If a developer makes a game and nobody plays it, does it exist? Sure, but if a developer makes a game for commercial reasons and he or she doesn’t spend enough time or effort marketing it, that game will probably just melt into mist and leave behind a poorer studio. That goes double for a game that’s meant to be sold during the busy holiday season.
Happily, we live in such a connected world that effectively marketing a game at any time of the year need not be pocket-emptying. It’s all a matter of using your resources cleverly. We’ve written several articles about self-marketing in the past, and now we’ll sum up some of the most effective means of promoting your game during the holiday season.
Holiday-centric giveaways — The best way to get your game in the hands of the public is to give it away–which is easy enough to accomplish if your game is available on a digital marketplace that allows for redeemable download codes. These codes can be given away as a “Merry Christmas” to fans who have supported your past games, or who have written thoughtful previews/blogs about the title. There shouldn’t be an obligation to review the game, but with any luck, the recipients of the code will offer positive feedback and promotion via Twitter and Facebook. Which segues into the next tip for successful holiday-related game promotion:
Promote your game and holiday-themed extras via social platforms: Twitter, Facebook, and Google+ all provide cheap and easy ways to reach out to a wide audience of potential buyers. Social networking is also a great way to trumpet those aforementioned promotions. Think your game would make a great gift? Say so! Do you have holiday-themed content that’s ready to go? Tell people!
Change up your game according to the season, and offer relevant microtransactions: Games that are constantly connected to the Internet–for instance, social games, some free-to-play games, and MMOGs–have a distinct advantage when the cold weather creeps in. Updating a game to match up with the holiday season is a great way to get new people into your title (provided they’re in a Christmassy mood), and is also gives old players a reason to get back into the game and start playing again.
The holiday season also brings with it opportunities for special in-game events and exclusive items that can be purchased via microtransactions. These include thematic costumes, accessories, decorations, pets, etc–whatever fits in the context of your game.
Get your game’s community involved: Your game’s fans are valuable allies. Sharing in the season with them is a good way to show your appreciation and promote new games and content. Fan art contests, for instance, can be a fun way for fans to go nuts with their creativity. Push the challenge to the next level by asking for artwork featuring (preferably clean) holiday themes–Santa, reindeer, etc. Inexpensive and easy-to-ship items can be given out as prizes, such as T-shirts and free in-game items that are typically bought via microtransactions.
Discounts and bundles: Finally, offering discounts and bundles is a great way to encourage people to give your game(s) as a gift. How about letting people who purchase your title choose a second game for free? Or what a promotion that lets people buy one copy of your game, then hand off a free second copy to a friend?
Even retail-based games can get in on the holiday discount action. Offering a downloadable or streamed copy of a game that’s bought at retail is a good and relatively inexpensive way for players to pass around your game to friends. For more high-tech and online marketing tips, see our very own small business expert‘s site.