23 Dec VIDEO GAME MARKETING
1. What is Video Game Marketing?
Video game marketing involves marketing video games to target audience via traditional or digital marketing channels. Traditional marketing of video games includes marketing on billboards, TV, magazines, radio, events, and other non-digital channels. Digital video game marketing typically involves Youtube gaming influencers or paid search marketing via Google or other popular search engines.
Video game marketing has recently seen a shift towards Youtube gamers as they have become some of the most followed influencers in the world – PEWDIEPIE alone has over 120M subscribers and is considered one of the most followed accounts on Youtube. Ten top Youtube gaming influencers alone have a whopping 390 million subscribers and work with some of the most notable gaming brands, including Final Fantasy developed by Triumph Studios and Final Fantasy developed by Square Enix.
Video game reviews have also experienced a surge as gaming brands often opt to have a live demonstration of the game via an influencer review. Gaming influencers typically play a game via a live or a recorded session on their Youtube gaming channel, helping build excitement around the game and showing off the unique new features of the product.
Other video game marketing includes gaming events where influencers and users are invited to try out games before the launch.
1. 2 Types of Video Game Marketing
Video game marketing focuses on mobile, augmented reality, adver games, in-game advertising, and video game streaming services. Gaming companies work with marketing teams or agencies to identify the most desirable marketing strategies for their target audience. Below are are some of the ways in which gaming brands reach their target demographic and grow their game popularity:
1. 2. 1. Mobile Video Game Marketing
Due to its extensive reach, developers of console and PC games also launch mobile versions of their games – take League of Legends and League of Legends: Wild Rift, Call of Duty series and Call of Duty: Mobile, PUBG and PUBG mobile, Fortnite, Minecraft, and Among Us for example. Going mobile in video game marketing means creating “freemium” titles or games free to download and play but offer in-app purchases (IAP) to enhance the gaming experience. More often than not, these games give their consumers the liberty to pay within the game unit of money or real-life currency. Aside from in-app ads, they can also utilize product placements to advertise, like what McDonald’s did when they partnered with the newly released Splatoon2: Splashfest to give their players a choice between McNuggets with red paint or French Fries with purple paint.
1. 2. 2. Augmented reality (AR) Video Game Marketing
The Pokemon Go craze in 2016 showcased the potential of augmented reality in video game marketing, known as the gaming experience, that alters real-life experiences with graphics and data. During the hype, you can see everyone holding their phones up trying to catch a Pokemon. The effect peaked at 45 million daily Pokemon users. The game opened a multitude of advertising opportunities for game developers. Now, even big brands like IKEA use AR to virtually place a potential item of furniture in your living room to see what it looks like.
1. 2. 3. Advergames Video Game Marketing
Known as the form of advertising in video game marketing, brands now develop their games to build audience engagement. In 2013, US-based restaurant Chipotle produced The Scarecrow, a game-breaking monopoly that helped the company promote its values and reach 250,000 customers in just four days. Advergames like The Scarecrow are an excellent instrument for raising brand awareness, acquiring followers, and collecting data and research.
1. 2. 4. In-game Advertising Video Game Marketing
Sponsors are finding more and more ways to inject their brands into mobile, console, and even PC gaming. In-game advertising in video game marketing enables brands to promote their product via programmatic advertising. The NBA 2K18 utilized this kind of marketing strategy by featuring a story mode with tons of sponsors and promotion. But aside from it, RapidFire points out that dynamic in-game advertising (DIGA) is also a popular revenue generation tool for a mobile game as it “allows media buyers to purchase real-time and geo-targeting capable advertising inside of video games.”
1. 2. 5. Video Game Streaming Marketing
Video content is used as a primary tool in video game marketing to attract vast amount of followers. When Twitch, an online video streaming service for gamers, used gaming as its sole content, it dominated the online streaming service scene. It generated more views than HBO’s 130 million and Netflix’s 93 million subscribers.
2 Video Game Marketing and Agencies
The gaming world has evolved! Video game users have upgraded from the cave of cassettes, cartridges, and discs where gamers must directly go to video game centers. They now exist in the era of mobile games, consoles, and PC, a.k.a. gamer’s paradise.
