The $71.4 billion video game industry now entertains 1.2 billion gamers each year, and developers all over the world are competing to get in front of them. As the market grows more competitive, the most successful developers are the ones who best understand the marketing resources emerging online and overseas. With the right strategy, they can stretch every dollar they invest to its full potential. We want indie developers to have as many advantages as possible, so we’re digging into some of our key industry insights.
When most people think of online distribution, they think of the obvious solutions: Steam, Humble Bundle, and GOG. The popularity of these marketplaces has come at the price of discoverability: As the user base grows on each platform, developers have more difficulty cutting through the noise of competing games. The popularity of Steam, for example, has made it harder for indie titles to compete against new games backed by massive budgets and preexisting fanfare. In such intense environments, developers should consider exploring alternative markets both nationally and internationally.
Stepping into these uncharted territories is an intimidating endeavor, especially when new online stores seem to open every day. Some indie developers find that their best option is to work with a publisher who already understands the market and the emerging platforms.
When we evaluate new stores, we start by making connections with the owners at conferences and industry events. Then we dive into the most important questions:
Once a store starts to feel like a viable option, we drill deeper: Do they want exclusive rights to a game? With these and other details, we can decide whether a new store is worth the effort to get into.
International stores provide countless opportunities for indie developers and their games, but developers should carefully audit each platform before joining. Some international markets are notoriously difficult to crack, and developers often waste their time and money without a dedicated publisher to guide them through the process.
Take Japan as an example. In Japan, most foreign developers encounter a long, difficult journey when trying to launch a Switch game inside the country. Japan requires you to offer a specific version of the game, and you must work with a Japanese company to distribute your title. The bottom line: Jumping into the Japanese market requires extra time and attention that many indie developers lack.
Like online stores, streaming services are also becoming popular avenues for reaching gamers, but more competition is emerging for platforms like Origin and EA’s Project Atlas. When we vet new streaming services, we have a specific set of questions:
By verifying the legitimacy of streaming services beforehand, we avoid partnering with platforms that would quickly tank a new game’s success. If indie developers are just as careful, they can prevent partnerships that could derail their projects.
Competing against the biggest titles and developers requires a careful distribution plan that allows you to reach new audiences without wasting your budget. Although your options are plentiful online and internationally, your best success may come from partnering with a publisher who understands which markets are the best fit for your games.