What is good marketing? The Business Dictionary calls it “the management process through which goods and services move from concept to the customer.” Meanwhile, Investopedia describes it as “activities of a company associated with buying and selling a product or service. It includes advertising, selling and delivering products to people.”
While both of these definitions are correct, as someone who works in video game marketing, I feel like this is still unclear. The truth is, marketing is experimentation. Every product out there caters to a target audience. And everyone is so different, and each product (game) is so unique, it’s impossible to draw up one all-encompassing approach to marketing. Hence, the term “good marketing” is a vague one. It fails to appreciate all the experimenting and analyzing that goes into it.
But why should you, as a game developer, care about this? What does this mean for your game sales? Let’s find out.
How This Impacts You
IT and marketing are the same in that no one really understands what goes into it. It’s easy to think it’s all useless when you can’t see what it is. But think of marketing as the study of what it is you’re selling and the target audience. Marketing specialists gather this information and then experiment the best approaches we think can generate interest, spread distribution, and engage the fan base. The goal isn’t to just make sales, it’s to help connect more developers with their fans, and hence, provide a solid audience moving forward.
Game developers benefit from this information as their game doesn’t make more than a few hundred sales without some sort of marketing. It’s not enough to simply tweet something out, or post a picture on Facebook. In reality, unless you have marketing experience, it’s very difficult to know where to start, and what to keep up with on a daily, or weekly basis.
This means that when looking for a marketing professional, it’s crucial for developers to know what to look for. Understanding what marketing is helps to understand the process of both selling your game and connecting with the players.
So remember, “good marketing” is a vague term. But when looking for a marketing professional, look for someone who isn’t a car salesman. If all the person/company does is tweet, and tell people to buy the game, they aren’t skilled.
How This Impacts Your Sales
Marketing spans all of social media, game forums and boards, and even seeks ways to expand outreach offline through events and fun giveaways or bundles for players to enjoy. As such, your sales have the potential to skyrocket.
Notice the word “potential.” Marketing doesn’t guarantee good sales. Marketing guarantees experimentation, research, and implementation of the best approach for your game, but it doesn’t guarantee sales. Ultimately, that will all depend on your individual game. In the end, if players dislike the game and don’t play it at all, your sales won’t skyrocket regardless of marketing.
Another big issue is pricing. If your game is priced in a way that is out of its league for its genre or style, players won’t purchase it. The same goes for a game that is never sold in a bundle. To bundle games together and sell them at a discount can generate plenty of sales. If a game never gets bundled, it means no one saw the benefit of adding the game to the lineup! No one thought it would do well, even when sold along with better games. Ouch.
Thinking About Your Game
Obviously, this means that stakes are higher than you previously thought before reading this article (maybe). It means that even if you make a good game, if it’s not innovative enough, it won’t stand out in an overly saturated market. It also means if your game is absolutely horrible, it won’t sell well despite any kind of marketing. There are countless other games out there to play, so players won’t settle. They don’t have to.
Another common problem include games that fail to resemble the game players were originally expecting. Everyone remembers what happened with No Man’s Sky, and how players reacted when they realized the game was missing almost everything they’d been promised prior to release. Even if the situation isn’t as dire, and the game is just buggy or missing a few components that were hyped up, players take notice.
Marketing studies your game and target audience, and then experiments with methods to engage players and peak their interest. It’s not about scams, or approaches that are strangely reminiscent of car salesmen. It’s simply a way to let the world know that there is a new game that’s coming out. It’s a way to connect with fans, establish a loyal fan base moving forward, and even get valuable feedback. With the use of forums, boards, social media, offline and online events, and even Twitch streaming, marketing professionals hope to get more games in the hands of more players.
And game developers can benefit from all of this, as long as they know enough about marketing to hire the right people for the job. Hiring someone who just tells people to buy the game, rather than engaging the audience, isn’t the answer.
Unfortunately, expecting marketing to equal sales is also not an answer. Ultimately, it’s up to you to make the sales. If you put your best effort into game development, and create something well-made, and polished, it has a higher chance of success. So, if this doesn’t inspire you to try harder, and work on those game development skills, then nothing will!