Thirty years ago, consoles were the sole market drivers in video game marketing. Although they still hold some part of the video game market today, video game marketing today primarily focuses on mobile games that dominate the scene. In 2017, mobile games dominated the gaming scene and gobbled more of the video game pie. They generated $46.1 billion in revenue or about 42 percent of the market and triumphed over existing mediums: console ($33.5 billion) and PC ($29.4 billion).
The industry earns $91 billion a year worldwide, but Tech Jury estimates that with its stronghold on advancements and video game marketing growth, it will be worth $180 billion in 2021.
With its current figures, it is a no brainer why tons of people want to thrive in this industry. In March 2019, millions of developers launched their apps. Google play housed 2.6 million, while Apple Store lodged 2.2 million, many of which were under the gaming genre.
But even with that large market, many games disappeared – some even left without virtual traces. As to why? The problem lies in communication. Game developers struggle to connect to game producers and consumers.
Hence, the need for those who can – those who got the know-how, skills, connections, ability, and capacity to maximize audience exposure and enthusiasm for your game before, during, and after your launch.
2. 1. What Role Do Video Game Agencies Play in Video Game Marketing?
No game would have ever been played if nobody knew it existed. If you have enjoyed a game, chances are, you saw it somewhere – something caught your attention and encouraged you to buy it.
Back in the 90s, that was the deal. The market then used to be pretty straightforward. Traditional marketing agencies produced radio, television, and print advertisements. During the 80s, gamers would have to buy magazines and scan through all ad pages to see the latest game launched. Colored full-page ads dominated the magazines and persuaded young gamers to go to a store, pick up a cassette (that later evolved into discs) and go home to play it on a console or computer.
But after three decades, together with technological advancements and revolutionary innovations, that is no longer the scene. Today, with the help of video game agencies or institutions that specialize in effectively and efficiently marketing games to their audience, various strategies other than ad placement are done to entice professional gamers and gamers at heart.
Gone are the days when gamers are stereotyped as school ground exiles, work-shy visionaries, and lone rangers who struggle to fit into the real world. With the expertise of video game agencies, old stereotypes are now a forgotten story. Today, anyone from the gender spectrum, socioeconomic hierarchy, age group, and ethnicities can become a gamer. In fact, aside from kids and game loyalists, older women and athletes also enjoy gaming. The 45% make up of girls and women in the market is proof that the demographic landscape of a once “niche only” marketspace is changing and slowly embracing inclusivity – thanks to the great efforts video game agencies have put out.
2.1.1. Building Recognition of Online Platforms
Among the myriad ways of advertising and drawing people into the circle, numbers show that the most effective of them all is online marketing.
Social media has become one of the premier ways to enable brands to connect with digital consumers. It also helps brands to choose which social media will bull’s eye their target age range. For example, if a brand wants to reach out to baby boomers (currently 56-74 years old) or generation X (40-55 years old), they should post content on Facebook. If they want to attract generation Y or the millennials, they should get into Instagram. But if they want a younger audience, Snapchat and Tiktok are where they should be because that’s where generation Z spend most of their time. To further strengthen social media advertisement or campaign, video game agencies can also tap influential people or content creators. It is not a secret that major and global brands across all industries utilize Influencer marketing, for it is an effective way to piggyback on social media celebrities’ reputation on whatever platform possible to reach a wider audience. To date, there has been a rise in gamer influencers and their following. PewDiePie, a Swedish gamer named Felix Kjellberg, and his 90-million-strong following is a testament to that.
Aside from considering the best social media possible, video marketing is also on the rise. Video content gets more engagement and attracts more consumers. Smart Insights claims that video content accounted for 78% of all the data traffic in the world back in 2019. This affected the gaming industry gravely. With 6 out of top 10 YouTube channels related to gaming, 48% of gamers admitting they’d spend more time watching others play, and Twitch application (a cool app that lets gamers show a picture-and-picture video of their game with the use of a webcam) being flocked by 15 million subscribers, video content is undeniably an effective marketing strategy for gamers worldwide.
2.1.2 Establishing Video Game Brand Authority
Although there are many marketing and advertising strategies that help maximize audience reach and profit, there are still many problems game developers and video game agencies encounter. Jason Della Rocca, a panelist in the QuoVadis 2016, the most important international game developers’ conference in Germany, said, “The barrier to entry is lower than ever, but the barrier to success is higher than ever before.”
