What are some other publishers like Aldorlea, and who to turn to for budget marketing/promotion?

Indinera

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From all other sales on Itch.io, Gamejolt, and other platforms, I've made less than $8000 in the same time period

This part is the "surprisingly good" one IMO. Was it only on itch and Gamejolt, and for those same 11 games?
 

flynnmichael81

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It was the same eleven games but the breakdown of the 8k is a little more complicated. Alsongside the two mentioned platforms, I had games on Greenman Gaming, and sold keys through bundle stores (not in bundles), and around $1500 of that came through personal sales on websites. And around $750 came from direct key sales, which I have no idea what happened to them (although now I'm more aware I suspect card farmers). Now I only publish on Steam (for the $), Gamejolt (becuase I like them and participate in Jams there), and Itch (because I support their asset store).
 

Indinera

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That explains a lot. I tend to think income on Gamejolt and Itch is always very small. The real figure for these two together is probably less than 4K then. Which is still somewhat more than I expected aha.
 

flynnmichael81

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After a quick check: Itch was $1100, gamejolt $450, greenmangaming was $700, personal sales on websites pulled in just over $1500, and humble widget another $1200.

These seem like good figures but I'm certain that the effort/reward ratio is only worth it if you have a reason to support those stores. In the time it takes to make custom art, update pages, and roll out patches to different places, you could be marketing. That time could be spent driving 100 wishlisters to a Steam page and boosting its search results on the store, something which is way more profitable.

EDIT: I would say that having a personal website for a game is important though. Games I've made with a site always tend to sell better, even if you only use the Steam widget as I do now,
 

Indinera

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After a quick check: Itch was $1100, gamejolt $450

$100 and $40 per game is more along what I'd expect from those portals indeed.
If you decide to make a classic RPG one day, make sure to make a stop on my website. :)

These seem like good figures but I'm certain that the effort/reward ratio is only worth it if you have a reason to support those stores. In the time it takes to make custom art, update pages, and roll out patches to different places, you could be marketing. That time could be spent driving 100 wishlisters to a Steam page and boosting its search results on the store, something which is way more profitable.

Or just making a new game. B):rock-right:
 

flynnmichael81

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I definitely will. I've seen games from your site around for years, and known about it for longer than I've been making games.
 

jkweath

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I personally wouldn’t consider using a publisher. Self-publish, and put in the time to do your own, free, marketing. Between forums, reddit, and social media you can stir up interest in your game, providing it looks good.

Without going too far off-topic, are there any particular message boards or social media strategies (like twitter hashtags), you'd be willing to share for others, like myself, who are sticking with self-publishing? :)
 

flynnmichael81

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Without going too far off-topic, are there any particular message boards or social media strategies (like twitter hashtags), you'd be willing to share for others, like myself, who are sticking with self-publishing? :)

I’ve been asked this (and other questions) over PM as well, and I’m not sure what advice I can give that you won’t already know. That being said, I will try to offer some advice, but only on what I know and do: creating quick games with the intention of making money. The following advice will assume that is what you are trying to do (mostly).

WARNING:
I'm super dyslexic, and this is a big wall of text. You will encounter mistakes. Unlike my games/writing, I'm not going to ask my wife to proofread this!

  • It’s not much money!
Firstly, I would warn anyone that making games is unlikely to make you a decent living. I use it only as extra ‘pocket-money’, and a way to not do my usual, freelance writing job. I can do this because I’m an insomniac.

After putting my kids to bed, watching TV with my wife, and cuddling down to sleep with her; I get up and work for four hours. Every night. With a few extra hours a week that can add up to 35 hours. Before tax, I take home from this, essentially full-time job, around $23000 a year. Not much for a lot of work but it does mean I get to diversify what I do.

To earn this much I have to release 3 games a year. I would say that I earn towards the top end of what RPG maker devs make (?!?!?), although some breakout hits ‘Lisa’ and ‘To The Moon’, for examples, I’m certain made a lot more. Indie game development is not faring much better in other engines either, or so I’ve read, so unless you're about to become a AAA Unity dev, I wouldn't advise switching.

  • Don’t do it.
If you are not looking to make a specific amount of cash, I wouldn't advise doing what I do. Creating a game to a 4 month schedule, ALWAYS means making sacrifices, changing ideas, and releasing something that, could probably, use more work. Having to start another game straight away leaves little time for updates either. If you make games solely because you love it then take more time. You can still release commercially... who knows that 3 year masterpiece might sell like crack!

