No one needs to worry about marketing video games to die-hard gamers. Plugged in via a console Internet connection – or, the shame of it all, over social media – button mashers of all ages and nationalities have an uncanny way of knowing, barely a millisecond after any hint of an announcement, exactly which moves game makers are considering.
Which means that video-game marketers are, like so many Call of Duty casualties-to-be, destined to the degradation of re-spawning (aka, dead and needing a restart) – unless they can somehow turn that millisecond advantage to their favor.
According to MCV, a U.K.-based news and community site for the international video games market, the rules of video game marketing have changed. And there’s apparently no going back to the way things used to be:
You Must Be Everywhere
Forget about in-store promos or trying to snag attention with an ad in a gamer mag. Players are into mobile, where two-way conversations have replaced the old push strategy of ads and commercials. “We’re at a point where even well-designed and well-positioned ads that extort the consumer to ‘buy now’, however subtly done, are not effective anymore,” says one marketing firm. Engagement is the new normal. Make that constant engagement. On every conceivable platform.
Online Ads Are More Active
Replicating a print ad on the web just doesn’t cut it. Not with videos gone viral and an untold number of channels – social media, blogs, forums – competing for a gamer’s attention. Save that print ad for the departmental newsletter. Or the HOA bulletin. Otherwise, it’s DOA.
Consider Content Marketing
As in, manufacture and produce a separate show – a short feature video or web series — that tells the game’s story. And consider trying to reach gamers where some spend the other half of their waking lives. “For gaming the biggest game changer in recent years has been the massive increase in YouTube sites,” says one PR agency director.
Research Your Audience
Just don’t get buried in the data. The key? Something terribly old-fashioned: Separating the wheat from the chaff – a process that, given the bombardment of information, is easier said than done, even with the help of automated systems.
Spreading the Word
Word of mouth has always done more – both good and bad — for the marketing of a product than any ad or damage-control campaign could hope to do. The proliferation of social networks and forums multiplies that maxim exponentially. MCV quotes one creative director as saying, “We need to accept that we are maybe no longer in charge of a brand’s image to the same extent.” For marketers, scarier words were never spoken.
Plan Your Strategy
Leaking small segments of a game as a teaser advertisement apparently doesn’t work anymore, either. Every promotion, the experts say, has to be built from scratch, in a unique way, from start to finish. One idea? Do what Charles Dickens did. (You know, the guy who wrote “A Christmas Carol”.) Publish an online video series about the new game in serial fashion – one episode a week might get fans to spread the word via their own web of contacts.
Long-Term vs. Short-Term
Heavyweights like Call of Duty can afford to do recon and wage a long campaign. Niche games tend to need the most bang for their buck, usually close to launch time. Either way, there’s no such thing as a set media schedule these days: “We now need to have continuous dialogue with our consumers. They are growing more demanding and it is only those that fulfill those demands that will flourish,” a creative director tells MCV.
Strive to Stand Out
Like you’re seriously going to market a video game as though you were discreetly soliciting votes for a delicate Congressional measure. Actually, what’s meant here is that the competition extends beyond games to the whole range of what attracts discretionary income. For that, the pundits say, you’d better have more than a modicum of “clarity, intrigue and a reason to exist”.
Never Forget the Basics
See Dickens, wheat from chaff and word of mouth, above. As every parent/uncle/geezer delights in reminding – tried-and-true still outsells flashy and new-fangled. In legitimate enterprises, anyway.
Build Your Social Skills
Again, though, like mother always said, “Watch your tone”. Today’s wave of popular opinion can turn in an instant. Making yesterday’s overhyped tweets a very unappetizing meal of cyber-crow.
Remember, Money Matters
Budgets have shrunk. And benchmarks of quality are on the rise. The smaller the campaign, the more creative and engaging it needs to be. And – from the world of old-fashioned once more – choose quality over quantity.
Call in the Specialists
The Pentagon does. Likewise Neiman-Marcus. With those two giants of the modern world in your corner, how could you go wrong? Well, keeping your personal strike force around for too long, for one. SEALs don’t linger. They just get the job done. Ditto for freelancing agencies.
One thing more: Should you choose to engage your targeted gamer on his chosen field of battle, bear in mind – nobody, and we mean nobody, likes a Camper Noob with a Heartscope.
And if you have to ask, you may wish to consider a career move. Or at least some serious time in the cyber trenches.