Guerrilla Marketing for Indie Mobile Games

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Sometimes you just don’t have the kind of money required to promote your mobile game through the typical channels. If you’ve got a marketing budget of zero, you might consider hitting Facebook or Twitter to get the word out about your fantastic new game, but everyone else is doing that, too. You’ll get buried under the sheer volume of noise.

What you really need to do is create a compelling marketing message to let people know about your game. You need to think outside the box to create a guerrilla-style event that will spotlight you and your mobile game without a lot of money.

Playing dress-up

Jake Sones, developer of the genre-defying Zombie Match Defense, had applied to show his game off at IndieCade, but wasn’t accepted. He could have just not gone to the festival, two hours north of his home town, but Sones didn’t give up – he went to the site and hung out nearby, where plenty of festival-goers could see him.

“Instead of merely attending the convention as a normal attendee,” he says, “I built an arcade cabinet costume and walked around with a build of our game strapped to an iPad on my chest.”

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Image via Jake Sones at IndieCade

His unique marketing got a lot of attention at the festival, and even a mention on iOS gaming site, TouchArcade, for its unique audacity. It’s hard to measure direct impact on sales, of course, but Sones thinks the added visibility can’t hurt.

“Over the course of the weekend,” he says, “I handed out over 200 fliers for the game and several people bought it before they even walked away (a few because they didn’t want to wait in line to play the game).”

Many others tagged Sones in the photos they’d taken with him on Instagram and Twitter, giving him even more free publicity.

Breaking Bad

Before Gerard Kelly launched Hipster CEO to the app store, he’d had a mailing list that let people interested in the pre-launch activities of development stay abreast of the game’s progress.

One day, in order to create a few waves, Ger posted a message to the list that said one thing:

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This was just before the final episode of Breaking Bad, the critically-acclaimed television show that was finishing up its last season. His mailing list exploded, of course, with some members getting angry about the spoiler for the big finale.

Ger had to apologize for the stunt, telling his list members that he was joking, and really had no idea what happens to Walt.

“I emailed back everyone who got in touch with me to let them know I was just clowning around, “he wrote. “To anyone who was ticked off and didn’t get in touch – apologies.”

Later, though, Ger realized that his joking email had been passed around the internet, shared out on Twitter and Facebook. His mailing list grew as a result, and now has over 10,000 members.

“I didn’t put a ton of effort into promoting aside from the usual shares,” he says, “but I’m pretty sure it got shared/retweeted a bit. It certainly didn’t hurt subscriptions but I can’t remember now if I saw any much uptick (in sales).”

Embracing indie

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Image via Shannon Grant​

Brianna Wu didn’t ask to become the public face of women in tech, but when she was targeted by the misogynist online movement Gamergate this past year, she stepped up and pushed back. Sure, Wu would rather be making games, but at this moment, her public face is anti-discrimination.

When her development studio, Giant Spacekat, launched Revolution 60, she was feeling frustrated with the lack of opportunities for women in the gaming industry.

“Instead of dancing around the issue, I embraced it,” she says. “I took every chance to speak out about women in tech, and now, 4 years later, when you think about these topics, you think of Giant Spacekat.”

“It really benefits us to be ourselves, in the ways that the big companies can’t.”

Wu says that the best tactic for marketing is finding what you’re already passionate about, what sets you apart, and then embracing it with all your indie might.

“It really benefits us to be ourselves,” she says, “in the ways that the big companies can’t.”