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4 Things to do Right Now to Kickstart Your New Game Dev Twitter/Instagram

Thought I’d make a quick post this week on a list of things you can do right now to kickstart your brand new social media account. I got the inspiration for this when someone in Devtalk+ was asking me for advice on their game dev / art Twitter that they hadn’t used for years so they were looking for a fresh start.

This guide is primarily for game dev and art accounts. However, other types of accounts can take some ideas and implement them as well. If you find any of these helpful or something I missed, please let me know!

Before we start… decide what your account will focus on. Will it be for your studio? Or promoting your graphic design to game devs? Or sharing your art to the world? This will make it much easier moving forward.

Note: for personal accounts (such as my own) they can have multiple aspects but can have 1 primary focus. For my personal account, I’ll RT fanart from anime and games I like and post about my chihuahua Leroy, but the primary focus is game development ideas and philosophies (i.e. not sharing my game dev progress but rather talking about game dev concepts like marketing).

1. Profile

It’s the most obvious but also one of the most important features- your icon, your bio, and your header! I’m constantly editing mine to keep it up to date and the best it can be.

My studio Twitter, currently averaging anywhere from 1-4 new followers a day
My personal Twitter
My studio Instagram- it’s a lot younger than my studio Twitter!

You want a clear profile image, good banner, descriptive bio, and a clean handle.

Profile Image

A clear profile image that best describes you or what you’re working on:

  • On Crystal Game Works I typically have it as the protagonist from my current game
  • On my personal I keep it between my two mascots, Mikomi and Rimia (Rimia is my current icon)

For game developers, I recommend an icon of your current game in development, perhaps the protagonist. If your game doesn’t really have a “main character” then a logo can be used.

For artists, I recommend your own art as your icon. While I am an artist, my personal Twitter isn’t just for my art, so I’ll sometimes have it be other people’s art (and credit them).

Banner

A banner if on Twitter, possibly with a logo:

  • On Crystal Game Works I used to have a banner of the key art for Asterism + the logo, but right now it’s a banner artwork of Enamored Risks, my most recent release
  • On my personal it’s a drawing I did, I typically make it an artwork of mine

Keep in mind that on Twitter your icon will cover some of your banner. You can be more descriptive like indie authors and have banners promoting your next launch with descriptive words. Or, you can go for a simpler banner that’s just your key art and a logo.

For artists, like the icon, I recommend you use your own art.

Bio

A descriptive but easy to digest bio:

  • On Crystal Game Works’ Twitter I have multiple points in my bio:
    • It’s female-owned
    • We make visual novels and RPGs
    • We focus on romance and otome games
    • A small list of our finished games
  • On my personal I use a more bullet-point style and go over:
    • My nickname, Miko
    • My pronouns
    • What I primarily do (I’m an anime artist, freelance marketer, and visual novel developer)
    • The company I own (including an @)
    • Credit for my icon

I’m not a big fan of the more classic bullet point style “Father. Developer. 34. Video game fan for life.” but it depends on your style. Ironically, my studio bio might read more personal than my personal bio! It’s 2 sentences with exclamation marks, and highlighting it’s female-ran makes it even more personal and potentially relatable.

Make sure you also add a link to the link field! A link to your website or portfolio is perfect. For both of my accounts I link to my websites for each.

Handle

A clean handle:

  • On Crystal Game Works I ran out of characters on Twitter and could only get @crystalgamework, but it still is quite clear. (Twitter, please, just give me 1 more letter!)
  • On my personal it’s simply my username, @MikomiKisomi.

While you might not be able to get the best handle in the world, try to make it as clean as you can. Underscores and other special characters can be fine but we’re not working with MySpace usernames from 2000 anymore.

Note about icons / banners: feel free to change them up with a new release or event! The Steam Game Festival started before I released this article so I changed the icon, banner, and username (not handle) for Crystal Game Works to reflect the Asterism demo being a part of it.

2. First Tweets / Posts

Before you get people looking at your account, you need to have stuff on it! Whether this is a brand new account or a dead one you’re refurbishing, make a few posts that are on brand for your new outlook. Here’s some ideas for your first few posts.

