Full disclosure: I'm not a profitable full-time indie game developer. But one day, I would like to be. It'd be nice to have a formula, a process, some sort of guide to follow to live sustainably making games on small teams. This primitive list represents some of my thoughts on how I could reasonably achieve this.
- Make a viral Reddit post (or several) about your upcoming game.
- Tweet GIFs of your projects regularly and amass a following (#indiedevhour, #screenshotsaturday).
- Start a Discord server about your game and send it to your beta testers.
- Make a website for your game studio and link to it in all of your social media accounts (Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Reddit, Snapchat, Instagram, forums).
- Put up a blog on your game studio's website. Post regularly and build a mailing list.
- Join a bunch of Slack/Discord channels for game developers and chat with them regularly about how they achieved success with their games.
- Start a podcast and interview game designers. Promote your podcast to their audience.
- Find gamers and game devs in your area and go to whatever events they go to.
- Network with successful game devs at conferences like PAX and GDC.
- Promote your upcoming game with a booth at said conferences.
- Join Facebook groups for gamers and game devs and promote your projects.
- Participate in (and win) game jams/competitions such as Ludum Dare.
- Make a game that naturally amasses a community by having high replayability (such as Minecraft, Factorio, Undertale).
- Leverage whatever community you might have through social media/forums and build a game specifically for them.
- Reach out to streamers on Twitch and YouTube, send them a free key to your game, and ask them to stream it.
- Analyze market trends and create a game that is likely to be profitable, then promote it everywhere you know how and hope that it's a hit.
- Find contract work developing a game for someone else part-time while working on your own IP on the side.
These are good ideas but it's certainly possible that someone could be doing all these things and still not be sustainable. What do you think the essential ingredient is? Am I missing something?