Monday, September 22, 2008

More on marketing of indie console titles

Gamasutra has a postmortem up of the XBLA beat-match-3 title Go Go Break Steady.

Of note is the last point they make on their 'what went wrong' list.

5. Marketing XBLA games as an indie.

What is hype? We completely underestimated the marketing effort required for a successful XBLA title. One of the most attractive reasons for us to develop for XBLA was that we wouldn't need a publisher or major marketing, as the game would always be available online and would be able to garner enough sales for us to make up our investment.

This might have been true when we first started developing for XBLA, as there were then fewer than 10 titles available. We, on the other hand, were the 150th title on XBLA, and we were released alongside a very popular remake of a classic arcade game. Going into our release, we had next to no hype and much to our chagrin very little post-release hype.

Researching this more, we realized that this seems to be the bane of all indie developers. Although we found someone to help us with the PR work close to the release date, in retrospect it would have been prudent to show more of the game earlier so consumers would at least recognize the name when they see it on XBLA.

As I've been saying for some time, this is the real challenge for downloadable titles. Both Braid and Castle Crashers are great examples of devs creating their own buzz.

Indie devs can't count on XBLA, PSN, Steam, or any other digital distribution service to do the full marketing effort for their titles. Doing so would be the equivalent of EA counting on EB Games doing the marketing for Madden. The storefront plays a role, but there has to be anticipation built for the title over time, etc. Viewed differently, if you do well, the storefront will bolster your effort. If you don't do well, they'll forget about you quick.

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