Introduction to Video Game Marketing

Introduction to Video Game Marketing
What are the basics of video game marketing?

If you think that when you make a good game, people will buy it and you will find success, I must tell you that this is not true. As of now, there are over 50,000 games on Steam and almost 1.5 million on iOS and Google Play. In other words, even if you make a good game, there’s no reason why it shouldn’t be buried among the others.

The pandemic settled in people’s lives over time and pushed them to play more games than ever before during a specific period. There’s never been a better time to be a game developer than this time, but it’s important to remember that predicting the future is the prophets’ job.

As people get vaccinated, and the world gets better (actually, it’s just normalized), any activity (vacation, sports, social life, work) replaced by video games will quickly come back. In addition to all this, the film, television, and music industries will likewise benefit from this turnaround. In this market where you compete for one’s spare time, good marketing is not a luxury; it is necessary. Even if you put out a super indie production like Undertale and Celeste, all your hard work will be wasted unless people know it.

Celeste Marketing
Celeste, which debuted in 2018 and has a successful marketing example.

In the last few months, game marketing information on the market has started to spread like a virus—newsletters, industry writers, and bloggers (as we do). But many focus on how unique the strategy is and specific case studies. What can help you best at this point is to understand the basics and create a unique strategy for your game. Also, copying someone else’s plan doesn’t always work.

The hundreds of (at least notable) developers out there aren’t even raising a marketing budget, let alone hiring a marketing professional. Although you are a game developer and not a marketer, once you have developed your dream game, you cannot make your game a success without implementing a successful marketing strategy.

Having a staff member who doesn’t contribute to the development of a game can seem like a hard cost to bear. But if you are building an independent team, you need to learn that the marketing resource should be part of that team. If you don’t start early and get your marketing right, your game will be lost in the pile of failures along with the other 100 games to be released that week.

What does marketing do

In this article, we will only talk about digital marketing. There are significant differences between traditional marketing and digital marketing. People often associate marketing with advertising; although this is not entirely wrong, it is only one of the ingredients of marketing.

Why you should to focus on marketing?

Marketing isn’t just about raising awareness; it’s about forcing someone to buy your game and not someone else’s game.

If you do not want to deal with advertising and are looking for a publisher, this is a perfectly acceptable option. However, researching and marketing before this scenario can increase your chances of gaining a negotiation advantage when it comes time to sign a contract.

Why Marketing Research and Analytics is important

Here is where it all started. Market research is when studios determine how to make a profit with a higher degree of success and how to reduce their chances of failure.

analytical research
Market research and analytics are important factors that will increase your success rate.

Although this research does not always lead you to a conclusion, it is a fact that it adds more success than failure.

Market research evaluates trends in the market, decides whether a project has greenlighted, and takes the pulse of players throughout the life of the game. What is the demand for this game? What is your budget? Expected development time? what is the success rate? This is just the tip of a ton of questions going on throughout its entire lifecycle that you need to answer before you start planning your game.

Content marketing

Depending on your content, it generates new interests and informs your existing followers. You need to be constantly reminded of your presence and offer unique content to fast-paced customers with short attention spans. Some of this content can be understood as paid marketing, but the main goal is organic growth, primarily through social media. Examples include trailers, concept art, developer blogs, soundtracks, and newsletters.

Control concept
A concept design for the Control game was released by Remedy Entertainment in 2019.

The biggest problem with many developer blogs is that the posts are developer-oriented. Of course, it’s great to get developers interested in your game, but you need to make it relevant for players. For example, opening a forum page can enable users to interact with you and each other. Remember, players want to see a bug that can make them laugh rather than that you fix a bug.

App store optimization

To gain more visibility in app stores and increase your chances of getting more downloads you will need to improve your ASO, here are a few tips for you;

Write an engaging description for your game

While many people will first look at your images in the app store, rest assured that there are many who will read your description to understand your game. Since space is limited in this section, it is very important that you draw the attention of the players in the first paragraph.

Castle of Alchemists description
Enriching your descriptions with visual elements will increase interest.

In your opening paragraph, you want to tell new players what your game is about and turn the player into a download. So tell users what kind of game this is and then point them to any narrative you want to include. You should try to summarize your game as best as possible and have the unique features of your game that make it stand out.

Maximize your keyword usage

You should include relevant keywords in your game description as there are so many results from searches in app stores. Finding the right keywords to have will take some research, but you can use tools like Ahrefs to assist you in the process. While your game description doesn’t directly affect your ASO ranking, it’s likely to generate more traffic and more downloads to your game.

You can try using keywords in your title, even if that means changing the name of your game.

Add trailer

If you have made a trailer for your mobile game and uploaded it to your YouTube channel or other social media pages to promote your game, you should include it on your store page.

The trailer doesn’t need to be long, but make sure it gives potential players a sense of what your game is about and shows them that it is fun to play.

Don’t forget the screenshots

With an exciting trailer, screenshots are another way to entice potential players to download your game. While they don’t directly impact search rankings, they will significantly increase downloads if they’re strong and represent your game well. After reading your impressive descriptions, users can look at the pictures and make the game come to life in their minds.

Social media

It’s your best chance to get attention for your game without paying any money. It’s the best way to gain a new audience, build a loyal following for your game, and get feedback. Social media is your studio’s representative in the community. On top of all that, it’s arguably the most misunderstood and misused tool in the marketing arsenal; even a person with lousy marketing knowledge knows they should have one. Remember to use your social media to inform, entertain, engage and, above all, be social.

