Hello, and welcome to Dev Talk, the weekly iFanzine feature in which I ask a panel of indie game developers their opinion on a topic or current hot-button issue related to the games industry.
This week I posed the following question(s): “In your experience, what’s the best way to promote a mobile game? Is it submitting to review sites? Social media? Paid advertising? Some or all of the above, or something else entirely?”
All of the above. But the best way is that your game does it organically. If it’s catchy enough people will tell their friends to play it.
For us the best way is building the community via social media like Facebook and forums, and having a great relationship with the media outlets. We want to keep everyone up to date with our development so everyone feels invested in what we’re doing. It’s also insanely important to get to talking with the platform holders as early as possible (Apple and Google), so they know your game is coming out.
Honestly, marketing to the platform holder. Or more like being friends with them. Over the years we have done pretty much everything else, and sometimes we have even succeeded pretty nicely. And nothing ever comes even close to that storefront front-page feature, even a minor one. We are extremely lucky to have always had a great relationship with Apple so we’re basically never left out to dry, but then again we’ve never had any contact whatsoever with Google Play.
Not surprisingly our fortunes have been amazing on iOS and non-existent on Android. Recently we launched JYDGE on Google Play, and we feel like we got pretty much as great platform specific media coverage as an indie can get, we sent out a bunch of promo codes to YouTubers and got some coverage there too… and we’d have needed about 100 times more to have made a dent. A huge contrast to the blush inducing wallop of cash we got from the iOS release. But we deal mostly with paid games, and I guess very few are still in that ancient business, so the real answer is probably “whatever works for your game.” It’s a frustrating answer and doesn’t really give you anything actionable to work with before you find that something that works, but aside from platform holder support, I really don’t think anyone can give you a better answer.
It’s always going to be different for everyone, there’s no right answer to this. Most of the people that have written about our game are people we have met at events, so that probably says a lot. We’ve had less luck submitting directly to review sites. I’m a big believer in guerilla marketing and trying to find a DIY or cheap approach around everything, this is the essence of being independent. We push our stuff out across a ton of different social media too, it all helps.
We haven’t spent any money on marketing so far. We do have dedicated social media channels for our game, but we rather use these to inform existing players about upcoming updates. During beta testing we shared a lot of art assets with the 9GAG community which laid the basis for our awesome Discord community. Besides, most of our players came in through features on the App Store or player referrals.
In 2009 iOS and Android were emerging platforms; we’d get organic visibility on our indie games and they would sell themselves. In 2018 I feel that getting games to work in VR, or on Apple TV, would be a reasonable first step towards a successful (indie) release on mobile. Or get a publisher.
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