Indie developer Jan Wojtecki has shared his experience of promoting its roguelike Pawnbarian. Although he had no budget for marketing, he managed to attract more than 10,000 wishlists on Steam.

Pawnbarian is a puzzle roguelike, with its combat and movement based on the chess rules. Wojtecki developed the game solo, and his brother Piotr helped with art.

Ahead of Pawnbarian’s September 24th release, he described his road to 10,000 wishlists on Reddit.

  • Wojtecki met a few rejections from publishers. “I’m under the impression that as a micro indie, the moment a publisher starts treating me seriously (because it’s becoming clear the game will do reasonably well) is the moment I stop needing a publisher,” he said.
  • The developer didn’t hire anyone or use any paid tools to market his game.
  • In 2019, Rock Paper Shotgun published an article about Pawnbarian. Wojtecki also presented the game at Poznań Game Arena, which converted into the first wishlists.
  • Due to Pawnbarian’s short sessions, the developer decided to release a web demo. It reached 230K plays on Kongregate, as well as 43K on and 26K on Newgrounds.
  • Wojtecki made a few posts on Reddit, ignoring r/gaming and focusing on smaller and genre-focused subreddits. As he noted, “we’re talking the 100-1000 upvote range.”

Lines top to bottom: wishlist additions, wishlist balance, wishlist deletions, wishlist conversions (it is barely visible because only a few testers have received beta keys prior to launch)

  • Steam festivals were pretty efficient. Pawnbarian was presented twice during Yogcast Games’ Tiny Teams festivals, which converted into a couple of thousands of wishlists. It is worth noting that Valve recently said that participation in the Steam festivals boosts wishlisting rate by 421%.
  • Streamers gave Pawnbarian the largest boost. Earlier this year, Northernlion played the game and later uploaded a video on YouTube, which currently has 155K views. As a result, other streamers also paid attention to Pawnbarian, helping it gain a few thousand wishlists.

Wojtecki found streamers to be the most efficient channel, especially compared to press. “With full respect for the journalist colleagues in the audience, modern game press certainly feels more ‘by industry for industry’ than ‘by gamers for gamers,’” he concluded.

The developer’s full post can be found here.

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