Game Studio accounts:

  • Introduce your studio and team members
  • Introduce your project(s)
  • Post concept art, programmings/writing snippets, works in progress things
  • Link any finished games, demos, devlogs, etc.
  • Post a screenshot of your current game(s)

Art accounts:

  • Introduce yourself
  • Post an image of your workspace / tools you use
  • Share your older art and a newer art
  • Post a piece you’re proud of
  • Post WIPs of a future art piece
  • Create a video/gif showing an art piece go from sketch -> finished

Personal accounts:

  • Introduce yourself
  • Talk about something you’re passionate about
  • Post an image (maybe your animal!)
  • Link an article you like
  • Introduce a project you’ve worked on or talk about what kind of projects you’d like to work on

Do something to fill the empty space on your page. If you’d like more ideas on things you can post, you can check out my article on social media post ideas.

3. Follow People

Finally, you’re ready to share your account to the world! So, let’s follow some people!

Follow people in the area you’re making the account for. For game dev studio accounts, follow other game dev studios in your field- if you make visual novels follow other visual novel devs, if you make platformers follow other platformer developers, etc. If you’re an artist, follow other smaller artists.

Note: don’t treat this like a follow-for-follow. Follow accounts you’re interested in and don’t expect to be followed back.

If you don’t know where to look… then look no further than hashtags! For visual novel development on Twitter we have #vndev and #vnlink. For general indie games you can look through #indiegame, #indiedev, #indiegamedev, #gamedev, and more.

Try to follow around 20-50 accounts in your first run. Twitter and Instagram both have daily follower limits but they change from time to time.

4. Engagement

Last but not least, it’s something you’ll find preached again and again- engage first if you want engagement. You’ve followed a group of people, so now interact with them!

It can be as simple as liking a post of theirs that you like, or commenting on a post.

You can also interact with people you’re not following but who are posting in the tags you searched through- on Instagram, the default search area is customized to show popular posts from tags you’re following and similar posts from people you’re following. If you’re on Discord, share you account around and ask for other people’s accounts.


Thank you guys for reading, hope this small article helped! If you want to read more of my marketing ramblings, here’s a few hand-picked articles:

Making Twitter Painless for Game Dev Marketing

Game Dev Social Media Calendar

Game Dev Social Media Post Ideas

If you have an idea for a future article, feel free to @ me on Twitter or request it in my marketing channel in Devtalk+, a community for visual novel and story-heavy developers. If you’d like to support me, consider sharing these articles around or wishlisting my games on Steam!

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0 to 100 Instagram Followers Speedrun

It started when my friend (who requests to be unnamed) posted this in my marketing channel.

This friend has about 1k followers on their main art Instagram. One day they decided to make a new side account and just posted old art to it with good tags. Over the course of around 15 hours, they went from 0 to 20 followers.

As a marketer (but an artist first and foremost) this intrigued me. At this time I was only on Instagram with my company’s account (@CrystalGameWorks), but I didn’t fully understand it. However, this made me want to try something…

I’ve been drawing for, come November, an entire decade. I have a lot of art finished. Sure, a lot of it isn’t great, but there’s a fair amount of pieces from the past few years that are serviceable. While some of the pieces might not look great to me, someone else might think it looks fine. So, I started digging them up and created a challenge for myself.

On May 6th, I decided to create an art Instagram for myself and upload once or twice every day until my birthday, May 30th, or until I reached 100 followers. How quickly could a new account reach 100 followers? What’s the best ways to increase engagement? How do you get people to even notice you? These questions and more will be, er, somewhat answered…

Click page 2 to continue!

Articles

Boys Love Media Survey Results

A few months ago foleso and I were sitting around as usual trying to answer the 2930809384 questions we have about marketing and target audience and whatnot. We were talking about boys love / yaoi media—namely, who the target audience for all ages games were. Most of the boys love games we see are 18+, while both of us would rather make all ages games.

As marketers, we come up with assumptions and then try to prove them wrong. Marketing ≠ advertising. Marketing is about trying to find who can benefit from your product/service and how to better build it for them. We had a lot of assumptions about yaoi fans and what they enjoy, so the only next step was to test those. I started a survey.

Some terms, before we get started:

  • Yaoi: a term in ENG fandoms typically to mean boy x boy gay content, though not used often in JP fandoms
  • Boys love (BL): a term meant for boy x boy gay content
  • Boy x boy (BxB): two gay guys. Guys who like each other romantically. Don’t know how else to phrase this.
  • Male/male or Men loving men (MLM): this doesn’t mean multi-level marketing scheme. It’s basically the same as BxB except some people use this term to refer to character who are older.

