How a Small Indie Game Team Succeeded With Their First Game: Pixel Survivors [Indie Insights]

Pixel Survivors Did Two Thing Right When Marketing Their Video Game... Which of These Two Are You Doing As Well?

If you're a small video game dev team, and you're not sure how to market your video game, then let's take a closer look at a team that did it right.

What you'll learn isn't going to be stuff you've heard before. It's not even going to be traditional marketing tips that you always hear.

No. What you'll learn are non-obvious ways to market your video game so you can make enough cash flow, to start developing another game.

And you'll learn how to market your video game so you don't have to put any money into advertising, and so your game just sells itself.

So, let's learn something new about other people's success, so you can improve your chances of succeeding with your video game, too.

Two Reasons Why Pixel Survivors Was a Success and The Game Sold Itself

Pixel Survivors is developed and published by Patagoniart. They're a small team working out of Argentina.

I've been consulting them with their new game, Vecitas... my goal is to help them market a multiplayer indie space shooter. It's a giong to be tough, but I'll try.

Anyway, while consulting with them, I asked them a lot of questions about their past successes. I wanted to get them to "discover" how their past successes will help them market their new game.

During that process, I've uncovered two insights. And I want to share them with you, too.

These two insights will help you market your game. And help you develop a game that sells itself.

So let's start with reason number one...

Reason Number #1 Why Pixel Survivors Was a Success: The Name

Does a name really influence your sales?

Well, there is a hidden advantage to having a good name.

Remember, your goal is to develop a videogame that sell itself. Any advantage you can use, will help you with your goal.

And having the right name is one of those hidden advantages.

Think about it this way...

You are a small indie video game developer. Not a lot of gamers know you yet. Not a lot of gamers know any of your games.

The first thing a gamer will hear about you is the NAME of your game. It will be the first introduction to you and your video game.

So, why did a name like "Pixel Survivors" help in their success? How can the name of your video game help you with your success?

Let me show you...

The reason the name "Pixel Survivors" is good, is because it jam packed with a benefit.

Remember, a gamer doesn't know you yet. They have no idea what type of games you make or what they'll get. The name is the first thing they'll ever see... way before your trailer or your game play or your youtube videos.

The name is the first contact about you and anything you'll do.

So it's important that the name of your game is jam packed with a benefit.

What do I mean when I say "jam packed with a benefit"?

In a Few Words, A Good Name Tells The Gamer What's In It For Them...

A good video game name tells the gamer in less than a second what's in it for them. A good name isn't abstract. It isn't cute. It isn't technical.

If you notice top selling games like Tomb Raider, HITMAN, Left for Dead, Darkest Dungeon, Minecraft.... these are loaded with a benefit. They tell the gamer what they'll get to do and have if they play the game.

And this is a huge benefit for indie game devs who don't have money for branding. Of course there are a lot of games with abstract names that sell. But you either need a lot of money for branding an abstract name. Or you need to get lucky.

But if you can't rely on getting "lucky". And you want every advantage you can get to make your video game a success, then a more you are literal with your name, the better chances your game will get attention.

And this is what Pixel Survivors hit upon.

Back in 2014 and 2015, the word "Pixel" was loaded with benefits.

The word pixel is loaded with benefits to a gamer... it gets instant attention
The word pixel helps sells indie games because it's jam packed with benefits for a gamer

For a gamer, the word "pixel" is loaded with benefits. A gamer knows what type of game they're going to play. Pixel art video games were the anti-tripple-AAA video games.

While AAA games were highly polished, pixel art games had texture.

What I mean is, there was a huge trend where gamers moved away from "polished" video games, to games with "texture". Pixel art video games had more "texture". They were more fun then polished AAA games.

Let's go back to why the word "Pixel" is loaded with benefits. Remember, benefits are advantages or things a gamer will GET. They are tangible, measurable, and concrete.

Pixel art is a benefit because is almost tangible. Those pixels are almost material, and you can touch them. And this little difference in "texture" versus "polish" impacts game play. The art impacts how much fun a gamer will have because game play is a major part in having fun.

