3 Marketing Lessons From id Software For Indie Game Devs Who Want To Easily Self-Publish

If you want to sell more copies of your video game, then learn about id Software strategy on how to self-publish your video game...

Most people know about DOOM and how they pioneered the First Person Shooter genre. But many don't know how id Software help pioneer self-publishing.

And inside this article, you're going to learn the exactly how John Carmack and John Romero self-published Commander Keen... then used the same formula to self-publish DOOM.

And you'll also get 3 step by step action plans showing you exactly how you can take this lesson and use it to help you sell copies of your video game.

Most devs who fail, fail because they hope. They have no idea how to publish their game. They just hope gamers will find them, and buy their game.

This is why it's important to learn what Carmack and Romero did back in 1990. What they did is the same thing that huge companies like Google, Twitter, YouTube, Twitch, have done to succeed as well.

I've personally used this technique too back in 2005 when I started my company -- which has been successful for 12 years.

But enough about that. Go grab your favorite drink. Get comfortable. And let's learn some marketing and publishing insights so that you can start making good money with your video games.

Here's what you need to know...

How Copyright Infringement Launched id Software Into a Million Dollar Company

When I think of id Software, I think of DOOM. And how they pioneered First Person Shooters.

But if you go further back, you'll learn that it wasn't DOOM that launched the careers for Carmack and Romero.

It was something else...

You see, back in 1990, there was no PC video game that could do something game devs take for granted today.

What I'm talking about is Side Scrolling.

Because of poor graphics performance, PC video games weren't able to redraw frames. If you can't redraw frames fast enough, then you can't have a good side scroller.

Carmack created a technique he called, "Adaptive Tile Refresh". This allowed you to refresh tiles fast enough so that you could get a PC to do side scrolling.

So, Carmack took his Adaptive Tile Refresh technique, and made a PC game called "Dangerous Dave in Copyright Infringement".

Dangerous Dave was a clone of Super Mario -- but on the PC. This was the first time Side Scrolling was seen on a PC.

Then they turned that game into Commander Keen.

This is important, because think about it.. No PC game before 1990 did side scrolling. While Nintendo was making millions with Mario, PC games were in the dark ages, lacking way behind in technology.

Carmack took a simple technique, and showed other game devs the possibilities of PC gaming -- despite all the limitations.

If you want to learn more about this story, I highly recommend you read "Masters of DOOM: How Two Guys Created an Empire and Transformed Pop Culture" by David Kushner. (Oh, by the way, the audio version is read by Wil Wheaton).

Anyway, this isn't the insight I want you to learn. Many game devs come up with innovations. But that doesn't mean they'll make millions.

Innovation itself isn't enough to get attention.

You still need a way to market yourself, and your innovation. You still need a way to get your game into the hands of a gamer.

And this the insight I'm going to talk about, next...

How To Easily Get Gamers To Discover Your Video Game

Most people have heard this story of Carmack and his Adaptive Tile Refresh technique. But what most people don't realize is that there is always a marketer who takes takes great ideas, and spreads them to the mass.

For example, Woz single handedly developed the Apple I in 1976. But it was Jobs who got out there, talked about it, and marketed it.

It's the same with Carmacks innovation. There was somebody who took the innovation, and found a way to market it. Innovation doesn't' sell itself. You need some sort of push.

And the guy to give this push to Carmacks innovations was a Texan named Scott Miller.

Miller was making over $100,000 a year distributing free software to businesses. He mailed out disks to businesses, and had a letter saying that if they found the software useful, to then send him some money.

This started the shareware distribution model. It's where you give away your software, and ask the person to pay for it if they liked it.

But Miller was also a gamer. He wanted to take the same model, and sell video games.

That's when Miller discovered Carmack and Romero. Miller played one of their older games, and thought that using this model to sell their game would work a lot better than the traditional retail model.

So Carmack, Romero, and their team got together with Miller, and came up with a new game: Commander Keen. .

But there was one problem...

Even though the shareware distribution model worked for business software, it didn't work for games.

Most gamers didn't send money back. They got the free game. And they didn't bother paying for it.

That's when Miller adjusted the model so that only the first few levels were available to the gamer. If they wanted the rest, they'd have to pay for the rest.

And this worked. Commander Keen. Doom. Duke Nukem. These games were distributed using shareware. No marketing. No ad budgets. Just word of mouth.

So, what does this story have to do with you and your video game? How do you use these insights so you can make good money?

That's next..

3 Lessons For Indie Game Devs Who Have No Money For Advertising or Marketing -- But Want To Get Mass Appeal

It's important to know that, despite being innovative, you still need some sort of way to get attention. You still need a way to get your games into the hard drives of gamers.

Innovation itself doesn't grab attention. In fact, innovation is sometimes rejected at first.

For instance, people thought street lights were unnecessary until cars were on the road. Or when radio was invented, people thought who in the hell would sit and listen to other people talk. Or even VR. Innovation takes awhile to get accepted.

My point here is, innovation is something you hear about it working in hindsight. But during the moment when you're being innovative, it's not easy.

It's hard to sell innovation. You need a way to distribute your new ideas. You need a way to market you new game. You need a way to get as many gamers to want your new game.

