Sure, Joel Dreskin has had a storied career marketing big-name titles with LucasArts, Telltale Games and Penny Arcade, but working with the big-name publishers isn’t his true inspiration. Dreskin finds he’s most fulfilled when helping indie devs, who’ve made a leap of faith, successfully market their creations.
Dreskin is so passionate about indie devs and marketing that he’s currently working on a book about it: A Practical Guide to Indie Game Marketing. We recently chatted with him via email about the top tips indie devs need to know about marketing their mobile games, no matter the budget.
1. No money, no problem
If your budget for marketing is under, say, a couple of thousand dollars, never fear. Dreskin says there are still options available. Public relations firms and marketing campaigns come in all sizes. Some services can be as simple as assisting with press outreach. These services fit well within a lower price range, Dreskin says, but be mindful that as the complexity of your approach increases, so does the fee.”I recommend PR as one of the first investment areas for developers with small budgets,” Dreskin says. “When it works, it can be amazing. One studio Dreskin worked with, The Binary Mill, did just that, hiring PR for outreach, trailer launches, and an exclusive preview on IGN, as well as getting a preview of the game in the hands of journalists.
Image via Google PlayThis low-budget beginning eventually led to the success of Mini Motor Racing ? a pay-to-play game that exceeded 6 million downloads (across all platforms) and made enough money to consider creating a sequel.
2. Be a “show-off” at gaming events
If your budget is even smaller, Dreskin says, industry events are a cost-effective way to establish visibility with journalists, potential customers and other industry partners like publishers.At these events, you can purchase a vendor table to demo your game (prices vary depending on the event, so find one within your range). You can book appointments ? free of charge ? with press attending the show (even if you’re not showing your game at a table space), and you can attend the inevitable post-conference parties to network with industry professionals, too.
3. Build a social media presence
This may seem obvious, but it’s worth reiterating. Dreskin recommends that you build email lists and social media followings early (read: before you launch your game). You can manage a Facebook page and a Twitter account fairly easily, but the connections are everlasting.”A company’s first core fans can become the strongest supporters over time, helping to spread the word with their friends, family members and communities,” Dreskin says.Make sure you have visible links to your social channels wherever possible. Post the links on your main website, in your game, in email signatures and on any press materials you send out. The more people that connect to your social media accounts, the more you can manage your message and get the word out to these already-interested fans.Diversify your social media activity, too. Don’t just stick with what you know.
Image via Facebook”The more ways studios can offer to connect with audiences, the better,” Dreskin says. Some fans prefer to spend their time on Twitter, while others gravitate to Facebook or reddit.Once you learn (through some experimentation) where your players like to spend their social media minutes, be sure to post there regularly and informally. Post a mix of official news blasts with more behind-the-scenes types of messages. Stay cool, be positive and, above all, be yourself. Fans appreciate responsiveness and genuine connection, Dreskin says.
4. Larger budgets can benefit from marketing, too
If you have a bigger budget, start spending on higher-level marketing and PR programs. Dreskin suggests a measured approach, though: spend more on PR, attend more shows and look into paid advertising options.”I recommend starting with pilot ad programs and testing at relatively low spending levels for different variations,” Dreskin says. It’s smarter to wait until you see results before you buy-in to any program too heavily, he adds.
Image via the App StoreUltimately, indie developers need patience and a willingness to re-evaluate their marketing results. If you don’t succeed at first, assess, modify and refine your approach.As The Binary Mill team marketed Mini Motor Racing, for example, they increased their social media presence and spent more on PR to help plan updated launch schedules and seasonal content aimed at bringing in new players after the initial release.”It can take time and tuning to get solid results,” Dreskin says. “Stick with it, gain experience and insights and keep working away!”