a shot. Consider the first demographic – gamers. Half of the U.S. plays mobile games. This means half of the U.S. doesn’t – so you’ll want to weed out that demographic. More about this can be found in the top ten mobile game data reports e-book. This report is a must read for indie developers that are attempting to use ads.Top 10 Data Reports Book

Gamers are found playing games on their couch, in class, waiting for the doctor, or in the back seat of a taxi. These places are not specific enough to target the gamers. You can’t place a billboard or poster strategically to target these users. There is one thing all mobile gamers have in common. Can you guess what it is? They play games. Lucky for developers, mobile games are a modern arena for billboards and commercials. Games have everything from banner ads to video ads. The game you made probably has them too. SOOMLA provides a useful list of ad networks and their ad formats.  We’ve noticed a huge trend that most video ads are preforming the best.

Now let’s look at the other demographic – people that will give your game a shot. These are the fans of giraffes, Coca-Cola, fashion, and teddy bears. This demographic is a little more difficult to identify and reach. However, if your game has giraffes and teddy bears you have a good chance of getting some new gamers on board. Ads on giraffe fan pages or teddy bear stores are useful.

Offer walls can be considered a type of advertisement. They are opportunities that reward users for downloading your game. Additionally, they may compensate gamers for completing certain tasks in your game – including spending money. This is a great opportunity for cross promotion.

Out of the Box Ideas

Android Apps Badge

If your game is in the Google Play Store, use the Android Apps Badge to create yours! Plug in your package ID and you’ll get your badge. This can be placed anywhere you like such as your webpage or in an email newsletter campaign.

Temple Run

You can even include your badge as part of your email signature. This is a great tool to promote your game in a neat and concise image.

What Next?

Marketing a mobile game is not the easy part. Many indie developers know the importance of creating great games, but often underestimate the work necessary to market them. Take these tips into consideration from day one and you will save time and money while effectively marketing your mobile game. It’s important to also track your marketing efforts through analytics. There is much to consider and, if done right, the marketing and public relations part of game development can be fun for both the developers and the end-users.

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18 Comments

  1. Alex Scholtes

    August 25, 2015 at 4:50 pm

    This is very helpful. Ill have to save this article, thank you

    Reply

    • Emily

      August 27, 2015 at 7:59 am

      Happy to hear that you enjoyed the article!

      Reply

  2. Recursos para desarrolladores | Ibuprogames

    August 25, 2015 at 8:39 pm

    […] Marketing 101 for indie mobile game developers. […]

    Reply

  3. denis

    August 26, 2015 at 9:22 pm

    Thank you for the article. This is what I have been missing!

    Reply

    • Emily

      August 27, 2015 at 7:58 am

      Glad you find it helpful 🙂

      Reply

  4. New Solution Studio

    September 2, 2015 at 12:06 pm

    Thank you fo help developers ^_^

    Reply

  5. New Solution Studio

    September 2, 2015 at 12:06 pm

    Thank you for help developers ^_^

    Reply

    • Rodolfo E. Madero

      October 6, 2015 at 12:46 am

      Of course! Thank you for reading! 🙂

      Reply

  6. […] their ability to innovate not on user acquisition, but rather on core game design and alternative marketing tactics. Here are, from my perspective, six aspects of mobile game development where indie game developers […]

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  7. […] this excellent post on indie games marketing from […]

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  8. […] the game might be the fun, exciting part, but for the game to be successful it needs to be marketed which means having a strong understanding of the […]

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  9. […] так давно израильская компания SOOMLA подготовила развернутое руководство по маркетингу мобильных инди […]

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  10. Jonathan

    October 31, 2015 at 12:50 am

    Really really helpful article–especially the lists of sites about blogs and where to find these resources because that’s been the most difficult part for me

    Reply

  11. Artista Apps

    November 18, 2015 at 8:47 am

    Wonderful!! My developers are indeed so happy.

    Reply

  12. Erdi Izgi

    January 9, 2016 at 1:49 pm

    Awesome 🙂 Thank you so much, This post should be bookmarked by every developer.

    Reply

  13. […] are Facebook and Twitter. Create a specific Facebook page and Twitter page and start posting. This article from Soomla had some great […]

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  14. […] are Facebook and Twitter. Create a specific Facebook page and Twitter page and start posting. This article from Soomla had some great […]

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  15. Devlon Infotech

    February 17, 2016 at 7:43 am

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