Watch day 6 of how I market this indie space shooter, so you can learn how to market your own indie video game, too!
Inside you'll watch me use my 12 years experience in digital marketing, as I try to promote a multiplayer indie space shooter.
This won't be easy. Multiplayer indie games are not popular. But that's only because most people think marketing is where you try to CREATE gamers. Most people think that marketing is all about convincing people to do what they would not normally do.
Actually, not all marketing works like that.
Some marketing doesn't try to convince somebody to play a game they'd never play. Some marketing is FINDING people who are looking for YOU.
There is a group of gamers who are looking to play this game. They just can't find it. I'm not trying to convince gamers to play this game. I'm trying to put out as much content as I can so those people who are looking for this game, can find it.
Again, marketing isn't about convincing. It's about finding people who are already looking for you.
Trying to convince somebody to buy or play something that isn't on their top-of mind, is almost impossible to do.
And most marketing tries to accomplish that. If you have a lot of ad money, like most AAA games do, they do the "shotgun" approach, where they make their ads as entertaining as possible. They are trying to convince people who would not otherwise care about this game, and get their attention through entertaining them.
Entertainment is a great way to get attention. But it costs a lot to do. And you can't stop doing it. You have to continually entertain people to keep their attention. That's why some marketing costs so much.
But, if you're an indie game dev, and spending $10,000 a month on advertising is just insane to you, then fundamental marketing is the best strategy.
And the best part of fundamental marketing is, it's FREE.
Ok, so what is "fundamental marketing"? And how does learning this help you promote your indie game?
Well, last lesson, I've showed you how to write headlines. Headlines are the core of great marketing. That's because headlines are inline with how people consume content online.
What I mean is, when people consume content, they don't jump in and start watching and reading the entire piece of content. Then after about 5 minutes in, they then decide if they want to keep watching or reading. That's not how people consume content.
How people consume content first begins with a headline, or a tag-line, or the first words you say in a video.
People use headlines as a gauge to see if watching or reading the rest of the content will be worth it.
Of course, headlines go over-board, called clickbait. People often confuse clickbait with great headlines. A great headline will do what clickbait does: get your attention, and you automatically click the link without even thinking. It's a knee jerk reaction. That's what a great headline does -- it hijacks your brain, and you unconsciously click the link and read or watch.
Where great headlines lead into clickbait is if the CONTENT of the headline doesn't match the headline. If the stuff your read or watch after you click the headline has nothing to do with the headline, then that's clickbait.
As a content marketer, I'm fascinated with headlines. And I learn a lot from studying clickbait. But I'm also careful to make sure the content matches the headline.
I'm telling you all this because headlines are the main pillar, the core fundamental part of marketing. Without a headline, your content won't be read or watched. Without a headline, there is no incentive for somebody to read your website.
There is no point of having great content if nobody watches or reads it. Your headline is your connection between a person's attention and your stuff.
Ok, now let's move on. I've gotten a headline for Vecitas. Sure, it's not the best. But it will be my "control".
This is important. It's not easy to come up with good headlines. And that's ok. You have to start somewhere. And any headline is better than NO headline.
So, your first headline will act like the control. You'll see later in these series of videos of how I track my headlines and how effective they are, or not.
But for now, let's keep this headline. And whatever headline you have, it's good enough... for now.
Next, let's get into talking about features.
How To Use Features To Promote Your Indie Game
Another pillar of fundamental indie game marketing is how you describe your features. A feature is your game HAS.
Most game devs stop here when describing their game. Features are easy to talk about because they are obvious and self-evident to the game dev who made the game.
Except, put yourself in the mind of a gamer... put yourself in the mind of somebody buying your game.
When a person looking to buy and play a new game, features are NOT persuasive enough. They don't get the person emotionally hooked. They don't by-pass the rational part of the brain, and hit the emotional part.
And remember, people buy things with emotion, and justify their purchase rationally.
Features are needed to help the person rationalize their purchase. But it's emotion that gets them to actually WANT your game, and gets them to buy the game.
