Indie developer Rusty Lake is having great success with their whimsical horror puzzle games; this is how to market independent video games.
The other day, I was bored and in desperate need of a game that was both casual and creepy. I took a chance on a game called Rusty Lake: Roots from indie game developer Rusty Lake. At three bucks, it wasn’t much of a risk; the stakes don’t get much lower than that. But I was drawn to the dark and brooding atmosphere, the unique art style and the fact that Rusty Lake – the studio, not the game - brand is intricately and inexplicably intertwined with the persistent world they have created.
As a marketing professional, I instantly recognized this for what it is: Branding at its best!
It’s been a while since I tackled the subject of branding directly. Actually, it’s been a while since I addressed marketing at all. Been busy, you know. But I couldn’t help calling out what Rusty Lake has done here. Social media presence notwithstanding (I’m writing this on a plane and not about to pay the exorbitant fee for onboard wifi to browse their marketing efforts,) Rusty Lake deepens and improves on their game world with every release.
There are plenty of games out there with sequels that take place in the original game world, but Rusty Lake – as far as I can tell – sets all of their games in the same world, with the same or similar character, locations and persistent themes that seem to chime with their audience.
Repetitive brand exposure
In ad school, we learned that an ugly, bad or ill-conceived brand image that is persistently crammed down consumers’ throats will always outperform a well-thought-out good brand that is sparsely used. In other words, persistence pays of dividends in terms of brand exposure, audience retention and increasing brand advocacy. This counts for every game developer too.
Brand advocacy sounds boring.
It does. But it’s not. Brand advocates are the people that not only buy your product, but proselytize on your behalf. They spread the ever-elusive word of mouth for you, while you sleep or – much more hopefully – work on your next game.
Case and point – you are now reading a completely unsolicited plug for Rusty Lake. They aren’t paying me. I didn’t ask their permission. I don’t even know if they’ll like this article (I hope they do!) But because I was impressed with their game and their studio, I’m spreading the word and hopefully IndieWatch readers are taking notes.
Advantages of a persistent game world
Rusty Lake’s reuse of characters and environments offers several advantages over studios that start fresh with each release. Here are a few:
- Customers who like one, will probably buy another.
I sure did. After laying down my three bucks for Roots via Steam, I laid down a few more for Hotel on Android, plus a couple of their escape games to entertain myself on a plane rid. Since I knew I could depend on them to offer another game of the same caliber (actually, I think Roots is much better,) I felt no qualms about making and additional purchase. They doubled their profit.
- Rusty Lake saves time and money by reusing art
Because the game developer isn’t reinventing the wheel with each game they make, they’re able to reuse artwork they’ve already created. While it’s a sound business decision, it also helps draw their audience ever deeper into their dark world. Too many sequels underperform first releases because fans of the original don’t like the new direction. Rusty Lake has minimized this risk and maximized their profits.
- Rusty Lake games can be played across different platforms
Of course, ports are nothing new. But going back to the first point, I knew what I would get with Rusty Lake Hotel, even though it was on Android. I trust their brand, so I went ahead and made an additional purchase.
- Their games intertwine
In addition to plots and characters that play into each other, in Cube Escape: The Lake, I found a little combination box who’s code could be found in another Rusty Lake game. Say what!? And if you solve the box, you experience a different ending. Now that is cool!
Another point to be made here is that, if Rusty Lake stopped making games, all this would be for nothing. This independent game developer has made a commitment to continue creating games and expanding their world. I can’t say enough about this studio. They are really doing it right.
Rusty Lake Roots is haunting and engrossing. The added depth of the rest of Rusty Lake’s catalog drives gamers to explore more of this awful place.
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