updated icon September 8 2016
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Nowadays, game developers have the brightest and most interesting ideas for mobile games, but most still don’t know what is the best option for their game: running after game publishers or going solo? In this post, we’re going to take a look at 10 challenges that indie game developers face when entering the market, and how to overcome them.

In times when Candy Crush is maniacally being followed and games like PokemonGo come storming in to sweep people off their feet, it is becoming really hard for developers to make their games stand out. It’s a ‘winner takes all’ competition, where the boys with the big budget acquire all the gamers, and genius games have to fight hard to get their opportunity in the spotlight..

And going indie, practically means going through innumerous challenges before taking the game to this competitive market.

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Here are some of the most common challenges that indie game developers face and the moves we recommend to overcome them:

1. Trying to fit in too many ideas

When a developer starts developing a game, he has something in mind for it. But seeing the market, most of them often try to incorporate the ‘features people love’ in the hope that it will help their game pick up in the market. This results in the game being overloaded with way too many ideas and the gamedev biting more than he can chew.

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What should you do?

We’d say, start with what you had in mind. Take the initial game to the market, let your players experience what you have to offer and add features as you go, based on their engagement data. After all, you need to be catering to your player’s interests and not just what’s a hype in the market.

2. Understanding who your ‘ideal’ players are

Smartphone users are practically open to experimenting with new apps in the market. They want to experience what’s new and what might add more value to them. The same holds true for gamers. This makes it even more difficult for game developers to understand who their ‘ideal’ players are.

What should you do?

Before taking your game to the market, create personas of your possible players. Use

3. Acquiring the first players

The very next challenge that indie developers face is acquiring their first set of players. Since most of them are on shoestring marketing budgets, making their game discoverable is a big challenge. And when there are other games with publishers competing you in the same market, it only make the going tougher.

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What should you do?

Start by optimizing your game for the app stores to pull in the organic traffic. Then use social media and other channels to retarget these smartphone users with campaigns to further draw their attention to what you’re offering. You can even consider going freemium for features that your competitors are currently charging the players for. Create a documented marketing strategy to follow through instead of trying your luck!

Also read: Mobile User Acquisition Tactics Without Marketing Spend

4. Creating an omni-channel, cross-platform experience

A lot of buzzwords, true, but bear with me!

Not all your players are using the same OS. They could be using iOS or Android, accessing your game via their smartphone, their iPad, or a browser – but your game needs to let them experience it all in the same way. All your game levels and aspects should be available across all devices and platforms.

What should you do?

Your players could be anywhere, so designing your game for different platforms will help you get more visibility in your niche. There are many cross platform development tools like Appcelerator, WidgetPad and Whoop that can help you achieve this.

5. Growing the app sustainably

Since indie developers are not backed by major funding when they start off, it is next to impossible for them to set aside budgets for player acquisition. While you would need to work on advertising as well as looking into different campaigns to pull in your initial set of players, it is important to figure out how to get more users to your game.

What should you do?

You can’t continue on the freemium model if you want to monetize your app to make it better, and also, pay your bills. This is why you need to consider making use of word-of-mouth marketing in your game. Ensure that your initial players are happy with their in-game experience and encourage them to promote your app in their circles. You could incentivise this activity to keep them motivated – either unlocking a special feature for them, giving them extra coins for a specific level, etc.

Make social engagement and in-app referral campaigns a concrete part of your game’s growth strategy.

6. Establishing loyal player communities

The top grossing games swear by player engagement for effective growth and monetization from their apps.

Remember Pokemon Go struggles with player engagement?

But when a game is new in the market, it is difficult for them to establish trust with players. This often becomes the reason why players don’t convert in-app or share their information with the game, making it harder for the indie developers to understand what they expect from it.

What should you do?

Make in-app developer to player communication possible right from the start. Using in-app chats to create a social platform for players to interact with you, share their feedbacks and opinions, and at the same time, communicate with other players. This will help your game establish the rapport of being transparent with its players and will also keep the players hooked on to it longer by catering to their socialising needs.

7. Finding the right monetization model

Every game needs to monetize its players in order to grow and become better. But finding the right model can be challenging. Most developers either end up losing their players when charging high in-app purchases or settling for conversions that put them at loss. In both the scenarios, they practically end up failing like the dotcoms!

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What should you do?

There is no way for any game developer or any other app in the market to understand which monetization model will work for them the best – at least not in the first go. So use dynamic pricing instead to see what your players are comfortable converting on and how that adds to your end goal.

Also read: Want to monetize your game better? Create a community!

Takeaway

Some other challenges faced by indie game developers include finding PR sites to talk about their games, app reviewers and raising funding to grow their app further.

In this case, we suggest you first understand who your players are, how they have been interacting with your game, what’s the most robust monetization strategy for your game and how you can make it better. Then approach those who believe in the ideas that you want to implement, without compromising on how you want your game to be perceived.

If you’re planning to take your gaming idea to the mobile app market, make sure you know the pros and cons of going solo as well as those with a publisher. Here’s a post we’d like to recommend to you: Indie vs Game Publisher – What’s better for your game?

Make your end goals clear, choose your strategy to take the game in the market, and go at it with quick iterations!