I'm telling you this because most game devs lead with the feature. And this is normal to talk about features because on the surface it looks like how we buy things.
On the surface, it looks like we pick out the features, and buy rationally based on those features.
But there is another layer in why we buy stuff. What motivated you and I to buy something has nothing to with rational thinking. It is all emotional.
And talking about features are NOT emotional. They are rational. And when game devs leads with features, they are not hitting the emotional part of the brain.
Again, features are great. They are required in terms of helping the person justify their purchase.
But instead of leading with features, let's talk about benefits.
How To Use Benefits To Promote Your Indie Game
Benefits are what the gamer GETS if they play and buy your game.
Let me say that again... features are what YOUR game is. Benefits are what the gamer GETS. Features are all about you. Benefits are all about the gamer. Later you'll learn which one is more attention-grabbing.
Ok, let me give you an example. In Vecitas, the gamer gets to shoot his buddies in multiplayer. But what he gets is a Rank. Having a Rank is more emotional than just shooting. Shooting is a feature because that's what the game does. A rank is a benefit because it's what the gamer GETS.
Let's go even deeper.
What's the benefit of getting a higher rank? Social status amongst his friends. Authority. Prestige.
These are all "irrational" things. These are all emotional things. This is WHY a gamer plays this game.
Sidenote: this is why RGB lighting is so popular in PC components. It's irrational to think to pay an extra $40 for ram because it comes with RGB lighting. But do you see what I mean? RGB lighting is a benefit because it's about the GAMER, and not about the components. Sure, gamers will rationally look at the technical specs. But what grabs them emotionally, and gets them to pay extra is something as simple as RGB lighting. Irrationality is more of a motivator than rationality.
Anyway, back to Vecitas. It isn't about shooting and looting. It's about building up their RANK amongst their friends. This is what SELLS the game. It has nothing to do with the mechanics, the gameplay, the story. Has nothing to do with rational stuff. It's all emotional.
Again, rational features are important. These are what gamers talk about when they say they like a game.
But if you look "under the hood", you'll see that the real reason the gamer is attracted to this game is because of the highly emotional, highly irrational, reason of RANK.
Now, what do you do with this info? Why did I go through all this if I'm just creating content for Vecitas.
Because if you know more about your gamer -- more than the gamer knows about themselves -- the more persuasive your content will be.
And remember, the goal is to create content that is easy for the gamer to find. It's not about getting their attention through entertaining them. It's about grabbing their attention by talking about THEM.
I want gamers who have a need to play games where they can Rank up amongst their friends. I want to find gamers who want to play something that that will take them 3 to 5 minutes to play, and still give them that adrenaline they get when they get a higher rank against their friends.
The more time you put into figuring out the emotional reasons why your gamer will play and buy your game, the better your content will be. And the better your content is, the better chance a gamer will find you.
So, let's keep going, and I'll show you how to start creating content with benefits and features and headlines. I'll show you how to use rational features, and emotional benefits to create content that will make it easy for the gamer to find online.
The Three Major Pillars To Great Indie Game Marketing and Content
Ok, let me show you what we're doing again and why...
The three major pillars... the three core fundamental parts of indie game content marketing is...
As I work on Vistas, you'll see more details on how to do this. And how this will help you create content that is attention-grabbing, and will interest gamers.
So as you watch or read this, you'll learn how to...
- Come up with some unique, attention-grabbing content, not generic sounding content that everybody else says
- Differentiate yourself from everybody else because you come up with your own, unique descriptions and content about your game
- Create content that is EASY for gamers to find you
Remember, marketing is all about communicating in a way so that gamers FIND YOU. Most people think marketing is trying to get everybody's attention by entertaining them. And then trying to convince as many people as you can to go buy your game.
Using entertainment as marketing is great -- if you have the money. A better strategy, and a free strategy, is to know what your game is, who it's for, and create content for exactly that person.
That person who you made the game for is out there. And it's marketing's job to go find that person. And then find the next person. One by one. Then next thing you know, your content is reaching thousands.
Ok, let's start the actual work...
Indie Game Content Marketing Pillars: Headlines, Features, Benefits
I've already talked about headlines in past videoes. So today I want to work on features and benefits.