  • Build a fanbase?
One of the best pieces of advice for indie devs is to build a fan base, a community, around your game. On a 4 months schedule you have no time for this. Forget it. Your best bet is to get your steam page up at least a month early and try to drive traffic towards it. If you are building games at a slower pace, I'm sure this is a great strategy, although how much time you have to put into the cimmunity is an unknown factor for me.

  • It’s all about Steam.
All your money will come from Steam. Create a good storefront, with an honest representation of your game, price it fairly (what you’d be willing to pay for it on sale), and get your page up as soon as you have a gameplay video.

I tweet, have a website, and post on forums, and still 85% of all my store page traffic comes from other Steam pages. 13% comes from YouTube influencers. Still, I would advise having a website. Theya re easy to set up and make you look more prfessional. My 'Gods-of-Havoc' site is an example of a website simply done.

  • Influencers.
Run campaigns on Keymailer, Woovit, and through Steam Curators, as soon as you have a good beta. Ideally at least four weeks before launch. This will give you time to get some press. Don’t neglect influencers from other language backgrounds. Your job here isn’t to do anything except get wish lists. Don’t be stingy in handing out keys. I like to hand out at least 100 on each platform. That usually translates to around 10-15 videos.

  • Its all about them wishes.
Obviously, the more wish lists you’re on, the more sales you’ll have in the critical first week, but wish lists, although Steam won’t confirm this, are widely accepted to be factored into Steam’s algorithm for showing your game to users, and in prominently displaying it in its top category. Get as many as you can!

  • What category is my game?
When listing on Steam, many devs will list their game in as many categories as possible to maximise exposure. Don’t do this! All that happens is that your RPG gets shown to a load of strategy or adventure fans and they skip past it. That is bad. Steam takes these as a lack of interest and shows your game less.

  • Launching.
Before launch, and for the first few weeks, post updates on your Steam announcement page. Make threads in the community section, and try to engage the community. Again, (and this is only assumed but fairly logical), this factors into how often your game is show.

Offer a launch discount: you’ve made a game in four months. There will be bugs. Early adopters, who will spot these for you, should pay less.

Keep your Keymailer and Woovit campaigns running. Lots of influencers will only learn about your game now. Try to fix any bugs immediately, you won’t have time soon because…

  • Get to work on your next game if you haven’t already!
So start the whole process again!

-----

Extra advice:


Twitter: spam the #gamedev and #indiedev tags with fun gifs and videos.

Multitask: Develop two games at once. I managed to cut down work time significantly this season by making a trilogy at the same time (see my sig).

Game Jam: In all your free time?!? join a short (2 week at most) game jam and learn new stuff. Also, it will drive traffic to your Steam page.

Give Up: Have you spent more that a few days trying to implement a system in your game? You have four months, give up and try something else.

Change things up: Like the above, if your game changes form while making it, let it. Don’t be rigid in your expectations or things may take too long.

Learn to code:
You don't have to be great... I'm not! Just make sure that you can build your own plugins.

Learn to gimp: or photoshop I guess? Making/editing your own assets is essential.

Don’t be sad: You will have games that make less than a grand. It sucks! Make another.

Don’t get too excited: You’ve made a game that makes 20k!?! Yay. The next one may not. (see above).

Be original (sort of): Remember that game you played years ago that was awesome and there has never been anything else like. Make a new version. My latest god games are based on Populous, for example. What happened to all the god games?

I should warn people here about using default assets, as there are many, many RPG Maker games with default assets. If you do go that direction, try to change things up a bit. In my sig, you’ll find a link to ‘Void Monsters: Spring City Tales’ which is one of the more typical RPG Maker games I’ve made, yet it looks very different from most, even though I’ve used mostly free and store-bought assets. Resolution changes, lighting mods (Terrax is amazing), day and night systems, all help, but a different plot, with unique characters help set a game apart even further.

Make another game (a secret game): I’m making another game that I’ve been working on for years. A true labour of love. Something just for me that will be finished when it’s finished and not when my schedule says it should be. Work on this game whenever you are ahead of your schedule. Love it, and remember why you make games in the first place: because they are awesome.

