Video games are big business. The worldwide video game market was worth $159.3 billion in 2020 - more than double what it was in 2013. By 2023, this number is expected to rise to an eye-watering $200.8 billion. It should come as no surprise then that more and more people want a slice of this very lucrative pie.
Every month, hundreds of new games come onto the market, competing to become the next big gaming sensation. The key to success is marketing, and of course, a decent game. A great marketing campaign might net a bunch of downloads, but those players won't stick around without a compelling game.
Still, the first step is a standout marketing strategy. Game publishers deploy a range of varied techniques to get their games in front of gamers' eyes. Let's take a look at some of the most successful marketing strategies in the gaming industry.
Raid Shadow Legends
If you've spent any time on YouTube in the last couple of years, then you've probably come across an ad for Raid Shadow Legends. You don't even have to be watching a gaming-related video for this game to be pushed on you. This makes Raid Shadow Legends unique in its marketing strategy compared to many other games.
Most game publishers will choose their sponsors based on how much influence they have in the industry. For example, if someone has a YouTube channel centred around mobile games, then Raid Shadow Legends is a good fit - the viewers of the channel have already expressed interest in mobile games. But a YouTube drama channel? A pop-culture commentary channel? A cooking channel? Why is the game popping up in the strangest places? Because Raid Shadow Legends have an aggressive marketing strategy.
Raid Shadow Legends business model explained
Raid Shadow Legends approach a large number of YouTubers a month, offering them anywhere between £100 to over a thousand points for a 30 second to 2-minute sponsorship, depending on the channel's size. While their strategy often seems random to outsiders, it is proving to be successful, and there is a logic to it.
Games, and particularly mobile games, are colossal data troves. Developers will have extensive data on how many people download the game, how much they spend, and how long they play. Presumably, Raid Shadow Legends are calculating the average Lifetime Value of their customers, comparing it with the cost per acquisition, and casting a wide net. While it may seem strange to target non-gaming channels, and especially in such high numbers, it's not so unusual for a mobile game.
If a publisher is marketing a PC game, then they're wasting their time picking sponsors who don't have PC gamers in their audience. However, everyone owns a smartphone, and an awful lot of them play mobile games, even if on a casual basis. In 2019 it was reported that 2.4 billion people would play mobile games by the end of the year. We can only assume that figure is higher in 2021. Additionally, women spend more time playing mobile games than men, which is probably why Raid Shadow Legends targets many channels popular with women and girls.
Escape From Tarkov and Twitch giveaways
On the other end of the scale, we have the decidedly gentle strategy deployed by the publishers of Escape From Tarkov (EFT). EFT is a hardcore first-person shooter game where players stand to lose all their hard-earned gear if they are killed. The game also has other hardcore mechanics like injury management and a complex gear and weaponry customisation system. For example, if you use the wrong bullets in your gun, it's the equivalent to shooting marshmallows.
Twitch allows games to offer promotions through the platform in the form of Twitch drops. These are events where players can receive in-game rewards by tuning in to Twitch channels and watching content. It's a win-win situation because players get free stuff, and the publishers get more views on Twitch. When a stream gets a lot of views, it starts appearing more prominently on the platform, which draws more viewers in. The viewers who are new to the game might watch some gameplay and be tempted to buy the game themselves.
EFT has used this strategy to massive success, peaking at a whopping 441,401 viewers in January 2021. Every time the game runs one of these Twitch drop events, it gets many thousands more players. By repeatedly doing this, EFT has continually grown their player bases while many other games have flopped.
Guerrilla marketing campaigns
Guerilla marketing campaigns forgo traditional marketing techniques and instead rely on creativity to spark excitement for the upcoming game. The thing about creativity is there's no real limit to how weird things can get. Let's take a look at a few successful and downright bizarre guerrilla marketing campaigns.
In the run-up to the launch of this 2010 action game, the publishers ran an elaborate campaign. They hired actors to protest outside the E3 gaming convention, holding placards that claimed the game was sacrilegious. They even released a fake religious game called Mass: We Pray. Apparently in this game players could pray and attend church. Presumably, the idea behind this campaign was to make the game seem edgy, sinful, and taboo enough to be interesting to the public. The campaign worked, and the game went viral. On the downside, it did offend some Christians.
Red Faction: Guerilla
American games company THQ put 100 copies of the game Red Faction: Guerilla inside a car on a busy street in central London to promote the launch of the game. They chained a sledgehammer nearby and hoped that fans smashed the windows of the car and stole a copy of the game. You'd think that smashing cars was a significant part of the Red Faction: Guerilla game, but strangely it wasn't. The link is actually a pretty tenuous one. The PR manager for the game explained that Red Faction: Guerilla had one of the world's best destruction engines, so they wanted to incorporate destruction into the marketing campaign!
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