Immediately after my Steam store page is made public, offers start pouring into the newly-minted email inbox for my indie dev alias, ProblemGamerProductions.
I'm faced with requests from Twitch streamers the world over, giving me their life stories and asking for a key to my game, which, according to them, they would like to livestream. Other offers are from content curators - the likes of which, I presume, could be found on Steamworks through the connection tool made for this purpose.
Another is from IndieBoost, which hopes you'll sign up for free, but thereafter offers several pricing models. In one, which I'll dub "bid for their love", you set a budget you're willing to pay an "influencer" to promote your game. They're supposed to be verified, bonafide, the real deal - 'cause you're paying them to do it, right?
I don't think I'll be doing any of that.
I am just one person who went solo, for the most part, on the lifelong dream of developing a game for commercial release. Not to put myself in rarified company, but I've always felt like someone "on the outside" - someone who would probably rather work alone in a world where it's better to be in the cloud. In this instance, at least, I really did make an effort to reach out to others, especially for that most integral of all tasks - the programming - but couldn't quite secure their help for a number of reasons.
Now, after all the hair-ripping travails of making the damned game - then coughing up money for the commissions, and Steam's fees, and even more for commissions - is it sinking my own ship not to sift for the gold in this sea of promotional offers? What I can say for sure is that I've noticed a few things in this unlikely new frontier, where everybody is suddenly interested in my game and in helping promote it, and I'd like to pass these observations along for the next "sole proprietorship" who has to deal with it (or commiserate with those who have already done so).
The Twitch streamers, for one thing, are highly suspect. I go to their channels, and I notice their last stream was of, for example, GTA V - nothing inherently wrong with that, I just find it a far cry from streaming an indie game. Although the page is in German or some other language, I then notice further down that there are giveaways on this channel - a Steam key for the 1200th donor or subscriber, for example. My heart sinks, and I imagine that this is a common ruse - that a game you were hoping to promote in a well-attended Twitch stream is simply going to be given away while someone plays GTA V.
I check out IndieBoost, and honestly, I don't know how to proceed - $99 for the boosts, or launch a bidding war instead? What's a reasonable budget for a game like mine, and how can it be competitive within that field, and against games that come backed by PR firms or larger studios? If I don't have a massive budget, will it really be going to anyone different from the Twitch streamers who reached out to me earlier? I see in their Publisher FAQ, "I made my game page, but I’m not getting any key requests. Did I do something wrong?", and have the distinct feeling that this will be me.
What I'm trying to say, I think, is that I'd like to believe I've done the part that matters most. As soon as I released my game, I could feel the collective attention span starting to tick down, and I know I'm supposed to worry that it'll soon not be relevant to anyone, anywhere. But I'm not worried. I got the game out there. That took a monumental effort, and I'm going to see if that is good enough for me, and maybe for some other people, too. A merit-based approach in an age of throwing money at every problem.
Publicity may be a constant battle, but developing was the war.