Who To Market To If You Want To Sell The Most Copies Of Your Indie Game? (Hint: It's Not To Mass Market Casual Gamers)
I get it... you don't want to exclude any gamer when trying to sell your game right? The bigger the target, the easier it is, right?
Well, there is a good reason why this idea is incorrect.
And inside this article, you're going to learn an insight about "small target marketing" that most indie game devs never know. By making your target SMALLER, you have a better chance of hitting it.
And by understanding "small target marketing" just a bit more, you'll start seeing why some games seem to sell themselves, and don't need a lot of money for marketing or advertising.
The reason why it's important to know who your target market is, is because it will help you improve your chances of your target market finding YOU.
The type of marketing I want to show you is the type where you spend as little money as possible -- and still sell a lot of copies of your indie game.
Here's what you need to know about "small target marketing"...
Number One Indie Game Marketing Myth: The Bigger The Target, The Easier To Hit
It's counter-intuitive to think that trying to go for a SMALLER market is a better indie game sales strategy.
And it's safe to assume that the bigger your target, the easier it is to hit that target. In other words, the more types of people you try to sell your indie game to, the better chances you'll sell more.
And besides, most game devs believe their game is for everybody. They believe that their game has broad appeal. So targeting the mass market is a great strategy.
I don't think so. And there's good reasons why...
You Don't Find The Target Market... They Find YOU
Do you know anybody who buys Johnson and Johnson Baby Shampoo? Who uses it the most? Is it the adult?
In the business world, Johnson and Johnson Baby Shampoo was marketed as a shampoo for babies. But their research shows that adults use the shampoo, and it's not babies.
My point here is, that the market CHOSE the product... not the other way round.
But you're not making baby shampoo... you're making video games.
Well, what about MineCraft? Who's the main target? Kids and YouTubers... and now even school boards and educators.
If you asked Notch back in 2009, who is his target market, he wouldn't say children, schools, and YouTubers.
The market targeted the product... the market chose who is the target... not the other way around.
Same with Dark Souls. It was the community that started the whole "Git Gud" stuff. It was the community that labeled the game as "difficult".
Even Hidetaka Miyazaki said it, too. He said that he had no intention of making his game be more difficult on purpose. He just like having a difficult game because overcoming a challenge is rewarding. Which almost most games strive to do, anyway.
So, what's my point with all this? How will knowing this help you sell more copies of your indie game?
Let me show you that, next...
The "Small Target Technique"
Knowing who your gamer is and what they get out of playing your indie game is the most important factor in success.
And the more specific you are, the better you improve your chances of a gamer finding you and buying your game... and then telling their friends about your game... and essentially helping you sell your indie game for you.
In other words, the SMALLER the target, the better chances you'll hit that target.
How? What do I mean? Let me show you how the "Small Target Technique" works...
Step 1: Develop a Game You'd Want To Play -- Not a Game The Mass Market Would Want To Play
Game devs who fail at marketing their game assume that their game has "everything for everyone".
But they don't realize that's not how people buy things. When people want running shoes, they don't buy a shoe that has everything for everyone. They buy a shoe that is made specifically for them.
Same with video games. Gamers have certain needs and wants. They play games because certain games fulfill certain needs and wants.
For example, a gamer will love an RPG games, but will never play a MMORPG. Or a gamer will love FPS games, but will only play multiplayer ones.
Gamers don't buy games that try to appeal to everyone.
A better strategy is to narrow down your target. Again, make the target even smaller, and you'll see you have a better chance of hitting it.
And where do you start? Star with YOU. My best advice to indie game devs is to develop a game that YOU would want to play. Chances are, that thousands of others want to play that game, too.
Here's why this narrowing of your target works...
Step 2: Solve Your Own Problems
By developing an indie game that YOU would want to play forces you to solve your own problems.
How many times have you played games, and thought to yourself...
"Oh if this game had X feature, it would be 10x better".
"Why the hell did they add that in... I'd take it out".
Again, chances are, that the problems YOU are facing, other gamers face too.
By developing a game that YOU would want to play, you're filling a gap in the market.
And that's the KEY INSIGHT here...
Marketing and business is all about finding a GAP in the market, and filling that gap.
And by making a game that YOU would want to play, is the best way to find those gaps.
