There is a huge discussion going on right now about the re-structuring of the apple store and its aftermath for indies. Several articles around the net cover the issues and I do agree with them – but only to a certain extent. So lets take a look at this from a marketing point of view.
Some background for those who don’t know me:
I am currently working for a small indie developer in Norway and am (among other things) responsible for Business Development, Marketing and Public Relations. We are probably one of the very few small indies who have a more or less dedicated person in that area, even though everyone at Rock Pocket Games has to cover a whole range of different responsibilities.
So here is my humble opinion on this hot subject:
Platforms such as the apple store, steam (you could even mention kickstarter as a marketing tool) shouldn’t have been the main focus for indie developers to get attention for their games. It worked when these locations were relatively new, with less products, but at a time where there are more than 150 games being added to the app store daily, that time has come and gone. It’s not only an issue of the sheer amount of new games being released daily overwhelming a potential consumer, but also the fact that in order to gain his/her attention, your game has to be at the right place at the right time. This is something which is hard to influence on a platform of any sorts, unless you have full control over said platform.
Why would you want to compete at the last possible destination in a sales process? Sales and attention are being gained way before the location your product is being bought and those are places you can have 100% control over, such as your website/blog, social media channels, communities, forums or anything else related to the web.
It’s like begging/hoping for attention while we indie marketeers and developers should be focusing on gaining/earning the attention through other means.
Marketing is all about attention. I think we all can agree on that (admittedly, very simplified) definition. However it needs the right kind of attention at the right place and at the right time. In order to achieve this there are better means out there than gambling in the app store game and I think it’s about time we get to terms with that fact. The best game in the world won’t sell if people don’t know about it. Minecraft wasn’t a great game when Notch started development, it was a great idea/design and he used the power to engage and include a whole community onto the development process which in turn made them feel more involved and connected. Being part of an actual project automatically makes people more invested. There is an inherit truth that human beings have a craving to belong to a community, engage and interact. So, right there is a great marketing tool for you. Inexpensive, personal and with long-term merit.
So lets assume Minecraft wasn’t known at all before it got released and it would be an iPhone game only. Now lets assume some people saw it in the “new” section. Some would have bought it, others probably not. That would lead off to a slow start but since Minecraft is a very popular game it would go viral pretty fast with most marketing coming from people who love it so much they tell their friends about it. This shows us that most decisions to buy the game are made outside of the app store via friend suggestions or people blogging about how great the game is. The game is being bought because people trust their friends to tell them the truth.
Not to mention, someone who buys your game by browsing in the app store is also much more likely to just drop it again and forget about it. You don’t want a consumer, you want a fan 🙂
I am a firm believer of earning attention through content, community building, trust and placing yourself as a thought-leader and specialist in your field. That means stepping out of the mindset that everything is about your product and thinking that just getting it in front of someone who has never heard or seen of your studio or your game is enough to make them buy it. It’s not enough, not anymore, because you compete with thousands of other studios who do exactly the same.
You need to stand out as a person and a studio. Building trust and explaining to people who you are and what your studio stands for takes time. It takes time to understand who your potential customers are. It takes time to understand what kind of problems you could solve for them. It takes time to write content for them and it takes time to get to know people and make friends. That is the reason you should have a person that is dedicated to do this and that’s the money you should be spending on Marketing nowadays:
The good news?
[li]Expensive Marketing such as ads, TV spots etc are not efficient any more. We don’t need them (or do you seriously not check your emails or browse on your smart phone/tablet or grab something to snack through a tv ad break?)[/li]
[li]The new way of marketing is incredibly cost-effective to almost free and has long-term merit [/li]
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The bad news?
[li]game shop platforms will become increasingly useless as marketing tools [/li]
[li]The new way of marketing is very time-consuming and needs a dedicated person [/li]
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What exactly is the modern way of doing marketing? Well that is my personal opinion and could probably fill a book or at least a few hours of talking but feel free to send me a mail and I am happy to discuss 🙂