How to Calculate a Marketing Budget for Your Game in 3 Steps

How to calculate a marketing budget

John Pleasants, former CEO of Playdom, once said, “successful [Facebook] games’ marketing budgets are upwards of 50% of their production costs and can skyrocket into the millions as the game grows.” While it’s clear Pleasants understands the importance of marketing, it’s also clear he wasn’t addressing an indie audience. Allocating 50% of production costs toward marketing is a luxury most indies don’t have, making Pleasants’ calculation method less than ideal. Knowing how to calculate a marketing budget isn’t about estimating off a percentage of another cost. It’s about understanding your game’s unique marketing needs and pricing accordingly. Here are three steps that should help.

How to Calculate a Marketing Budget for Your Game

  1. List Your Marketing Needs
    An accurate marketing budget starts with a solid communication plan, i.e., a schedule of when you’re launching what initiatives (e.g., advertising, press outreach, etc.) to promote your game. Without a communication plan, or with a half-baked one, accurately estimating a marketing budget is impossible.

    With your communication plan in hand, begin listing out everything you’ll need for each initiative. Include both physical assets and manpower needs. For example, if you have “distribute press release” on your communication plan, your list might include: press release, screen shots, trailer video, email template to send to writers/bloggers, list of writers’/bloggers’ email addresses, person to send emails. The more thorough and detailed the list, the better.

  2. DIY vs. Contracting vs. Consulting
    Now that you have your list in place, go through it to determine which items you can and can’t execute yourself given your skill set and/or time constraints. Remember, the best way to keep your costs down is to do things yourself, but never at the cost of quality. If you don’t have the skill set or time, consider contracting or consulting. To better guide you:

    • Contract when you (1) don’t have the time to execute marketing tasks or (2) don’t have the skill set to make them look professional.
    • Consult when you have the skill set and/or time, but need some professional guidance.
  3. Estimate Your Costs
    Estimating your costs is by far the most time intensive part of the process, but don’t be discouraged. Your hard work and diligence here translate to an accurate marketing budget. Take comfort in that.

    Using the list of contracting/consulting needs you put together in Step 2, start sourcing vendors. Simple Google searches or friend referrals are a great place to start. When you discover reputable vendors, contact them for a quote, keeping in mind quotes are estimates that can be negotiated. Try to contact multiple vendors who provide similar services to ensure you’re getting the best deal. Once satisfied with your results, tally up your quotes and you have your marketing budget!

Feature image above was taken by Mario Sanchez.

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Emmy Jonassen is a marketing pro who helps indie developers build adoring fanbases. Marketing people who love buzz words call this "lead generation."

9 Comments on "How to Calculate a Marketing Budget for Your Game in 3 Steps"

  1. Nick Dymond says:

    Great article!

    I really appreciate the step-by-step approach to these blog posts as it makes the process that much less daunting to those with little to no prior experience in marketing.

  2. Nikc-Nack says:

    Excellent blog post!
    I liked how you explained when to consult or contract. Right on!

    Thanks for your blog, it’s been really helpful to me. Though I’ve yet to put much into practice, I do feel more prepared for when I do start into fundraising and marketing for my game.


    • Emmy says:

      Happy to hear the post was helpful to you. Marketing budgets are important to know ahead of time…especially when you’re fundraising. Thanks for the comment!

  3. shaner says:

    Thanks Emmy another great blog! There is obviously a fine line between quality vendors and affordability to meet budget requirements. How do you personally determine a quality vendor that is worth the financial investment and do you have any personal favourites?

    • Emmy says:

      You are right: there usually is a fine line between quality and affordability in regards to vendors. I have worked with many vendors in my life and here are two things I found very useful in determining quality: (1) check their work and (2) ask for references.

      1. Check Their Work: most vendors will have a portfolio to look through. This is a good starting point, but not enough. In addition to a portfolio, I always ask to see examples of work that is being currently used. If vendors don’t have something being used currently, it could be a red flag.
      2. Ask for References: when a vendor’s portfolio and live examples have passed my test, I’ll ask for references (i.e., clients they’ve worked for previously who I can call). Vendors who have a good reputation, whether they are well known or just starting out, should have no problem with this. Speaking with past clients is very telling as to how easy this vendor is to work with, how satisfied you may be with their work, etc.
  4. Hemant says:

    Hi Emmy,

    Your article is really helpful, thanks for writing. I am looking forward to read more articles in future. Keep writing!!! cheers.

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