It's no surprise that the videogame industry's revenue has recently surpassed that of the film and music industries combined. Gaming communities are probably the most anxious and challenging audiences to please among the top million-dollar industries. Even the most renowned studios in the world can be destroyed by a single bad marketing campaign. Gamers in general value belonging to a culture and HATE the stench of opportunism. If gamers feel disappointed with new releases, everyone will know in seconds.
So, we picked some recent history examples of what is going on in game development. Perhaps it is up to you to connect the dots about how marketing in the gaming industry is reinventing itself. In some ways, we believe these examples are settling trends for other industries, hence the question ‘what can I learn from gaming marketing?'.
1. The Last of Us
The Last of Us is the hot topic of the moment. Why? Because it leaped into a highly anticipated live-action series, scoring 9.4 on IMDB. It’s now ranked second as best series of all times, alongside Breaking Bad and Game of Thrones - and it only aired one episode (today comes another one). What?! Have you never heard of it? If that is the case, you probably have more important things to do than play videogames, but… if you are a gamer, you know what we are talking about.
First, it demonstrates that series or films based on videogame storytelling and narrative are no longer flops or have weak narratives that only disappoint gamers and the general audience, possibly even the film crew. As an example - 2.4 at IMDB - Alone in the Dark.
Second, the last decade has been dominated by superhero blockbusters sucking the air out of opportunities for other genres. Movies and series based on videogames are likely to dethrone the action comics superhero genre.
Third, what marketing share is involved in putting the game out there in a multimillion-dollar industry? And by "out there," we mean the entire world. What magic is required to attract attention amid so much noise and successful franchises?
What strikes us at first is the cinematic trailer that hyped the gaming crowd.
For the ones who already know the game, there is no gameplay in the trailer, just the need-to-know basis to supply some candies to get gamers hooked on the game release. However, even if you have never played The Last of Us, you are given an environment and a context. There is so much subtle information that you might get hooked wanting to know what happens next. Just like in movies, but in this case, you are an active part of it. On top of everything else, the graphics are stunning, but game studios focused so much on providing the right amount of humanity. The acting, songs, and settings are all so good that you quickly forget that none of this is real.
Mocap and facial capture technologies are converging into mixed realities.
2. Among Us
InnerSloth saw an average player count of 30 to 50 players simultaneously when they released their online multiplayer murder-mystery mobile game, Among Us, for Android and iOS devices in June 2018. They had no idea that two years later, during the COVID-19 crisis, Among Us would be played simultaneously by over 3.8 million people worldwide.
First, Among Us is an excellent example of how a global context, such as a pandemic, is critical in explaining rising phenomena. It should serve as a reminder that there are no success formulas, and you should probably avoid imitating a communication strategy. Instead, keep an eye on what's going on. InnerSloth's initial development team consisted of only three people, and they admittedly sucked at marketing.
Second, the importance of influential marketing in the gaming industry is likely to be at the top of the priority list, particularly when communicating an entirely new title. In this case, a gaming influencer named Sodapoppin streamed Among Us on the spur of the moment. Following that, a livestreaming cascade occurred. Gaming Influencers have specialized in game genres as well. As the game skyrocketed to become one of the most popular games in 2020, So Among Us jumped from community to community. An Among Us culture was created, as well as a derivative form of meme-marketing and fan-art a.k.a. user generated content. Then there's merchandise... and then there's just success.
Third, the game is accessible and straightforward with simple rules. Among Us is free to play with in-game purchases, and there is no entry barrier because it can be played on hardware that everyone already owns - smartphones. It’s easy to play, and probably a small gimmick like the spectator mode giving the option of shouting what you’re wondering in the chat, making it a viral interaction.
3. Fallout 4
Fallout 4 is essentially an excellent example of how a game should be promoted these days.
Aside from having a great cinematic trailer, the game's development studio, Bethesda, gathered the hype without overselling the game and delivered the product without disappointment.
First, it was announced six months prior to its release. Not too soon or too late to build the necessary hype. If a game studio or publisher garners too much attention too soon, they risk losing it. Gamers will undoubtedly find other titles that suit their tastes.
Second, it had a firm release date right away and witnessed no release date delays. They met their commitment and paid respect for their community. The anticipation was insane.
The game's website debuted ten days before the announcement, with only a Fallout themed clock and some power armor in the background.
Third, and this goes for the big-league corporations: there were no game leaks.
4. Red Redemption 2
Red Dead Redemption 2 ranged between a $200 and $300 million investment.
'Well, with that kind of money...' one might say.
Besides the graphical conceptual simplicity of the approach to build the community hype through twitter. Marketers may avoid community hubs like Reddit or Twitter because they are 'complicated'. However, when you have a built culture like the Red Dead Redemption franchise, a brief glimpse is sufficient to settle the trends.
The 'horse testicles' meme marked a turning point in Red Dead's marketing development.
Rockstar is well-known for their meticulous attention to detail.
During a September 2018 press preview, a Kotaku journalist questioned one of Rockstar's developers about how immersive the game was. Your horse's testicles would "shrink and expand depending on the temperature in the game world," according to the developer's response.
Knowing your audience and owning who you are might just be the way.
5. God of War
God of War is one of Sony Playstation's best-selling games, with an optional bundle included when you purchase the console.
We’ve already covered enough examples, so you have a good idea. In short, there was a huge campaign invading all major cities – mostly subways – ranging wider audiences.
But we chose to finish with God of War because of two marketing approaches.
It is possible to innovate and pull new audiences and convert ‘em to gamers:
And you must be acutely aware of your audience. Localization is critical to any ambitious videogame's marketing strategy. Local actors in the countries' native languages provide voiceovers in God of War. Of course, it is not the first to do so, but consider the total investment and professionals required to accomplish this.
Witness how such a franchise was marketed by Playstation Japan:
It doesn’t matter if you want to sell a product, a service or even teach. We believe in the power of gamification so don’t be shy.