On the other hand, when a game dev sees something go mainstream (for example PUBG), and starts developing another Battle Royale game, then it's too late. That gap has already been filled.
Chasing other game devs successes is not the road increasing your indie game sales.
By developing a game that YOU would want to play... and developing a game that solves your own problems you have when playing other games... you are essentially making a NEW game that fills gaps in the market.
Step 3: Be Smart Enough To Recognize How Your Game Strikes a Chord With Your Gamers... and Run With It
Remember how I told you that the market targets YOU, and not the other way round? It's rare to sit around with your team and pick a target gamer, make a game for that target gamer, and watch all the profits add up in your bank account.
What usually happens is, a game dev makes a game, and it's the market who decides who the target is.
But there's one more extra step...
Once the community decides who the target is, then the developer has to be smart enough to recognize that, and roll with it.
For example, when gamers started saying things like, "git gud", or "try and die and die again", FromSoftware rolled with it. They were smart enough and recognized what their game resonated with gamers the most... and they ran with it. That's when they made the "Prepare To Die" edition...
This phrase "Prepare To Die" is brilliant marketing and it didn't come from a bunch of business people and developers sitting around a room thinking of clever taglines.
It came from the community. By listening to your community, you'll learn more about your game and how to market it than by sitting around and thinking.
If it wasn't for listening to the community, FromSoftware would have never thought of that tagline.
My point here is, to pay close attention to how gamers react to your game. It's important to notice these small nuances of how gamers react to your game.
Remember, Notch probably never thought that Minecraft would be such a perfect game for YouTubers, or kids, or educators. But he rolled with it. He didn't stop YouTuber's from making Let's Plays. It later became his marketing strategy to get a mass market.
Nobody sat around in a boardroom, with a bunch of business people, and said, "YouTubers will love this game. They'll make Let's Plays, and it will help sell the game".
No. The community did that. The community chose the target. And smart game developers notice that, and roll with it.
Key Insights That Will Help You Sell Your Indie Game
So, here's a quick summary, or the key pillars of the Small Target Technique...
- Making your target bigger is easier to hit is a myth
- By making your target smaller, you have a better chance of hitting it
- It counter-intuitive to think like that, but people don't buy things that are made for "everything for everyone"
- People buy stuff that is made specifically for them
- You don't chose your target, they choose you
- Start with YOU... what game would YOU want to play
- This will you solve your own problems you see that other games do
- And chances are, other gamers have those same problems, and can't find a game that solves those problems
- By doing this type of game development, you are essentially filling a gap in the market
- Following trends and trying to copy what's popular seems like a smart strategy, but often leads to failure because those gaps in the market are already filled
- Pay close attention to your gamers and how they react to your game, and use THAT as your marketing
Remember, these marketing ideas are designed to help you sell more indie games. These are not ideas about how to entertain gamers... it's not to engage gamer... it's not to get exposure.
When you're an indie game dev, you need to make sales to survive. Entertaining, exposure, engagement... these are NOT sales. The marketing I'm teaching you is all about how to get gamers to buy your game.
So, let's put what you just learned into action...
Your Action Plan
You learned a lot today. The ideas I shared with you took me 12 years to learn. And it's not easy to learn and know all this stuff from reading one article.
So, to help you on your goal to selling your indie game, then it's important to take what you just learned and use it in real life.
Take out clean sheet of paper and a pen... or open up a new word doc. And take 20 minutes to answer this...
What 3 Problems Does Your Indie Game Solve That No Other Game Solves?
I know, this isn't probably easy to answer. But when you do this, you will find an insight about your game that you've never thought of before.
This new insight will help you come up with better marketing. When you create content like a video, blog, or image about your game, then you'll have something more interesting to say because you discovered something new about your game.
The reason this works is, because the problems your game solves are the SAME problems other gamers are having too.
Also, I want you to start thinking like your gamer would. And this exercise works when you don't have a big community, yet. It's meant to put your focus on the gamer more, and less about you.
And when you start thinking like a gamer would, then this will help you come up with marketing that resonates with gamers, and attracts them to your indie game.
And that's all marketing is: creating content that strikes a chord with other people so they pay attention to you. And by getting their attention, you'll have a better chance of them buying your game.
Remember, when you're an indie game, you need sales to survive. So the type of marketing you're learning isn't about how to entertain, or how to get exposure... it's how to convert a gamer into a customer.
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