Social media
The use of social media is as important as breathing in marketing.

Social media needs to be treated as an intelligence agent. When you see an account “What is your favorite game?” or “What do you do in your spare time?” You can ask questions such as, although this movement seems to increase interaction from the outside, it is one of the essential marketing strategies for those who understand its value.

Why social media?

Any business with an online presence (or even one that doesn’t) should have at least one social media account. Data from Statista estimates that more than 3.6 billion people use at least one social media platform, and that number will reach 4.4 billion by 2025.

Favorite social media platforms
Favorite social media platforms (January 2022)

Gaming companies can effortlessly build lasting customer relationships by leveraging social media to both market their games and connect with their target audience. When a strong social media marketing strategy is implemented, game studios can enjoy the following benefits:

  • Brand awareness
  • Community engagement
  • Game trailers
  • Insights on customer behavior and wishes
  • Understanding emerging markets
  • Increase in website traffic

SEM/SEO

One of the few things I can say for sure for people is that very few will look beyond the first few results on Google. Few even consider going beyond the first page. Search Engine Marketing/Search Engine Optimization is about getting your game to appear in as many relevant searches as possible to keep people coming to your website or shop page.

SEO and SEM
Although they are basically the same, SEO and SEM are separate fields.

SEO and SEM are often separated, but that’s a topic for another article. Researching trends in queries and other items, convincing Google that your content is of higher quality, and adjusting your content accordingly will make you stand out more in search. Does it look funny? Welcome to the new dystopia where we trick search engines.

More people, more attention, more sales. I don’t think we need to talk much about how it works, you already know, give money, get advertising. But each platform has various ways to do this. Social media platforms offer great advertising features, all worth more (and we’ll cover them in more detail in another post). However, hundreds of dollars can be spent inadvertently due to the misconfiguration of ads. Note that you cannot get your money back at this point, so you have to tune the ads very carefully. When you target ads correctly, you can see great results.

Paid advertising
Paid ads are your most important weapon in reaching the end user.

Influencers

Streamers who play your game give it popularity, on the other hand, they have the ability to quickly take it down. Anyone who watches them play will experience with them, and their views will greatly influence their audience’s perception.

Influencers
For each platform, you can find an influencer that you can work with specifically.

Bigger publishers charge higher fees to play the game. The higher you go, the more obstacles you have to overcome. Don’t overlook mid- and low-end publishers. Many of them have a closer relationship with their audiences than with the larger broadcasters. Also, medium-small publishers can play your game for free. The key is to find the right streamers who have played and enjoyed games like yours, not just the ones with the most viewers.

Terms that are frequently used in the game industry

Many terms are unique to the game world during advertising and marketing, and we have listed some of them (the most used ones because they all need an encyclopedia) for you.

  • CPI – Customer Price Index shows the average changes in the prices of a particular product or service group.
  • KPI Key Performance Indicator is the degree of success achieved in realizing projects and campaigns.
  • ARPPU Average Revenue Per Paying User. It is one of the data that a developer should observe.
  • ARPDAU ARPDAU stands for average revenue per daily active user and is essential for measuring and working towards a successful monetization strategy.
  • Business Model A game developer’s business model (for example) is “make games that make the publisher happy so they can pay us,” as an example.
  • CBT – Closed Beta Testing. It happens by inviting testers to experience the product (not confused with Public Beta testing).
  • COGs – Cost of Goods, the cost of products sold.
  • CPA – Cost per action. It determines how much the advertiser pays the site or game where the ad appears for each action taken by a site visitor or player.
  • CPC – Cost per click. The amount the ad host earns each time a visitor clicks on an ad link.
  • CPLU – Cost per loyal user.
  • CPM – Cost per thousand users.
  • C2C – Cost to complete. The remaining spending is to finish a game project that is already in progress.
  • DAU – Daily Average Users. Another of the metrics that a social game publisher observes.
  • G.D.D. – Game design document. Usually a long and detailed document or collection of documents.
  • MAU – Monthly active users. Tracks the number of unique users who visit a web site or platform over some period of time.
  • P&L – Profit and Loss. An analysis by game companies to determine how much money should be spent developing a game.
  • Outsource – Hiring an external developer to perform a service for you. If you need a lot of workforce for your game project and your team can’t afford it, you’ll need to hire someone to develop things.
  • Publisher Companies that pay for the production, marketing, and distribution of a game.
  • Publishing Deal – A contractual arrangement between a game’s independent creator and a publisher. Developing and producing a game is different from manufacturing it. It is another thing to market the game produced effectively and place it on store shelves. It’s pretty much the same as a “distribution agreement,” but with much more than a publisher can offer.
  • T.D.D. – Technical Design Document. A document created by technical staff after analyzing a GDD.
  • W.I.P. – Work in Progress. It means an unfinished game.

Last words

There is a lot you need to learn apart from the little guide we wrote, let’s remember some of them to keep in mind as we approach the end.

  • Unless you’re a major video game developer, and even if you are, your game won’t stand out unless you’ve invested heavily in marketing.
  • Video game marketing is your most important tool to stand out from your competitors, but you have to do it well.
  • Having a strong, well thought out marketing plan is key to your project’s success.

Because at the end of the day, it’s not about getting instant global recognition, it’s about measured and sustained growth that will set your game and your company above the rest.

Remember, marketing begins before a single line of code is written and ends with the existence of the studio.

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