With over 8,000 games released on Steam in 2019, the greatest challenge faced by all game developers and their partner marketing agencies is gaining visibility in a too crowded marketplace. Thousands of games struggle each year and eventually fall into a blackhole – gone and forgotten by the public. This usually happens when game developers struggle to have an efficient marketing team with enough knowledge and expertise. This is seen whenever developers try to work with generic marketing agencies that do not understand the practices, features, and potential gaming industry has.
3 How to Choose a Video Game Agency
To avoid being glued to one size fits marketing company, a game developer should work with a company whose employees are passionate about gaming and marketing. Upon meeting, the right agency should know the right questions to ask. They should also gain a clear understanding of your vision and goals.
Game developers should be on the same page with its video game agency. They should recognize the needs the gaming industry has – like how different marketing mobile games are from marketing a physical product, how varied genres are present in the realm of gaming, and how ancient or new trends are. From Space Invaders and Pacman in the arcades, Crash Bandicoot on original Playstations, up to the latest NBA version, video game agencies should be well informed. Due to the gaming industry’s fast-changing characteristic, specialist video game agencies usually hire marketers who are regular players themselves. They do this so that apart from being well-informed, the agency could also understand subtle differences between marketing games to Generation Z versus selling to Millennials.
According to Forbes‘ “Essential Tips On Choosing The Right Marketing Agency for Your Business,” aside from being in the know and in the now, just like any other useful marketing agency, video game agencies should also be pliable. They said that many agencies have already shown immense expertise in organizing and implementing rigid plans – which works naturally great until something does not go according to plan. They said that developers should then look for the few that “have found a way to navigate the waters of scaling, while not sacrificing their ability to be whatever you need them to be.” They should also pass the Bed-and-Breakfast Test. Developers should pick an agency that will be with them through thick and thin. For them, they should prioritize finding an agency they can have a great relationship with rather than a credible and excellent one because the former’s harder to find. Apart from the mentioned qualities, Forbes’ council members also noted the human factor as one of the things developers should consider in hiring an agency. They said that the agency must be composed of team players that have a good working ethic. Lastly, they said that their actions should be grounded and backed by empirical data for a marketing agency to work. They should have a methodical approach to everything they do – one that removes risk and improves results while giving clients continuous feedback and input of critical points throughout a project. Developers should seek evidence that the agency they are working with walks the walk and not just talks the talk.
3.1 Overall Profile on Skills and Experience
It is no secret that online marketing is different. There are a few reasons as to why.
For one, consumers, together with the gamers themselves, can avoid it if they want to. Therefore, persuading customers requires more work. This is why aside from the stated qualities, developers should also weigh the skills and experience of a video game marketing agency upon hiring. They should go with modern digital marketing agencies to develop campaigns to draw people while engaging their natural curiosity. Traditionally, marketing was outwards-focusing. Brands just broadcast their ads to the public. But since the landscape is different in the online space, video game agencies should know how to use inwards-focusing techniques: those that attract people to come to the bran thru its websites, applications, and even social media sites.
Second, the modern consumer dominating the virtual realm is savvier – much more than the previous generation. He/She is more skeptical, cynical, and critical towards marketing messages. Thus, leaving the job to break down that cynicism to the digital marketing agencies. Only when done consumers will be able to let their brand pass their natural defense.
Lastly, digital marketing’s core is data. This is why agencies, whether specific on gaming or any other product sector, need to be data-focused. They must continually test their campaigns’ success and modify it if need be based on the results they discover. To date, most digital marketing agencies focus on buyer behavior. This is one of the major advantages specialist gaming agencies have because they try to understand the psychology behind consumers’ actions and adapt it to their marketing strategies.
With all of the challenges brought by the constraints of the current online market, video game agencies (or any digital marketing agency for that matter) call for video game agencies to step up their “A game” in relaying content to the public. Some of their daily tasks include:
- Developing appropriate content for the game’s target market,
- Continuously redesigning websites and applications to reflect the results of their consumer behavior research,
- Working with clients to determine campaign goals, create matching campaigns, and regularly test the data using web analytics,
- Extensively researching to find the best, most accurate, up-to-date client data,
- And they are ensuring that the client’s digital space assets are written and designed in the most eye-catching and attention-grabbing way so that their keywords appear high in data search engines and other relevant databases.
