The Marketing Tricks Of The Game Industry

Every industry has promotional tricks and strategies to make us drool with envy at the discovery of their new products. We’ve all been betrayed by the glorious picture of a cheeseburger on the menu, only to discover that the same burger looks a lot less appetizing on the plate. Where did the magic of the melted cheese, oozing with deliciousness, go? It was never there in the first place. More often than not, they enhanced the product for the picture. The bottom line: You suspected the picture was a trap, but you bought it anyway because it looked too delicious to ignore.
What do games do to convince us to buy them? Video games have a variety of promotional tools at their disposal to reach out to their audience. Unlike other industries, the gaming industry sells to many target groups, all of which are remotely-based. We’ve all met different gamers, from the hardcore platform enthusiast to the anxious amateur who prefers plot-based games. As such, they can’t rely on photos only – like your favorite burger restaurant. How does the game industry appeal to such a broad and diverse audience successfully?

The slow release of information
Teasers are always a hit for big development studios. Think of it as a trailer for a movie. The trailer is all about showing off the best bits. As such, you’ve got a selection of the best scenes, a brief view of the cast – preferably known names –, and the introduction of a cliffhanger element. Development studios follow similar rules when they release gameplay footage and images from their new game. The intention is to create a buzz for potential gamers who know your other games. As such, the gameplay acts as a big reveal that answers a lot of questions, such as whether or not the game can meet the standards set by previous games, whether bugs and issues in previous games have been fixed, and whether the chosen gameplay is exciting and engaging. 

Can it backfire? Yes, it can! If the released material doesn’t appear to meet gamers’ expectations, the studio is likely to struggle to launch successfully.

Creating paid add-ons
Stream, smartphone, and console games are no strangers to additional paid content. Free and popular games on your mobile tend to have further content available if you’re happy to pay for it. Who hasn’t bought an extra life rather than wait a full day for their character to regenerate? Similarly, chapter release is another fantastic way of giving gamers free or cost-effective access to your game. If they enjoy the play, they can choose to purchase the next chapter and so on until the end of the game. Console gamers are familiar with game extensions that can be purchased for their favorite games. As such, the best marketing strategy for games is pricing. Indeed, by maximizing gaming payment options – including discussions to include blockchain technology for crypto-payment – for micro releases, game studios can create loyal customers. The idea is to reduce your development cost by focusing on small content pieces that can be bought one at a time. As such, you rely on the game’s name as a promotional tool.

Does it work? Yes, it’s highly effective as long as the micro-releases are appropriately priced – read cheap. Payment security is, however, a risk factor that can prevent cyber-conscious gamers from buying.

They cast a famous voice
Would you watch a movie just for an actor? Probably. Would you be tempted to buy a game because a famous voice or face appears in it? Yes, you would. That’s precisely why more and more development studios are involving famous actors in their projects. The trend is not new, however. Gamers who grew up with the A-Team have recognized H.M. Murdock’s voice in early games such as Final Fantasy X, Wolfenstein, Fallout 2, and Baldur’s Gate II. Nowadays, notable contributions have become a promotional tool, as Cyberpunk 2077 has proven with Keanu Reeves. Norman Reedus, from The Walking Dead, is the main character in Death Stranding. Willem Dafoe, along with Ellen Page, lent their voices and faces to the mesmerizing interactive thriller Beyond: Two Souls. The list is long, but you get the point. If there’s a famous voice in it, chances are the game will get noticed.  

They go wild on cosplay
Cosplay artists are the new influencers in the gaming industry. Talented makeup and costume artists come together to create realistic replicates of their favorite game characters. While you can buy cosplay costumes online, shops tend to follow the trends. In other words, by the time a costume hits the shops, the game has already become a hit. Smart development studios, however, work closely with cosplay artists to promote the launch of their game. As such, the objective is to create a social media buzz ahead of the release.
Does it work? Yes, ComicCon and other Game events thrive on cosplay costumes. The only problem is to get noticed when everyone else is also in costume. It’s best suited for games with remarkable characters, such as the Witcher with his white hair, facial scar, and unique eyes.

They sell collectibles
The collectible market presents a massive opportunity for game studios. Iconic characters make the ideal gift for a gamer, such as Mortal Kombat figurines or the Legend of Zelda. The advantage of collectibles is that they can each reach out to the non-gaming community. A fun and beautiful figurine is a fantastic addition to your desk decor, for home-based workers, for instance. Do you need to know the game to buy it? You don’t have to. But, more often than not, those collectibles can convert non-gamers.

They share their reactions to gamers
Very few gamers know the voice and face of the developers behind their favorite games. Sure, we can list out a handful of names, such as Hideo Kojima, the director behind Death Stranding, but one name does not make a game. As such, more and more developers and directors have taken to the Internet to share their reactions to their game being played. The speedrun series on Youtube has given game studios a voice, which can bridge the gap to the audience.
Does it work? YouTube is all about sharing stories. As such, the authentic reactions of the people who created the game can be an exciting marketing tool. While the potential to go viral is limited – everybody is posting ‘reaction’ videos –, it can help to convince cautious gamers who like to research options before purchasing.

The limited-time discount
Special offer! This game is 30% off until tomorrow.
Would you buy it?

It’s a tricky question. Gamers are not easily duped. Many have a clear idea of what type of games they prefer, and they would rather pay full price for something they enjoy than a discounted price for something they didn’t want to play in the first place. That being said, in the current self-isolation situation, discounted games are flying off the digital shelves, regardless of their genre. Indeed, when you’re stuck at home indefinitely, you need to keep yourself busy. Discounts tend to be typically effective around holiday times for the same reason.

In conclusion, the game industry has many marketing strategies to reach out to a broad audience. There is never a single promotional tool. Indeed, combining multiple techniques and approaches is the best way to share your message with as many potential buyers as possible. Because not all marketing tricks are going to work with the same kind of gamers, game studios have to multiply their efforts. The bottom line: It works! Even though most of us know their methods by heart, we still buy their games. Perhaps a good game is all the promotion we need.
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