Indie Game MarketingGame Reviews

Dead Cells: a supermodel for successful marketing

If you haven’t played Dead Cells yet, it’s probably because you’ve been busy. Maybe your in-laws are staying with you? Maybe you or your PC have been stuck in a well. But not together, or you would probably have played this totally bitchin’ game from Motion Twin.

Dead Cells is tearing up the charts

Tearing up the charts should be a goal for any indie developer. But Motion Twin has done this before, and it shows! As a certified game sniffer-outer, I’ve had my eyeballs on Dead Cells since long before its Early Access release on Steam. And as it turns out, so have thousands and thousands of their Twitter fans.

It should be pointed out to first-time devs that you will likely not have the resources Motion Twin does. However, we can look at how they’ve marketed themselves and see what has worked so very well for them.

Always the first thing…

The most important aspect of Dead Cell‘s success is that the game is totally kickass. The gameplay is silky and polished. The action is lightning fast and players can mash buttons all they like. The sounds, animations, and backgrounds are all rich with detail and every moment in this game is indicative of how hard these developers have worked.

The first thing is to have a good product. Dead Cells hit the market with much hype, but if the product had sucked, their sales would have plateaued and started declining immediately. They made a promise of a great product and they delivered on that promise. And now we all have Dead Cells, right?

My five favorite pillars

I have a five-pillar plan when it comes to indie game marketing. Social media, web content, distribution, email and video channels are most effective when used all together to create a cohesive campaign. Motion Twin checked every box here, and even went above and beyond for their show booths.

And while trade shows can be costly, the other items on my list are free or almost free. Here’s how the user experience should go:

  1. Rando sees attractive pixel art/video/GIF on social media
  2. Said rando clicks to link to Motion Twin’s website
  3. Rando joins mailing list and watches trailers on the site
  4. Rando is informed of updates via social media and more in-depth via email until Dead Cells is ready to purchase
  5. Rando has multiple options for purchase including bundle sites, Motion Twin’s website and – of course – Steam

Boiled down further, it goes like: Capture the client’s attention, retain and grow the client’s interest, make a purchase as easy as possible. When Dead Cells went on sale, it debuted with a bit of a discount. Nothing crazy, but just enough to convince even Ghetto Gamers like me that it was worth scooping up before the price hike.

Motion Twin has done this brilliantly, and put a delicious game right under our noses. And at a discount!


Creative process tweet
Motion Twin lets us in on the creative process

Twitter’s my favorite.

Motion Twin was posting teasers for Dead Cells during the concepting phase. It may seem like jumping the gun, but for many of us, concept art is just as follow-and-retweet worthy as completed pixel masterpieces. In fact, concept art can do much to stoke the imagination of your followers and hint at the real possibility of what your game will offer.

Early concept art
Long before the style was streamlined, Dead Cells was attracting attention

They also made it a point to tweet about where they would be, tweet while they’re there, and tweet about how it went. Along the way, they made it a point to answer their followers’ questions, have banter and build rapport with members of the community. This is a crucial component of building an audience. You’ve got to talk to them. Address their concerns and comments and do it with class! If the pillars were real pillars, think of follower engagement as the mortar that makes them strong.

Dead Cells' booth at PaxEast
Dead Cells’ booth at PaxEast

Still haven’t played Dead Cells?

If Motion Twin themselves haven’t convinced you, maybe your fellow gamers can! It’s good. Get it!


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Steven Long

Steve is an IndieWatch O.G. He has long supplied marketing information for the aspiring developer. More recently he has been creating content for retrogaming enthusiasts on his YouTube channel. Find him on Twitter @Longie_long and at Patreon.

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