margalus.jpeg[by Jay Margalus]

The tools to create and distribute games these days are free or practically free, cheap, and widely available. Just about anybody with an inexpensive laptop can put their game idea into the world. The amount of games developed by small teams further proliferates because of this, and so do their sales.

As with all industries experiencing a modicum of success, the sharks begin to circle and devise ways to make money off an emerging market. One of those sharks are “indie marketing companies,” who’re currently popping up in every dark corner of the internet. The ones I’ve noticed have typically been started by ex-game journalists.

This blog post is all about why these marketing companies are all bullshit, and why indies should be helping each other instead of relying on mediocre marketing agencies promising to increase your game’s sales, get it in the hands of the press, and manage your customers for you.

Don't use a marketing company for your game

You know your game and your personality better than any marketing guy, period.

As a small game company, you have a few things to your advantage that make you stand out to the press and your fans, chiefly: the ability for press to be able to speak directly with you, the game developer, sense your passion for your game, and hear your personal story. Look at posts written about indie games and companies: what do they talk about? The people behind the game and the character of the game — differentiating aspects that define some of the core of being an indie game developer.

Why obfuscate that with some marketing person who doesn’t know the first thing about you? Why hire a company who hasn’t put the time into developing your game like you have?

The value proposition just isn’t there.

If you aren’t comfortable with being the primary person promoting your games, then get comfortable with it before launch, because it’s the only good way to go. Don’t be a chump. Nobody’s going to do it for you.

Indies Publishing Indies

There’s a story about when we first released Delve Deeper and submitted the game to Steam — this was pre-Greenlight days — and they rejected us outright. Nobody had heard of us. We hadn’t been talking about our game at all, and frankly, aside from making games didn’t know what the hell we were doing. We got lucky, of course, and some really cool people like Kieron Gillen formerly of Rock, Paper, Shotgun started posting about us.

steampostimg

Things snowballed from there, and Valve ended up reaching out to us to see if we wanted to put our game on their platform. But if things hadn’t played out just right, who knows what would’ve happened?

Making a game is about 99 percent of what it takes to be a successful game company; that’s something that most good indies have locked down. But then there’s that 1 percent — which is actually incredibly important — that’s a mix of business experience, sales experience, and yes, marketing experience. And that’s usually the differentiator between what makes a game company merely sustainable, and what makes a game company successful. So what if new game companies had a few people with that experience in their corners? What if we all helped?

There’s value in working with another experienced developer who can help you bring your game to the right markets and get the word out. Lunar Giant recently started publishing a game called Tetrapulse, and this is exactly what we’ve done and so far it’s yielded some very great successes, including a recently funded Kickstarter, and a Steam deal.

And that’s why indie game companies should be helping each other. We can fill that void while bringing up and encouraging new developers. We have the experience, the connections, and the ability to teach new game companies the ropes while they get on their feet. We have the opportunity to take a good game and make it great. To take a great game and get it into the hands of the right people. So ask yourself: How can I help my fellow indie?

[This post was originally written for the Lunar Giant blog.]