One question I get asked a lot is “should I market my visual novel? It’s [insert a lot of caveats and complaints]”. When people ask this, they ask me because they know I’m the marketing person. They’re usually not asking for advice, but rather either an easy-out (“she saw how many caveats my game has that’ll make it hard/not worthwhile to market and said I don’t have to!”) or a final push (“she gave me the push I needed to get up and go market my game”).
So let’s answer this once and for all (???)…
should you market your game?
let’s define marketing.
I can’t have a marketing article without defining what marketing is, as there’s a lot of misconceptions about it.
Marketing is the activity, set of institutions, and processes for creating, communicating, delivering, and exchanging offerings that have value for customers, clients, partners, and society at large.AMERICAN MARKETING ASSOCIATION, 2017
Marketing is how you communicate with someone- it’s a creative process that involves you understanding who you’re talking to and what you’re talking about. Advertising is one aspect of marketing, but not it’s entirety.
you’ve actually already started marketing.
Marketing isn’t just sending a tweet. It includes your game’s logo, the title, the art style, any game mechanics, and more.
I talked about this idea in one of my previous articles– once you decide on the logo, the title, etc., you’ve already started marketing, even if you haven’t announced the game yet. These different components of the game help determine the audience you’ll be communicating the game to and how you’ll communicate it.
okay but should I actually post about my game regularly and make social media posts and
Alright let’s actually go over what you mean. When people say “should I market”, 9 times out of 10 they mean “should I make an effort to post about this game on social media?”. Let’s look at some caveats I usually hear…
- it’s a free game
- I made it in x amount of time for a game jam (usually under 1 month)
- it’s really short
- it’s not as good as my other games
- it’s different from my other games
Are any of these good excuses?
No, of course not!
Let’s talk about the core reasons why you should consider marketing your game and come back to these caveats…
you should market your game if…
you want more fans
The best way to gain an audience of players is to release games, so if you want to build an audience, then you should release more games. Similarly, players won’t know about your game unless you do marketing for it. This doesn’t mean just make social media posts—passive marketing efforts like maintaining a good store page are very important.
you want more experience
If you’re new to marketing then you’ll want some experience in it before completely diving in. Doing some test runs with marketing on a smaller, lower stakes project is a great way to do that. You can get experience in how different social media sites work, scheduling posts, pitching your game, creating graphic assets, writing devlogs, and more.
you want money / downloads
Your game isn’t going to sell itself and AI can’t do it for you. Sorry, but you’re going to have to market it if you want it to sell or even be played in the first place.
Like I said before, marketing encompasses a lot, so it’s not just social media posts you’ll have to do in order to market it—there’s the store page, reaching out to press, and more. But at the end of the day, if no one knows about your game, then no one will play it.
Now, back to the caveats…
“it’s a free game”
So? Some of the most widely known games out there are free. Depending on your audience, a free game can be an easier sell than a commercial one and can make more money if you offer DLCs.
If you aren’t looking for money, then you might want the exposure that free games get. Free games bring in players from all kinds and typically get more views than a commercial game you might release as the barrier for entry is much, much lower. Free games can be a great way to gain an initial audience—but only if they know the game exists.
“I made it in x weeks for a game jam”
Good for you! It’s hard to finish a game, let alone in a short amount of time. Some basic marketing things you might want to do for a quick game could be retooling the store page, making a release devlog, a postmortem, or including the game in a collection with your other games.
Take a breather and come back to the game if you want afterwards.
“it’s really short”
So? There’s a lot of fantastic experiences that come out of short game jams like Ludum Dare and O2A2 every year. Don’t sell yourself short just because your game is short!
I see this excuse come in two flavors- “it’s really short so it’s not worth marketing (because the experience is bite-sized)” and “it’s really short so it’s not worth marketing (because I didn’t spend long making it so I shouldn’t spend long on marketing it)”. The answer to both of these is up to you—do you want more followers? Do you want more people to play your game? Do you want more experience marketing?
“it’s not as good as my other games”
Are you sure? Even if it is shorter, less polished, with fewer features, some people might want that.
You also can’t get feedback on how to improve your game if no one plays it (because they don’t know it exists).
“it’s different from my other games”
An example of this would be if a boys love developer started making yuri games or if a horror developer started making slice of life games. Most of us are here for the love of the craft rather than purely money, so sometimes we want to try writing other genres.
If you’re already established for making one genre, it can be really difficult to get that audience to try something different. I’ve been there, I’ve seen other devs struggle with it, it’s an uphill battle.
So if anything, this means you should market it even more since you won’t be able to rely on most of your established audience, you’ll have to find a new audience for the game.
so should I market my game?
At the end of the day, the answer is…
It’s up to you.
It’s completely up to you if you want to write devlogs, schedule social media posts, reach out to press. I can offer advice, I can write up a ton of articles, but at the end of the day, it’s up to you to actually market your game. It’s up to you to decide how you want to go about marketing it and for how long.
For further reading, consider…
A couple months back I set up a new page on my blog to serve as a highlight reel for my own articles and articles written by others that I’ve found very helpful. If you ever want to find one of my bigger articles, chances are it’s there. I’m considering how I can reformat it but for now that’s where they’ll be.
My next article will be a long collaboration article between myself and a few other developers full of advice for other devs—it’ll come out sometime in the next 3 weeks or so. Hope you’ll enjoy it!