Digital Distribution And Discovery
If you are an indie developer, perhaps the biggest challenge is not so much distribution (the internet is capable of delivering your precious game pretty well even from simple download links, through distribution systems like steam etc).
The new battleground for content creators like indie game developers, is for discovery. By this I mean that without people knowing about you and your product, the likelyhood is that they would never download it or buy it. So instead of thinking about the distribution model, it may be more useful to consider the discovery model.
How to maximize discovery?
This is a thorny issue with many indie developers we’ve spoken to as they aren’t always natural marketers of their work. The thing is, it seems like somehow people should just “discover” your game because it is the best game ever. That is how many people think and it is certainly not hard to understand why. But the reality is that you really need to build tools to help people discover your game into your development.
But perhaps more important, is to have something interesting to say. Either as a developer, or as a game. You have to have something that hooks the potential players imagination and leaves them wanting to do something to discover your game. It might be that you are an interesting and outspoken critic of something about games (an example here is the rant’s Jonathan Blow does at GDC which tend to increase his profile and thus that of his game).
Likewise, you may simply have something in the game that is worth talking about. Maybe you have a feature that invites people to share their experiences, or have a particular theme that resonates with a specific audience.
The point is to be “interesting” and then to spread that interesting message in order to connect with people who might want to hear it. You can certainly help yourself by networking with people who enjoy spreading the messages of others. That is part of the reason why attending events where there are indie-friendly press are so good. But the point about the internet as a medium is that there are now many different ways of reaching out to people, so you would be well advised to seek them out and make best use of them to speak to your target audience.
Tools to help spread the word:
- Promoting your game with regular updates, either via your own website or via social media like twitter/facebook/youtube etc.
- Attend events – ideally ones with influential press, but in general being out there will let other people recognize you and eventually they will become advocates and/or friends you can use to bolster your discovery network.
- Write – This one is useful on a personal level too. But actually writing about development in general and being a good member of society and the development community can really help with generating contacts. Speak at conferences too!
- Pester people you think have influence – not in a nagging way, but in general, you need to identify those who have influence with people who might like your game and then you need to make them aware of you, so a bit of good natured banter can’t hurt.
- Press releases – these are generally seen as a bit hit and miss from the indie friendly press. Unless they are personalized you are unlikely to get much traction from them. Remember that people prefer real-life connections to human beings over boilerplate text!
- Create marketing materials – This one can work really well if you can then get sharing of those marketing materials to happen. Marketing materials do not have to take a specific form. You could consider a packet of biscuits sent to a journalist to be marketing materials even!
Of course, no one particular way to spread your message will work for every game. The reality is likely to be some combination of different forms of communication, over a sustained period is needed to truly maximize discovery. There are literally too many games being released as “indie” games right now, so actually getting in front of people so they can choose to try your game is becoming ever more important.
Over the next month we’ll have a look at some actual examples of the approaches we’ve started to discuss in this post, both good and bad.
Get ready to talk about your game!!