------
EDIT: Pshhhh! What am I doing? -- posting this and not trying to drive readers to my upcoming Steam pages?!?!? If you get a second, please wish-list/look at my 'Gods of Havoc' games. You can find them in my sig!
 
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jkweath

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@flynnmichael81 thanks a bunch for the in-depth reply!

Seems like we have pretty similar strategies. I also prefer to stick with making shorter, simpler games in a smaller timeframe, though for me this is more because I'm quick to lose interest in projects, especially after 2-4 months. I'm on game #5 right now. Hopefully that number will be much larger by the end of next year.

I have indeed heard and follow a lot of the advice you've given - for example, I actually spent money to get extra marketing on Keymailer (won't be doing it again, though), and I've also used Woovit, Steam curators, and a service called Indieboost to do the marketing to the remaining influencers for me.

Thankfully I don't think I've fallen into the trap you described of putting my games in too many Steam categories, but I'll have to check. I should probably also post more announcements and actually engage with the Steam community. Always avoided it personally, too much negativity. Launch discounts, discounts every 8 weeks and on every special sale, occasional updates for the Update Visibility Rounds...

I think, after porting my games to Android--which I did a lot of research on to figure out how to increase sales on there, which helped a LOT--I can safely say I average around $20 a day from sales. Not much, but it definitely helps pay the bills. I project that it'll go up quite a bit in the coming months as I learn more, especially after my next game release.

To be honest I've avoided social media like the plague, as frankly I just don't have interest in it, but it's probably about time I at least tried using Twitter, especially for promoting discounts on my Android ports. Any other relevant hashtags you'd recommend?
 

Indinera

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All your money will come from Steam.

Might make a bigger reply later but to this date about 30% of my income per year comes from my website (historically more than 50% has come from it but it was around before I got the chance to release on Steam).
 
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flynnmichael81

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Any other relevant hashtags you'd recommend?
Not that I can think of (hashtags) - I tend to just use the #indiedev #gamedev #indiegamedev #(gamegenre) #gaming ones. It's interesting to hear your success on android. Unfortunately my games are reliant on windows intigrated, and so I remain there.

about 30% of my income comes from my website
That doesn't suprise me. You have a well known site that always pops up on Google whenever I search for things. How much time do you spend maintaing/updating compared to game making?

For others reading this thread, and who see a long term future in game making: I would definitely advise doing what Indinera has done and build a solid website foundation, with a loyal community. I'm never sure if I'm going to start a new game, so it's not the road I take, but certainly a better one!
 
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Indinera

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How much time do you spend maintaing/updating compared to game making?

I work 2-3 hours per day on my games, except during vacation time.
The site itself is only ponctual work, whenever there's a new storepage to add. Sadly, it hardly happens more than 15 times a year (welcoming new games anytime though, especially SNES style RPGs :) )

To be honest I've avoided social media like the plague, as frankly I just don't have interest in it,

Me too, I also don't have much interest in handing out keys, as the people who receive them rarely do anything (especially if the process is automated) and even if/when they do smth, it doesn't make much of a dent in sales.
I tend to think games support each other naturally (to some extent) and if people like your style they can always find you.
 

flynnmichael81

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One thing about handing out keys: I hate, worst part of my job, making videos of the games I make. If I hand out 300 keys and get 15 videos to spam places, I consider it worth it :)
 

jkweath

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I also don't have much interest in handing out keys, as the people who receive them rarely do anything (especially if the process is automated) and even if/when they do smth, it doesn't make much of a dent in sales.
I tend to think games support each other naturally (to some extent) and if people like your style they can always find you.

Yep. I learned this the hard way last year when I spent a bit over $200 on Keymailer to get more exposure (most of that was getting the ability to look through Keymailer's influencers with filters and send out keys instead of waiting/hoping for them to come to me). The money spent on extra game promotion there was worth it, but the $150 on the ability to find people myself was a waste.

I got some promotion from IndieBoost too, but I won't be spending money to find Twitch streamers next time. I'm not sure that streamers in general are interested in jRPGs as they're probably among the least exciting games to watch. Well, not to mention the fact that MV games seem to have issues with OBS for some reason.

All in all, for my next game I'll probably be focusing on social media and free options instead of trying to buy marketing.

One thing about handing out keys: I hate, worst part of my job, making videos of the games I make. If I hand out 300 keys and get 15 videos to spam places, I consider it worth it :)

Same!
 

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