E3 continues to be the largest video gaming event of the year, and with 60,000 consumers walking the halls of the Los Angeles Convention Center this week, marketers have had ample opportunity to test and reflect on its place in their marketing mix.
“E3 is big deal for us. As I like to tell the company, it’s like my Super Bowl,” said Mike Domaguing, vice president of marketing at Survios, to AListDaily. “This is a great pulpit for communication.”
Widening The Net
For Survios, E3’s size and mass appeal has allowed the company to take a variety of tacks in marketing its diverse slate of products, all in the same space and timeframe, for a heterogeneous audience.
“We have events all the way from Monday through Thursday,” Domaguing said. “On Monday night, we showcased Electronauts over at the Facebook Gaming party, and Tuesday through Thursday, we’re going to be at the Sony booth showcasing Creed, as well as our own booth over at IndieCade in West Hall, for Creed as well. And on Wednesday night is our third annual after-party, and that will be a spectacle on its own, ranging from DJ’ing on top of mirrored buses to showcasing our virtual reality arcade.”
Facebook Gaming likewise took on a variegated set of goals for its presence at E3, ranging from improving representation to contacting representatives.
“Our themes are advancing our Women in Gaming initiative. Secondarily, reaching out to creator community, inviting them to learn more about how the Facebook platform can help themselves build communities. Third, it’s about our relationships with developers and how we can provide them with the business tools they need to be successful,” said Rick Kelly, vice president of global gaming for Facebook, to AListDaily.
According to Kelly, part of the show’s increasing consumer appeal is coming from increased gendered egalitarianism, both among developers and players. At the show this year, Facebook partnered with the ESA to help spread awareness and support for women in gaming, letting female developers and players share their stories at a special booth on the show floor.
“One of the key trends we saw last year was that 33 percent of all mentions of games in advance of E3 were made by women,” Kelly added. “But this year, it’s 39. What we’re seeing is that a lot of the initiatives we and our fellow players in the industry [are doing] are advancing women in gaming.”
More People, More Problems
For Funko, however, E3’s changes are making it more like other comic and fan conventions around America.
“We are here in the same way we exhibit at a lot of Comic-Cons like San Diego Comic Con and New York Comic Con,” Mark Robben, head of marketing for Funko, told AListDaily. “The key takeaways are always the same at a lot of these shows.”
Though they appeared at E3 for the first time this year, the show held few surprises for the geek convention-focused collectible manufacturer.
“It’s always fun to go back to the office and think about why that one piece really resonated with fans. How do we make it a smoother experience? How can we make the booth bigger, more impactful; how can we make a bigger statement next year?” Robben said. “A lot of that is just logistics, just in terms of how we make sure that fans have a decent experience.”
Logistical issues played a major role in stressing marketers this year as well: even with the long lead time brands get for the show, some aspects of setting up a physical presence tend to come down to the wire.
“We’ve had a lot of obstacles,” Domaguing said, “ranging from working with vendors, trying to get certain items in time to making sure people understand how VR plays with the press, and our team just dealing with the stress.”
Austin Malcolm, public relations director for Gearbox, faced similar issues.
“The A/C wasn’t on, which we don’t mind, but all of our walls are based off of vinyl, so if it gets too hot it can kind of peel away. So it was really fun, trying to figure out how we we’re gonna fix that,” Malcolm told AListDaily. “That was the main obstacle, getting things set up. You just have to be fluid about it. If you have too much of a plan and it goes off-course, you just gotta steer it right back on.”
E3 As Inspiration
Just important as reaching consumers, influencers and press is, E3 also serves as a chance for marketers to take a look not just at what products their fellow brands have in store, but how they’re raising their game to promote them, pushing for more impressive show presences in the future.
“We thought our booth was really cool, but we were looking at other things and thinking ‘I can do that, I want to go bigger,'” Malcolm said. “Bigger and better is what we learned from this year.”
“You see some of these booths around here that are amazing, it’s pretty inspiring,” Robben added. “I want to have a giant booth like Fortnite does. I want to do some fun stuff, I’d like to sell some more exclusives. This has been a fun test, this is version one, but I definitely think we can do more and push the limits next year.”
Epic Games’ Fortnite served as inspiration for Gearbox as well: “I think the Fortnite booth is super cool, they have a lot of fun interactions for both consumers and press,” Malcolm stated. “That’s been a theme, how can you get them to interact with your booth that’s not just providing demos. There’s a lot of people here, and it takes a lot of time to play through the demos themselves, so what other things are they doing to make the consumer feel engaged—giving away things, selling merchandise, having photo opportunities?”
But as simple as selling exclusive merchandise may seem, it too can carry some problems, especially with a medium as fan-driven as video games.
“Determining what exclusives to sell is always a challenge,” Robben said. “You don’t want to make it something that fans are going to be upset about because they can’t get it, but you also don’t want to make it too niche so that nobody cares about it. It’s always a challenge to find out the right opportunity for exclusives, and something fans are going to want but not drive people crazy in the hunt for it.”