Video Game Marketing and PR: The Ultimate Guide

Video Game Marketing and PR: The Ultimate Guide

Pop quiz: What’s the biggest challenge that video game developers and publishers face today? Congratulations – if you said “discovery,” give yourself a pat on the back. With hundreds of free to play games, digital downloads, online offerings, social network titles and smartphone apps flooding virtual aisles each week, suddenly, it isn’t just about creating great games anymore. Given infinite selection, growing audience fragmentation across platforms and devices and an endless barrage of white noise competing for consumers’ attention, you’ve also got to find ways to instantly stand out from the pack… hence the importance of video game marketing and public relations (PR).

Just one problem: Developers continue to wrestle with appreciating the value of, plotting effective campaigns for, and otherwise wrapping their heads around the magic of video game marketing and PR efforts. This is of chilling concern as the shift to digital distribution and direct consumer relationships intensifies. Even the smallest, most specialized shops are suddenly faced with the prospect of having to think like standalone publishing houses: Skills not necessarily in their wheelhouse. Worse, having travelled from the Game Developers Conference to Festival of Games and toured several continents as a consultant and talent scout for industry-leading publishers and developers alike, a running theme keeps presenting itself. Not only do most game makers say that they don’t know how to drive public awareness to their titles. Many can’t even identify their core audience, beginning the question “if you don’t know who you’re making a product for, why build it in the first place?”

Regardless of whether your motives are altruistic, artistic or commercial though, let’s be sensible: The more people who play your games, the better. Taking the time to target an audience, build a title that meets their needs and craft features that address their concerns and interests isn’t just good business. It’s also a handy way to boost player enjoyment, and keep your development efforts tightly focused, helping minimize the risk of budget overruns, wasted time and overall feature creep. Those seeking a publishing deal also gain the added benefit of being able to better, and more efficiently, present a clear case for why their game deserves one of precious few slots, and better placement, within a strategic partner’s portfolio.

Even if you’re simply making a game in the off-hours for friends and family to enjoy, understand: Marketing is not the devil’s work. In fact, to survive the transitions presently rocking the gaming business, designers and marketers need to embrace a new fundamental truth – they’re actually one and the same in today’s increasing value-driven climate. Case in point: Just as every team member that contributes to a project is a potential business spokesperson, every feature that graces your game – level editors, social video sharing, options to team up and tackle quests, etc. – is in fact a form of advertising and promotion. It’s impossible to underscore the point enough, in a world where increasingly social and mobile shoppers have limited time and budget, and a never-ending range of alternate options to pick from. (Many accessible free or for just pennies on-demand right from a device, e.g. Apple’s 187 million strong-army of iOS gadgets, that’s already nestled snugly everyday in your pocket.)

To wit, splashy billboards, glossy print ads or fancy online banners aren’t enough alone in this era to drive continued excitement and awareness. Rather, today’s most effective form of marketing are games and surrounding features themselves, and the way in which they organically drive players to actively want to seek them out and engage with these amusements. Translation: Video game marketing has evolved far past the age of simple push, pull and viral content creation. In this modern, more enlightened day and age, it’s become virtually indiscernible from the end product itself.

To read more of Video Game Marketing: The New Bible, please visit GamesIndustry.Biz.
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. Rasmus Søegaard Kaas

    -And that is exactly the hard part for developers today – how do you conduct market analysis, when the consumer needs the game in their hands to know if they want it? Even a playable demo production demands 25-30% of total development costs.

    When you ask a consumer what type of game he wants, he will oftentimes refer to known worlds, characters or gameplaymechanics, derived from already established cognitive maps. Combined with high production costs this is why we see so many sequels and remakes of remakes, rather than truly innovative (albeit commercially risky) games.

    Imagine a consumer survey asking the average video gamer in 2005: “hey, would you buy a FPS with no enemies and only one gun? The gun, by the way, has no projectiles and instead creates portals…”.

    Anyway, very interesting read, Scott.

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