How Indie Games Win Our Hearts by Building Memorable Brands

Indie games are known for providing niche experiences at an affordable cost—but they also teach us valuable lessons about creating a memorable brand.

Indie games can teach us valuable messaging lessons.

With the support of popular studios like EA, Nintendo, Activision, and Ubisoft, mainstream games are almost guaranteed to make bank. But independent games—typically created by lesser-known developers, and with fewer resources—still manage to pick up as much enthusiasm, if not more, than blockbuster games. One study reveals that 31% more PC and console gamers in the U.S. actually preferred indie selections to their bigger competitors. But why? 

What sets indie games apart, so much so that they become top market players? 

Indie games harness creativity to reach niche audiences.

Due to restricted budgets and smaller development teams, indie games require innovative, outside-the-box strategies to garner attention and build a loyal user base. Whereas AAA games offer immersive worlds and breathtaking graphics, non-mainstream games focus on developing unique experiences. 

Independent developers tend to have more creative agency, which makes their games deeply personal and resonant. Without the expectation of a smash hit, they can spend more time perfecting gameplay, art, and storytelling that appeal to a specific audience. Big game publishers have clear advantages when it comes to marketing their products, but indie creators prove that taking a more down-to-earth approach can help them establish solid connections and rise above the noise in a saturated space. 

Team Cherry is an Australian independent game studio with a mission to “build crazy, exciting worlds for you to explore and conquer.” Their hit action adventure platformer, Hollow Knight, began to take form in 2014, after 2,158 backers raised AU$57,138 on Kickstarter

There, the three founders described all the features that set their game apart: beautifully hand-drawn art, clean gameplay elements, and a hauntingly rich story. They also put faces to their names with brief-yet-personal bios for each founder, including relatable anecdotes like “[William’s] been enraptured with games ever since his Dad found the wing boots for him in Zelda 2.” 

After reaching their crowdfunding goal, Team Cherry published the game and sold millions of copies. True to their mission, they crafted a fantastical, vibrant realm for players to explore—and also grew their base without an inflated marketing budget. 

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Indie developers foster genuine connections with their community—and it pays off.

Indie developers are often personally immersed in tight-knit online gaming communities. These connections provide a unique advantage: with user feedback just a social media post away, developers often find it easier to forge closer audience relationships.

The sole developer and creator of Stardew Valley, Eric Barone (also known as “ConcernedApe”) promoted his 2D simulated farming game on Steam Greenlight, a voting platform where players could bring their favorite indie games to life. He also regularly updated his blog from development to launch, enthralling enthusiastic fans with screenshots, updates, and captivating game descriptions. As of 2022, Stardew Valley has sold over 20 million copies across multiple platforms, and boasts overwhelmingly positive reviews from players all over the world.

Like Eric Barone, indie developers rely heavily on smaller gaming communities. Many of their games start out as passion projects, later blossoming with the help of everyday people. Through social media, personal websites, and beyond, indie creators often speak candidly about their pitfalls and accomplishments, nurturing a more personal and authentic connection with their customers.

Sometimes, less really is more.

Stardew Valley and Hollow Knight are among many success stories that demonstrate the power of simplicity. Despite limited resources, ConcernedApe and Team Cherry harnessed creativity and connection to become the indie underdogs of the gaming industry. Their commitment to the craft—and their audience—continues to generate interest in their projects to come. 

The bottom line: indie games teach us that we don’t need to move mountains to build a standout brand. More than ever, people value authenticity and are actively seeking out creators who prioritize emotional resonance and intimacy over mass appeal and profit. 

At MarketSmiths, we create content that connects to the soul of your company and inspires meaningful action. If you’re looking to level up your digital presence, our team can help unlock new possibilities. 

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Shi-won Oh

Shi-won Oh

Former 6th Grade ELA teacher, now copywriter, Shi-won loves to use writing as a tool to empower, educate, and entertain. She enjoys collecting books for her library, daydreaming about Middle Earth, and searching for the coziest Korean restaurants in Queens.

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