Remember, a feature is what your indie game does. Features are all about you, and your game. The easiest way to think of what features are, is to use a hammer as an example.
A hammer's head is steal. The handle is wooden. A hammer is made to drive nails. That's what it DOES. It's all about the hammer.
A benefit, on the other hand, is what you GET from those features. Benefits are all about the other person using the hammer. With a hammer, you build homes, you tear things apart, you put of pictures of your family, it's a tool to help you CREATE new things.
This is important, so please understand carefully...
Indie game devs talk about the "hammer". They talk about what kind of steal the hammer is made out of. They talk about the quality of the handle. They talk about the weight. They talk about the process and how it took them 18 months to make this hammer. And that this hammer is different than other hammers because it has a red, wooden handle, not a brown own.
Now, as a gamer, they don't care about what the "hammer" is or does. . They care what they GET from using the hammer. They use the hammer to put up pictures of their loved ones. They use the hammer to fix their home so they're more comfortable. They use the hammer to build a fence so they keep their property safe.
You see what I'm talking about here? How indie game devs thinks about their games (or anybody who makes something), is way different than how the gamer thinks about the game.
When indie game devs communicate from THEIR perspective, they're only talking to themselves.
However, if you put yourself in the mind of a gamer, and start talking, and describing your game from a gamer's perspective, you're going to grab their attention. Why? Because gamers are self-interested. They gravitate to content that is made for them.
And the best way to put yourself in the mind of your gamer, is to think benefits.
Remember how I said that it's important to bypass the rational brain, and talk to the emotional brain? Well, when you talk benefits, you're going straight to the emotional brain. That's where all decisions are made.
You still need to add in the rational stuff, too. Features are rational stuff. Gamers need that rational stuff, because people need to justify their emotional decisions rationally.
So you have to be careful. If you lead with rational stuff like features, then it's really hard to stand out. Leading with rational stuff is hard to grab attention because it's too logical, and less emotional. Also, featured are all about you, and not the gamer.
Emotion is the best way to grab somebody's attention. And when you think benefits, then that will help you come up with emotional ways to describe your indie game.
3 Steps On How To Come Up With Features and Benefits For Your Indie Game and Build Attention-Grabbing Content
Ok, now watch me as I come up with some benefits and features to Vecitas.
I'm going to start off with the features. Then from the features, I'm going to come up with some benefits. Then I'm going to drill down even more, and come up with benefits of the benefits.
Why am I putting in so much work into this?
Because I want to make content that...
- Finds a gamer who is looking for this game
- Is different from any other game that is similar to this game
- Grabs that gamers attention in a way so that they buy the game
That's my whole goal here: to sell Vecitas. But not sell Vecitas to somebody who doesn't want this game.
Remember, my marketing is all about finding somebody who is looking for this game... not trying to entertain or convince anybody and everybody to buy this game.
When you sell something to somebody who didn't want it, then that person just resents you, and will never come back.
My goal is not to convince as many people as I can... that rarely works. And it costs a lot of money to do that type of advertising.
My goal is to find a person, build a relationship with them, sell the game, and have them become a long-term fan of the game.
And the best way to do that is to find gamers who are looking for you.
Ok, let's get going, and come up with the features of the game. Then from here, I'll come up with benefits of the game.
Step 1: Make a List of 20+ Features of Your Indie Game
Features may seem to be easy to come up with. But some feature are more important than others. Remember, gamers use features to justify their purchase. And the stronger the feature, the stronger the resolution to buy the game.
So, in this step, I want you to make a list of 25 features of your game.
And it's important that you get at least 25 features. That may seem overkill, but that's how you find those hidden gems. What I mean is, the first 10 or so features will be easy to come up with. After that, you'll be struggling. But this struggle helps you come up with something unique and forces your brain to think of non-obvious features you've never thought of before.
So, let me do this as well. Here is my list of 25 features of Vecitas...