3.2 The Role of Video Game Agency in Video Game Marketing – Niche of Expertise
As stressed before, the guys responsible for influencing people to buy your game should first and foremost know your game. Because if they do not, how else could they possibly sell it to the world? It is within this light that your agency should know what your niche is. They should be able to navigate their way to, from, and in between the following genres of gaming such as:
3.2.1 Action Games
Action games are games that enable players to control everything and be the center of action. Due to the simplicity of the instructions, gamers flock to these kinds of games, making them the most popular type. Subgenres of Action games include platformer, shooter, fighting, beat-em-up, stealth, survival, rhythm.
The first usually interact with platforms (hence the name) that generally includes running, jumping, or falling throughout the gameplay. The most famous example of platforms known to all would be Super Mario Bros. The second, known as a shooter, let players use weapon to engage in action with opposing players. They are usually categorized by the player perspectives, namely First-person shooters (like Call of Duty, Half-Life, and Halo), third-person shooters (just like Fortnite and Splatoon), and top-down shooters (just like the classic arcade favorites Galaga, Space Invaders, and Reaiden V: Director’s Cut). The third type focuses on offering players a set of playable characters, each one specializing in their own unique abilities, combating, and fighting with each other. Famous examples would be Mortal Kombat, Street fighter II, and Tekken.
The fourth subgenre beat-em up also known as brawlers only focus on combat. But instead of facing a single enemy, players face armies of opponents. Double Dragon was one of the earliest recorded beat-em-ups, while God of War and Castle Crashers are some of the most recent ones. The fifth one, stealth, concentrate on cunning and precision to resolve game challenges. While other actions or combat games help players accomplish the goal, games like Metal Gear usually encourage players to engage in the action stealthily. Survival, or the sixth subgenre, has evolved on its own over the years. Survival horror games like Resident Evil found a loyal following, while modern survival games like Fortnite took the digital realm by storm. The last subgenre rhythm centers the action in the game to the rhythm of a song or a soundtrack. Players of Dance Dance Revolution and Guitar Hero respond to the game by pressing accurate buttons at precise time to accumulate points.
3.2.2 Action-Adventure Games
Action-Adventure Games are mostly incorporated two-game mechanics game-long quests and action elements for the players to achieve. Examples of games in this genre are The Legend of Zelda, Resident Evil (also falls under the survival horror category of this subgenre), and Metroid and Castlevania (a game that pioneered its category Metroidvania, or games that are basic action-adventure games but aren’t linear and often require players to upgrade their characters continually).
3.2.3 Adventure Games
Adventure games are those games that are categorized by the style of the game play have five types, namely text adventures (interactive fiction that is text-based and enables players to use their keyboard to input commands), graphic adventures (those that use the mouse as the sole controller to point and click things on the screen), visual novels (a type of game extremely populated in Japan that usually have multiple endings to be determined by the players’ response), interactive movie (contains pre-filmed live-action or anime sequences), and real-time 3D (latest evolution of adventure games also utilized in VR or virtual reality games). In these kinds of games, players usually interact with their environment and other characters to solve puzzles.
