The Future of Video Game Marketing

The Future of Video Game Marketing

Hate online advertisements? Can’t stand corny TV commercials? Feel like spitting to get the taste out of your mouth every time someone in the gaming business cheerfully talks up “viral marketing” as if they’d made a reference to Hitler instead of the latest Halo alternate reality game (ARG)? Then rejoice – for video game fans and execs alike, it’s a brave new world, and one in which the methods used to promote today’s hottest titles are increasingly starting to resemble actual games themselves.

Consider that, in 2010, video game marketing has evolved. To a certain degree, we’re past the age of simple push (static print ads for God of War III, fancy 30-second spots for Alpha Protocol); pull (bonus levels for buying Lost Planet 2 at a specific retailer, spend $1 to buy new gear in your favorite Facebook title); and viral content (those cheesy live-action Street Fighter spots you can’t resist forwarding to friends) creation. Rather, today, in many ways, marketing has become virtually indiscernible from the end product itself. Never mind original Dante’s Inferno titles for social networks, or Mass Effect spin-offs for smartphones that mostly serve to raise awareness for the series as a whole. Even LittleBigPlanet or Spore’s level-editing toolkits serve as effective promotional tools, using ongoing downloadable content updates to keep these products constantly feeling fresh and top of mind. What – you thought Microsoft built Xbox 360 Achievements (virtual carrots on a stick that keep you playing titles longer, constantly tempted to try new content or spending more time on the company’s multiplayer service) into games just so you could have something to brag about to your friends around the playground or office water cooler?

LittleBigPlanet’s level editor represents the new face of video game marketing.

Frankly, we’ve entered into an era where adding long-term value and building/managing relationships, not simply driving sales and fueling market awareness, have suddenly become paramount for game makers. And developers and publishers alike are increasingly being forced to accept a radical truth as a result.  To wit – no longer can game promoters afford to act as shifty, glad-handing characters that buy a few TV commercials here, take out a few magazine ads there, then call it a day and spend the rest of their time attending star-studded Hollywood premieres. Instead, they must proactively work hand-in-hand with (and increasingly begin to think like) actual game designers and fans themselves. Similarly, as developers (traditionally among the advertising department’s least ardent supporters) are having to wake up and realize, to succeed in the modern era, marketing must also be deeply embedded into actual product development, ideally from day one, and viewed as an organic extension of any given title’s core feature set. (Case in point: Blur’s Twitter integration, Guitar Hero’s regular song updates or Borderlands’ ongoing downloadable add-ons.) Because in its purest essence, video game advertising circa 2010 isn’t about just providing a temporary groundswell of support for a specific title or brand. It’s about creating a persistent, standalone entertainment experience with real, tangible worth unto itself.

About Scott Steinberg
Scott Steinberg is CEO of strategic consulting and product testing firm TechSavvy Global, and a noted keynote speaker and business expert. Hailed as a top tech expert and parenting guru by critics from USA Today to NPR, he’s also an on-air analyst for ABC, CBS and CNN.

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