When a new year begins, we all like to reflect on where we are and where we're going. Well, the games industry is no different. In our new list for 2022, we're focusing on the biggest trends in gaming, and we've got the inside scoop to give you the edge when it comes to marketing your games.
Let's begin, shall we?
A lot of games were delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Some games are still getting delayed now. But one side effect is a new calendar year which seems absolutely stacked with games. The first three months of 2022 alone will currently feature Elden Ring, Gran Turismo 7, Rainbow Six Extraction, Pokémon Legends: Arceus, Dying Light 2, an expansion for Destiny 2, and Horizon Forbidden West, among others. This creates a real challenge for marketers, simply put: How do you cut through all this noise and competition?
Whether you're an indie dev staring down the barrel of hundreds of competitors on Steam, or a triple A title jockeying for a good financial quarter, marketers have their work cut out this year. In times of high competition, the advice is twofold: Nail the basics, then build something adventurous on top of that.
With competition this fierce, you probably cannot afford to fall down at the simple hurdles like building an online following, pushing your trailer via paid media, and having a great place where potential fans and players can become excited about your game and turn themselves into a pre-orderer, or a wishlister.
But although the basics are important, when it's this crowded they're also probably not enough. You can cut through with a strong enough trailer, or a well placed influencer spend. Alternatively, now could be a great time to get creative: What's a unique or unusual marketing campaign that will really get people talking?
And remember: It's not all doom and gloom. The number of games may be increasing, but audiences have grown during the pandemic too. There are more people than ever for you to reach and talk to.
The Continued Rise of the Metaverse and VR
VR is apparently here to stay, and has become a particular focus at Facebook, now known as Meta. While the fully fledged metaverse of your dreams may be a (very) long way from fruition, this increased focus does give you opportunities, particularly if your game incorporates virtual reality or functions as a shared social space in any way.
Investors will look fondly upon games that are tapping into this perceived zeitgeist, and so will consumers, particularly ones who have already purchased expensive hardware and are looking to justify their investment.
So how do you take advantage? Well, for the time being, it seems like everyone wants to have a conversation about this vision of the future. Join that conversation. For marketers, striking the right social post at the right time could be extremely powerful.
And don't think this is just about Facebook. Sony are re-igniting their push for VR dominance with the PSVR2. Fortnite will continue to evolve and exist as a platform for social events, not just Battle Royales. More VR headsets will be announced this year. Shared social space is trending in a big way in 2022.
NFTs continue to dominate discourse
A hot topic of the moment, and a topic we're expecting to see repeatedly throughout 2022, NFTs are either the saviour of art or a hypercapitalist nightmare depending on who you ask. While NFTs and games have been combined on the fringes of gaming already, we're seeing a growing trend towards blockchain experimentation within the mainstream gaming space.
That said, so far it hasn't gone down very well with fans, and some games, such as S.T.A.L.K.E.R. 2, have even walked back their plans to include them.
One thing's for sure, the NFT debate is not going away any time soon. If you're interested in playing with this particular brand of fire, remember to focus on what will make your games experience great for players, not on how it could make everyone rich - the latter might play well with investors, but sentiment among fans is that this kind of talk rings alarm bells, triggering memories of bad experiences with microtransactions and more.
Game subscriptions and streaming
2021 was a fantastic year for Game Pass, and, well... Nobody wants Microsoft to eat this whole pie with no competition. Sony are reportedly working on a competitor, codenamed Spartacus. The Netflixification of games is likely to be a growing trend in 2022, both in terms of payment model and in terms of cloud streaming as a potential method of delivery.
In 2021, Xbox was able to deliver on titles like Psychonauts 2, Age of Empires IV, Forza Horizon 5 and Halo Infinite - but 2022 might prove trickier for them, with seemingly fewer big games left to launch, and more competition - not just from Sony in theory, but a slew of services available on PC.
The very nature of subscription services (and the lower barrier to 'trying a game' that cloud streaming additionally provides) change the ballgame in terms of marketing. If you're on these services, you're not necessarily trying to convince people to drop $60, you're just fighting for their attention and their time.
In some ways it makes life easier, because in isolation, it's an easier sell to get someone to press a button compared to opening their wallet. But when you remember the crowded schedule, the increase in on-demand TV shows, the increase in Twitch viewership, the dominance of some free to play titles... Well, then it looks a lot harder.
Repeated re-engagement is key, and make sure to revisit all your copy and wording - communicate exactly how easy your game is to get a hold of. Show them how quickly they could be enjoying it, and what they could enjoy. And make time to boost and engage with people who are finding your product on subscription services and talking to you on social. They could become your biggest influencers, and discoverability may be your biggest problem to solve.
Short video is the new king
Arguably this goes way beyond games, and is just part of a broader trend in social media towards short form video on things like TikTok and Instagram Reels... But it's starting to have a noticeable effect on games communities, which have typically been highly engaged in long form video like extended plays on Twitch and YouTube. The accepted average length of gaming videos on YouTube is 30-45 minutes, for example. But that average is changing.
Long form streaming isn't going anywhere (in fact, it's still growing too) - but there is now a sort of new market for videogame content creators, who don't necessarily stream 8 hours a day, but actually specialise in short clips. It particularly suits speedrunners showing off exploits, streamers who specialise in short bursts of extreme competitive skill, and streamers who trade in being a comedic personality.
This also presents an opportunity for marketers. There are now more influencers to work with in this space, but also there is a huge and growing audience who are more receptive to short, snappily edited videos, as a way of getting to know your game. It's going to be a big year for games on TikTok.
Like most years, 2022 has a lot of potential and a lot of challenges for marketers in games. The industry is reporting record growth, and more people are playing than ever before. The ways in which you can reach consumers and get your game into their hands are changing. With so much competition, your best bet is to back strong creative work and invest in your community.
At Etch Play, we specialise in marketing for the games industry. We build meaningful connections and maximise player engagement with your games, using websites, social media, apps and more. We call this thinking “The Extended Experience”, and if you're interested in discussing your strategy, then get in touch.