As I mentioned before, foleso and I are both fans of boys love media, but we know our tastes don’t represent the majority. Our assumptions at the beginning were:

  • People who use the term “yaoi” want 18+ content and are typically younger
  • People who use the term “boys love” are fans who have liked BL content for years, are more into gay content in general, and are typically older
  • A majority of BL fans want fandom content and got into BL media through fandom
  • A majority of BL fans identify as women

The survey we conducted ended with 222 responses and was posted on Discord, Twitter, Amino, deviantArt, Facebook, and more. We asked people to share it around, especially other BL game developers, since our reach is only so big.

Click page 2 to get started! (Warning: very long)

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9 Things I Wish I Knew Before I Started Game Dev

We all have the feeling of “oh, I wish I knew that sooner!” or “why didn’t someone tell me this when I started?!” whenever we enter a field. There are plenty of things I and my colleagues wish we knew before we started game development. But, fear not! I’ve compiled a list taken from my own experience and my friend’s on what you should know before you start game dev.

Most of these here are general ideas/tips given by friends that I’ve expanded upon, so these are not their exact words.

  • General Things
  • Marketing
  • Distribution

One last note before we jump in- these are pieces of advice of what devs wanted to know before they started. These won’t all be applicable to everybody, so you’re free to take this advice and ignore it. Every person is different, but these pieces of advice should help a majority of people.

General

1. Don’t overscope your projects

Scope is something I talked about in my previous article, but the tl;dr is that scope is the magnitude of the project- it encompasses all of the assets, all of the levels, all of the team, everything. Keeping the scope small as you learn how to make games is a key part of being able to ship a game. You can always add to a scope, but cutting scope can be much harder.
One thing to remember- it might take YEARS before you find a game idea you’re truly passionate about. Nothing sucks more than working on a project with too big a scope and a few months in you realize you have no passion for the idea anymore. A good work ethic can push you through that slog but there will always be some game ideas you just cannot force yourself to work on if the scope is unmanaged.

Addendum: Define your scope before you start. Work on your storyline and gameplay mechanics before you jump headfirst into development. As most writers know, having a solid outline can prevent a lot of artblocks down the road.
– Addendum from @AnoldorF on Twitter

2. Ask for help

You don’t have to do everything on your own. Furthermore, people have most likely made some of the mistakes you’ll be making, so learn from the people who’ve already been through it.
If you’re solo, then joining (healthy) communities where you can post work and get feedback on it can be invaluable. There have been so many assets of my (Miko) own that would have been trash had I not asked for feedback. Game dev requires a thick skin because players will critique every aspect of your games, so getting good feedback from your peers can be a good stepping stone into that (and also teach you what is good critique and what is bad critique).
– From @jakebowkett, @ingthing, and @Rukomura

3. Use source control and have backups

Source / version control is essentially having different backups of your game at different stages so that you can rollback to a previous state if you mess something up. The most popular tool for source control is Github, but you can put files on a jump drive if needbe.
In general though, you should have backups, even if it’s just an old version of your project files on Google Drive. Personally I (Miko) use Google Backup and Sync as well as have my files on various jump drives, folders, and a Github repository.
– From @VividFoundry and @justajustiguy

4. Make a bad game

You will learn much more from shipping a game than developing a game for 5+ years. Likewise, you’ll learn a lot from shipping a “bad” game. Everyone eventually makes a “bad” game, whether it be something that’s nearly objectively bad or something that doesn’t meet their standards. As adi puts it, “the exhilaration of finishing something got me through a ton alone”.
– From @adirosette

Marketing

5. Don’t be afraid to post content

If people don’t know about your game then they can’t get hyped for it and they certainly can’t play it. Not being afraid to post content goes both ways, both for consumers and developers. You should be confident and post progress where consumers can see and follow your development and you should post progress where developers can see and give feedback.
Basically, be proud of what you work on! Be mindful to not spam, but don’t always keep to yourself.
– From @dssansVN

6. Use Twitter Analytics

I’ve found that some devs who’ve used Twitter for years don’t know about this- Twitter has an more indepth analytics if you turn them on. These analytics show impressions, engagements, and more. There’s an entire side website that lists out your most popular tweets, how your Twitter is growing, and more. It’s very simple to turn on and provides a lot of insight.

