Marketing Social Games, Casual Gaming Hits

Marketing Social Games, Casual Gaming Hits

We’ve all heard the horror stories: Conversion rates on game purchases are shrinking; cash advances are dwindling; and social networks (e.g. Facebook) and online portals are fast-flooding with countless look-alike offerings from an increasingly overcrowded pool of international developers. But cheer up. Despite the doom and gloom permeating the industry, even those swift to label traditional games “dead” will quickly confirm: There’s always room for solid, innovative product in the marketplace. Having self-published several successful titles and counseled industry leaders from EA to Eidos on making and marketing mainstream games, here are several simple tips we’ve found for making buyers, and business partners, sit up and take notice.

Create a Singular Identity – It’s an age-old debate: What’s more important: graphics or gameplay? The answer—neither. As crucial as solid delivery is the establishment of an immediately identifiable audiovisual hook. Consider the chic vibe of Jojo’s Fashion Show, the colorful cartoon aesthetic of Garden Defense, or the helium-voiced Giggles of Magic Match. Observe how each game jumps off the virtual rack. With hundreds of rivals competing for buyers’ interest, employing a singular art style or sonic shtick keeps you from getting lost in the shuffle. At the same time, it also creates a handy mnemonic device that helps consumers more easily recall franchises when it comes time to shop for the token sequel.

Use Original Business Models – Hawking high-quality amusements that support cheap, episodic expansions; giving titles away free so that you can serve millions of in-game ads; creating Facebook- or Hi5-specific ports of flagship franchises to create brand awareness and drive additional shoppers to your website. The choices here are limitless, but the principle is singular: If you want to increase return on investment and attract more potential fans (and financiers), you must find greater—and more inventive—ways to monetize your wares. In short, the more methods you discover (or invent) to make money off of each game, the greater the potential windfall—and trade support—you’ll see on the back-end.

Avoid the Unfamiliar – Certainly, spaceship shooters and head-scratching puzzlers starring slimy beetles sell in small quantities. But you’re almost 100% guaranteed to move more units of any game that uses familiar, real-world activities as a foundation. No fancy promotional tricks here, just simple psychology: Consumers, pressed for time and money, routinely gravitate towards products which speak to their interests. Want to connect with the average parent shopping at Wal-Mart or Can the high-concept, unfamiliar themes, and instead go with what they already know and take comfort in.

Shake Things Up – Thousands of desktop diversions let you match patterns, test your IQ, or find hidden objects. So what’s to make today’s choosier enthusiast stop and give yours a glance? Introduce a new, arresting feature (or two or three) that should be built into every game produced. A couple of past examples come to mind: StoneLoops of Jurassica reinvented the marble-blasting formula by merely letting you pull ammo from advancing chains, while Posh Boutique turbo-charged the time management genre by making you select the fashions patrons race to collect. Such features were evolutionary, not revolutionary, but they were easy to communicate and had a meaningful impact on on-screen action.

Employ Better Branding – Games have just two or three seconds to grab shoppers’ attention, ensuring that the most successful titles will always keep messaging simple and paint an instant picture in viewers’ minds. FarmVille. Virtual VillagersNightclub City. Note how all three titles immediately convey their value proposition. The lesson here: Package and present games to captivate and reinforce specific themes. What’s more, use screenshots, color palettes, supporting text, and in-game characterization to push personality rather than technical performance. At the same time, you’ll notice that strong, sympathetic heroes (such as Diner Dash’s Flo) bolster buyer empathy and increase overall marketability—while building spin-off potential as well.

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.


  1. Pretty heavy Red Ocean thinking there..

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