My Indie Horror Game Went Viral With No Marketing Budget

February 28, 2023
Game Marketing

Have you ever dreamed of turning a small indie game into a viral sensation? Well, that’s precisely what I did, alongside my friends, with our indie horror game, Avarice.

The avarice logo showcased above a screenshot from the game

My story starts at my university college back when I was studying for my bachelor’s degree in Game Design. We were tasked with creating a “Walking Simulator” game and marketing it as we go. After some brainstorming, we decided to create an indie horror game inspired by the popular P.T. demo. This was largely due to its popularity and the excessive demand for a replacement.

We spent countless nights working on the game and developing a strong marketing plan. We developed the game with Unreal Engine 4, and utilized plugins to work around our limited time constraints. Our marketing plan ultimately revolved around creating social media content, video content, reaching out to the press, etc. We had to create all our content from scratch, including our press release.

In total, we spent 12 weeks working on the game. While it had its challenges, we persevered and released the game on itch.io, giving it away for free. As a result of our hard work, magical things started to happen. The game quickly became the number one trending horror game on the platform for weeks straight. We even caught the attention of popular YouTuber Jacksepticeye, who played the game on his channel. This brought even more eyes to our little indie horror game project and led to a strong boost in downloads.

Our success didn’t stop there. Avarice videos now collectively have over 3 million views on YouTube, with Jacksepticeye’s video having almost 3 million alone. Additionally, the game has been covered by various media outlets, as a result of the press releases we wrote and distributed. Our game’s success even led to an invitation to speak about Avarice at Norway’s biggest gaming expo, Spillexpo. We ended up accepting the invitation and held a short talk about our indie horror game.

Avarice is a testament to the power of hard work and determination. One of the most important lessons learned from the development of Avarice is the effectiveness of combining different skill sets to achieve a common goal. My team and I combined our game design and marketing skills to not only create a good game but a game that would resonate with its audience.

A key factor in the success of Avarice was our willingness to take risks, as well as having a strong understanding of our target audience and their platforms. For example, we knew itch.io was the perfect platform for our indie horror game because the platform was frequented by indie horror game fans and YouTubers looking for content. We also knew that we had to give away the game for free. With no previous history as a “studio”, we couldn’t rely on our name to sell copies yet. After a hit like Avarice, we could charge for our next title, as people know what they’re getting.

We also achieved our goal of having YouTubers cover our game, by utilizing a platform they frequent and creating a desirable product. Typically companies pay thousands for influencers to cover their games through sponsored streams/videos, but we spent $0 by having them come to us instead. We also utilized a gap in the market knowing the demand for the now unavailable P.T. demo. Finally, we reached out to the correct press outlets and just made an all-around good game that people enjoyed.

My story demonstrates that you don’t have to be the best at something to make great things happen. At the time we were still just students, learning as we went. Don’t be scared to put your work out there. Developing a game can be a challenging and often long process, however, with determination anything is possible. I hope our journey is a testament to this and that our indie horror game’s success serves as an inspiration for others in our position.

I made a video covering this topic, check it out if you want to learn more: https://youtu.be/3X2pQhgwT1Y


Need help designing your own game, or reaching the press and influencers for marketing, reach out for a chat: https://pixelrainstudios.com/

By Connor Thorpe

I'm a game designer & digital marketer with a strong passion for games. I love analyzing all genres of games and diving deep into their creation to learn more about their development.

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