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Lessons from indie gaming

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If you think you are competing in a competitive social media environment, think again. Compared to the cutthroat and tech savvy world of game development most business have it relatively easy. However despite the shark tank like nature of this industry the last few years has seen the rise of smaller independent game developers, who through clever use of social media have managed to contend with game studio behemoths with multimillion dollar advertising budgets.

So how have these indie studios managed to compete? Two main factors are the rise of crowdfunding and social media. However the crowdsourcing sites like Kickstarter have in some ways only increased the competition for smaller developers, as small developers vie to gain the attention of fickle crowd funders. Considering that gamers have poured over $200 million into games projects over the last four years, it is not surprising that so many are ignoring the traditional publisher funded model.


The obvious indie success story is Minecraft which is now approaching 50 million sales across multiple platforms (PC, Mac, PS3, Xbox 360) and has propelled the creator Markus “Notch” Persson to one of the wealthiest people in Sweden. Minecraft’s success has mirrored Markus’s own as he has engaged with his 1.5 million fans on Twitter like few other developers.

Word on mouth

Games like Minecraft have also engaged their players to share and create within their games. The sandbox nature of these games has contributed to over 44 million results of user created videos on youtube alone. The incredible popularity of Minecraft has above all relied on its players spreading their love for the game on social media. Indie games without the advertising budgets of their corporate competitors need to generate word of mouth and a positive buzz in the gaming media to survive.

How do you create buzz?

There are many different ways such as relying on users to post videos of their exploits in the game or to simply rely on positive word of mouth like the award winning bureaucracy simulation Papers, Please or the exploration of a teenage girl’s experience in Gone Home.

Or… You can create a funny trailer.

This trailer for a fairly niche game has been viewed almost a million times and was picked up by a lot of the gaming media.

Clearly creating something that people feel that they want to broadcast to their friends about is the surest way to success.

The key is to be creative and choose something that fits the vibe of your product. And as with anything else on the internet it never hurts to be funny. Or have cats.

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