why most indie game websites suck at getting sales November 1, 2010 cliffski For top-secret reasons, I’ve recently been looking at a bunch of indie game websites. Some are great, most are not. Some are laughable. I’ve had an indie games site since 1997, and obsess over it’s performance. Here’s some things I think newcomers to indie game selling should take note of. 1) Show me a game. NOW. I’ve arrived at your site. well done, that’s 99% of the effort done. But if you want me to skip a flash intro or hunt the screen for a button that says ‘games’ then I may well get bored. Check your webpage stats for people who arrive at the site but bounced out before even seeing a game name. That was money you just set fire to. 2) Show me a screenshot. NOW. I know, I know. Your game isn’t about graphics, it’s about the fun! You need to engage the user in the fascinating story of your protaginist ‘klaude’ and his awesome backstory about when he was a small boy…<click> That’s another bored visitor. You need a screenshot, because that’s how people make an immediate editing choice about continuing further. I can tell your game is a high quality and colorful side scrolling 2D platformer within 2 seconds of seeing your screenshot. Quicker than I can even read ‘high quality and colorful side scrolling 2D platformer’. Screenshots are what get people to hang around and read about the game. You need them. Preferably lots. 3) Give me a demo and a buy button. Preferably two of them. One at the top, so I can immediately skip to the demo if I like. One at the bottom, so when I’ve finished reading the blurb, I am right next to one. Use a big clear font, make it obvious it’s clickable. 4) If the game warrants it, add a video Watching a 30 second youtube video tells me tons about what your game will be like as a player, at least initially. Video is often better than static screens, but it depends on the game. Kudos looks crap on video, so does democracy. Gratuitous Space Battles looks way way better. While we are on the topic, use youtube. Youtube works for everyone, and hosting is free. having some fancy java video player embedded in the site will go wrong for a non trivial percentage of visitors. Make sure you have a good reason not to use youtube. 5) Study your web traffic. Which gets more downloads. This or This? I don’t know yet, but I will do in a weeks time. Yes, this sort of testing does make a difference. 6) Optimise Go to googles homepage, look at the source. Holy lack of whitespace batman. That’s getting really anal, and I don’t bother much with the text, but try to be sensible with screenshots. Jpgs can very very often be reduced in quality and nobody but a computer can tell. Not everyone has fast broadband, and some are sharing it with other people streaming video or surfing other sites. Assume the worst, and make sure the filesizes are as small as possible. It takes just minutes to do this. 7) Don’t make it too short. Is your game worthy of my time? If you can’t write two decent length paragraphs about the game, then I guess not. I guess you knocked it up in 10 minutes and have nothing to say on the topic. The screenshots get people to stay, but the text is what justifies to people that you should get their money. People making an adventure game have it easy here. By all means have some backstory, some concept art sketches and so on. If your game is a casual game, you are screwed on the PC selling direct anwyay, so assuming it’s a relatively hardcore PC game, there should be LOTs to say. make it look like your game is worth buying. I know, some of the games on my site break these rules. But not the big ones. Not the ones that I promote, and that sell.