What Is Video Game Marketing? (Beginners Guide)


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Thanks to tools like Unity and Unreal Engine, it’s easier than ever for anyone to make a video game. And with a little practice and a lot of hard work, it’s possible to make indie games that are good enough that people will be willing to pay money for. Making an indie game takes a lot of time and effort, so it makes sense that developers want to be paid for their work. The problem for most developers is that not enough people buy their games to make developing them worthwhile.┬áThis is where video game marketing comes in.

Video game marketing is the process of identifying the audience for your game, creating a strategy to find them, and then using appropriate methods of communication to present it to them, with the eventual goal of making sales.

If you’re a game developer reading this, you are probably nervous about the very mention of “selling” to people. Relax, it’s not as scary as it sounds! In this article, we’ll walk you through what’s involved in marketing your game – so the selling part is practically done for you!

What are the different aspects of marketing video games?

There are three critical aspects of marketing your video game that come before a sale:

  1. Identifying your audience
  2. Create a strategy to find your audience
  3. Communicate appropriately
  4. Make the sale

So long as you do a good job of these first three aspects, your audience will be begging to play your game. They will be all: “shut up and take my money”!

Read on further as we discuss the steps involved in marketing video games.

Identify The Audience For Your Game

Identifying your audience will depend on the type of game you are building. But, generally, you need to answer the following questions:

  1. Who plays existing games that are similar to yours?
  2. What else are they interested in besides games?
  3. Where do they spend time online and in the real world?
  4. What devices do they prefer to play on, are they PC gamers, or do they prefer mobile gaming?

Create A Strategy To Find Your Audience

Having identified your target audience, you can use the information to create a marketing strategy for reaching them. Your strategy will include the different marketing channels you’ll use to reach your potential audience.

For example, if you are creating a mystery puzzle game, you will likely have identified that your target audience is probably interested in mystery stories. You can post in appropriate forums for famous Authors who write mysteries and then measure the response.

Other marketing channels you could test out include:

  • Social media
  • Posting in online communities and forums (e.g. Discord, Reddit)
  • Creating Videos (e.g. YouTube dev-logs, tutorials)
  • Live streaming development on Twitch
  • Blogging
  • Email marketing
  • Podcasting
  • In-person events (e.g. meetups, game dev conferences)
  • Influencer marketing (e.g. lets players)
  • Online Advertising

This list is just scratching the surface. You can combine one or more of these channels into your marketing campaign. But while your game is early in the planning and development stage, it’s a great idea to test out as many appropriate channels as you can and measure the response your get.

If you see lots of other games using the platforms you want to use, try to research and think of innovative strategies for how you can use them.

Communicate Appropriately

Communication is not only about what you say but how you say it. How you talk about an educational game for preschoolers should be very different from how you talk about an indie horror game.

Marketing communications can be broadly broken down into written and visual.

Written Communication

Written communication includes press releases, emails, store page text and your website. There are also posts on channels such as Twitter, Reddit or Instagram.

Wherever you use written communication to engage with your audience, it’s vital to have a consistent tone of voice. 

The Tone Of Voice is the “how you say it” part of written communication. It’s about getting the personality of your game across. If your game is light-hatred and whimsical, your writing should reflect that. 

More prominent indie and AAA studios in the gaming industry usually have a Tone of Voice document that contains the rules that the whole marketing team must follow when writing about the game, along with examples of how to use them. 

TOV documents usually also cover the “what you say” part of communication. For example, it may say that players must be referred to as ‘challengers’. Or levels and play spaces must be referred to as ‘arenas’.

If you are trying to decide on the tone of voice for your game, then you should look to the pillars of your game as the starting point. 

Visual Communication

Since games are a visual medium, the visual communication for your game can be considered more important than written. 

For many players, the first impression of your game may be an eye-catching icon, stand-out screenshot or a juicy gif.

Once you’ve earned your audience’s attention, then they may dig down into watching your trailer or checking out your website. 

As with written comms, it’s important with all these different pieces of visual communication that they have a consistent look and feel. With trailers and screenshots, this should be easy if they are directly from your game. But icons, logos, banners, and other marketing collateral should complement the style and theme of your game.

Light and fluffy branding for your horror game would feel at odds with the content of your game. 

Having a gruesome trailer for your game for preschoolers would be even worse!

Sell Your Game

Some people will argue that sales are not part of marketing. But for entertainment products like games, sales are integrated with marketing, whether we like it or not.

When looking at selling your game, it can be helpful to consider the Four Ps of marketing. The Four Ps of marketing are: Product, Price, Place and Promotion. 

Although the Four Ps are not perfect, it still works well for evaluating video game marketing strategies.

Product

Deciding what to build is essential before writing the first line of code.

Don’t follow trends. Find a niche. Don’t create a clone or asset flip. 

You know what your game is and why it’s awesome. It’s your job to let other people know. 

Price

Getting the pricing right for your game is important for financial success. The price that is right for your game will depend on several variables, including:

  • The platform you are targeting
  • The competitiveness of the places you are selling
  • And the quality and content of your game

Mobile games generally follow a free with ads or freemium monetization model. Whereas PC and Console games have a fixed price.

For developers selling their games on Steam, Code Monkey from Endless Loop Studios breaks down games into the following pricing tiers:

Games Free 

Are usually for developers’ first games and prototypes, where the goal is to receive feedback.

Games priced from $3 to $5 

Once you ask people to purchase your games, their expectations will be higher. And the feedback and reviews will be more critical. This price range is for complete games with less content and not as polished as higher tires. The game needs to be unique enough to convince people to put down money. So if you’re building a clone or a simple platformer, it will be unlikely to find much success.

Games priced from $10 to $15

You need to have a good indie game that players could compare to games like Terraria or FTL at this price range. People expect a quality game experience with at least 10 hours of playable content at this price point. The game needs to be polished and mostly bug-free.

Games priced $20 plus

Reserved for the top-tier indie games that gamers could compare to Stardew Valley, Superhot or Cuphead. They need to provide hundreds of hours of quality playable content.

Place

Places for selling your games vary depending on the platform you are targeting. For example, mobile games sell through Google Play or App Store. With PC games, you have more choice, although Steam is the most popular option with gamers.

One tactic that numerous indie devs have successfully used is to launch on a single smaller platform, such as itch.io, gather feedback to see if there are any breaking bugs, and then launch again on Steam or another platform e.g. consoles. This gives developers the advantage of being able to launch again and again.

Promotion

Developers often launch their games with discount offers such as 10% off during the first week. The initial launch promotion, particularly on Steam, is a staple of a successful launch campaign.

Another promotional tactic used in the video game industry is offering rewards such as exclusive game content, in-game currency, or consumables for fans who preorder games.

Post-launch, you can continue to market your game by leveraging updates, additional content, discounted sales, and many more promotional activities. The initial launch of a game isn’t the end of the road for marketers. Often it’s only the beginning.

Conclusion

Hopefully, you have found this article helpful and given you some insights into what video game marketing entails. But this only scratches the surface, and you will need to dig deeper as you continue your marketing journey. 

If you liked this article and would like more valuable and practical marketing information, please consider joining our mailing list, so you don’t miss out on future articles.

Aron Marriott-Smith

Aron is a hobbyist indie game developer. Before building this website, Aron spent many years helping businesses market their products and services.

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