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Discussion Steps for publishing an indie game?

Discussion in 'General Discussion' started by MrJsmall, May 15, 2023.

  1. MrJsmall

    MrJsmall

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    I have never published one of my games before, but I am looking to do so soon, and am wondering if anyone has any advice. I’m sure I’m not the only person wondering where to start, so please feel free to chime in and really just give any advice about publishing an indie game, big or small. How should advertising be tackled? How do you build a fanbase? Is early access worth it? Steam or Itch.io? How do you figure out how much money to charge?
    I have read lots of articles about this topic, but I’m really just wondering what y’all here on the forums have to say about this.

    Cheers!
     
    DungDajHjep likes this.
  2. BIGTIMEMASTER

    BIGTIMEMASTER

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    while you are gathering advice and such go ahead and get your steam account ready - it can take them several months to approve the tax stuff.
     
  3. Murgilod

    Murgilod

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    These two, for indies especially, will run parallel to each other. As an indie dev, you're going to want to start early and you're going to want to stay regular. Do you have anything to show at all? Show it. Have a twitter account and use things like the #ScreenshotSaturday and the various indie dev hashtags and hammer them with as much interesting stuff as you can without outright spamming them. Hit up indie communities on Reddit and (provided they allow self promotion) promote there too.

    Always write individual promo material for each community you post in too, don't copy/past. If you're sharing screenshots, try and make sure that the only screenshot you have that's the same in every community has the game's name in it. This is a really small thing but it makes it so that it doesn't look like you're just putting in the bare minimum effort and that can go a long way. Also, don't just limit discussions you're having to your own game. Be an active community member, do things like talk in other threads about other peoples games, and you'll stick out more than if you're a fly by night promo drop.

    When it comes to twitter, try and make sure you have your game's name in your bio and, preferably, display name. "[NAME], [GAME NAME] dev" is a good format if people can't wishlist, with "Wishlist [GAME NAME] on Steam" being what you probably want if it's available. Change "wishlist" to "buy" as soon as you can. Everything about what you're doing should be considered an angle for promotion. That said, keep it reigned in. You don't want to start jumping into random conversations or other tweets to promote your game because people will just start blocking you. Instead, as with other communities, just talk to devs and potential players. Talk about their games, talk about what they're interested in.

    You're small, so you gotta be grassroots

    It depends. If you can't commit to at least one reasonably sized update every month, I wouldn't risk it even remotely. If you can't keep up a steady update schedule, don't even bother because people can and will start hitting your reviews with "dead game, no updates." You can curb some of this by being active in your Steam forums and putting up regular newsposts, but that will only somewhat slow things down because the Early Access tag comes with expectations. Oftentimes it can be better to just release what can feel like a "complete" game and keep adding content after launch.

    A small "complete" game will always feel better than a small "incomplete" one.

    Both. There's no reason not to do both. Just remember that you'll be limited to keeping the price similar between both storefronts because Steam does have regulations around how big a price gulf can be between storefronts, barring sales.

    Find other games that match your own in genre and general content and price accordingly, simple as that. Is everyone charging $10-15 for a game in the same genre with the same amount of stuff to do? Do that. Have you (through some miracle) stumbled on to a novel concept? Find the closest examples and base your price off that. You don't want to undercut existing prices because you'll likely not make any real money off that and people will think something about your game might kinda suck, which is why it's so cheap. Price too high and people will balk. Walk the tightrope as best you can.
     
    Gravesend likes this.
  4. DungDajHjep

    DungDajHjep

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    You can publish your game on Android and IOS platforms.
     
  5. PanthenEye

    PanthenEye

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    Steam will produce the vast majority of your income so you start with making a Steam page ASAP. Even before you have the actual game, create some fake screenshots, hire someone talented to make key art if you're not an art person yourself and make the page. The sooner you get it up, the sooner people can start wishlisting. You can update the page later as better material becomes available.

    Depending on the quality of the page, you might start to get some organic wishlists through tags and other discovery methods on Steam but I wouldn't bank on it. You have to work on it by posting on socials and linking back to steam for wishlists. This is something you have to do consistently over the whole period of development. One good way of garnering wishlists in my experience is a WebGL demo on web game sites like Newgrounds. I can't comment on conversion rate, however, since this game is still in development.