3.2.4 Role-Playing Games
Role playing games are second-most popular game genre also known an RPGs are dominated by medieval or fantasy settings tracing its roots to Dungeons & Dragons. But today, sci-fi fantasy themes RPGs are slowly getting the spotlight. There has also been a rise in WRPGs (western-influenced) and JPRGs (Japanese-influenced). Types of RPG games that fall under the subgenre are Action RPG (just like action games and action-adventure games but combat takes place in real-time), MMORPG or massive multiplayer online role-playing games (involves hundreds of players interacting in the same world), Rouguelikes (was inspired by the 2D computer game Rogue), Tactical RPG (turn-based game action plays out in an isometric grid), Sandbox RPG (games that allow players to roam their game environments freely), and First-person party-based RPG (a game that lets players lead a party of adventures in first person POV)
3.2.5 Simulation Games
Simulation games are deigned to emulate reality or fiction to simulate a real event. Games belonging to this subgenre include Construction and management simulation (just like SimCity), Life simulation (The Sims), and Vehicle simulation (aims to recreate the experience of flying an airplane or driving a race car)
3.2.6 Strategy Games
Strategy games are those games that give players a godlike access to the world and all of its resources. They require players to carefully develop their own strategy and tactic to overcome challenges and survive in the world they are in. 4X (or games that have four primary goals namely explore, expand, exploit, and exterminate), Artillery (two or three player turn based games using tanks and other soldiers to combat), Real-time strategy (known as RTS requires player to collect and maintain resources like bases while developing resource and combat units), Real-time tactics (RTT focuses on battlefield tactics), Multiplayer online battle arena (or MOBA combines action games, role-playing and real-time strategy games), Tower defense (games that enables players to protect their creeps to win), Turn-based strategy (TBS games give players a length of time to take action), Turn-bassed tactics (TBT usually utilize realistic military tactics), Wargame (focuses on map-based tactics), Grand strategy wargame (involves placing a nation into action) are the categories under it
3.2.7 Sports Games
Sports games are those games that stimulate sports like golf, football, basketball, baseball, and soccer, and other Olympic sports. Subcategories of this type of game are Racing (where players race against each other), Team sports (games like NBA Jam and FIFA which stimulate playing a sport), Competitive (eSport games like Overwatch and Team Fortress), and Sports-based fighting (includes games like Fight Night and wrestling video games.
3.2.8 Puzzle games
Puzzle games or logic games usually require the player to solve a problem to advance the action. Usually, these are comprised of logic games (or brain games like Brain Age and Tetris), and Trivia games (lets players answer trivial questions)
3.2.9 Idle games
Idle games or newly created genres continue to defy the possibilities video gaming has. In this category, idle gaming (simplified games that involve minimal player movement), casual game (which exhibit basic game mechanics), party game (designed for multiple players), Programming game (has players using code to complete a challenge), Board game (traditional games), Massive multiplayer online (MMO which are played almost exclusively on the internet), Advergame (created to help sell a product or brand)
The video game marketing strategies they are to do should cater, highlight, and sell out the qualities each subgenre and category of gaming has.
4 How Much Do Video Game Agencies Charge?
With the quality of work game developers expect from video game agencies, one may worry about its cost. Usually, video game agencies are paid by commission. They receive 5-10% of the gross sales of a developer. But over time, different payment plan options have been developed. And it is up to the parties involved if they are to implement an
- Hourly rate where the bill will be based on the time agencies have allotted in crafting a video game marketing strategy,
- Retainer package or paying a set fee for each month for a number of tasks to be done by the agency,
- Milestone pricing which refers to a fee-by-project basis method of payment,
- And revenue-based is still a relatively new way to work things and is considered the most laidback of them because developers wait for the agency’s strategy to work and pay them if it does.
4.1 Video Game Brand Marketing Needs
With the monetary compensation agencies receive from the game developers, they are expected to do concrete, effective steps while using the video game marketing skills they have acquired, advertising techniques they learned, and gaming knowledge they are confident of. As said earlier, most agencies today flock to the online sphere to market games. They either
- Do video game marketing on YouTube because, yes, video content today IS the king,
- Utilize video game marketing through blogging that will eventually increase traffic to your site using SEO, attract new players, advertise your game, and bring in new players even after your official launch date,
- Optimize app store for games that enable them to boost your game’s ranking and visibility,
- Branch out to multiple app stores (other than Ios and Android) like Xiaomi, Amazon,
- Brain, Baidu, Mobile 9,
- Market in social media sites like Facebook and Instagram,
- Appear in gaming podcasts to excite dedicated players,
- Post on Reddit’s online gaming forum for maximum audience reach,
- Post review on websites like Another Dungeon, Android Authority, Android Guys, Pocket Game to infiltrate the gamer critics’ world
To encourage, sway, and attract customers to play a developer’s game.
4.2 How the Best Video Game Agencies Match Brands
After all of the above mentioned strategies, at the end of the day, for a game to reach its widest audience possible, the video game marketing agency strategy should work – its chosen medium, content, and target audience should develop a powerful synergy that will eventually translate to sales. The strategy should also highlight the game – its essence, vibe, and its developers.
But amongst all, video game agencies should fulfill their sworn duty to make the game known. Because only then can it be played, enjoyed, and brought to life.