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Marketing Video Games

Within a Fluid Technological Market

USC MEGA student group lecture outline

Feb. 20th, 2009




With more freeware and development tools available, it is now easier for independent developers to create and distribute their video games. How can software products for these new technologies be marketed and distributed within these emerging structures of opportunity? Basic marketing theories can be utilized as a stepping stone to exploring these new areas.


What sells your game?


  • Identify your audience
  • Determine networks, communities, and events associated with your audience
  • Determine key marketing elements for your product
  • Ensure that any game demo incorporates key marketing elements
  • Provide a central location for product information and extras that consumers can reference before and after product launch
  • Manage further development of the product to incorporate key marketing elements
  • Identify marketing tools within the determined networks and communities
  • Identify the general marketing tools that you will utilize (YouTube, website, wiki page, etc.)
  • Generate art assets that fit the marketing strategy, establishing an overall look for the product for positioning
  • Determine specific launch date for the game and the marketing campaign




The Marketing Campaign

The Marketing Campaign not only includes all advertising assets and positioning, but also a close relationship with the development of the product. Early identification of marketing strategies helps to ensure a product for the target audience. The marketing campaign should identify the overall message of the game and execute based on these determinations. This suggests that there should be an intimate interaction and integration between both the marketing and the product development.

  • Product development must be able to transfer their understanding of the research that they have done for their product to the marketing campaign.
  • Marketing must identify what can be utilized within the game design for the purpose of the marketing campaign.
  • Marketing campaigns are often launched during production of the video game with specific target dates for strategic stages and assets.
  • Marketing + Production = Success ; Marketing vs. Production = Failure
    • It is necessary that these two aspects work in tandem for the success of the project.

The Good

Creative partnership with YouTube for the Wario: Shake it Wii experience.

The Bad

  • Don't insult your audience
  • Lack of cohesive marketing campaign
    • Mirror's Edge, a game based on innovative first person mechanics, used character based marketing for their print advertising, including their word of mouth campaign on college campuses.  This approach emphasized the character rather than the individual player's experience as the character which falls more in line with the structure of the game.
      • Rock Band, in comparison, used advertising that emphasized the group aspect of play without calling out any specific characters.

The Ugly

  • Be aware of other marketing campaigns with a similar product. THQ sues Activision over similar front of box artwork.
  • Be mindful of the "terms of use" for the technologies in which you will use as marketing tools.




Press Kit

Creating a Press Kit is an essential tool when approaching investors, publishers, and distributors with your video game, but a Press Kit can also be a helpful tool in determining the overall positioning and presentation of your product for further game development and establishment of a solid marketing campaign.



Generally Press Kits should include the following in some form or another:


  • Abstract Game Description
    • This should give a brief description of the game and incorporate several key marketing points that you would like to hit (around 3 or 4). For example - a unique game mechanic
      • These 3 - 4 "call outs" should be clearly outlined
    • A campaign slogan or catch phrase can also be created to grab the audiences' attention quickly.
  • Press Release
    • This often includes quotes from members of the development team giving the audience a more intimate look at the product. A Press Release is also a great asset to display awards or positive reviews of the product.
    • A Press Release can also focus on some additional marketing points relating to the development of the game to illustrate how the main marketing points were incorporated into the game.
    • This could also include a humorous personal experience or anecdote spawned during game development.
  • Art Assets
    • Game Logo
    • Screenshots
    • Trailer or gameplay video
    • Game Demo
    • Schwag!
      • Schwag is a term used for marketing items that are distributed freely to garner interest in the product through word of mouth. These often include t-shirts and toys with the game characters or game title.




Word of Mouth

Word of mouth advertising is the most useful form of marketing a product.

  • Connecting audience on a personal level
    • They are more likely to try your product if they get a recommendation from a friend or trusted community.
    • With the emergence of more technology and integrated systems of community networking, there are more products to sift through. Spreading through word of mouth allows for a more refined individual search based on individual interests and community preferences.
  • Spreading the Word
    • With each individual recommendation comes another network or community of people to spread further.
      • Providing a free demo for an iPhone app, Xbox Live Arcade, PlayStation Network etc. has been effective in getting consumers interested in purchase as well as providing consumers with a free product to share with their friends.
    • Your target audience then expands to other communities you might not have anticipated.
    • It becomes it's own living marketing tool tapping into feedback that can not otherwise be tested or perceived outside of the individual experience.
    • This does take time to grow into a larger audience, but it will help create more of a consumer following, determine a new audience/community, and ensure product brand recognition.
  • Identifying your core audience
    • Provides the focus for your jumping off point.
    • The better the audience responds to your product the stronger your word of mouth campaign will be.




Market Testing

Market testing is a great way to clearly define and choose your audience. By selecting some test samples of the initial target audience, you can better gauge the current state of your product and project how the market audience will respond. This can also help you identify sub-markets within the larger target audience to help you determine how well the product will spread by word of mouth.

  • This is an invaluable tool in gaining a better knowledge on how the target audience will respond to the design and usability of the product.
    • Can the audience understand the product interface?
  • Learn as much as you can about your audience by asking them a series of questions before and/or after testing the product.
    • It is important to keep this process objective with the least amount of stress as possible placed on the test audience.
  • Combining the market research with the product development can also lead to better character and design development.
  • Keep a general audience in mind for larger portions of the marketing campaign and learn how to best target specific audiences within the general marketing audience to spread word of mouth advertising.
    • What are these audiences drawn to?
    • What kinds of things do they purchase?
    • How can your product be integrated into their daily life/interactions?




Creating Unique Marketing Assets

Among many things, unique marketing assets utilize new or existing technology in an original way.

  • Unless your marketing campaign is a little more ambiguous, make sure to include the game title, logo or indication linking the object to the product.


  • Video Game Character Marketing
    • Is there a character within the game that you can carry over to marketing? As is common in Anime, there is often a cute character built into the series that can be marketed as a plush toy and/or figurines.
    • Using a specific character can contribute to creating a look for the marketing campaign and provide additional focus in development.


  • Schwag Based Assets
    • T-shirts, stickers, patches, cards etc. with the game logo, quote, or campaign slogan.
    • Creative Schwag
      • Are there items within the game design that can be utilized as a creative piece of schwag?
      • How do your specific audiences interpret and approach the content from which your game is based?
      • Can you use something from everyday life in a way that is contradictory or different from it's normal use?



Closing Thoughts

This innovative and fluid atmosphere surrounding technology requires that marketing take a similar approach if it is to be effective. Both product and marketing should be self referential bringing the overall message of the product to the audience. The challenge is to make your product stand out over all the others flooding the market. Selecting the right audience and developing a product to suit their needs and interests will gain you an advantage over all the other marketing campaigns that reach for just anything.



Link Pile - add any helpful links!


Etsy- a place to buy and sell homemade goods of all kinds


Plants vs Zombies - music video used as a marketing device


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