Creating the Game VI: The Hell of Marketing Heaven

03 November 2014

The last part of our series explores one of the most important elements of game industry nowadays: promotion and marketing.

Creating the Game VI: The Hell of Marketing Heaven

So here we are, game is completed and everything works perfectly well (in case you didn´t underestimated testing). The last think remains – launching the game and allowing to players install it on their devices. Pretty easy… it was in 2008 when the AppStore offered 500 apps only.

The present is totally different. You can find more than 1.2 million apps in AppStore. This is not final number while around 9 million developers are still working and increasing this amount. Google Play is with its 1.3 million apps somewhere on similar level.

It is clear that mobile app market is pretty competitive field. Nothing can be easier than just be drowned in such an app ocean. And the situation is worse. If you want to reach Top 50 in iPhone Chart you need at least 23,000 downloads per day. And if you would like to attack top 50 in Top Grossing you must earn a minimum of $20,000. Of course, per day. These numbers reflects US market which is still the most attractive for developers.

So how to penetrate this competitive market shell? Sometimes it is the matter of luck, great timing but mainly marketing.

Showtime! Or Not…

Pretty optimistic developer can count with assumption that his/her app will be featured on App Store or on main page of Google Play. But well, back to Earth and reality. The thing is if you don´t have brand new original and genuine concept or strong publisher covering your back, there is almost no chance of noticing the game by any editor.

It means you have to come up with something different. First concept is based on money spending in on-line campaigns. You can try “pay-per-click” (PPC) using Google´s AdWords or Facebook interface. Another option is finding some advertising or user acquisition network which is able to work with banners inserted into games. For instance, our game World of Cheese offers it´s space to clients who are members of Chartboost advertising network. You can also buy banners on related websites or contact “youtubers” (we will talk about it later).

By the way, there are rumors that it can be useful to target the San Francisco in case of PPC campaigns. Everybody, even Apple editors sometimes just scan their Facebook wall and who knows, maybe your ad containing your game will attract them. 

Building a Community

But well, we are indie developers, our budget is pretty tight so we have to try figure out ways of promotion without spending any money. I think it is obvious (“obligatory” is better term) to create and permanently update your blog and social media channels.

While the article was dedicated firstly for Czech/Slovak audience, I also pointed out the role of Twitter. This platform is not very spread in Czech and Slovakia, there is just around 161,000 users which is absolutely in contrast with millions users on Facebook. And when we realize that Twitter is one of primary source of almost each journalist nowadays… I think it needs no more explanation.

Presence on main forums like Touch Arcade or Windows Central is just must. Not only for promotion (in this case it rather belongs to side effects). Every developer can find sometimes really useful information about coding, graphics and marketing as well. And second part of this is that if you update your threads, if you are active, answers and try to help others, community can really appreciate this as well. And last but not least, you really don´t know who else can browse the forums. For example we have been contacted by one big publisher directly via forum message on TouchArcade.

Next useful channels are blogs and more and more influent “let´s play” youtubers. The saying about the Flappy Birds and its success connected with Swedish youtuber PewDiePie became the traditional example. And game industry is reflecting this fact. There are various discussions and flames about the phenomenon and I don´t want to involve our opinion here about the impact on industry but the fact is that “let´s players” became great promotional channel and developers know it. Czech creators of Space Engineers are already in touch with Yogcast, for example.

Dangerous Liaisons… With Journalists

And now, welcome in the land of public relations. Because whatever you do, media coverage is still important. But reaching the media can be harder than hard. You can bet that 99% of your news or press releases sent on info@…, editor@… or end in spam box or in more successful case in trash. Unfortunately for us, this statement is based on personal experience.

The thing is that journalists have more important work to do than digging in a mailbox full of press releases. For example, editors from Bonusweb are bombarded by tens of press releases daily. And if your title is just another copy of copy of some another game, you are simply lost.

But it is both sided relationship, even published articles can make your wrinkles deeper. Just one example: one German gaming web published info about releasing World of Cheese which was great. Problem was that players couldn´t find the game because the info was publish almost week earlier than game itself. And readers reactions were sometimes pretty… well, let me use term “confused”.

Planning And Analyzing

I guess it looks like we are trying to market the games somehow randomly so far. But nothing is more far from truth. Everything is happening according detailed plan and time schedule. We know exactly what, when and how are we going communicate some particular message or which way of promotion are we going to order.

To be more concrete: when and how will we announce upcoming game? Which media and forums will we use? Also are we going to invite public betatesters? How much are we going to spent on PPC on Facebook?

There is also necessity to make really quality presentation for journalist and marketing assets. I mean polished press release at least in English. We are Czech studio so we also prepare Czech and Slovak versions of mediakit but still first things first and English is very first. About the visuals, do them as best as you can, and if you can´t, find someone who is able to create so. One well selected screenshot can tell to player more than paragraphs of text.

Of course, you cannot plan everything, unexpected situations appears pretty often so you have to count with some space for improvisation. Just imagine that game designer comes up with awesome feature and you have suddenly delayed of release because… programmer just cannot catch deadline. Or some journalist publishes your press release too early (example above).

You simply cannot improve your performance if you have no data. We are spending some time to analyze our PR campaigns but influence and exact reach of reviews and articles in media is little bit problematic to find out while there are no data in sense of precise numbers and graphs. We can get info like how many readers opened the article but that does not necessary mean the user really read it and not every media offers that kind of information. Secondly, not every reader turns into gamer automatically.

mentionsWhat we can track is media coverage. Very helpful in this activity is tool called Mention. We just set up right keywords and Mention can monitor everything what is related with our title on the Internet. Forums and social media included. Therefore we can easily find out what are players talking about us or our title, how are discussions going and so on.

Different situation is in case of paid campaigns. It is matter of money so we have to know the price for installation, which ad was effective, where do player come from etc. Every ad platform dispose by some kind of dashboard where you can read, interpret and most important integrate your findings. And then… analyze again.

There Is No Good Marketing without Good Game

Oliviero Toscani compared the advertisement with seducing corpse. It does not matter if you or I agree or not with this statement, what really does matter is simple fact that you cannot penetrate market without marketing. The most problematic part of this statement is that there is no one universal and ultimate way how to promote games (or any product).

Just be creative and do your best. Do not overestimate only one media/promotion channel, always use everything possible so you can take advantage of synergic effect. But keep in mind that doing great marketing is possible only for great game.

Therefore every marketing plan must state first: We are gonna create the best game ever! And we believe that this series helped you at least in some minor way.

Alda Games, 3.11.2014 | Brno, Czech Republic