Video games are on track to bring developers over $120 billion in revenue by 2020. Massive growth in mobile gaming over the past decade has led to thousands of new games being developed and launched with no slow-down in sight.
With so many options, how do gaming development companies connect their target audience to their newly created game?
The game players want satisfaction. They want to feel like they are part of the game, not just controlling what happens on the screen. If someone chooses to play NBA 2K18, they want to live in the shoes of a professional basketball player. For Candy Crush players, it’s the sense of accomplishment every time they clear a row and more so when they reach the next level.
Gaming marketers must tap into that desire for satisfaction. Bring the basketball court to life. Mimic the same moves the real player uses. The more immersive the experience is, the higher the entertainment factor.
Make the Game Come to Life
Despite the incredible advances in the quality of gaming graphics, it’s still not as influential as mimicking game scenarios with real characters and sets. The Halo series of games included movie-like trailers that included sets, explosives, and spaceships. The main character in the video game (Master Chief) is a costumed actor who interacts with other “teammates,” also real people.
When you play the game, you are that character. You will be shooting the guns just like in the trailer. You’ll be leading other fearless warriors into battle. Your survival as well as your army’s, is dependent on your choices.
Whether it be in the form of a TV commercial or pre-roll ad on YouTube, showing the target audience the type of immersive experience they desire is a highly-influential marketing tactic.
Build an Awareness Campaign Prior to Launch
Creating a storyline is an excellent method to pique the interest of your target audience. Start the campaign in a similar fashion to how the game starts. Is it planning a strategy for invasion? Or warming up in the gym prior to playing the big game? The fundamental idea is the same; build anticipation.
Marketing agencies understand the importance of putting the right product in front of the right people at the right time. Creating a series of campaigns, each time releasing small hints of what the game is about (or for a new release in a gaming series, what’s different in the latest addition) continues to build anticipation. As a byproduct, the audience will anxiously await the next campaign in the series to get more insight on the new game.
This also gives the developer a platform to announce and encourage pre-orders. Pre-orders help drive revenue ahead of launch and measure early success (or failure) of marketing campaigns and the game itself.
Using Influencers and Syndication
As the distance between people lessens with the internet and social media, simply running advertisements won’t always provide the type of resonance needed to influence a decision to buy a game.
Websites like IGN and Gamespot are hugely-popular sites that provide in-depth video game reviews. Much like movie critics have influence on box office success, video game reviewers can make or break a video game before it ever launches. Given the vast reach of these websites, it’s critical for developers to not only have their game reviewed, but deliver a game worthy of praise.
Twitch and YouTube, which have been at the forefront of e-gaming sharing, have an even larger combined reach. Due to the personal nature of sharing and watching gameplay among gamers, having third-party opinions of a game addresses the skeptical buyers.
The influence of the prominent gamers on Twitch and YouTube can have significant impact on perception and ultimately, sales. Similar to review sites but with a more personal experience, influencers look at all facets of the game and give insight of gameplay and quality to their audience.
When games are reviewed, usually the following categories are rated:
Gameplay (controls, design, functionality)
Market (expectations, controversy, sequel, market leaders)
Social (multiplayer offerings, sharing with friends, etc.)
Narrative (dialogue, plot, ending)
Graphics (aesthetics, fidelity, animations)
Technical (performance, bugs, physics, etc.)
Value (price, DLC, breadth of content, etc.)
Audio (voice acting, music, sound effects)
Although delivering high praise in every category is difficult, nailing what is important to the target audience is undoubtedly important. When you deliver on what the customer wants, syndicated review sites like IGN and influencers on platforms like Twitch will sway potential buyers into buying the game.
Put it All Together
Despite the incredible reach of games and it’s growing market (due to surpass $120 billion by 2020), there are a few companies that own a majority share of the market. Their success is fueled by talented developers, but also a creative and experienced marketing team or agency.
Much like a sales job, it’s important to know your audience. Understand the “temperature in the room” and adjust the strategy to make a connection with them. Bringing the game experience to real life, as if the audience is living it, you’re selling much more than a game. It’s an experience, an escape, and a form entertainment that can’t be matched. Make the audience want to experience the game, not just play it.
But what good is an experience if no one ever reads or hears about it? The popular storytellers are the ones who always tell the best stories. In this case, review sites and influencers are a game’s unbiased “storytellers.” With their huge following, if the game has a positive impact on them, they’re followers will line up behind them to buy.
Combine these strategies into an awareness campaign well in advance of launch dates. With strategic planning and a talented creative team, any game has the chance to be successful. The greater the quality of experience delivered, the more people will hear about and influence others to join them in playing the game. The result: more sales and more revenue.