5 Ways to market video games on a budget (and how much it’ll cost)

There are many different facets to game development, from level design to scriptwriting and core gameplay mechanics. However, not everything developers must consider involves the physical creation of the game. Video game marketing is an incredibly pivotal piece of the development puzzle, and it’s not something a team should sit on until the project is near completion. Especially since 95% of all indie games never see a sizable profit.

Unfortunately, as marketing is perceived to be costly and convoluted, it can get pushed aside or overlooked entirely. With the proper plan in place, though, it’s possible to reduce your marketing costs and see ample success. Below, we’ll discuss how to market a video game on a budget, focusing specifically on:

  • How to choose the right marketing channels for your gaming audience and your budget
  • 5 examples of budget-friendly video game marketing (and their cost)
  • Thoughts on how to get more mileage from your game marketing budget

Choosing the right marketing channels based on your gaming audience and budget 

Choosing the right marketing channels based on your gaming audience and budget

Before an indie game developer or publishing studio can even concern themselves with how to go about video game marketing, they need to narrow down who they’re marketing to and what they can afford. Determining your target audience is a key component of every marketing strategy and the first step in determining the budget you’ll need. Once you’ve put together those pieces of the puzzle, you can start to consider what low-cost marketing channels to utilize. 

But how, exactly, does a cheap marketing idea compare to something a bit more costly? To answer that, let’s first dive into the more expensive end of the spectrum when it comes to marketing channels for video games. 

Video game marketing channels that can break the bank

To appreciate the money you’ll save with budget options, here are a few expensive marketing tools that game developers often use:

  • Conventions – While incredibly effective at reaching a target audience, especially at video game conventions, booths can cost thousands of dollars — and it can take several expos or conventions before you start to get noticed.
  • Paid promotional content – You can work with well-known blogs and news sites for promotional or sponsored content but expect to pay quite a bit for the exposure. It’s an effective method, but working with worthwhile brands doesn’t come cheap.
  • YouTube Advertising – You’ve likely seen the mobile game ads before YouTube videos. The reason why you see so many is because it’s a proven concept. However, you could spend upwards of $200 for only 1,000 views. 

The budget-friendly video game marketing channels

Now that we know what you could be spending if you wanted to go all-out, here are some cheap marketing ideas to increase your game’s exposure.

  • Social Media
    • It doesn’t get much cheaper than launching different social media networks. In fact, every game launch should be accompanied by dedicated channels that push gameplay snippets and screenshots. 
  • Humble Bundle 
    • Submitting your game to Humble Bundle doesn’t guarantee that you’ll be included, but there’s truly nothing to lose and plenty to gain. If you do get accepted, all you have to spend on this marketing channel is a 5% revenue split that goes to Humble Bundle.
  • App Stores
    • For a relatively small fee each year (approximately $99 annually), having your game listed on the Apple App Store is a convenient way of getting your game in the hands of hundreds of thousands of players across the globe.

5 Examples of budget-friendly video game marketing (and their cost)

5 Examples of budget-friendly video game marketing (and their cost)

When it comes to marketing indie games, less expensive options are crucial to driving success. Even if overall profits are low, they won’t be absorbed by high-cost marketing options. 

To get started on your low-cost marketing journey, we’ve compiled five options along with their estimated costs — and spoiler alert! For the most part, they’re free.

  1. Pay micro-influencers for shoutouts ($300-400 per Influencer)
    • We live in an age where your best marketing tool could be social media influencers. Find an influencer that aligns with your message, shares a similar audience, and doesn’t require a hefty fee. Many video game influencers are reasonable in price and can help your game reach thousands upon thousands of potential players.
  2. Participate in Steam Festivals (Free)
    • Every so often, Steam hosts short-term festivals where developers can showcase their titles. Though there is a selection process and participation isn’t guaranteed, entering and being featured is completely free.
  3. Offer giveaway codes via social media (Free)
    • What’s the best way to get people to create advocates for your game? Offer free copies through social media giveaways. This low-cost marketing tool helps turn players into advertisers.
  4. Content creator collaborations (Free)
    • If you don’t want to give your game away to random players, you could build relationships with content creators and propose a collaboration. The concept is simple: you provide them with a free game, and they livestream it to their audience. Unlike paying influencers for shoutouts, content creator collaborations are virtually free and create organic video game marketing.
  5. Get more active in indie Game communities (Free)
    • Reddit, Unity forums, Facebook groups, and Discord servers dedicated to indie games and indie developers can be essential to getting your game seen. Joining an indie game community is free but will take time out of your day to remain active. 

Getting more mileage from your game marketing budget

Getting more mileage from your game marketing budget

As you can see, your budget-friendly video game marketing options range from several hundred dollars to completely free. It’s quite possible to spend virtually no money and reach an audience of thousands of people – though much of that depends on connecting with the best content creators and being active in the most popular indie gaming groups. 

Since there are so many variables that come into play when marketing indie games on 0 budget, it’s not easy to outright say what your reach will be. However, consider connecting with an influencer with a follower base of 100,000 people. If you only reached 10% of their audience, you would still walk away with 10,000 new potential players that now know about your indie video game.

To get the most out of your marketing budget, you have to research, put yourself out there, and be persistent. Especially with the free options we discussed, you have to be willing to put in the work. They may be free, but there is a cost for everything. 

In this instance, it’s your time.

Low-cost marketing yields high returns

It’s a myth that one must spend a lot on video game marketing for a successful release. With budget marketing options, indie game developers can shine the spotlight on their new release and expose it to a broad audience. While other developers are setting aside ample funding for their marketing strategies, you can build a functional plan at a fraction of the cost – or even at no cost, if you play your cards right.

Contact Loopr to elevate your marketing without increasing your budget. Loopr can work with any budget to create effective video game marketing strategies by using social media and influencer marketing.

Can’t get enough of this stuff? Check out our video game PR case studies to learn how we’ve helped indie game developers and esports brands just like you.

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