Today Andy reviews Amol Wagh’s book “Market your indie game like a pro” and compares it to his real life marketing experiences. You can get the book on Amazon via this link.
Can you market your indie game like a pro?
Marketing is a constant struggle for Indie Devs.
I’ve got my own views on marketing which are slightly opposed to conventional “wisdom” banded about the community. So when I was messaged directly on twitter about this book I thought I would compare it to my own experiences and see what matched (or didn’t).
Before I get started I will say I’m in no way stating I am some kind of marketing god. Clearly that isn’t the case. But Rich and I have been doing this for a few years. We know what’s worked for us and we know….we really, really know what doesn’t.
Also I won’t cover every chapter in “Market your indie game like a pro”, just the ones that stood out for good, or bad reasons. So, let’s get stuck in.
Section: The harsh Truth
Not a bad start, despite it falling into the usual how-to-guide trap of telling you how difficult this process is going to be. “Not everyone can do this” is self-improvement 101. It’s a very human thing to then think “oh, sure but I can!” I’ve read a ton of books or sites that start this way. Steve Pavlina was a big fan of this kind of tactic to make the reader feel special. It’s not a bad thing but I’m probably a like jaded from it.
Other than that I did like the quote starting “Overnight success has 10 years of hard work behind it…”. Although I think I may have read that somewhere before? From this point on I think the rest of the chapter is a good read. Especially if you’re a relatively new game developer.
Chapter 2: Making your Game Marketable
Okay so this is the bit I’m really bad at. It’s good to have another refresher on these concepts and it again reminds me I should have been talking about Tribloos 3 for the last year. I only really started talking about it last month and that was far too late. I’m still not talking about it enough now!
I don’t think this chapter was detailed enough. There’s some more talk about this later but it moves on too quickly. It talks about having deadlines and discipline in your marketing but doesn’t give any indication at this point about what those should possibly be.
I quite enjoyed this chapter, it’s not an area we have explored so much before. I believe these have become far more prevalent due to the rise of F2P games on mobile devices. However I could see how useful these might be in future projects of ours. I thought the technical talk here was good and helped make sense of the acronyms I’ve seen thrown around the last few months.
Chapter 5: Using KPIs effectively
After the previous chapter I was a little disappointed in this one. The title of the chapter seemed to suggest it would give pointers on how to examine KPIs, or maybe in game statistics, in order to spot the areas your game could do with improvement. Instead it’s far more along the lines of “don’t clone games” and “make something people will like”. This kind of advice belonged at the start of the book rather than in a chapter that should have contained more technical advice.
Also it has one of the worst pieces of advice in the whole book which is “Take only early versions of your game to events so you can protect your unique concepts”. Personally I would suggest game developers do the complete opposite and show the USPs of their title as soon as they can. It doesn’t matter if you get copied, it matters more that you were first and can prove it.
Chapter 6: Tips for Higher retention Rate & profitable revenue models
This chapter had some good points and bad points! The first tip it gives is great and aligns with much of the good advice I’ve received over the years. It says to focus on day 1 retention and that the first 20 minutes or so of the game are amazing. I totally concur.
However it then mentions push notifications, saying “Don’t send more than 2 push notifications every day”. I’m not sure if this is the developer in me or the user, but that seems like too many. One or two a week feels more like it to me, unless I’ve requested more regular updates from the game.
The rest of the chapter on choosing a revenue model is okay, except it does focus mostly on mobile development.
Chapter 9: Paid Installation Myths
I was glad to see this chapter wasn’t what I initially feared it would be. I’ve had plenty of emails over the years telling me I can pay $100s for thousands of installs of our mobile titles. And this has always felt very dishonest and underhanded. Luckily this chapter is focused more on Cost-Per-Action or Cost-Per-Mile based advertising to get installations of your game. However while some detail is given and a very, very general example is shown I didn’t find it very helpful.
I was hoping there would be more real world examples of the author’s past advertising work. What got the most installs and what split testing they did rather than just saying “you need to do split testing”.
Chapters 10 to 17
These mostly cover marketing assets and, while I knew much of this from experience such as Vlambeer’s press kit webpage, I think it’s of definite use to any developers new to marketing.
Chapters 18 to 25
These chapters are all about press release and email writing. I think they’re pretty good to be honest. Again, and I don’t want to sound aloof because it is a good read, I’ve heard a lot of it before. I do think press releases are less useful these days than they used to be say, 5/6 years ago but it’s still a necessary step.
Chapters 28 and 29
I was hoping there would be more about post release marketing. Especially since many huge games started off small and built up their audience slowly over the course of many months. I don’t agree with some of the advice here such as “attend nearly every conference you can”. I think you should definitely pick and choose conferences and events (something I think we’ll be talking about ourselves in future).
While most of the points here are good in their own right, I think some of them could be expanded on. The above example again, going to conferences? I think it would help new marketeers what kind of materials would be good to take to conferences and events. For example one of the most popular things we created and took were papercraft models of the space farmers characters. Although I should have made *lots* of them becuase I spent a lot of time apologising and explaining to people why they couldn’t have them.
Overall I think it’s an OK read, Amol gives a fairly well balanced overview of Indie Game Marketing.
Despite Steam being mentioned, I do think “Market your indie game like a pro” is more geared towards mobile game developers. While still popular, my feeling is that a lot of indies have moved away from mobile development recently.
I also feel it doesn’t cover much on the idea of creating a community around your game, a subject I’m most interested in recently.
It’s not the most interesting marketing book I’ve read ever. It is however one of the most cost-effective books I’ve seen to get you started on indie game marketing and, since that’s it’s obvious goal, I think it has succeeded.