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12 Dec 2013

Indie Marketing Tips That Don’t Help Anybody

Although there is a plethora of great tips available for indie developers to use in relation to successfully marketing your indie game, it begs the question: how good are some of these tips? Are there tips being passed around to indie developers that you should avoid like the plague? Indeed there are. Today’s post goes along fairly well with a post I wrote a while back entitled “Practices to Avoid When Marketing Your Indie Game,” so if you are wanting to do your own marketing (and you should be – to an extent anyway), avoid the following tips to ensure you market your game appropriately.


If your game is good, it will sell itself

You have probably heard this advice since you were a youngling:


“Be good at your job, and success will follow.”

“Invent something good, and people will buy it.”


It’s such half-assed advice. Think about it, what does the advice above actually imply? It’s implying that your job or the product you create will somehow make people take notice and they will be so mesmerized that they will flock to you and give you a raise, a promotion, or in the case of the product created, people will be inclined to buy it for some reason. It simply doesn’t make sense, but we hear it all the time don’t we?

“Good games sell themselves.”

No, they don’t. How many times have you stumbled across an awesome game only to think to yourself, “I can’t believe I didn’t know this game existed before?” It happens all the time, which automatically proves the advice above is false.

Good games don’t sell themselves – indie developers that also know how to be sell themselves sell games. On that same line of thought, indie developers that have good marketers sell games in the case of hiring a PR firm to help market your game. The marketplace is flooded – more people are developing games than ever before. You have to do everything possible to stand about the rest and be noticed, or you will be exactly that: unnoticed.


Embargoes are vital to your game’s success

It’s crazy how many people think that an embargo on your indie game is necessary. People are so scared of their game getting negatives reviews right out of the gate that they think it will keep people from wanting to play the game in the long run. Embargoes aim to ensure that all reviews are released at the same time – usually around the time a game is actually released. With so many reviews coming out all at once, the negative reviews are then lost in the shuffle.

Yet do you know what else happens? There isn’t a clear message regarding the quality of your game. It’s a matter of trying to understand a clear, concise message while everyone is trying to talk at once. Embargoes accomplish absolutely nothing except cause a flux of reviews to occur simultaneously, and that isn’t good for anyone.

Instead, do not place an embargo on your game at all. If someone wants to review your game a few days early, let them. Don’t be afraid of early negative reviews, and if for some reason you are afraid? Use that energy to improve your game so it’s good enough to be reviewed at any time instead of trying to ‘game’ the system.


When emailing press releases, ‘text-only’ is bad

No, it isn’t. I will tell you what types of press releases are bad: press releases that are blank in the body of the email, but instead are attached as a .PDF or .PNG file. It doesn’t happen very much anymore, but there was a time not too long ago that a lot of developers were doing this. I’ll give them this, it’s certainly a clever way to bypass spam filters, but it annoys the heck out of the person that is receiving the press release.

Every time I received a press release like this, I deleted it. I know I’m not the only one either. There is no better way to annoy someone in the press than making them download your attachment and open it up in a picture viewer/Adobe Reader just because you wanted to eliminate the chances of your email being categorized as ‘spam’ by mistake. By doing this, you’re doing yourself a disservice because like me, most of the people getting this press release is deleting it as soon as they see they have to download an attachment.

There is nothing wrong with sending text-only press releases – in fact, I welcome them. A perfectly formatted, informative, and clean-looking press release is so much easier to use instead of an attachment. Yes, you must include pictures in your press release, but include them at the bottom of the press release. Moreover, provide a link to all assets for your game that is hosted on your website. That way, a member of the press can obtain even more assets instead of those included in the press release.

Remember: simplicity is king when it comes to press releases.


If you play hard to get, the media will want to cover your game ever more

This advice is about as absurd as the first piece of ludicrous advice. No, they won’t. If you continue to keep information from the press, nobody is going to care and your game is going to be forgotten. Sometimes, this type of marketing works, but it’s only when someone’s name value has hype around it by default.

How hyped would you get if you heard that Shigeru Miyamoto (creator of Mario and Zelda) was working on an all-new IP and he was going to show it off early next year? Probably pretty hyped, and you know why? Because the guy invented Mario and Zelda. If he is working on a new IP to stand alongside his legacy of Nintendo’s best IPs, then you are going to stand up and take notice by default.

Now what if I told you that Jack Wagner is going to release his newest IP early next year? Would you get excited? No way, because you have no idea who Jack Wagner is (and there is good reason for that – I just made him up). There is absolutely no hype surrounding Jack Wagner, because his name isn’t synonymous with awesome games.

If people don’t know who you are and you tease them about your upcoming game without having proven yourself to be a leader in gaming, then nobody will care and your game is going to be ignored.

I will give you another example. When I am searching for people to interview for Game Academy Radio and I find a video clip of an awesome looking indie game, if the developer has not left links in the clip showing visitors where they can find more information about the game, I pass it up and go onto another game. Why? Because there are so many good games out there to find and discover, if someone is not willing to point me in the right direction where I can make contact with them easily, I pass them on by.

Some indie developers have also teased about their game to me, saying, “we won’t discuss anything right now, but contact us in a few months.’

I understand their position, but you know what? I’m probably not going to touch base with them in a few months unless their game is really speaking to me. Again, there are so many good games that have released/been announced in the last month alone along with so many that are upcoming in the next month or two that another game is going to take its place in my mind in no time. It’s a shame to be sure, and maybe I should be more vigilant in touching base with developers again, but that’s the nature of the business at the moment. So many good games + so little time = no excuse to tease your game and be mysterious.

What about you guys? Are there different marketing techniques you can think of that are ‘no-no’s?’ Sound off in the comments below!

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