Hello folks! I'm taking the wheel today (do blogs have wheels?) and sharing everything you need to know about games marketing. A lofty claim. This post first appeared as a talk at Develop Conference in Brighton, 2021. And now, it's here for your reading pleasure. The guidance within only becomes more relevant with each passing financial quarter.
Let's get into it!
To get our head into the right place for this, you first have to understand the conversations that happen in game studios. In the past month, I would be willing to bet that the following words, or a variation of them, have been uttered in pretty much every game studio across the globe:
- "We need to update our website"
- "We should be posting more on social media"
- "Has anyone checked our analytics lately?"
- "Why aren't we on TikTok?" (or insert other "new" network)
- "We need to be creating video content"
It would be fair to say that games businesses and marketers are pretty aware of what they're not doing. There's certainly a common feeling of anxiety, and it can be overwhelming - there's just so much that needs to be done. Look at everything.
And it's no wonder, really. Here are just some of the channels that games marketers are expected to be experts in today, as we speak:
- PlayStation Network
- Xbox and the Microsoft Store
- Nintendo Store and the Nintendo Switch
But actually, there's more. Each of these channels don't just have one type of content, almost all of them have multiple ways of posting, and different types of posts and formats. For Facebook alone, this translates into a list that spans the Timeline, Pages, Groups, and Events. If you consider Meta in it's entirety, you add Instagram so you also have to include Posts, Stories, Reels and Lives.
And - you guessed it - we're not done. Your list may now be starting to cover the most popular methods of broadcasting. Essentially, shouting our stuff as loud as we can, to as many people as possible. But we're not usually looking to scream into a void with no feedback. Noise isn't everything. What we're looking for is engagement. We want our audience to feel connected to us... So...
You have to cover Likes. And Reshares. Comments, too. And DMs. all across a multitude of platforms.
Zoom out a little further and the situation only gets even more overwhelming. Everything we've spoken about so far is just about communication. And communication, while important, isn't everything. Just off the top of my head, you'll also have to consider content planning and creation (so what you're communicating is good), analytics (to measure communication effectiveness), PR, paid media, and advertising (to widen the conversation to more people), and so on. Marketers will probably also be considered responsible for website management, influencer management, distributing keys, and reporting on the results of it all, presumably to senior figures.
No matter how big your marketing team, that is a lot. Especially for small teams or indies, it can be a source of a lot of stress.
But arguably, we do need a rich ecosystem because of the environment we're operating in. Hundreds of new games are released on Steam every week. And that's just one store. When you add in the Epic Games Store, major consoles, and a thriving mobile game market too... It's a lot.
The good news
The good news is though, is that there are some three billion (yep, with a b) people spending money on games, with their spending rapidly approaching the $200bn mark. So there's still plenty of opportunity to go around, despite the competition.
This is all to say, my actual point, which is: You don't need to be everywhere. You don't need to do everything. There will always be channels, tactics, and opportunities that you are not on top of.
The best advice I could give you is this:
"You will never be done. Make your peace with it."
If you're the sort of person who finds and clicks on a blog called "Everything you need to know..." about anything, then you might be just the sort of person I'm hoping to reach. Because truly, that's everything you need to know. The only thing, really.
But I recognise of course that I have lured you into reading this under somewhat false pretences with that answer. So let me offer some additional guidance.
When you know and understand that you can't do everything, the question then becomes about focus. What is it that you decide to spend your limited, precious time doing? How do you decide what to spend money on?
Each team and each project will yield different answers, but I find the best approach is to ask yourself a series of questions. Firstly...
What are your strengths?
If your team is great at a certain aspect of marketing, it only makes sense to focus on the tasks that allow them to reach their maximum potential. Sure, you can shoehorn them into doing other things if you need to, but if you've got an Paid Media MVP sat right there in the office, why wouldn't you let them loose on your Facebook Ad Account? It just makes sense. And if you have personalities suited to content creation, use them.
You might also find it useful to ask yourselves where you're already comfortable. This will yield some perhaps unknown strengths, but also define where the edges of your capability are, and what boundaries you might be able to push with relatively little effort.
Next, a critical one: Where are your players? It's no good spending a load of money on Reddit or TikTok if your audience aren't on it. Research can help here, particularly investigating other games which you feel are similar to yours in one way or another - perhaps they share a genre, or an aesthetic, or inspiration.
Lastly, it's important to take stock of what resources you have. If you don't have great video or imagery, then some of the more visual approaches to marketing might be less effective. Do you have a short text snippet about your game's unique selling points, that really works and convinces people to try it? Without one, attracting press release attention might be tricky. Marketers can of course help generate new content and resources, but if your budget and time are limited, it's sensible to try and maximise the effectiveness and use of what you already have.
So, remember: You can't do everything. All any of us can do is make sure that what we are doing, is putting our best possible foot forwards. If you know that, then you've already got all that it takes to succeed.
Thanks for reading. Here at Etch Play we do all sorts of marketing things for games companies, helping studios and publishers navigate growth. We're really big on this idea of the extended experience, which is about how every single time you interact with your audience in any way, it matters. If you'd like to talk more about us, or just send me abuse for tricking you with the title of this blog, then get in touch.