Same with the word "Survival". It' loaded with benefits. The word "survival" means you're going to get a certain type of game play. It's almost tangible. The gamer knows exactly what their getting.

Put those two words together, Pixel Survivors, and you got yourself an attention getting name.

A Name Is The Difference Between Getting Attention and. Getting No Attention

Remember, when you're starting off, you need all the advantages you can get. Having a name that is loaded with benefits, is a hidden advantage.

Gamers who don't know you, have never heard of you, will know exactly what "Pixel Survivors" means.

But you have to be careful. Words like "pixel" and "survivor" have lost their punch. Back in 2015, these words got attention. But today, these words have become a commodity. Everybody uses them. These words lost their benefits due to overuse.

Later I'll show you how you can leverage your video game name to get attention. But first, let's keep going with reason number 2 why Pixel Survivors made money...

Reason #2 Pixel Survivors Made Money: Fulling a Gamers Need That No Other Game Dev Is Doing

I'm always asking myself...

"What does a gamer need that they're not getting yet?"

"What's a need that no game is fulfilling yet?"

I'm not talking about pandering and making a game every gamer wants. I'm not talking about doing market research. I'm not talking about doing surveys and asking gamer what they want.

I'm talking about trying to discover something about YOUR game that no other dev is doing yet -- and trying to see if gamers want that.

When consulting with Patigoniart, I asked the team these weird questions too. And I discovered that "Pixel Survivors" hit a chord with gamers because it fulfilled a need that no other game was doing.

For example, when I played Pixel Survivors, it hit a chord with me... Top down, Pixel Art, Survival, MANAGEMENT game.

That's what hooked me... the management part.

There's a lot of gamers who love management games, and Pixel Survivors fulfilled that need. That's why it catched on.

Pixel Survivors was different than a lot of other games because the combination of Top Down / Survival / Pixel Art AND Management.

That is a unique blend of a sub-genre. And gamers were attracted to it.

This is called "Sub-Genre Marketing". It's where you specialize in a very small niche, and dominate that one little niche.

Games like Euro Truck Simulator, Farming Simulator, Binding of Isaac, Minecraft -- all specialized in a small niche and dominated it. And the reason they dominated their sub-genre is because they were responsible for almost inventing that sub-genre.

Now, this is all great advice. But what about you and your video game? How do you use this to help you make good money too?

That's next...

Lesson #1: How To Give Your Video Game a Name That Attracts a Gamer

Remember, any advantage you can get will help you sell more copies. And having a good name the best way to get free branding and free attention.

But finding a good name isn't easy. So to help you come up with a good name, always think "results".

What I mean is, a name like "Tomb Raider" has a result associated with it. A gamer knows they will be raiding tombs.

Same with HITMAN. The result is you get to be a hitman. Grand Theft Auto. You get to steal cars (or buy cars as DLC). What's the result? Minecraft? You get to mine and craft. 7 Days to Die? You have 7 days or you die.

You see what I mean? These names aren't sexy. They're actually kind of boring. But for a gamer, these names are attractive. That's because gamers are self-interested. They gravitate to what THEY think a game will get them.

The secret to these names are, they are literal. They tell the gamer a result they'll get. They tell a gamer a reward they'll get. The names are "concrete" and not abstract.

And this is a huge marketing strategy if you want to grab a gamer's attention.

I know I'm cherry picking. There are games with abstract names like Fez, Braid, Limbo, that sell. These names may not be literal, and tell a gamer a result they'll get. But they are easy to remember.

But names like, Alekhine's Gun, are hard to remember, easy to forget.

Lesson #2: What Is Your Unique Blend Of Sub-Genre?

When playing Pixel Survivors, it was a top-town, pixel art, survival game, management game. What stood it apart from other survival games is, the management part.

Back in 2015, survival games were everywhere. But management games were just becoming popular.

Go to Steam, and you'll see that a lot of the top selling games are management games....

In early 2017, the top selling games were management genre games
The Management game genre has exploded, and is one of the top selling genres

Pixel Survivors got into management games before the sub-genre became popular. Now if you're making a management game, it's going to be really hard to compete because of all the competition.