7. Kickstarter won’t market for you

This point can be construed as “you need to market your commercial endeavors in general”, but I’ll be talking about crowdfunding here. Think of Kickstarter more as an amplifier- if you have a solid project with solid marketing, a solid Kickstarter page can boost that. If you have a loose project with little marketing and a bare-bones KS page, KS won’t boost it. When you launch a KS, you’re launching a business venture. Regardless if the game will be commercial or free, you’re asking money from people. Treat it like a business.

Distribution

8. Use Itch.io

Itch.io is a free website for indie games. The process to upload a game is extremely easy and free, and their store page is easy to navigate. A lot of people, including myself, will avoid Google Drive / Dropbox links for demos from strangers, so please upload demos to Itchio!

(an exception of course is if you’re beta testing then Drive / Dropbox can be fine, but this is for public-facing builds)

There are also other websites out there for free indie games such as Game Jolt, but Itchio is quickly becoming a more recognizable website.

9. Get Steam Wishlists

If you’re publishing to Steam, focus on wishlists! Setting up a Steam page for a game releasing in a month can be disastrous. Look at it this way- a wishlist means that person will be emailed when the game releases. They don’t have to sign up for your newsletter, they don’t have to do anything but hit the wishlist button.

For more indepth talk advice, read Jake Birkett’s article, How many wishlists should you have when launching on Steam?


I think the biggest tl;dr I can give for this article is this: know your limits and always ask for help.

I know my limits when it comes to scope and what kind of games I make. Some of those limits, like scope, I try to slowly push myself on expanding. Other limits, like the genres I’m comfortable working with, not so much (due to burnout!).

Furthermore, asking for help is never a sign of defeat. You’ll need to ask consumers a lot of questions for market research, so why not also ask devs for advice and feedback? Find areas you’re comfortable with.

Did you like this article? Feel free to check out my other marketing and game dev editorials on the right!

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Cutting (and Adding) Scope from Games

Scope is something that every game developer struggles with at some point.

Even after releasing several games, you can always get caught working on a project with too much scope. Today I’m going to talk about what scope is, how to manage it, and how to cut (or add) scope to a game project.

What is scope?

Scope, put simply, is the entirety of the project— it’s the amount of assets, the story of the game, the amount of levels / areas, the budget, you get the idea. The scope of a project is how big the project is.

Sometimes we get carried away with making games. We think of all these great levels we can add or plot details or characters, but end up losing sight of the main project. Scope left unchecked can kill projects. So, how do you keep it from getting that bad?

How to manage scope

Your main combatant for keeping scope small is to always keep it in mind. Make sure that you’re keeping things small and manageable— adding content is much easier than removing it. One way to keep it in mind is to check over things and determine how important it is. This is something that becomes easier the more games you make and have to do this on.

Careful planning and sticking to an outline helps manage scope while a game is in development. At group meetings (if you’re working with a group), talk about the scope. Go over upcoming parts and make sure they’re still important. Shelve ideas for later if they aren’t important— you can always come back to them later.

Cutting scope

Let’s say you’re too far into development to keep track of scope as you go along. The game has been in development for too long and you’re in the midst of it and can’t see the light at the end of the tunnel. It’s times like these that we get out the knife.

Rimia umu edit by Henry!

This is our scope-cutting knife! Stab your project.

…Okay, maybe not anything that severe. Let’s go over some potential areas you can cut out:

  • Characters
  • Levels / areas / locations
  • Character / equipment upgrades
  • Side quests
  • Artwork
  • Music

For games that are more story-driven, make sure all of your characters are needed. For my current in progress game, Asterism, I’ve removed 2 main characters since the completion of the first draft. The first was one of the members of the main party— I removed him because there were too many party members to give a backstory to each, so I gave his lines to the rest and had one less character to worry about expanding. The second was an antagonist turned friend— his backstory was too contrived and bloated the amount of work.

Make sure all of your backgrounds / maps are needed. If you use one for only one scene, consider rewriting the scene to use an existing background. Or, consider adding a character graphic to the scene rather than characters on a background.