- Casual indie game
- Multiplayer and single player combat
- Gain experience
- Unlock spaceships
- Destroy enemies
- Collect energy charges to up your plasma reserve
- Collect new spaceships
- Each new spaceship will come with new their own unique weapons
- Defend your spaceship using Shields and Turbo
- Light resource management
- Upgrade your spaceship as you progress
- Finish games in 5 minutes
- In single player, when you destroy your enemy, you keep their ship's skin
- The skins you collect from single player combat can be used in multiplayer
- Goal is to get that elusive gold armor
- Steam trading cards
- Steam Achievements
- Full Steam Controller
- Tight combat arena
- Leader board
- Single player has a time limit
- Single player has radar
- You fight one boss in single player
- Single player will help you become better (why it's hard)
- Seek your enemy, they are fast, and you'll have to use your radar and get good at the controls
- Controls are easy to use, but hard to master
- Games can be complete within 3 minutes or as long as you like
As you can see, some are obvious. But when you do this, it's hard to come up with non-obvious features. It's not easy to do this, I know. But it's important because this exercise will help you come up with content (which I'll show you how, later).
Also, this exercise is important because you're going to use these ideas as a way to be persuasive.
It's easy to come up with superficial ways to describe your game. But remember, most game devs talk too much about features. And this makes most games sound all the same.
And features aren't what motivates a gamer to buy the game. Benefits are what get's a gamer emotionally interested in your game (then they use the features to justify their motivation).
So, that's what you and I are going to work on next... benefits.
Step 2: Go Through Your List of Features and Come Up With Benefits
I had you brainstorm features because it'll help you come up with the benefits of your game.
Let me give you an example of what I'm doing here...
Say you have Air Conditioning in your house. A feature is that it keeps your house cool on really hot days. Also, let's say you have a Energy Efficient A/C.
These two things are features of your A/C: keeps your house cool, and it's efficient.
That's what the manufacturer THINKS why people buy A/Cs. But put yourself in the mind of a person buying the A/C.
A person who has to a cool house during a hot, humid day is more COMFORTABLE. This is a benefit of a the feature: keeps your house cool.
The person doesn't really care if the HOUSE is cool. They care how THEY feel. They want to be comfortable. When they're doing chores, they don't want to be sweating. When they're sitting on the couch, watching youtube on the laptop, they don't want the laptop to get too hot on their lap.
Same with the next feature: energy efficient. It's great that your A/C energy efficient. But what's the benefit? Save money? Sure, that's fine. But what about, not feel GUILTY for cranking up the A/C all day long? Energy efficient means that people won't have to worry about money when they keep the A/C all day.
Again, features are all about the THING. Benefits are all about the PERSON.
You see why it's important to talk about benefits and not features? Benefits are what helps sell. Features are important, too. A person will never admit that they want a high efficiency A/C so they can have it on all day. They will tell their friends that they bought the high end model because it saves them 3.5% on their bill, and is 89% efficient. But, the emotional reason is, they bought the 89% efficient A/C because they won't feel guilty for having that thing on all day.
So, do you really have to get this in depth with your indie game? It's quite obvious what benefits your game has, right? Why do you need to explain this to a gamer?
Because gamer's won't take the time to analyze your game like this. They will often compare your game with another. And whatever is unique and different about your game, will be lost.
It's important to use words, images, video, to describe why your game is different and unique. You want to use words, images, and video to help the gamer "discover" a new benefit.
New benefits are how games sell themselves. But gamers won't do this on their own... they won't take the time to analyze your game and extract the benefits.
Saying that, let's get to work on the benefits of your indie game.
Remember how I had you come up with 20+ features of your game. Now, what you'll do is take those features and "exact" the benefits of each one.
Here, let me show you how...
Below is my list. And what I've done is, below each feature, I've come up with a benefit. How I do this is, I ask, "so what?". I take the features, and then ask myself, "yeah, so what?".
For example... the first feature I came up with is...
Casual indie game
Then I ask myself, "so what?".
And below the feature, I make a list of reasons...
Casual indie game... so what?
- finish a level during your lunch time
- simple, fast, rewarding levels
- Don't have to spend 45 minutes completing a level
Doing this helps me come up with new and unique benefits for each features. This is where you'll find most of your "nuggets of gold".
