5 Tips to Marketing Indie Games on a Shoestring Budget

Recently, I read an article on marketing indie apps on a shoestring budget and it caught my attention and I wanted to give my thoughts on the article and some of the statistics and ideas I bring up.

The original article can be found:


As an indie game developer, most of us have tons of ideas that we are so sure will be killer.  We have bought into the old “If you build it, they will come” idea.  Sadly, the reality is often VERY different.

They bring out some interesting statistics:

The average indie game developer makes less than $500 per month while it takes an average of $6000 to develop a game. (According to AppVee)

This statistic is extremely misleading in my opinion because “less that $500 per month” covers a LARGE range… from $0 per month to $499 per month.  And is that $500 one month and then nothing the next month?  In the good old days, I was making $1000-$2000 per month, but I daresay that if I released the same app now, it would be significantly less because of the state of the app stores.  And while I think $6000 per game is a bit more than most GameSalad creators spend, if you factor in our time, even at minimum wage, we may be over that unless it’s an extremely simplistic game.

But let’s assume that you do make $500/month and development costs $6000.  That means, it will take you one year to re-coop your costs, assuming the income from the game stays constant.  If it’s like most games, the game will peak quickly and then fade off… sometimes gradually, sometimes swiftly.

But let’s move on to their second statistic:

Gartner projects that by 2018, less than 0.01% of consumer mobile apps will be considered financial successes by their own developers

This is a very disturbing and alarming statistics, but possibly a little skewed as it doesn’t really define what a “financial success” means to the developer.  To me, a success means I re-coop the money I put into it, to you a success may mean enough to buy yourself a new house.  But still, that’s a serious statistic you want to consider becoming or continuing being a game developer.  Or, we will need to find better ways at monetizing apps.

Now for a very sobering statistic:

95% of indie games are not profitable (According to Indiegamegirl)

To me, this seems a statistic that’s based more in reality.  From my experience and the experiences of others I’ve talked to, this – unfortunately – seems to be very true.  Again, it is a little misleading, as this encompasses all free apps too, which may not be profitable in some ways but may bring other benefits – like brand growth.  Still, if you are thinking about being a game developer and hitting it rich,  keep in mind that given there are (roughly) 1.5 million apps in the Android Store and 1.4 million apps in the iTunes store, that means if half of them are games (let’s go with 750,000), then 37.500 (1 in 20) of them will be profitable and that’s not even saying HOW PROFITABLE.  So, that’s like hoping you roll a 20 on a 20 sided dice – for you pen and paper gamers out there.

And finally:

500 new iOS games and 250 Android games appeared in their respective stores every 24 hours (Venturebeat)

That’s alot of competition.  Basically, when you submit your app, you are either 1 in 250 or 1 in 500 to be in the what’s new, and that’s not even counting updated apps.  That means low visibility for your app.  And it also means whatever idea you have, is probably out there in some form – not that it matters that much since you never know what will take off.

So what are there suggstions?

1. Create a website / blog

I wholeheartedly agree with this one.  It’s important to have a website, even if you are just a one game developer.  You can fairly easily create a website/blog using WordPress on a number of free servers – such as wordpress.com even though if you can afford it you should get your own domain and hosting as it is generally much more professional.

2. Game Trailer

In today’s visual world, I have to agree that a game trailer will help your chances.  That being said, I think many of us are so used to fake trailers or trailers that show only the best graphics (like 3D cutscenes) of the game instead of he actual game play.

If you don’t have the technical know-how to make your own trailer, check out the people on Fiverr and get one of them to make it for you for as little as $5.  Granted, it won’t be as high quality as a professionally created one, but something is better than nothing.

3. Social Media

Like it or not, social media seems to rule the world.  It’s one of the biggest ways to spread the word about something.  Make sure you create a facebook fan page for your development business and you may even create one for each app – a subpage.  Post updates, link to blog posts, post screenshots, trailer videos, etc.  Twitter’s another good one to have.  Have a separate twitter account for your game development business/hobby.

4. Press

The mention reaching out to the press, which is a good idea but in my opinion, very few people ever get noticed unless they are already big players.  One thing you CAN do is create a press release and distribute it with a link back to your website or facebook page.  If nothing else, this creates some links back to your page which may rank it slightly better in the search engines.

If you’re not familiar with creating a press release, you can hire someone to do it (on Fiverr or another site) or check out this article from apptamin.com on how to create on specifically for your app.  If you do create a press release, hire someone on Fiverr or elsewhere to distribute it using a paid service.  There are services that get the press release out to all the major outlets but they cost alot of money and aren’t worth it unless you are releasing tons of press releases.  Just pay someone $5-$20 to send it out for you.

Also, make sure on your website you link to the press release and a press kit.  A press kit is information about your app and about your company, including high resolutions images and logos.  You can learn more about creating on from many sites on the web.  If someone in the press does visit your site and write something about your company, they will have the information they need without having to ask you – which they may not have time to wait for if they are on a deadline.

5. Build Relationships

They suggest building relationships with the indie community and I totally agree.  The GameSalad community is already a fairly small group, but being able to ask questions, answer questions and compare notes is invaluable.  Sharing things that work – and things that don’t – is important and can benefit everyone.

Please do go back and read the original article as well, as obviously there is more than what I summarize here, but hopefully my 2 cents as an app developer will help.


Tags: game game development games marketing

    John Cressman the Editor-in-Chief at MonkeyUncle.com. He is also a web programmer, game programmer, instructor, and a big proponent of cross platform development tools for mobile game development.

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