Chronik Spartan is my indie developer alias and business name. I am Stavros Pilatis and I have been solo developing indie games since 2017 and have successfully released GLO onto Steam and itch.io.
I am currently working on my next two projects Gym Empire and Project ZATO.
The hardest part about making a successful indie game is getting people to notice it. There are a number of ways to reach out and find your audience that are quite well known. Including Twitter, Discord, YouTube and Facebook. These are used by most indie developers to drum up support for their games. But what if I told you most indie developers don’t use these platforms in the correct way?
The two biggest culprits are Twitter and YouTube but the same argument applies to all social media platforms. I’m going to tell you how you can subtly change the way you use Twitter to improve your chances of success. But more importantly I want to share with you how you can use YouTube to build a huge community that is not only interested in the current indie game you are making. But all indie games you will ever make! And it doesn’t involve emailing thousands of YouTube streamers!!
To discuss the basic concept, let’s start with Twitter. Twitter is a fantastic social network for indie developers and probably the first place a developer goes to build up a community. There are some fantastic popular hashtags which can really help get a lot of eyes on your games including #gamedev, #indiedev and #screenshotsaturday. However, eyes on your work does not necessarily translate to paying customers. I don’t like using the term “paying customer” for a such an artistic passion. But if we are being realistic this is the decider on the commercial success of an indie game.
The issue is that most of the audience behind #gamedev, #indiedev and #screenshotsaturday are either fellow developers or press. Both of these audience groups are very valuable and should not be ignored. Other developers provide a great environment to share your passion with peers and the press can be a huge help in promoting your game. However they do not necessarily translate into someone who will go out and buy your game.
I as a fellow developer love tracking the progress of other indie games and put as much support behind them as I can. However, the fact that I develop video games in my spare time means that I rarely have time to play them. Therefore I don’t buy that many. You’ll be surprised how many other developers fall into this boat.
As powerful as the press can be there are thousands of games for them to cover. The chances of a substantial amount of coverage for an indie game is pretty slim. Recent trends have also shown that traditional press doesn’t have the impact on a games success that it used to. I’m not trying to take away the value of press, however it is not the gold ticket some of us may expect.
If you want to target groups of people that you think will be likely to go out and purchase your game, then you need to target the areas and hashtags you think they will be focused on. Most gamers will probably not be looking at #GameDev. They are far more likely to be looking at #Gaming.
However #Gaming can be an oversaturated audience to target. Therefore you stand a much better chance of targeting smaller groups where you are more likely to get noticed. This also provides the added impact of being able to focus in on a niche. With Gym Empire I regularly post to #Fitness on Twitter and when it comes to Reddit I am quite active in the Tycoon subreddit. This has provided a much richer and more engaged audience for me to interact with and has led to the Chronik Spartan Discord server seeing a nice flow in traffic from these social groups.
The problem of building a solid and committed community interested in your work still remains. Twitter does enable people to follow you, but in my experience the interaction on Twitter is a lot more disposable and not all that personal. Creating a personal bond with your followers is a key component to building a community of diehard fans that will buy your games and spread the word of your awesomeness! It should be noted that it is incredibly important to ultimately point this community to the one place you have total control over… your blog. I discuss this in a different post on my blog and thoroughly recommend you don’t miss this vital step… see what I did there! However that is a separate topic.
A great social network to start to build that diehard community is YouTube.
As indie developers we are very familiar with YouTube and the marketing potential it holds for our games. The first thing most developers think of when they think of using YouTube is getting big streamers to play their games. This has shown huge results for a number of indie games and is a great tool in our utility belt of marketing. However getting big streamers to even read your emails is no easy task. Also current trends have shown a change in the impact of these videos on sales. It seems that viewers are less likely to buy a game now just because their favourite YouTuber is playing it.
Another option developers go for are creating their own channels and uploading development VLOGs or streams. This is another great option to engage with your community and provide a more involved perspective for your fans. However it still falls into the category of primarily interacting with other developers. Most channels about game development are going to appeal to fellow game developers. This great if you are looking to help others out, showcase your skills and/or gain the respect of the community. Possibly leading to job offers. However if you are looking to market your game, it can have limited reach.
Don’t get me wrong there are going to be many gamers out there who love to know the nitty gritty details of what goes into the development of their favourite games. However focusing purely on this type of content ignores possibly the biggest audience group you could be targeting. Your average gamer…
We discussed the concept of targeting #Gaming or more niche hashtags rather than #GameDev to appeal to more gamers. The exact same can be done with your YouTube content. The type of content you create appeals to different groups of people. By creating content which focuses on gaming from the perspective of a player, you are going to appeal to an audience that not only plays games but also buy games. The reason they come to YouTube is not to find out about how to make a game. They come to find out about what games to play.
If you can tap in to your player side as well as your developer side then you can create content which appeals to the wider community of video game players. By building up a community of fans that come to your channel with the interest of playing games. You will find yourself with a community that is much more likely to be interested in buying games.
By interacting with your community through video form they are also able to form a more personal bond. They watch and subscribe to you because they enjoy your content. Your content is heavily driven by your personality. Therefore they are much more personally invested in yourself and the content you create.
I am still in the early days of building the Chronik Spartan Gaming channel. But after four months of continuous effort I am starting to see genuine growth and support from the gaming community as a whole. I personally don’t think a gameplay only channel is the way to go. I feel this limits the reach and impact you can have on the platform. Being able to talk about games as well as play them opens up a larger pool of content to create.
The challenge I am finding is keeping the balance right. To include content covering the game development side of things as well as gaming in general. To not come across like you are there just to sell your games, but to also not forget to promote your development where possible. However the benefit is the community that is building are really supportive and provide great feedback to help keep the balance. If you are genuine in your intentions and interest in gaming culture people will see that and appreciate it.
It can take a lot of time to create video content. The issue with that is that it is time taken away from game development. However, there are countless posts and articles that repeat the importance of seeing marketing as a critical step of game development. It is essential if want to increase your chances of success. Unfortunately that is just something we have to deal with. But I’m sure if you are reading this post you are already aware of the importance of finding time to market your game.
Now don’t get me wrong, building a YouTube channel is no easy task. There are hundreds of people who have tried and failed. Getting in front of a camera is no easy task! I can tell you first-hand about the anxiety I still face when recording a video. Then there is the fact of getting your videos seen and building subscribers. Building a YouTube channel is like any other form of marketing. You need to know what to do and how to do it. There are techniques to getting your videos seen and building a subscriber base.
However you don’t need to be looking at the 100,000+ subscriber mark for this to be worthwhile. In a world where 5000 – 10,000 Steam wishlists is the number we should be aiming for, for a chance at success. A dedicated community of 1000 diehard fans can make a huge impact! The downhill racing game Descenders became a massive success largely thanks to the 5000 strong Discord community they built.
The two key aspects to getting your content noticed are understanding basic SEO (which anyone can understand, I promise you) and interacting within the platform. These two concepts are simple and there are techniques to overcome your anxiety. However that information requires its own post to go into detail. Which I will write if people desire it.
However the point still remains. It is more than possible to build a solid YouTube channel. In fact I would go so far as to say it is easier than promoting your game. And with that YouTube channel you can reach an audience of gamers who are interested in you and the games you make.
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A developer and publisher of real time strategy games including Gym Empire.
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