By taking the time to do this, you'll come up with ways to describe your game that you'd never thought of before.
You'll use this to help you create content that is attention grabbing, and content that will help you find gamers that are looking for you. I'll show you how to do all that, soon. But for now, let's keep going and finish of the rest of the exercise.
So, I got my list of features. And I went down the list asking myself, "so what?". And I came up with this...
Features and Benefits of Vecitas:
Casual indie game... so what?
- finish a level during your lunch time
- simple, fast, rewarding levels
- don't have to spend 45 minutes completing a level
Multiplayer and single player combat.... so what?
- play against your buddies
- quick games you can play with friends on your lunch break
- kill free time easy and play against your buddies
Gain experience... so what?
- see yourself improve as you progress
- use your experience to gain new unlocks
- improve your rank
- become top player among your buddies
Unlock spaceships... so what?
- you'll get cooler looking spaceships
- they show other players your rank
- stand out and be unique among your buddies
Destroy enemies... so what?
- in single player, this is how you earn new skins
- it's satisfying to earn a win
- earn and rank up, fight, and collect
Collect energy charges to up your plasma reserve... so what?
- energy management will challenge you
- simple game, but has some depth to it
- managing your energy resources, simple as it is, will be challenging
- How you manage your energy resources will separate you from other players who aren't so good
Collect new spaceships... so what?
- gives you something to aim for
- simple progression allows you to keep playing
- it's addicting and fun
Each new spaceship will come with new their own unique weapons... so what?
- experiment with new unique weapons
- discover which weapon you find most satisfying to use
- simple game, but has depth
Defend your spaceship using Shields and Turbo... so what?
- adds more depth to this simple game
- you can't just run-and-gun, you have to think of ways to protect yourself
- gain more of an advantage when you master Turbo
- simple gameplay, but hard to master
Light resource management... so what?
- managing your resources isn't anything complicated
- but there is enough to keep your attention and you won't get bored
- simple gameplay with some depth lets you keep having fun
Upgrade your spaceship as you progress... so what?
- better ships show off your rank
- the better the upgrade, the better the player
- earn your spot amongst friends as a high ranking player
Finish games in 5 minutes... so what?
- fast, action packed games that can be finished in 5 minutes
- bite-sized chunks of fun
- designed to as a casual game, that is easy to learn, easy to control, but is still a challenge -- all in less than 5 minutes
- learn how to play this game in less than 3 minutes... and in 5 minutes you'll be earning your way to high rank
In single player, when you destroy your enemy, you keep their ship's skin... so what?
- shows your progress
- gives you a goal
- you have to earn better looking skins by destroying your enemy (single player)
The skins you collect from single player combat can be used in multiplayer... so what?
- the skins you earn in single player can be carried over to multiplayer
- your buddies will wonder how you got that new skin
Goal is to get that elusive gold armor... so what?
- the highest ranking skin is the gold armor
- let your buddies know your rank
Steam trading cards... so what?
- use them to complete your Steam profile
- or sell them on the market and earn some extra cash that can go toward your next game
Steam Achievements... so what?
- 100% completionist? Steam achievements will show you your progress
Full Steam Controller (coming soon)... so what?
- it's a lot more comfortable to use a Steam Controller
Tight combat arena... so what?
- you have limited space to fight your buddies, which makes the game more exciting
- easy to navigate combat area
- keep the action tight, but enough room to be defensive and allow for some exciting dogfights
Leader board... so what?
- keep track of your rank
- see who's the leader among your friends
Single player has a time limit... so what?
- it's a race to destroy your enemy
- improve your twitch response
- it's give you another layer of challenge
- you learn how to control your ship, so when you play against your friend you'll have an advantage
- practice in single player to improve your ships control, and learn how to be calm under pressure
Single player has radar... so what?
- helps you track your enemy, but also helps you improve your overall control of your ship because you have to balance between the game and your radar
You fight one boss in single player... so what?
