Indie Game MarketingBecoming a #Gamedev

Here’s Why Your Indie Game Won’t Sell

You did it! Your indie game is complete!

You worked your butt of and saw your project to completion. Now bandage your bleeding, overworked fingers, pour yourself a glass of chocolate milk and watch those profits roll in! But no. Let’s talk about why your indie game won’t sell.

There are many possible reasons why your indie game won’t sell. It could be a conspiracy by Steam/Android/Apple against the little guy. Everyone knows Steam’s algorithm is set up to benefit AAA developers at the expense of the hard-working backbone of the gaming industry. Probably that’s it.

Or maybe it’s because you just don’t have the marketing dollars to hire a professional. The system is tilted to benefit those with unlimited expendable money to put into marketing, ads, commercials, billboards, event booths and all that. How can a little dev team catch a break!?

Or possibly—just possibly—your game is uglier than you realize.

Why your indie game won't sell. Cause it's ugly.
Is your game ugly? Be honest.

Seriously. If you put in the hard work and have had some success marketing your game, it may be time for a reality check. Does the art style of your game inspire clicks and downloads? Or does it blend in with the thousands of other uninspired indie games? Is your game cute? Demented? Awe-inspiring? Whatever mood your game is intended to strike the art and animation styles must reflect that.

I can’t tell you how many games I have scrolled through looking for one that catches my attention. And this is especially true in mobile markets, where purchasing decisions are based entirely on your tiny little icon.

In a market that is positively saturated with indie games, you can’t hope to stand out with just a regular game. And if you have an ugly game you might as well forget it. It has to look amazing. Studies have shown us (and personal experience at IndieWatch) that the single biggest factor affecting your sales is the graphics! All the marketing in the world can’t sell an ugly game.

So here’s the real reason why your indie game won’t sell: It’s not finished.

Until your art style, animation, banners and all the visual elements that should make your game attractive are as close to perfect as possible, your game is incomplete. You might have the tightest and most rewarding gameplay, but nobody will ever bother to find out unless they are willing to take a chance on an ugly game. So that’s pretty much nobody.

Am I being harsh? Maybe. But ignore my words at your peril.

If you aren’t an artist or animator yourself, then you should hire one. And if you can’t find a way to pony up some money for your project, then you aren’t that serious anyway. Don’t believe for a second that people will buy your game just because it exists. Or just because you spent years making it. There’s an oversupply and an underdemand for games. If you aren’t offering something unique, gamers will pass you by and move on to something more appealing.

So take a goooooood look at your indie game and ask yourself: Would you buy this ugly game?


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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.


  1. Good article, but I understand why people whould be angry about your blog. I was questionning your motives too until researched further.
    I have read your other articles, and like here, you mention about the quality of game and how important it is, which I agree.
    However the standard of quality can differ by person to person. How important an aspect of a game it is to them.
    It might be gameplay, it might be graphics, Music, arstyle, or even being VR game. People have different standards on what is bad and not bad.
    So just mentioniong that they need better artstyle is a very bold statement.
    It is true that an eye catching game style has more chance to attract more audience, but it doesn’t have to be only that.
    Undertale, flappybird, cs:go, and other games that might not appeal to some people, have appleaed immensely to others.

    To me, the whole blog came off aggressive, and that’s quite unpleasant to read. No offence, but it worried me for a second that you are the marketing guy at IndieWatch. Maybe next time have more positive nuance at the post.

      1. … Due for a harsh reality check that friends and playtesters are too nice to provide. The market is aggressive and harsh and if your game isn’t truly exceptional, nobody will play it. So sorry if brutal honesty makes me seem aggressive but I’m just trying to provide the truth as I see it. Your opinions are of course welcome and I thank you for being a reader.

  2. Plenty of indie games have been (comparatively) successful with what I suspect you’d consider ‘sub-par’ graphics, Steven. I’m not sure I’d agree that any indie developer that doesn’t have the best art suited to their game, should expect their game to fail. Lower your chances, probably. As you say, the market is flooded in nearly every genre and consumers have a lot to choose between.

    We have one in-house artist here. Me, and I’d consider myself still an amateur after 20 years doing it. To produce the amount of art necessary for a game, when you cannot afford to invest in out-sourcing the work, means some sacrifices are made in the time-to-quality ratio, when the art requirements are as big as (I know first-hand) they can get, even for a game with a fairly limited scope.

    1. Naturally, the development team is the ultimate check. If the art is as good as it can be given the individual circumstances, then that’s great.

      I think the key ingredient that many indie games neglect is polish. And of course, there are always outliers that defy the odds and end up doing very well with visuals that aren’t the greatest. But like you say, unsuitable art will diminish your odds. It’s like going to a job interview looking like you just crawled out of bed. You can still succeed, but you aren’t doing yourself any favors.

      I guess what I’m trying to say is, “Hey! Thanks for reading!”

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