    Steam is algorithm driven, you need a certain amount of people to get the game upon launch, otherwise Steam will burry it in a sea of dozens of other games launching that day and hundreds that week. And unless you can produce 5 reviews on launch day, Steam won't give you a rating (Positive, Very Positive, etc), which will also burry your game because it signals your game does not have reach and the algorithm will favor other games who can achieve that. It's also in your best interests to keep the game above 70% Positive, as Mixed games will also tank in sales heavily.

    As for early access, it's only worth it if your game is feature complete but not content complete. If the game mechanically changes in major way throughout early access, some part of the existing playerbase won't like the changes, which will result in negative reviews. Players expect regular updates, at least once a month, otherwise you get negative reviews for abandoning the game. They also expect a bug free experience - there can't be any hard locks and other major issues, which will also produce negative reviews. If you can abide by these player expectations, then early access can produce income quicker, but it's a risk.
     
    Gravesend, MrJsmall and Antypodish like this.
  6. MrJsmall

    MrJsmall

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    Thanks for all the advice! Is it best to sell on Steam, or is Itch.io ok for paid games too? I am just not sure if I really want to pay 100 dollars to publish my game, especially since I’m not sure if I’ll make it back. And do you know if you need to have an LLC or registered business to publish on steam? This is my first time working on publishing a game, so I’m just trying to weigh my options, and see what is easiest without a bunch of legal/business/tax stuff on steam.
     
  7. BIGTIMEMASTER

    BIGTIMEMASTER

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    you don't need anything other than that $100 to publish to steam. it is very easy. There are even some step by step tutorials on youtube / udemy that make it a lot less daunting if its your first time.

    If you aren't confident the game will earn $100, maybe show it to a few developers who've published some games in the same genre and see what they think. Of course anybody can be wrong even if they have tons of experience.

    Can also put it on itch or wherever it is free to do so, and if people are leaving nice reviews then consider steam again.
     
    MrJsmall likes this.
  8. MrJsmall

    MrJsmall

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    Cool thanks. I really appreciate all the great advice! :) Cheers!
     
  9. PanthenEye

    PanthenEye

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    Itch.io is several orders of magnitude smaller than Steam, I don't have the exact data on hand but a client project I coded brought in over 500k over two years on Steam while itch.io was a few thousand. They're not on the same plane of existence. Albeit, people do choose Steam over itch if available. I don't have data on games exclusively on itch. All of that doesn't matter if the game is not commercially viable, though.

    If you want to make games for a living, Steam is where it's at. But you should be in all stores you can get on - Steam, itch, GOG, Switch, Epic, Humble... all of them. You can start with itch, but it won't really be indicative of the game's success on major revenue generating platforms like Steam. And if you're publishing only in one store, Steam is it.

    Note that for Steam you also want to integrate Steamworks for their digital trading cards scheme and achievements. There are people who buy games to achievement hunt or just for the cards. I'm partial to Heathen Steamworks integration for Unity but you'll need to maintain a separate branch in source control for it since once you've integrated Steamworks, that build can't go on other stores.
    You can publish games on Steam as an individual.
     
    Last edited: May 19, 2023
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  10. Gotmachine

    Gotmachine

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    EA is worth it if you can deliver a polished game experience with a large chunk of the features and content immediately. What you provide need to be bug-free and enjoyable, with a decent (re)playability offering at least a few hours of gameplay, otherwise you will get negative reviews and rapid lost in interest.

    An alternative model if you can deliver only a fraction of the content, but that is still enjoyable is to release a free demo at the same time you go public. This can generate interest and followers/wishlists (recent examples are "Super Fantasy Kingdom" or "Mars first logistics") and is much less risky than going EA from a reviews/reputation perspective, and lead your actual full or EA release to generate a lot more noise and visibility immediately, which is what matters as others have mentioned.
     
    DragonCoder likes this.
  11. jsissler

    jsissler

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    Does anyone have any recommendations for publishers of mobile games?