Visual Novel Marketing: 10 Key Tips to Stand Out in the Crowded Industry

by Game Marketing Genie, on 18-Apr-2023 11:22:06

Visual novel marketing is essential for small game studios looking to promote their narrative-driven games. The graphic novel industry has experienced significant growth in recent years, and according to market share data from Comic Book Revolution, manga-style has emerged as the dominant genre.

novel games statistics

Figure 1: Manga-style, a visual novel game genre, dominates the market. Source: Comic Book Revolution

With their ability to showcase engaging storylines and captivating artwork, it's no surprise that visual novels have gained a significant following in recent years. Your game's narrative and character-driven aspects can be a magnet for players looking for a more immersive and interactive storytelling experience. This emotional connection can increase engagement, positive reviews, and word-of-mouth promotion, ultimately translating to higher sales and a loyal fanbase for your game.

However, with so many visual novel games on the market, it can be challenging for small game studios to stand out and attract these niche players. It is only through implementing creative marketing strategies that small studios can differentiate themselves from the competition and connect with players.

This blog will explore the importance of visual novel marketing and provide tips to help your game succeed in a crowded market.

1. Remember, marketing is NOT an afterthought

One of the most important things to remember regarding visual novel marketing is that you should not be chasing as a last resort for your game. Even if you have a great game, it won't succeed if no one knows about it. While you may not need to spend 50% of your budget on marketing like big games and developers can, allocating a decent amount of time and resources to create an effective marketing plan is essential.

This means you should start thinking about marketing from the beginning of the game development process. Consider your target audience, what marketing channels will be most effective, and what message you want to convey. It's also a good idea to set aside a marketing budget and work with professionals if necessary.

Marketing is about creating a buzz around your game and making it stand out in a crowded market. So, invest enough time and resources into your marketing strategy to give your game the best chance of success.

Red clock and go

2. Get your audience right before you do anything else

Secondly, before diving into your visual novel marketing strategy, it's crucial to understand your audience. Visual novels are a unique genre of games with a specific target demographic and can be tricky to market, even when they're not "adults-only." Whether you're creating a romance-focused game or a horror-themed story, defining your audience and tailoring your messaging are essential. It's also worth noting that the visual novel genre is incredibly diverse, so it's critical to understand the nuances of the sub-genres within it. 

One of the best ways to determine your audience is by analyzing your game's key features. Consider what makes your game unique:

  • Does it include remarkable character designs?
  • Do you have exceptional gameplay mechanics?
  • Does the art style have a special appeal? 

These features help you narrow down your target audience and create messaging that resonates with them.

For example, if your game features cute girls as the main characters, you can focus your marketing on fans who enjoy games with adorable character designs. On the other hand, if your game has a horror theme, you might want to appeal to fans of horror movies and books.

It's also important to understand that not all visual novel game fans are alike. Some players prefer games with branching storylines and multiple endings, while others prefer linear stories with solid character development. Understanding these nuances can help you create a marketing strategy that appeals to many players while staying true to your game's unique selling points.

3. Focus on your aesthetic

Aesthetics play a crucial role in capturing the attention of potential players in visual novel marketing. Visual novel developers have the opportunity to showcase their unique style and artistic talent in their game's visuals, which can set their game apart from the competition.

One of the best ways to incorporate your game's aesthetics into your marketing is to identify the key visual elements that make your game unique. Consider essential questions like: 

  • Is your game manga-style?
  • Does it use Unity?
  • Will it be hand-drawn or digitally illustrated? 
  • Is it romance, a slice of life, horror, or another genre? 
  • Will it include adult content or be primarily targeted at adults? 
  • What color palettes or styles does it use?

Once you have identified these elements, pull them into your indie game marketing and don't stray from them. This will help create a cohesive and recognizable brand identity to help your game stand out in a crowded market. Use these elements consistently in your promotional materials, including trailers, social media posts, and website design.

Regarding content creation, visual novel devs should focus on creating high-quality visuals that showcase their unique style and artistry. Whether they're hand-drawn illustrations or 3D models, these visuals should be eye-catching and memorable. It's also important to consider the game's overall design, including color palettes, typography, and layout, to ensure everything is visually cohesive and appealing.

visual novel game

Figure 2: Example of a visual novel game illustration. Source: Steam

4. Understanding your positioning

Positioning is crucial in beating herd marketing because it allows you to differentiate your visual novel game from the competition and appeal to a specific audience. One way to do this is to identify an unmet need in the market and create a game that fills that gap, whether it's through a unique art style, innovative gameplay mechanics, or a story that explores a niche topic. You can start by focusing on the three key areas highlighted below: 

Talk about your game's story in a strategic way

You don't need to reveal every detail, but you do need to communicate why your game is worth playing. Use clear and concise language, and think about the impression you want your audience to get.

Consider what you do and don't want to show

While it's important to give potential players a sense of what your game is about, you don't want to give away all the surprises. Strike a balance between revealing enough to generate interest and holding back enough to build anticipation.

Promote your game on the right platforms

Depending on your target audience, this might mean using social media platforms like Twitter or Instagram or gaming platforms like Steam or Ensure you also communicate which platforms your game is available on to ensure everything is clear.

5. Nailing your elevator pitch

A clear and compelling elevator pitch is crucial to market your visual novel game effectively. This brief, descriptive summary should bring out the essence of your VN and convey its unique selling points to potential players.

