Illustration by my brother Pierre Elahee (http://pierreelahee.fr/)

How, why, when and how much to pay for indie game marketing?

When you start a game production, it’s very hard to know how to budget marketing. Especially when it’s your first game ever. This article is a bit vague but will give you insights about “how much”, “how” and “why” invest in marketing.

How much you should do yourself?

You think I would say you ALWAYS need to get professional and hire me to do it? HUH, no! In most of cases, if you’re really interested in marketing, creating events, speaking at conferences, talk with random people in the internet, reach journalists & influencers, DO MOST OF IT YOURSELF.

We, freelancers & agencies (PR, Influencers, etc) have our own network and you’re paying for it. But we will never have your hardcore motivation working on your indie game.

The ideal is to do A LOT yourself, and pay for more reach, time with agencies & freelancers.

When should you invest in Marketing?

I suggest you spend 70% of your marketing during the production of the game and 30% at launch.

It’s important to keep a steady stream of communication to build the hype. Building this momentum is the hardest, yet most important work to do in your marketing. The launch is only the Genkidama on this energy gathered throughout the marketing production.

For instance, let’s say you launch with 100 people on your newsletter, 500 Twitter subscribers, 500 Facebook fans and 3000 wishlists on Steam. Hopefully, 10% of those will turn into sales, which could make around 400 sales. All those numbers depend on your activity during production. You can invest much more around launch and external agencies, but it’ll have random results. You can’t say if a marketing campaign can go viral or flop.

Why invest in marketing agencies, ads, influencers & others?

Communication is like digging, you can go deeper or wider.

Every time you’re communicating about your game, you’re exploring a bit of both ways. Sharing a devblog is more about depth. Participating in #ScreenshotSaturday is more about reach.

Hiring people should often be aimed on Reach instead of Depth, because YOU are the most relevant people to talk about YOUR game.

What and where to invest in Marketing — Sample Prices & Examples

Please keep in mind those are super variable and only here to give a “rough sense of estimation”. Those come from my French European experience so it will differ if you’re in the US, Australia, etc.

DIY stands for Do It Yourself or Donuts+Insomnia+Young. It’s when you have tons of energy to put into everything, no money and can dodge production to focus on marketing. DIY doesn’t take real money but it takes real time. It improve your long-term skills though, so use it wisely!

PR Agency

From 2K€ a month to 6k€ a month. The perfect is to get a PR agency to work on your game for 3 months. Objective: critical reviews, attention from influencers and vocal people.

  • DIY
  • Agency: 3k€ per month

Small Events

Objective : get local players, word of mouth, core fans, low budget marketing.

  • Trip across europe : 300€ per person
  • Exhibit costs : 500€-1k€
  • Additionnal fees: 500€ per person

Big events (Pax, Gamescom, etc.)

Objective: medium profile journalists & influencers, bigger word of mouth, players from other countries.

  • Trip Europe to US : 500€ per person
  • Exhibit costs : 2–3k€
  • Additionnal Fees (food, etc.) : 100€ per person per day

Ad Campaign for a launch

Objective : super wide coverage, re-exposure for people already aware.

  • DIY: 5 days and 1k€
  • Agency : 5k€

Youtube & Twitch Influencers

Objective: get core gamers or niche gamers, high engagement & good cost-per-user ratio.

  • DIY: 10 days & 5k€
  • Agency: 5k to 20k

Pick your range! (PC Games)

Let’s take an average indie budget, which I estimate can be around 200k€ (super total, 2 years of game dev). It highly depends on your country. Also, count 2x this for mobile games. I’m talking about indies with limited funds here so you can double up on those numbers if you want.

Very Small (2–10% of total budget / 10k€)

  • Press: DIY
  • Ads: 3k€
  • Game Influencers: DIY, 3k€
  • Events: DIY, 4k€

Average (10–20% of total budget / 25k€ )

  • Press: Agency: 6k€
  • Influencers: DIY, 5k€
  • Ad Campaign : DIY, 3k€
  • Events: DIY, 6k€
  • Marketing Freelancer, 1.5 month, 5k€

Medium (20–30% of total budget / 50k€)

  • Press: Agency: 10k€
  • Influencers: DIY, 10k€
  • Ad Campaign : DIY, 10k€
  • Events: DIY, 12k€
  • Marketing Freelancer, 3 month, 8k€

High (30–50% of total budget / 80k€)

  • Press: Agency: 15k€
  • Influencers: DIY, 20k€
  • Ad Campaign : DIY, 15k€
  • Events: DIY, 15k€
  • Marketing Freelancer, 6 month, 15k€

There are lot of things to say, but here are a few takeaways for your investments:

  • Make TESTS! Sometimes, ads are totally shit and useless. Sometimes, influencers are not interested in your game. Every game is different, the only way to see what works is testing.
  • Creativity first! If you have a shitty pitch, ugly promo arts, your costs will go even higher and your conversion lower. Spend $ to make great key arts and improve your pitch by writers and experts.
  • Understand branding! People can dislike your product but love your brand or team. Selling your game is different than building your brand.

I’m making a game called Neurodeck! Check out the steampage!

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With my 7+ years of experience, I give you advices on how to make indie games. I’m focused on Marketing, Production and general indie game making tips.

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Tavrox

Tavrox

Game Dev Marketer. I share processes, techniques & tricks to do game marketing. Portfolio: http://tavrox.com

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