Indie game marketing tips: how to utilise PR and publicity

If you’re making an indie game, the chances are you’re going to need to do some marketing. But what’s the best method of getting your product in the limelight?

Press hatSmaller game studios often struggle to find the budget and resources for full marketing and PR campaigns. But good indie game promotion doesn’t have to break the bank, and it doesn’t have to take up hours of your day.

Before joining BeefJack, I worked as a freelance video games journalist and PR consultant, with a specialism in indie games. Having written for a variety of major publications (Eurogamer, the Telegraph, PC Gamer and more) and represented some high-profile indie titles (Dear Esther and Thomas Was Alone, to name a couple), I began to spot some fairly noticeable trends and identify new ways of highlighting the most interesting and noteworthy indie games around.

Here at BeefJack, we offer indie game marketing and PR services that range from simple press releases to fully orchestrated campaigns; our experiences and processes mean we’re able to do this at a very affordable price. Having someone look after your promotional campaigns is a great way to free up your own resources for making awesome games, but there are a few things every indie studio should be doing as a matter of course. So here are some of top tips for PR and marketing as an indie developer.

1) Have a website
It might sound obvious, but you’d be surprised how many developers fall at this first hurdle. Yes, it’s easier to create a Facebook page or direct everyone to your IndieDB profile, but it’s important to put your stamp on your marketing at the earliest possible opportunity. Having your own website – preferably one for each of your games – looks professional, is a great place to collate everything an interested party might be looking for, and the first thing the press will look for if they want to contact you. Not having a website can be seen to speak to the effort you’re putting into your project. So make sure you’ve got one.

2) Make it as easy as possible to contact you
On your website, display a contact email address somewhere prominent – i.e. either on a dedicated contact page, or in an easy-to-spot location on your home page. During my time working as a professional games journalist, I was regularly baffled by how many indie developers had no apparent method of getting in touch. If your game is interesting enough, journalists will want to cover it, but the quickest way of stopping them is to make them put the legwork in to find you. And on that note, if a journalist emails you, respond promptly – the press work to tight deadlines, and just a few hours can be the difference between getting the coverage or not.

3) Don’t be cryptic
Major AAA publishers can get away with drip-feeding annoyingly small pieces of information about their new releases, because they’ve already got the gaming world’s attention. As an indie developer, you might have a dedicated following, but you won’t be able to increase this following by being coy – and you’ll struggle to get the press interested unless you’re forthcoming with information. Make sure your website contains high-resolution screenshots, gameplay videos, and all the details a writer would need to know if he or she were to write a piece on your game. If you’re not ready to start delivering these items, don’t even think about announcing your game yet.

4) Have a preview build at the ready
Very few indie developers like dedicating time to creating demos and preview builds. But the fact of the matter is, having these builds to hand is a vital part of successful marketing and PR. You never know when the opportunity will arise to demo your game at a show, or when a journalist will approach you about a preview, and not having an available version of the game can be an enormous barrier in getting the right attention. You don’t have to make these preview builds public (in fact, it’s often best not to), but you should make sure you’ve got a new showable version at least every few months.

5) Understand your game
This is the really big one. Here’s a test: if I asked you to describe your game to me in five seconds or less, and successfully communicate why you think it’s worthy of people’s attention, could you do it? If not, this might be your problem. It’s something we help our clients with all the time, often as the first task we get to work on, because having a great elevator pitch is vital if you want journalists or potential fans to sit up and take note. You need to understand your game so well that you can turn everything about it into a single-sentence pitch. By the way, just so you know, your game almost certainly isn’t “unique”. Picking two games to compare it with will serve you far better than pretending there’s nothing else like it.

That’s the thing. Your game doesn’t need to be unique. Nothing’s unique, really. You just need to understand your game, and how people will approach it, in order to tick off the first few boxes on your marketing strategy list.

The next step – maintenance – is the time-consuming bit. Many indie developers find they don’t have the time to dedicate to PR and marketing, but these five quick steps are more than worth the effort. And working with a marketing and PR specialist can help you keep up this good work in the long run, so you can focus on making games. This is where I hope we might come in, and I’d encourage you to drop us an email to find out how we can help. Either way, though, work your way through this list, and you’ll set yourself up for better things to come.

Lewis Denby is Executive Producer at BeefJack, and a former freelance games journalist and PR representative.