Why Do Indie Games Fail? What to Avoid In Your Game Marketing Strategy

by Game Marketing Genie, on 04-Aug-2021 09:42:42

Indie games have it tough. With the average indie game going for less than $9 on Steam and developers only selling a few copies according to data from PC Gamer, success is becoming increasingly rare for indie games. But that’s not to say that indie games won’t make it!

It took time for the indie game explosion to happen, but it finally did, and games of all sorts are flooding the market by the bucketful as they try to make the next Minecraft. Unfortunately, while this kind of optimism is encouraged, it has led to the development of indie games that perform poorly in the market. This post highlights why these games fail and the mistakes you need to avoid to ensure your game becomes a success.

Why do indie games fail?

What is an indie game? An indie game is any type of video game created by an independent developer or a small dev team without financial support from a publisher. Games such as Super Meat Boy, Braid, World of Goo, Stardew Valley and Minecraft are the flagships of the industry. The latter stands out as the best-selling indie game, selling tens of millions of copies to passionate gamers.

Minecraft webpage

Figure 1: Minecraft home screen. Source: Mojang

For every successful indie game, there are thousands more that tried to crack the market but failed. The reasons for failure are many, but here are the most prominent ones.

1. Lack of detailed marketing strategy

A huge number of developers are guilty of releasing their games to the public without a proper game marketing strategy to back them. Many indie developers believe that just because they love their titles, everyone will. 

Video game marketing also gets a bad rep in the indie gaming community, with many viewing it as something used to promote a bad game to the public. On the contrary, the role of game marketing strategies is to let gamers know that a good game exists. Today's video game market is very crowded, and people will never hear about your game without a strategy to deliver the news to them. Indie game marketing lets your consumers know that your game exists and it's worth their time.

2. Lack of allocated ad spend

Not setting aside a video game marketing budget to market your game is one of the grave mistakes you can make. Understandably, a small studio may not have enough resources to run extensive marketing campaigns, but at the very least, you should have some funds set aside to promote your game when it's ready for the market.

Thousands of indie games are launched every day, and without a marketing strategy, your pretty little game will get lost in all the noise. Since effective marketing takes a lot of time and effort, delegate this task to an indie game marketing company to allow you to concentrate on other essential functions like collecting feedback from gamers to refine your game.

3. Failure to engage with the right channels

Game developers know that they need to build a community and following around their game. However, most make the mistake of concentrating on the wrong channels. For your indie game to succeed, you need to interact with gamers on their preferred platforms. Streaming and video content platforms are the best avenues to interact with gamers. These platforms allow you to stream your game to show players how your game works and provide in-game support.

YouTube, TikTok, and Discord have become the most critical channels for indie titles. Developers can partner with popular streamers on these platforms to showcase their games to a broad audience.

4. No original plan for this specific game

Just because your last game was a success doesn’t mean that you should use the same strategies for your latest release. It’s okay to take inspiration from past successes, but you need to start with a blank canvas when figuring out how to market a new game.

Analyze your game carefully to figure out the things that make it stand out. Then, develop your marketing strategy based on those things to give your game every chance to succeed.

Frustrated gamers

What you need to succeed

The most successful indie games use these strategies to build popular titles that reach success quickly and maintain a strong fanbase. 

1. Game-specific social media channels

A report by Statista shows that the number of people using social media is expected to reach 4.4 billion in 2025, and there’s no way your target audience doesn't fall into this category. However, as you shape your social media marketing strategy, it's important to note that the aim isn't to appear on all channels but on those that are popular with gamers.

Gamers like live streams and video content, so you need an active presence on the platforms that support such content. YouTube, Twitch, and Discord are some of the best platforms to share interactive content with your audience. Publish the links of our social media handles on your indie game website to help visitors find you on social media.

Our blog, What Are The Best Social Media Platforms to Market Your Game On, gives the benefits of the various social media platforms you can consider for marketing your game.

Man standing on subway

2. The right strategies

You need to invest in the right strategies to get your game before people who would download, play, and recommend it to their friends.

Social media marketing

Social media marketing is one of the best strategies you can count on to reach your target users. Create profiles on the platforms where your audience is active and post content to educate them about your game and its unique perks. Create catchy posts and share game-related tips in the form of videos and screenshots.

Influencer marketing

A study from Mediakix shows that 90 percent of marketers say that the ROI from influencer marketing is good. This makes getting influencers to promote your game an effective way to make your indie game popular. Your choice of influencers will determine the success of your campaign, so take time to vet the influencers to ensure you get those that match your style and brand. This whole exercise is very stressful, and you're better off engaging with the right influencer marketing platform to select and manage the influencers for you.

Didn't think it was possible? At Atisfyreach, our platform is built to do the work for you. All you need to do is create a campaign and our platform will handle everything from finding the best fit influencers for the job to content reviews and payments. Find out more on our website by clicking the link above! 

App store optimization

If your game is on mobile, don’t forget to focus on app store optimization to make it easy for users to find your game via search. More than half of all apps are discovered through app store searches, so taking the time to optimize your game will ensure your game is seen and downloaded. Use keywords to optimize the name and description of your game to pull in as many target users as possible.

We have shared other app store optimization tips in our blog, App Store Optimization: How To Make Your Mobile Game Stand Out.

Content marketing

Another strategy that will help you stand out in the gaming community is content marketing. This includes creating content for your blog, posting on social media, and getting featured in gaming publications. Which leads us to the following...

3. Beautiful, engaging media

Visual marketing goes hand in hand with the growth of the gaming industry. Visual content gets more engagement and impacts more consumers than other forms of content. So, strive to create beautiful, engaging media that you will publish on your social media pages and website.

Instead of writing a post explaining how your game works, create a video that shows the steps users must follow to progress through the game. Gamers will happily watch your videos to learn tips and understand your game better.

Anime background

4. A complete press kit

Getting press coverage could do wonders for your game. Gaming enthusiasts still subscribe to gaming publications to get the latest news, and getting your game featured on one of them will improve your brand awareness and skyrocket your sales.

Before you approach the press to feature your game, you need a press kit that contains all the important information about your game. Besides a compelling description of your game, the press kit should include screenshots that capture the exciting parts of your game. Also, add links to your social media handles to make it easy for readers to find you online.

Our blog, How to Create a Video Game Marketing Press Kit, gives a detailed explanation of how a press kit can help improve your brand presence.

5. An easy beginning

Don't wait until you launch your indie game to start promoting it. Start marketing it early to give players a clue of what to expect and get them excited about the launch. Join gaming communities and tell them about what you're working on. Get feedback from gaming enthusiasts and use the information to refine your game to improve your chances of success when you eventually launch the game.

Crash Bandicoot mobile game

The ultimate guide to game marketing

Hope you enjoyed this article! For more insider game marketing information, check out The Ultimate Guide to Game Marketing: Everything You Need to Know.


Indie game marketing isn’t easy. Thousands of other developers are fighting for the same players as you, and without the right strategies, you’ll find it difficult to attract users to your indie game. But luckily for you, we've just covered the best fit strategies to help you get started - and have a lot more that we can customize to your needs.

Why? Because the team at Game Marketing Genie is here to help. Our gaming marketing agency has the tools to get you discovered and earn the trust of your player base today.

Need expert advice on how to connect with the right gamers? Book a consultation with our marketing experts today!

Topics:Video Game Marketing StrategyVideo Game MarketingDigital MarketingIndie Games

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