- it's the best way to improve your skills... if you can kill this boss, then your buddies will be a lot more easier to destroy
- focusing on one single boss will help you improve your twitch response when you have to go against your buddies
Single player will help you become better (why it's hard)... so what?
- single player is there so you can collect unique ship skins But it's also there to help you practice your twitch response so you get better when you go against your buddies in multiplayer
Seek your enemy, they are fast, and you'll have to use your radar and get good at the controls... so what?
- improve your twitch response
- kill your buddies faster
- improve your rank
Controls are easy to use, but hard to master... so what?
- jump right in and start playing without worrying about a learning curve
- but if you want to get better, and improve your twitch response, then the more you play, the more you improve
- learn how to control your ship's movement, learn how to manage your energy resources, learn how to use Turbo to gain an advantage, learn how to use Shields as a defence
Games can be complete within 3 minutes or as long as you like... so what?
- it's about fun and just killing time with your buddies with a space shooter that is easy to play
- play at your lunch hour, or when you have 30 minutes to kill
This wasn't easy to do. Some of the stuff you'll come up with with be redundant. Some will be just garbage.
But the goal is, that maybe 5% of the stuff you'll come up with will be marketing gold. You just need to find two or three benefits that will motivate a gamer to play and buy this game.
And think about it... if it's hard for you to come up with benefits, then it's almost impossible that your gamer will do the same.
This is why I do this. I want to uncover the non-obvious reasons why a gamer will love to play Vecitas. It's not easy. And there is no glory in doing this because most of the stuff you come up with will not be used.
But, you will find something useful from doing this. When you find those two or three new benefits you've never thought of before, then you can use them in your marketing.
And that's the point of doing all this.
Now I have some "natural resources" I can use to help me make images, videos and articles. I can go back to my list I just made and pick out a feature and its benefit, and create an entire video or article about it.
Let me show you, in step 3...
Step 3: Use The Features and Benefits You Discovered, and Create Attention-Grabbing Content
So, now that I made a list of features and benefits about the indie game, I now have my "natural resources" I can use to start creating content.
I'm going to do that last exercise 2 more times. I found that doing this 3 times is where you actually come up with your best ideas and insights.
But for now, it's good enough.
So, what do I do with my "natural resources"? This is where I'd go through my list and pick out the ones that I think are the most attention-grabbing.
So, here's what I've come up with...
Compete Against Your Buddies
- If you want a casual, top down space shooter you can play with friends, then here's what you get when you play Vecitas...
- Face off against your friends and destroy their spaceship to earn XP
- The more you shoot your buddies spaceship, the more you store XP to unlock the next upgrade
- Have a dog-fight in the combat arena against your friends
Fight, Rank Up, Level Up, Collect
- The more you prove that you're an expert pilot, the more you earn upgrades such as...
- Each level you rank up earns you a new powerful weapons that have more power, less costs, better cool downs, and a further reach
- Unlock eight possible spaceship upgrades during your fight -- such as the Golden Armour
This is just the start. I'll be using this on the front page of Vecitas' website.
What I'm doing here, and what I'm trying to teach you, is how to build content that when a gamer lands on it, they are instantly interested in reading it or watching it.
How? Because the content is made for THEM.
By thinking of benefits the gamer will get for playing your game, you're putting the focus on them. Most game devs do the opposite. They talk about their game, sure, but it's from the perspective of a computer programmer -- not a gamer.
It's like my hammer example. Game devs talk about the feature of the hammer. That is not interesting to gamer at all. A gamer only cares about what the hammer will do for THEM.
By talking about the benefits, you'll be talking about what the hammer does for the gamer.
And it's important to think like a gamer. And this is the best way to do that. By going through your features, and coming up with benefits the gamer will get from the features, will help you with your empathy.
And why is this attention-grabbing?
Because gamers are self-interested. They gravitate to content that is made for THEM. It's more natural to click on a link that says...
Play a 5 Minute Space Shooter WIth Your Buddies
Then a link that says...
Vecita: Buy Now
The top description is gamer focused. The second description is computer programmer focused.
When you put the focus on the gamer, that's when you start getting attention.