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.

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.

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