Sometimes you learn better by examples of how not to do something. Sadly, all of these ideas have been expressed or practiced by game developers . . . usually the ones who wonder why their games aren’t making much money.
Wait until the game is finished, or nearly so, to begin your marketing efforts.
After all, the game is the important thing, right Marketing is what you do after the game is done, sin’t it You know, when you’re sitting around looking at the daily sales numbers for your game, wondering why no one is buying it. That’s when you have plenty of time to think about marketing, when you’re not wondering how you’re going to pay your bills.
That sounds pretty silly, and yet all too often it’s the way startups and indie developers approach marketing. Like it’s some kind of icing you put on the cake when you’re done baking, rather than an ingredient that should be included in your recipe when you begin planning your meal.
Ideally, wouldn’t you want your game to be selling strongly from day one of release Sure, of course you would. That means people will have to know about the game well in advance of release, get excited about it, and decide to buy it as soon as it’s available. Doesn’t that sound like it requires some planning and work Yes, it does, and we call that marketing. It’s not an item, it’s a process, and to work properly you have to begin well in advance of when you want results.
Keep marketing completely separate from the game development process and everyone developing the game.
Sure, marketing might pollute the purity of the game design. Any hint of money or revenue will tarnish the game experience. And all of the programmers and artists and composers and designers shouldn’t be worried about where their paychecks will be coming from in the future, because it’s all about the Art of the Game, right
Perhaps, but if you expect to have a business based on revenue from games you create, you’d better be thinking about that from day one. Monetization is another ingredient that needs to be baked into the mix from the start, not slathered on top when you’re done. Look at the best-monetizing games out there for examples. Either you’ve got a price paid up front (which means you have to convince an audience it’s worth that amount from the start) or if the game is free, you’ve got to convince people to hand over money at some point. The best games are the ones where players are delighted to buy that cool stuff you’re offering. That means marketing thinking has been part of the game from the beginning.
Oh, and you want your game to grow organically Marketing cleverness can be integrated into the design such that players are happy to share about their game experiences, and the game makes it easy to do that.
Don’t waste your time on social media or the community that plays your game.
All that Twitter and Facebook time is just wasted, and besides, you’ll no doubt hear lots of complaints and outright assaults on your character. Who needs the grief Just give me your money, people, and shut up and leave me alone. If I can’t hear you, you’re not saying anything bad, right
Yes, it’s time-consuming and often annoying to wade through social media and spend time on community forums. But, you know, those are your customers, the people who you want to give you money. And the people you want to tell other people about your game and why it’s cool. Yes, it’s possible a community might arise on its own around your game, and be a wonderful, warm, inviting spot to visit. If you believe that, you’re probably buying a lot of lottery tickets, too. You want a good community You’re going to have to spend time building it.
Is that effort really worth it Well, ask Chris Roberts if the nearly $75 million he’s raised for Star Citizen has anything to do with their community efforts. Or ask Riot Games if their social media, community forums, and livestreaming games have anything to do with their success. Or Blizzard if their community forums and BlizzCons have any impact on their sales. Or… pretty much any other successful game company these days.
There’s no need to think about marketing if your game is good enough, it will go viral and grow itself.
This is pretty much standard thinking among many game startups these days, and it’s appalling, especially from people with industry experience who really ought to know better. Yes, perhaps if you’ve created Minecraft, this plan would work. And how many times have we seen a phenomenon like Minecraft in the games industry Somewhere in the vicinity of once.
Yes, of course you’re going to believe your game is just incredible, otherwise you wouldn’t have spent all that time putting it together. But just in case the rest of the world doesn’t recognize how wonderful your brain child is right away, you’d better put some effort into marketing. You know, just on the off chance that your game isn’t the very greatest game ever created.
Don’t spend money on marketing professionals, you can do all that stuff just as well.
Sure, what do those people know It’s all just common sense. You should be able to do that marketing stuff with a little thought, maybe a weekend or two and you can figure it all out. Uh huh. You know, if that’s true why should you spend money on a top-notch programmer or an ace artist Anybody should be able to do that stuff with a little help from a YouTube video or two. Who needs experts
Great art or killer coding or creative marketing isn’t something that just happens; you need great people who have the talent and experience in those fields to cause greatness to appear. Yes, a top coder might be expensive, but that may be what your game needs to get a key part of it done. Some impressive artwork may be pricey to commission, but it will get plenty of attention. Similarly, getting professional quality marketing help should be a given. Sure, you have to choose the right people. But there’s an immense boost that’s possible from the very best marketing.
Great games don’t just happen by accident. Luck may be a factor, but you can make luck more likely by getting the best talent for all aspects of your game. Marketing is no different than any other ingredient — choose the best, put it all together well, and you’ve increased your chance of a great outcome.