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Promoting games cheaply - what worked for me

A topic by Turnaround Games created Sep 28, 2018 Views: 2,704 Replies: 9
Viewing posts 1 to 6
(3 edits) (+7)

Hi everyone, 

I wanted to share the traffic analytics of a low budget free indie game I recently published, and the influence of different methods I tried to promote it. Hopefully this will be useful to others trying to promote their games.

For context, the game is Terminal Sickness:  A story driven text adventure following a mother's survival after the outbreak of a global pandemic.

After I finally felt brave enough I published my first ever game on 19th Sep 2018. My initial strategy for promotion was sending a link to  all of my friends I thought would be interested. The result of which is below. It reached around 50 people, and then over the next few days, the daily traffic fell to pretty much to nothing... This is likely an unsurprising result to most people.


So, I asked for some advice here on itch.io and one fellow developer was kind enough to make a suggestion. Try putting the game up for an initial low price, and then have periodic sales to encourage people to download/play in the moment of the sale. However, I really like the idea of making free games and letting people pay if they want (it isn't my full time job, I just do it for fun!).

So, I decided I was going to self promote my game

Of the social media platforms I only really use reddit, so this is where I started. I started by spending some time searching for  different sub-reddits which looked appropriate for my game. In my case, I was focusing on free games, indie games and text adventures / interactive fiction. For each of the sub-reddits I read their rules. I did not want to just bust in on a community and promote my game if this is not something they want, it isn't fair on the subscribers or the moderators. However, many of them did accept limited self promotion if it was relevant. 

I kept the actual promotion posts very simple,  a direct link to the game with the title being the name of the game follow by a short strap line: "Terminal Sickness - A story driven text adventure following a mother's survival after the outbreak of a global pandemic.".

I wrote a short piece on why I made a text adventure game here itch.io. This post did link to my game, but wasn't the main focus. I then posted links to my post on sub-reddits related to game development; again, if I thought their communities would be interested.

I also registered my game on online databases  which appeared relevant, such as www.igdb.com and ifdb.tads.org. There were other sites which also looked like they could be useful, such as indiedb.com, but they were geared to larger games with real publishers and I couldn't provide answers to many of the questions they required for registering. 

Finally I sent requests to indie game review sites to see if anyone would consider reviewing the game.

The Results

Below is the results of traffic to the game after the promotion (we're at the start of the last day, rather than it being a sudden dip). As you can see, it helped quite a lot.


But the interesting thing is where the traffic came  from: 


So, the number one most useful promotion I did was writing a small post on why I made a text adventure game  which I then posted on game-dev related sub-reddits. The second most most useful thing I did was registering my game on ifdb; which is a data base for interactive fiction. The third most useful thing was posting links to the game on reddit (many of the other links lower on the above table are also reddit).

Over all, writing a small post, sharing links on reddit and registering the game in online databases took maybe 3-4 hours spread over a few days, but made a reasonable difference in the number of people reaching my game. However, I was careful to be respectful of those communities. They should not be seen a place to spam, only share things if you think it is relevant / interesting to them. Otherwise you're just wasting everyone's time whilst making yourself look bad.

Contacting reviewers was entirely fruitless,  this may be because my game is slightly too hobbyist for most review sites.

What was most interesting is I spent no money and created fresh accounts on reddit and every other platform / database I used. i.e. I came with literally nothing, was not plugged into any community previously. Despite this I managed to do useful self promotion. I think this is the most useful take home to people who have just finished their game and don't feel like they're in a position to promote it. You really are!

Anyway, I hope this might be useful to others

And if you are at all interested in seeing the actual game it's here :)

Thanks!

Turnaround Games

homepage - twitter - reddit

Thanks for the info!  I've found Twitter to be the main source of getting traffic unless you get a review or LetsPlay on a reasonably popular channel.  I hadn't really thought about various game type databases like you mention, will look into that. 


Happy devving!

Thanks CaptainD, can I ask how you used Twitter? Did you already have lots of followers personally or did you get others to tweet on your behalf? Or something else.

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I have around 2,500 followers atm, mostly indiedev types and indiegame fans.  Still doesn't do much though - perhaps I'm  not merciless enough in promoting my stuff there!

I also have a dev blog / official website for the Captain Disaster games and books.  Occasionally I get some traffic and very occasionally a sale from there.  Otherwise some traffic comes from reviews on the bigger sites (JustAdventure, GameBoomers) and forums (again GameBoomers, and AdventureGameStudio).  I've tried to get reviews on places like indiegame.com, PC Gamer and RPS, but no joy there.

Twitter is a big part of my strategy in terms of finding reviewers and streamers to contact.  Well, insomuch as I actually have a "strategy"!

Thanks for that, it's very interesting and useful. 

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Thanks Andy for the informative post. Promoting games is a completely new prospect for me - I'm definitely better at making games than marketing them. Will give Reddit a try! 

(+3)

Thanks a bunch for posting this!  I've had moderate success self-promoting on twitter, reddit etc.  Reddit definitely reaches an audience, if you post something that catches people' attention.  #screenshotsaturday generally seems the most successful tag when I post screenshots or GIFs of my games.  I use Game Maker and YoYoGames tends to post every saturday asking what people have done that week, it's a good place to post your screenshot saturday (if you use Game Maker that is!)

Otherwise itch.io has a dedicated announcement section: https://itch.io/board/10022/release-announcements - the moderators on itch check these posts regularly and if you luck out, you can get a feature spot.  From my experience being on the front page has the most definite impact, so make sure you polish your announcement!  I tend to follow the guidelines to the letter with description, GIF, screenshots etc.  Here's an example with my latest game.

Dev logs work too, if you make a major update or launch post.  Check out that post from the itch creators:  https://itch.io/updates/devlogs-post-types-enhanced-browsing-and-more.  Check out the "A New System For Updated Games" section.  Definitely worth keeping in mind!

Maybe I should give Reddit a try sometimes... I've noticed a little traffic coming from it when other people have mentioned my game there.

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Thanks for sharing your analytics. Your post inspired me to give a insight into my first week on itch.io 
https://itch.io/t/309936/my-first-week-on-itchio-with-landr

So far twitter is the most valuable (and fun) channel to promote my game.

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Wow! Great job thank you for sharing your ideas 

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