Let me show you what I mean in these 3 lessons...

Marketing Lesson Number 1: Shareware Distribution Model Is Used By Billion Dollar Companies

What made id Software into a million dollar company, was their distribution model: shareware.

Except today, shareware is often associated with low quality, crappy games. But that doesn't mean that the distribution model doesn't' work.

Google uses this model too. They distribute their services for free. If you like it, you'll pay them for their higher-end stuff.

Adobe does this, too. You could download the entire Adobe Suite for free. You could use it for a month. And if you liked it, then you pay them.

I use this model too. Back in 2005 I started a scanning company and developed a web app to share digital photos. I gave away my services for free, and this model helped me attract huge corporations to do business with me.

I then used the same model, and replicated my success. Since 2011, I've been self publishing my own videos, books, and tutorials with my second business.

I remember as a kid playing getting those DOOM shareware disks. I remember how much fun it was to get something for free. Testing it out. And then wanting to buy the full version.

This model has helped me as an adult self-publish my own stuff, too.

And as an indie game dev, you can also us this model to self-publish your video games. You don't need a marketing budget. You don't need to pay for advertising.

Your video game IS your marketing.

It does all the work for you. Your game convinces a gamer that they need more. Your game is what gets gamers to spread word of mouth. Your game is what gets gamers to talk about it on oinie and stream it on Twitch.

But how do you get your game into the hands of gamers? Let me show you in step 2 and 3...

Marketing Lesson Number 2: The More You Tell, The More You Sell

The more you talk about your game, the more attention you'll get. The more you talk about what makes your game different than other games, the better you'll sell your innovation.

Again, innovation or a new game isn't enough to get a gamer's attention.

There's so many games that are innovative, that do new stuff, but rarely get attention. It's the games that are spread by word of mouth that get all the attention.

But to get gamers to find you, discover you, and start spreading word-of-mouth about your game, you need to create content.

So, what kind of content? Well, how about game tutorials. Most gamers don't know how to play your game. As a dev, you know very well how to play your game. And your beta testers know your game very well after playing it for a long time.

But a gamer playing your game for the first time has ZERO experience.

You need pretend that they're aliens, and they have never played a video game before.

It's what Notch did with Minecraft. He found a tutorial made by Paul Soares Jr., and posted it up on a forum. This tutorial video, "How To Survive the First Night" is what sold the game. Now gamers had an idea what they could do in Minecraft.

Tutorial videos are a great start in getting attention. Or what about writing about how your game is different from other games?

Explain to the gamer that they're not playing just another "me-too" game. "Me too" games get passed by. They get very little attention. And it's natural for a gamer to compare your game with other games. So, to get out of this rut, create content explaining what's new about your game, and how it stands out from the others. This type of marketing is what helps you get attention.

Again, the point here is, the more you tell the more you sell. Spend at least one hour a day talking about your game. Create videos, blogs, articles. It doesn't matter how many people read it or watch it right now. All of this work will pay off in the long run.


Because not a lot of game devs put in this type of effort. They just hope that their game will get noticed. But as an independent, self-published, game dev, it's worth putting in this extra effort.

So, ok... you're making content. Great. Now what? How do you get a gamer to spread word of mouth about your game? how do you get them to play and buy your game?

Marketing Lesson Number 3: Reward Your Gamers With Free Loot

Ok, so far you know that using the "shareware" distribution model is the best way to self-publish.

And creating content such as tutorials and talking about your how your game is different from other games is the best way to get attention.

But how do you exactly use the "shareware" distribution model? What's the point of creating content?

Here's how this technique works. The content that you create is to help you get attention. The more content you have on the internet, the easier it is for a gamer to find you you.

And the more you write, the more you create, the more you get out there, the more traction your video game will get.

This is how gamers will discover you. You're not relying on Steam, or banner ads, or gimmicky viral marketing.

You're relying on yourself. I call this "Bet On Yourself Marketing". You're doing whatever it takes to get your game some attention by creating as much content as you can.

Anyway, here's how all of this works...

Your content will then funnel the gamer into getting something for free. Don't let them leave without some sort of gift or reward.

And what sort of gift or reward can you give your gamer? A Playable Teaser. I'm not talking about a demo or a shareware version of your game. I'm talking about something of a higher standard.

Gamers don't get excited about demos. And some demos don't work because some demos are boring or the gamer got everything they needed out of the game. Gamers have no incentive to want to buy the full version.

But a Playable Teaser is a stand-alone, mini-game that compliments the full version. It's not the first level. It's not a tutorial. It's a very short game that represents the BEST part of your main game.

It's designed to emotionally hook the gamer so they want more.

And at the end of your Playable Teaser, you then have instructions on how they can buy the full version.

Remember, I'm trying to get you to up your standards. When Carmack, Romero, and Miller were doing shareware, that was the first time somebody did that. And it worked in the 90s.

This model still works. Except that the demos and shareware that's out there, sucks. By creating a Playable Teaser, you're doing something 100x more valuable than any other game dev.

Your Playable Teaser is meant to be shared. It's meant to be your best salesperson. And the best way to get a gamer to discover it is through the content you create.