Indie Game Dev Tip #3 – Developers Are Not Your Target Market
Today, I want to share a story with you that happened a long time ago that I think will help many developers out there. When I first got started, I didn’t realize how important marketing was. I had this belief that if you put a game out there, people will just play it; that there are not enough games and there are too many people. If you put a game out there, everybody will want to play it. I was wrong. When I started publishing games, I had a lot of tech demos and stuff. I would put these prototypes up on random little websites, forums, or whatever.
I would always check for the reaction or see how many people downloaded. And the first few games that I put up got zero downloads, no one even cared. I remember posting it on a forum and I was so excited because this game took me 2 months to make the prototype. I was like, “Hey guys, give me feedback.” I had been in this community for 2 years and yet no one responded. It just kept getting bumped down the forum as other people posted new stuff. That really bummed me out.
My first thought was, “Okay, if I can’t get the forum people to do it, I’m going to post in the indie game developers Facebook group, I’ll ask them.” I was like, “Hey guys, check out my game, check this out.” I got 6 likes. No one commented so I didn’t even know if anybody played it. Then I tried the same thing on Twitter #gamedev and all that, and I still didn’t get any downloads. ZERO. At this point, my heart was broken. I worked so hard on this game, and no one gives a shit, no one wants to play it, why do I even make games—I should just quit, I should go work at McDonald’s or something.
These thoughts just went around and around in my head in this loop. That is when I realized something. The people that I was marketing to were developers. I realized that developers are always trying to market to other developers. When I started thinking about it, I designed my game for players and not all developers are players. This concept amplified a few years later when I actually started a marketing company. I learned so much for marketing my software and my early days and games.
When I learned the concept of a target audience and understanding that not everybody wants every game and that there are very specific groups of people for specific genres and the more targeted you get the better, it all began to make sense.
Developers are not your target market. Game developers all tend to market to other game developers and that’s not their target audience at all. That blew my mind because I remember myself being so invested in wondering why this wasn’t working after doing all this marketing and doing all these things I read in books and articles.
I realized it wasn’t the tools. It wasn’t Facebook or Twitter. It wasn’t any of those things. The problem was I had chosen the wrong target audience for my game. For some reason I thought it would be a good idea to market my game to other game developers. Guess what? Game developers don’t care. Some of them play games, sure. But they care more about marketing their game. So the best you can kind of hope for is you download my game I’ll download yours.
That’s not how it works at all. I’m not saying you can’t get downloads that way you absolutely can. I’m not saying you can’t get reviews and five-star ratings that way, you absolutely can. I’m not saying you can’t get Steam Greenlit that way, you absolutely can—even though that’s not going to matter in a few months
If you want true fans and players of your game, developers are the wrong people to look at. Developers are great. They’re in your network, it’s fantastic to know them, it’s great to work and connect with them and all that. They can help you. They can give you feedback and help you out with things like green light. They can do all that stuff. But they’re not your target market. You have to understand who plays your game and why.
One of the most effective ways to do this is to see if you are making a game that’s similar to another game. You can then google that game on Google News and look at all the different sites that cover that game. You can find a ton of press contacts specifically that covered that specific game that’s very similar to yours, and you can contact every single one of those sites. It’s likely that if your game is similar, they’ll be interested in your game as well. That’s a strategy that I like to use. Keep in mind also that you have a specific genre. There are players that consume only the same genre of game over and over.
I happen to love roguelikes and FPS games. I like RPGs too but I usually don’t have the time for them. Those three things I love. When Destiny came out, I was so excited to play it because it merged FPS and RPG—two things that I loved into one. It wasn’t all perfect in the beginning but I loved the concept. I was a true Destiny fan. You have to find people that are interested in your genre.
It’s very likely they are not developers. It’s not an effective way to market and to find your audience. You want to go to genre specific places. There are genre specific forms. For example if you’re on an RPG forum and you’re making an RPG that’s a great place to find people interested RPGs. Same thing with FPS, same thing with every type of genre.
It’s a common cliché among new marketers to sell to their local market. What they really they should be doing is find their target audience and sell to them. This is a mistake even marketers of games make.
Finding a target audience is not easy. That’s why it gets overlooked so much because it’s actually hard to do. The easiest way to do it is to find another game similar to yours and target that game’s audience. That’s a really effective way to do it.
That’s one of my recommendations. If you are making a game and you are going to launch it, I highly recommend that you identify your target audience and start marketing to them right now. Do not wait. Don’t get lost in the start market to developers, don’t just post in the Facebook group, or Twitter hashtag or whatever. If you’re doing that you’re marketing wrong. You can get downloads, sure. But it’s not going to be effective. You’re not going to get the super fans that way.
I hope this helped you out. If you have any comments, please leave them below.