The biggest cuts you’ll find when cutting scope is to take out features. A phone pop-up menu is pretty cool but typically not necessary in most games. Equipment upgrade trees and 10+ types of weapons are great but are extras for most RPGs rather than necessities.

Side Notes

Remember that cutting scope doesn’t have to be permanent— the purpose is to finish a project. You can always go back and add scope once the project isn’t in jeopardy and nearing completion .

Another way to cut scope is to find ways to shorten the time parts take to make. For example, you can resuse assets, use premade assets (namely sound effects), or use code (that you have permission to use). Finding a good engine that fits your project is another way to cut scope. An engine that fits will allow you to streamline the development.

Adding scope

Alright, now let’s say you’re nearing the end of your game and it’s too small. For some people this might sound impossible, but it’s happened to me before. For my first commercial game, That Which Binds Us, I had to go through multiple phases of adding scope, namely expanding the story.

When adding scope, focus on features that improve the game the most rather than adding anything. Here’s a few ideas on what to add:

  • New art / music
  • Character backstories
  • Side quests / scenes
  • More choices
  • Additional settings
  • New levels / areas

A good way to figure out what to add is to ask testers! Get feedback on builds and see what they want added. You never know, they might suggest something you’d never thought of.

But why should I?

Cutting scope becomes a vital ability the more you make games. I’ve seen (and been on!) countless projects that were killed because the scope was too large and was either not cut or leads refused to compromise. Don’t let your projects die!

tl;dr cutting features out of your game isn’t always a bad thing and can help the game release. You can always go back and add features!


Did you like this article? Feel free to check out my other marketing & game dev articles by clicking the tags on the right. Want to give back? Wishlisting my games on Steam helps me a lot! Have a question? @ me on Twitter!

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Where to Publish Your Indie Game

Finishing a game is a hard feat- but figuring out where ​to publish it can be even harder.

Working on a game from start to finish is a harrowing task with lots of road bumps, but once your finished, some devs are left with a question- what now? What do I do with my game now that it’s done? Well, you can post it on Google Drive or Dropbox and share that link around, but if you want a more serious way to publish then consider publishing your game on gaming websites. But, which ones? Below I’ve outlined some of the most popular choices for sharing free and commercial games.

There are 2 lists- PC and HTML. Note that some of these overlap- you can upload mobile and HTML to Itch.io, but I’m only going into detail on it in the PC list.


PC List

1. Steam

Naturally, Steam has to be on this list- it’s the largest, most known game distribution platform out there. So, let’s quickly go over some pros and cons to Steam.
Pros:

  • Largest gaming platform with the largest userbase

Cons:

  • Largest gaming platform with the largest selection of competing games
  • $100 fee per game uploaded
  • Lots of information to fill out with multiple review processes
  • Somewhat difficult uploading process for new devs (and lackluster documentation)

2. Itch.io

Itch.io in recent years has grown in popularity for indies, and for good reason.

Picture

Pros:

  • Free to use
  • Easy upload process with no review processes
  • A good launch can secure a high place on the search places for a longer time

Cons:

  • No review process means there are tons of shovelware and multiple reuploads on the site
  • Not many users on the site so don’t expect 50+ downloads on launch unless you market it

3. Game Jolt

Game Jolt has been a long standing indie site for flash games but now has opened up to downloadable games- however, their primary consumer base is still HTML.

Picture

Pros:

  • Free to use
  • Easy upload process with no review processes
  • Fans can follow individual game pages as well as your developer account

Cons:

  • Easy to not get many views on the site with one game but a healthy amount on another
  • The consumer base is still heavily HTML gaming

4. Kartridge

Have you heard of Kartridge before this list? Neither had I before I researched forums to share games on and ended up finding a thread about posting games to Kartridge! It’s a subsidiary of Kongregate (which will be on the list later) that was launched around November 2018 during the big Epic Games / Discord Store buzz and subsequently got drowned out by all the bigger news.

Picture

Pros:

  • Free to use
  • Easy upload process with no review processes*
  • Not many games on the site so little competition

Cons:

  • No analytics whatsoever that I can find**
  • Despite Kongregate still having a decent sized consumer base, very few of them transferred over to Kartridge

* Despite games being able to launch without a review process, the staff will go back and check games afterwards and then decide if they belong on the store. For instance, my kinetic (no choices) visual novel The Witch in the Forest was on the store for about 12 hours until I got an email saying it didn’t meet their gameplay standards and was manually taken down.