To nail your elevator pitch, identify the key elements that make your VN stand out, such as the story, art style, gameplay mechanics, or themes. 

Use language that resonates with your target audience and highlights what sets your VN game apart from the competition. Include the content from your elevator pitch to the following places: your store page listing, social media bios and promos, ad copy, and PR content, as well as for introducing your game at events or in VN dev communities.

For example, while completing the forms, developers can submit their games' elevator pitches for events like Steam Visual Novel Fest (2023)

Ultimately, your elevator pitch should entice potential players to learn more about your game and give them a clear idea of what to expect. By honing your pitch and using it consistently across your marketing channels, you can increase your VN's visibility and attract more players to your game.

steam novel fest

Figure 3: Example of events developers can attend to pitch their VN games. Source: Steam

6. Where to talk about your novel

Your social media profile and other community pages

Social media is prime real estate to post updates about your game development and keep fans interested in your progress. You can also gather new members who may be interested in visual storytelling and like what you have to offer. 

Related Facebook groups and Discord channels

Here you can meet fellow VN game devs and learn more about your interests. Encourage discussions and share your progress in your community forums and other relevant places where your target audience may be. You can join Facebook groups such as Visual Novel Enthusiasts and Visual Novels, and Discord channels like Devtalks, but make sure to read the rules and check if self-promotion is allowed. 

Your website

This is the central hub for all your visual novel's information and updates. Most of the time, potential players are sure to check this space out. Ensure it is easy to navigate and provides all necessary information.

Reddit forums

Be sure to follow the rules when promoting on Reddit forums. You need to follow specific guidelines, and it's best to check if self-promotion is allowed.

Here are some groups you can check out: 

  • /r/VNs: subreddit for talking about visual novels
  • /r/VNdevs: subreddit for talking about visual novel development.
  • /r/otomegames: subreddit for specifically talking about otome visual novels and games

Reddit app bubble

7. Choose the right posts

As you work on marketing your visual novel game, sharing various posts and content types with your audience is important. From screenshots and character intros to fanart and memes, there are plenty of ways to generate excitement about your game.

  • Screenshots: Share visually appealing screenshots that showcase your game's art style, characters, and scenes. Ensure they are high-quality and represent your game's tone and themes.
  • Trailers: Create a captivating trailer that showcases your game's story, gameplay mechanics, and unique features. This is a great way to give potential players a taste of what to expect from your game.
  • Character Intros: Introduce your game's characters with engaging artwork and brief descriptions of their personalities, backgrounds, and roles in the story. This can help players connect with the characters and get invested in the game's story.
  • Staff Intros: Introduce your development team and their roles in creating the game. This can give people insight into the creative process behind your game.
  • Dev Logs: Share updates on the development process, including challenges, milestones, and successes. This can help build a community around your game and keep your audience engaged with your progress.
  • Fan Art: Share UGC fan art of your game. This can help build a community around your game and show that you appreciate and value your fans.
  • Announcements: Share important announcements, such as release dates, updates, or new features. 
  • Updates: Share updates on your game's progress, including bug fixes, improvements, and new features. This shows that you are actively working to make your game better and can keep your audience engaged.
  • Memes: Share humorous or relatable memes related to your game's themes or characters. This can help humanize your brand and show that you have a sense of humor.

reddit community

Figure 4: Example of a trailer posted in a Reddit community. Source: Reddit

8. Have a demo

Having a demo is a crucial part of visual novel marketing. It allows potential customers to try out your game and get a feel for it before purchasing it. Even a short demo of 10 minutes can give them a good idea of what your game is all about. Make sure to have your demo on your store page and promote it on all your outreach channels, such as social media, forums, and Discord servers. This will help generate interest and excitement for your visual novel and increase the chances of people purchasing it once it's released.

9. Interact with other visual novel devs

Interacting with other visual novel developers is a great way to build relationships, get feedback on your work, and collaborate on future projects. Being active on VN forums like LemmaSoft and joining communities like the Ren'Py Discord channel can help you connect with other developers and learn from their experiences. Remember to be respectful and courteous in your interactions and avoid being too self-promotional.

10. Get key opinion leaders to talk about your game!

Contact key opinion leaders such as influencers and gaming news forums to expand your game's reach. Creating a press kit can help you pitch your game to key people more effectively. This kit should include important information about your game, such as the elevator pitch, gameplay features, story synopsis, and other relevant details that can help generate interest. By getting these individuals to talk about your game, you can reach new audiences and increase your game's visibility in the market.

Shadow of a gamer

Indie game marketing simplified

Most visual novels fall into the indie gaming category as they're made by independent developers. Which is where our indie game guide comes in handy! Find out more in Indie Game Marketing 101: Your Top Indie Game Dev Guide.

Visual novel marketing can be challenging, but it is important to remember that it is possible to make your game stand out. Your visual novel can succeed by creating a strong brand, engaging with your community, sharing quality content, and utilizing other marketing techniques, such as reaching out to influencers and getting press coverage. Don't be afraid to invest in strategic marketing for your visual novel - the results could be well worth it. 

Take the first step towards making your visual novel successful through creative marketing strategies. For professional assistance in navigating the world of social media marketing, Game Marketing Genie has a team of experts who specialize in marketing visual novels. 

Contact us today to learn how we can help your visual novel stand out and reach its full potential.

Topics:Video Game Marketing StrategyVideo Game MarketingSocial Media Marketing StrategyGame LaunchDigital MarketingIndie Games

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