At the beginning of the video game era, games were marketed by word of mouth, magazine articles, cheesy television commercials, and magazine spots. These days, game marketing comes in a plethora of forms, from the standard television, billboard and magazine advertisement blitz, to the more unique alternate reality games and popular culture tie-ins. The video game industry is a massive business, with 58 percent of Americans playing games, according to the Entertainment Software Association. The demographic isn’t just for kids these days, either — the average gamer age is 30. Today’s marketing techniques reflect the shift in the video game market demographic as they grew up beside this thriving industry.
Alternative Reality Games
Alternative or augmented reality games are marketing techniques that take the players outside of the game world for Easter eggs or marketing purposes. One of the most famous video game ARGs was “I Love Bees,” for Bungie’s “Halo” game. Halo Nation reports this marketing campaign for “Halo 2” started with a launching point of a supposed beekeeper website, which was being taken over by a mysterious entity.
The clues were first planted in a game trailer, leading to this website. Over the course of the marketing campaign, players were sent to payphones, gaining audio files for the website, and interacting with voice actors. The ARG concluded with gamers being pulled in to play “Halo 2” and receive DVDs before the game was officially released, according to Halo.wikia.com.
Pierce Mattie Communications reports on a few modern day rules of video game marketing. Given how large the video game industry is, it’s no wonder game marketing is closer to the scope of movie marketing these days. A hotly anticipated game, Battlefield 4, utilizes many marketing techniques to make sure gamers are aware of the game, and why they should be excited.
“Battlefield 4” previews and advertisements are seen on gaming websites and magazines, and video ads pop up on related streaming videos. The Battlefield developers keep gamers up to date with the latest features that separate them from the “Call of Duty” franchise, and they have an active presence at trade shows and consumer gaming shows to keep the anticipation at a fever pitch.
The more chances a game has at getting its advertisement to go viral, the better. Online advertising is such an important part of the marketing strategy, since fewer and fewer people are watching television these days. They also use ad blockers, so traditional banner advertisement methods online don’t work as well, as PierceMattie.com notes.
In a world of multi-million dollar video game marketing, it’s hard to see how indie gamers can compete. Some games, such as “Surgeon Simulator 2013,” benefit heavily from the viral factor. This game seems like a simple, almost dry concept. You have to perform transplants using your keyboard and mouse to control your fingers and arm. However, the difficulty of the controls results in many hilarious situations that lead to you hammering out someone’s ribs, tossing the transplant heart across the room, and other bits of humor that lend themselves well to viral videos.
Other marketing techniques for indie games include offering free mobile versions with paid upgrades, getting onto digital download platforms such as Steam and Desura, and interacting with fans through social media sites, such as Reddit.