** I’ve searched and searched and searched and even emailed the staff about analytics, with them basically saying “they’ll work on it” (as of January 2019). ​There’s no way to tell downloads on free games, no way to even tell how many views your games have. I believe this could be an oversight but the non-inclusion of them after launch is, as I believe, due to the low user counts that they don’t want to publish.

5. Epic Games Store

I’ll make this and the Discord Store quick since I don’t know much about them- it’s new, it’s still in a mostly closed beta, and analytics for how well they do haven’t been released yet.

Pros:

  • Not many games on the site so little competition

Cons:

  • Stigma against the platform due to exclusives, Tencent, and more
  • Seemingly exclusive beta only for extremely polished indie games

6. Discord Store

The Discord Store is… odd. It’s still very much going through changes and by the time this article has made rounds it’s undoubtedly going to have made even more changes. At one point, there was a tab on Discord that allowed you to see all the games they have- now, that’s gone, and only a select few can be seen on the Nitro tab, making it impossible as of right now to see a list of every game on Discord through the client (even searching games that are definitely on the store doesn’t work on the current Nitro tab). So, how do consumers find your game on Discord? Either via direct link or through an individualized store tab on your server- aka, nothing organic.

Pros:

  • Not many games on the site so little competition

Cons:

  • $25 fee per game
  • No actually store front for every game, only individualized store fronts in various servers

7. IndieDB

Might as well throw this on the list, eh? While it’s not really a gaming platform- it’s a database for indie games, as you can tell from the name- you can still upload and download indie games from it, so I’ll count it.

Picture

Pros:

  • Easy to set up a page
  • Brings in some viewers on its own
  • Makes a press kit for you

Cons:

  • Not meant to be a gaming platform, more of a database for indie games (hence the name)

8. Good Old Games (GoG)

Almost forgot about this one on my list since it’s not very indie friendly at all- as the name implies it used to be mostly older PC titles but has since shifted towards publishing indie and AAA studio titles (read: not solo indie games). While there might be a couple super indie titles on there, the vast majority won’t make it on this site due to their very tiny submission process and strict polish standards- I along with a few friends have been declined from the site multiple times, with one of the games being declined being listed on an indie gem list on Steam.

Pros:

  • Very short initial submission process

Cons:

  • Very high “quality” standards- anything that looks indie or doesn’t have a big studio backing it up won’t be on there 99% of the time


HTML List

1. Itch.io

Already reviewed in the PC list, please see above.

2. Newgrounds

Yes, Newgrounds is still alive and kicking (and actually a decent place to post art both in your gallery and in art threads)! I remember using it as a kid and I’m happy to say it’s still a very active place.

Picture

Pros:

  • Free to use
  • Very easy submission process

Cons:

  • Not a lot of analytics to look at

3. Kongregate

Another one of the oldies, Kongregate has been around for a lot longer than my career and is still kicking.

Picture

Pros:

  • Free to use
  • Easy submission process

Cons:

  • Not a lot of analytics to look at- same developers as Kartridge

4. Armor Games

Again, Armor Games has been around for a long time and is still very active- you can easily get 1,000 views from the site alone within the first couple hours of launch.Pros:

  • Free to use
  • Easy submission process

Cons:

  • Hardly any analytics to look at

5. Game Jolt

Already reviewed above in the PC section.


Final Notes

This is not a fully comprehensive list, as companies are always trying to get a slice of the Steam pie and coming up with new publishing platforms as others go extinct. There are other sites not on this list- I did not include some sites because I do not use them and they are very niche. Or, for example, I did not include DLsite because its audience is not really Western indie games but I do have friends who use it (albeit they admit indie games on there don’t sell much). This list was made in 2019 but edited for 2020.

Not all of the sites listed here will fit your game. Furthermore, as indies we have to remember that making new builds and reuploading them to every single site takes time, so it might not be best for you to publish your game on every platform you can at first. Personally, I publish my commercial games to Steam and Itchio for now, but there are developers who only publish to Itchio and can make a profit.

As always, if you have a question or think I should add something feel free to @ me on Twitter!