Blog • 5th April 2023
Regardless of genre, the start of a new project is always an exciting moment for indie developers.
Before you dive into game design documents and endless lines of code, though, you’ll have to know the market you’re trying to break into if you want your indie game to be a success.
To help you with that, today we’re looking at 10 free market analysis tools you can use to plan your strategy and get an edge on your competitors!
If you’ve been around long enough, you’ll know that social media platforms are one of the main channels through which indie developers can promote their games.
To the keen observer, however, socials also offer a lot of opportunities and data on market trends and niches - with different platforms giving you access to entirely new viewpoints on the industry. This influx of data will be fundamental throughout the various phases of your market analysis.
Monitoring Twitter hashtags, for example, can give you some insight into your competitors, while keeping an eye on recurring events and gamedev threads is an easy way to check the temperature of the games industry.
Similarly, platforms like TikTok and Instagram allow you to gauge what’s trending among content creators, while Facebook’s Page Transparency tools are a great way to check which ads another developer or studio might be running on the platform. 👀
Much like social media, Steam is a treasure trove of information.
And while, as an indie developer, you’re likely familiar with the Steamworks backend and the tons of data contained within, the storefront and search categories also give you a pretty full picture of how the industry is doing.
Among other things, Steam is particularly good for broader competitors research. By leveraging tags in your searches, for example, you’ll be able to get a full list of all upcoming and released games in a specific subgenre – complete with average review scores, dates, and whether or not they’re currently on sale.
Need more? Hop over to the homepage and you’ll find lists of trending, best selling, and popular upcoming games - all based on traffic and wishlists data.
Steam also launched its own Charts portal last year, which currently hosts a live list of the best selling and most played games on the platform.
Not exactly the most intuitive market analysis tool when it comes to indie games, Google Trends is normally used to look at how searches for specific keywords change over time.
At its core, this free tool allows you to drop in a few search terms, select a period of time and access search volume data. There’s a few other things you can tweak to get more accurate results but you get the idea of how it works.
While this is unlikely to spit out any relevant data on your own indie game or a direct competitor — unless, of course, they’re big enough — Trends is still pretty good at representing, well, trends!
With the right search terms, you can use it to easily measure interests, observe how specific events affect the industry, and even estimate whether a genre or niche is contracting or expanding.
All of this becomes very useful to know when you start working on your game’s marketing plan!
Although we already talked about Steam and its usefulness as a market analysis tool, it’s no secret that Gabe’s storefront can feel a bit clunky at times – especially if you’re trying to compare games or track their performance over time.SteamDB sort of bridges that gap, offering advanced data scraping, charts, and a lot of other interesting features for both players and game developers!
Among other things, SteamDB can be used to analyze your competitors’ lifetime and live player counts, track updates history, discover related apps, and monitor price changes.
The website also offers a live database of products that are currently on sale, tracks patch notes, shows follower trends for upcoming games and even lists app changes for all games in its database.
Whether it’s a standalone tool or a browser extension, revenue calculators pretty much just do what it says on the tin.
Based on the number of reviews, these tools attempt to estimate how much a game was able to make from the moment it was released.
Despite the occasional inaccuracies, the results usually paint a rather accurate picture of how a game might be doing financially.
As you can imagine, revenue calculators come in all shapes and sizes. If you’re looking for a place to start, check out our very own free calculator here. Among other options, you’ll be able to fine-tune the estimated sales per review ratio based on your indie game’s release year and even factor in VAT, returns and sales percentages for more accurate predictions.
With content creators and influencers playing a vital part in any indie game’s marketing efforts, knowing who plays what – as well as what people are looking for – can give you a huge edge over the competition.
Two similar but ultimately unique websites, TwitchTracker and Sullygnome crunch a massive amount of data from Twitch to show trending games, channel growth, user trends and a lot of other interesting bits from the popular streaming platform.
Although finding the right influencers for an indie game can be tricky (we talked a bit about that here), you can use both of these websites to observe how specific genres do on stream and even monitor your competitors’ coverage over time.
This can be useful for planning key marketing beats or to map times and dates you should avoid – or aim for – when working with influencers.
While TwitchTracker and Sullygnome focus entirely on Twitch, a lot of creators continue to use YouTube as their primary content platform – with plenty of indie games performing well on the website.
Just like its counterparts above, Playboard analyzes data from most of Youtube’s active content creators, sorting them into charts based on popularity, likes, comments, and channel performance over time.
On top of that, Playboard also offers precise data on how viewers interact with each content creator, including live streaming stats, viewer feedback, and Super Chat earnings.
Most importantly, the platform includes a breakdown of the most-watched paid sponsorships on YouTube, with insights on what is trending in specific countries and a chart of the best performing creators.
Taking a slightly different approach from SteamDB, VGInsights is another platform that uses Steam data to give us a glimpse into the games industry.
Access to the website isn’t entirely free – with a free registration option as well as an indie plan costing about $20 a month – the platform does offer a direct, no log-in required, access plan that still includes a bunch of interesting data sets and analyses.
Among the usual top charts, Steam analytics, and games databases, VGInsights does a particularly good job at breaking down pricing data.
The website includes yearly industry earning figures, average pricing for various categories of games, price and revenue distribution charts, and other bits and pieces like the number of games released each day and the average number of languages games support on Steam.
Paid options double down on this, allowing you to further filter your results into several categories, access genre-specific analytics and unlock additional data like publisher classifications, business model details and post-release performance.
The last data repository on today’s list, Game Data Crunch and its developers insist on only focusing on the facts of the games industry.
According to its own team, the website pulls hard data from over 30 sources – including a few popular ones like SteamDB, SteamSpy, the Steam Charts and the storefront itself – and corroborates them to track performances for specific games. The findings are displayed as relative ranks and updated only once every 24 hours.
In practice, what this platform offers is a pretty thorough breakdown of a game’s performance over time, including review data, critical acclaim from non-Steam sources and ranking based on genres, themes and features.
You can also find more practical information there, like whether or not the game was ever in early access, the days it’s been on sale and some basic pricing details.
Not exactly market analysis tools in their own right, newsletters and postmortems still offer valuable information for anybody willing to learn a bit more about the games industry.
Although their structure isn’t always the same, both formats aim to analyze specific topics, events, or situations and share insights that other developers might find useful. Most also include real life data, making them extremely valuable as a benchmark against which you can compare your own plans.
Among the many out there, Simon Carless’ GameDiscoverCo and Chris Zukowski’s How To Market A Game newsletters are cornerstone content for indie games marketers. You should also subscribe to the IMPRESS newsletter to get all of our helpful articles directly into your inbox!
As you might have guessed, analyzing the niche and market your indie game will fall into is both a very important and an extremely tough part of marketing. The tools we’ve looked at can help you get a glimpse of what’s happening, but even that is only the first of a long series of steps towards success.
Once you have a clear picture of what the competition is doing, don’t hesitate to strategize, plan ahead, and don’t be afraid to try new things to take the market by storm. After all, indie runaway successes only exist because someone was bold enough to dare!
P.S. Are you looking for ways to simplify other aspects of your marketing efforts? Check out our free press kit creation tool Press Kitty, or learn more about our creator-monitoring tool, Coverage Bot!
More from the ✨ Academy ✨
📣 Ashley joins Andrew Pappas on Indie Game Movement podcast Episode 279 to talk marketing and tools for indie games!
9th August 2022
✨ Learn how to make the best Steam game page – what to prioritise, how to tag, and where to add your unique indie flair!
19th October 2022
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