But this is what I want YOU to discover. There will always be a sub-genre to discover that no game dev is taking advantage of yet. There will always be a NEW need a gamer has that no other game is fulfilling.

Once a gamer plays a game, a new need arises. Once they get bored, they need another new type of game to fulfill a new type of need.

This is what I want you to discover in your own game. What is unique about your video game? What is something that gamers want but aren't getting yet?

To help you discover what's unique about your game, do this...

Open up a new word document, or get out a clean sheet of paper.

In 3 minutes, write down a list ALL the sub-genres you think your game falls into. Then highlight 3 or four of the sub-genres you think best match your video game.

The reason I want you to do this, is because you'll see a new perspective with your game.

If you're having trouble, check out this example...

Tower of Guns is a great example of how to explain what your game is and WHY a gamer will have fun playing it
Tower of Guns is a great example of how to explain what your game is and WHY a gamer will have fun playing it

Tower of Guns knows how to perfectly use sub-genre marketing. They could have easily said they're a first person shooter. But they got specific. Really specific.

They are a First-Person Bullet-Hell Rogue-lite game.

Now, what would grab a gamer's attention? First Person Shooter? Or, First-Person Bullet-Hell Rogue-Lite?

In a short paragraph, a gamer knows exactly what they'll get. It's the thing Pixel Survivors did. Here's what's on their Steam Store Page...

Pixel Survivors indie game description on ther Steam Store page says, Pixel Survivors is a god management game. Create some land and build structures to keep your small society settled. See how long you can keep your village alive!
Pixel Survivors Steam Store page description reads simple, but is great marketing because a new gamer knows exactly what they get if they play the game

Pixel Survivor's Steam Store description isn't flashy, or abstact. It reads...

Pixel Survivors is a god management game. Create some land and build structures to keep your small society settled. See how long you can keep your village alive!

This is great marketing because a new gamer who lands on this page knows in less than 10 seconds what they get to DO in the game. This type of clear, simple, communication is great marketing.

And back in 2005, the management sub-genre was becoming a huge draw for gamers.

And Pixel Survivors got into management games at the right time -- before the sub-genre became popular. Now if you're making a management game, it's going to be really hard to compete because of all the competition.

But this is what I want YOU to discover. There will always be a sub-genre to discover that no game dev is taking advantage of yet. There will always be a NEW need a gamer has that no other game is fulfilling.

Once a gamer plays a game, a new need arises. Once they get bored, they need another new type of game to fulfill a new type of need.

This is what I want you to discover in your own game. What is unique about your video game? What is something that gamers want but aren't getting yet?

To help you discover what's unique about your game, do this...

Open up a new word document, or get out a clean sheet of paper.

In 3 minutes, write down a list ALL the sub-genres you think your game falls into. Then highlight 3 or four of the sub-genres you think best match your video game.

The reason I want you to do this, is because you'll see a new perspective with your game.

If you're having trouble, check out this example...

In a short paragraph, the gamer knows exactly what they'll get. They know exactly what type of sub-genre the game is in.

This leads me to lesson number 3...

Lesson number 3 is: Use Your Name and Your Unique Blend of Sub-Genres To Get Attention

It's getting harder and harder to compete. But what I'm suggestion is NOT to compete. What I'm saying is to make a game where there is nobody competing in, yet.

Pixel Survivors success was due to the fact that the game devs didn't make another "me too" game. They didn't go out there and copy what is popular. Sure, they used popular elements like survival and pixel art. But they also innovated and added something new to survival: managment.

Again, this was back in 2014 and 2015. Today "management" games are over saturated. To compete today, you can't be another "me too" survival game.

But say you do want to make a management game, a better strategy is to include some intg unique as part of your sub-genre mix.

This is why I had you do that exercise above. I want you to discover a unique sub-genre your game is in. And put a spotlight on that.

Now, not all new sub-genres will be the next popular thing. But it's worth a risk. It's better than playing it safe, and trying to copy what's popular.

My goal here is to help you find a sub-genre mix BEFORE it gets popular. That's how you'll get attention.

And having a name that literally spells out what a gamer will get, what reward they'll have, what results they'll get, is going to help you get even more attention.