One of the main reasons indie game development continues to be a growing sector in the games industry is because of the leaps and bounds game development tooling has made over the past decade. The tools and software that game developers use to bring their imaginations to life are integral to the creation process. From providing the early framework of a game, to shortening the process of integrating things like in-game menus and leaderboards, SDKs are a game developer’s best friend in many cases.
However, like most sectors of software, the game development market has become fairly crowded. Game developers are tasked with comparing and contrasting different game engines, development aid softwares, advertising solutions, data analytics kits, and more. This might seem contrary to recent (and controversial) moves in the industry like Unity’s merger with IronSource, but in development aid SDKs alone, there are 15+ to pick from amongst the most popular for mobile game apps (MobileAction).
So what if you’ve put a ton of time and thought into creating an SDK that has true value to a broad spectrum of game developers? You want to tell them about it, educate them on how to use it, and help them implement it properly into their games to achieve certain goals. This whole marketing part can be pretty difficult though. Like I mentioned before, the space is crowded and the big players do everything they can to swallow attention. However, there are still some great methods companies can use to drive signups, get into games, and cultivate an ecosystem of developers around their technology. Below are a few of the key paths I’ve found to be effective from working at Playcrafting and helping our clients launch and market new game development technologies.
You can always opt for the door-to-door method and cold call game developers to tell them about your tool (tip: most of them don’t like this), or you can go a little more grassroots and try hosting activities and spaces that more naturally lead to education, signups, and usage. When you’re launching the beta version of your SDK, start a Discord server so that developers can come together in one place to troubleshoot and discuss how they are using the tool. Host open and free workshops and Q&As for developers to come learn and see the tool being used live in a project. Incentivize developers to get hands-on by hosting a contest or a game jam that has prizes or unique opportunities. Want to sign up and participate in this awesome game dev event? Great. Download our SDK and supporting documents, and come join our developer Discord while you’re at it! These community-oriented methods can be much more natural for curious developers when it comes to discovery, education, and implementation.
Use-Cases & Prototypes
Creating and leveraging “use-case” games or projects early on in marketing is key to further adoption. Developers want to see how your tool can enhance their game or save them time in the development process, and that usually comes down to visuals and audio, or the code itself. Fill your website’s developer section with footage of games that are leveraging the tech’s unique value. Show the in-engine code from a sample project and reference how it saves developers time and resources. Maybe you want to make it even more experiential for a developer by showing a side-by-side comparison of a game build that is not leveraging your tool, and then the same game build, but now with the added features of your technology. Showing these examples and the unique value through actual games and projects is one of the best ways to communicate to developers.
This seems like a pretty obvious one, but it’s arguably the most important. Providing above-and-beyond support to developers that are interested in your technology is one of the biggest keys to improving your product, building relationships, and establishing a sustainable developer ecosystem. This support is particularly important early in the rollout process, because the feedback and troubleshooting will ultimately inform further development and improvement of your product. You’ll also start to build an even greater sense of community by meeting developers and learning about their projects. Fostering these early relationships can lead to potential opportunities and exposure in the future. You can start to see how a lot of these things fold onto each other too. By providing high-quality support to your early stage developers, you begin cultivating a network of evangelists that can go on to support other developers in the future.
While these methods are not the holy grail of game dev product marketing, they are great starting points. A main takeaway from this is that community should always be top of mind, right from the start. Fostering and growing a community of developers around your technology will ultimately lead to long-term product improvement and sustainability. I’ve been a member of the Playcrafting team for almost 2 years now, so I know how effective these methods can be in launching a product, building a community, and getting developers to adopt and use emerging game development technology. I’ve had the pleasure of working alongside industry leaders like Niantic and Dolby, helping them communicate and showcase the value of their tools to game developers in meaningful and effective ways.
JC Le Meur
Business Development Manager at Playcrafting
This article first appeared on Tips for Game Dev Product Marketing.