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How to do market research for your indie game


When they hear the word marketing, most developers think of buying ads and sending keys to YouTubers, but they completely ignore market research, the first and the most important part of marketing.

What is market research and why is it so important?

The most important thing for a successful game is making a game that someone actually wants to play.

The type of game you make is the most important decision you will make when marketing your game. To quote Chris Zukowski from this amazing article:

"The moment you say “We are going to make a game that is a <genre> with <art-style> graphics” and commit to developing that game you have made about 90% of your marketing decisions for your game. At that moment in the multiverse of potential outcomes for your game, hundreds of doors instantly slammed shut and a few remained open. The choice has been made, your potential revenue largely decided."

The ultimate goal of market research is to enable you to create a game worth playing. That is, a game that someone actually wants to play.

Market research should serve as a compass. It tells you what kind of games people like, enabling you to create the exceptional game they dream of.

Market research is learning from the successes and failures of other developers. What worked in other games and what didn't, in terms of both gameplay and marketing.

Market research includes things like choosing the genre and general theme of your game, as well as finding your target audience and figuring out what they like and how to reach them.

Choosing a game genre and theme:

Ok, now that we know why market research is so important, let's see how to actually do it.

The first step in making any game is deciding what kind of game to make.

There are several factors to consider when choosing a genre for your game:

Create the game you want to play

This is the first and most important condition in choosing a genre. To make a good game, you need to know the genre well and be passionate about what you do. If you're not doing what you enjoy and your main motivation is money, you probably won't get very far.

Make a game that other people want to play

This is another important rule. The fact that you like your game does not mean that other people will like it too! Your game must have something that will attract players to play it. This is the most important criterion on which the success of the game itself depends.

How to do it? You need to find niches that are profitable and are not oversaturated. You can use my steam-analytics and genres page, or to find the genres that are currently the most profitable. It is important to find a balance between what you like and what the audience likes. Making a platformer game in 2023 might not be a good idea, but making a 4X or management game seems like a much better choice. In order to make a successful game, you don't have to choose the most profitable genre, but it is important to choose a genre that is not completely oversaturated. Generally any genre you're passionate about is a good idea, unless it's oversaturated (like platformer games).

Do not forget. It is important to find a balance between what you and your audience are passionate about.

Consider the expectations of the audience about the game's level of quality

When choosing a genre, you must consider the level of quality that audiences expect from games in that genre and your ability to meet those expectations. If your competition is AAA games made by big teams, maybe you should rethink your genre selection. You have to be sure that you can make a game that will meet the expectations of the audience in a reasonable time frame. Genres that require less time to create a game that meets the audience's expectations should be preferred.

Find out where your community hangs out

Ok, now that you have decided what kind of game you want to make, see what players like about those games. Find a popular game from that genre and use it as inspiration for your game.

Most gaming niches have vibrant online communities. Do some research and find out where your chosen community hangs out.

Get to know them! What features do they like? What don’t they like? These discussions provide you with valuable insights into what your market does - and doesn't - want.

Also, find out how to reach them. How do they find new games they want to play? This is very important for promoting your game.

Make a good game!

When it comes to the distribution of revenue, the Pareto principle, also known as the 80/20 rule, often applies in the gaming industry. Only the best games survive on the market.

Larger and higher quality games generally do better on Steam.

The price is a good indicator of the quality of the game. See how revenue grows exponentially with price. Nobody wants to play a mediocre game. For a game to be worth playing it has to be the best of the best. Think about it. When you are looking for a game to play, you choose the best one. People have limited time to play games and would rather commit to one great game than 10 mediocre ones.

The hardest part of game development is making a game worth playing. If you really have a game that people want to play, promoting it is the easy part!


  • The choice of genre is VERY IMPORTANT. It is important to choose a genre that is popular and not oversaturated.
  • Your game MUST BE THE BEST OF THE BEST. It is VERY IMPORTANT to be objective about the quality of your game. It's best to get feedback as early as possible during game development. The most important thing for a game to be successful is that someone actually wants to play that game.
  • Don't reinvent the wheel. Your game is neither the first nor the last one out there. Learn from the mistakes and experiences of other developers.

Of course, this is only the tip of the iceberg of market research. There are many more complex topics such as pricing and localization that are beyond the scope of this article.

Do not forget. The most important thing for a successful game is to make a good game! If you have researched the market and made a game in a genre that is not oversaturated, and your game is actually good and looks good, you are ahead of 90% of indie developers.

Useful links:

  • Our free genres and steam analytics tools for analyzing genres and trends. You can also search for individual games to see more information about them such as estimated sales and demographics.
  • alternatively you can use 
  •  How to market a game has a lot of useful articles on market research and marketing

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