The global games market is growing quickly, expected to be valued at $115.8 billion in 2018. From that gigantic valuation, video games – those played on a console or a boxed or downloaded to a PC – will make up a mighty 51% of the total global games market in 2018.
While the video games market has grown in popularity over the years, so has the way that games are marketed. With the rise of the internet, advertising techniques have been used to reach a wider audience. But game developers and operators have explored methods other than just advertising to market their games, some of which have proved to be more successful than others.
Advertising is one of the best forms of marketing, and the video games industry still utilizes it to its benefit. Back in the day, major game and console releases were heavily advertised to the public, such as the 1997 launch of Crash Bandicoot 2: Cortex Strikes Back. The original sold a record-breaking 1.7 million worldwide, but the “Crash is Back” campaign by developers Sony – targeting magazines, and high-profile television advertising slots – resulted in the second installment of the Crash Bandicoot video game franchise selling 7.58 million copies just one year after the original hit the scene.
Advertising is still the best way to spread awareness of a product, but now television commercials are used with less frequency by the video games industry, with them opting to directly target their main audience, Millennials and the iGeneration, via their most used platform – the internet.
You’ll still find commercials for the biggest video games and consoles on the television, and online advertisements often take a similar shape with a short cinematic video, but the form of advertising itself has changed to befit many new avenues. Rather than just banners with the game’s logo, you’ll now find animated windows, pop-ups, social media posts, advert barriers on online videos, and even gameplay videos – as the franchise remaster Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy did.
The pre-order sweet spot
Where the pre-order used to used to get quantitative data on the market and allow players to guarantee that they got a copy of a game as soon as they could, pre-order is now utilized as a marketing technique to boost sales. It is commonplace for a new game to offer a pre-order bonus of exclusive content that only comes by pre-ordering the game.
This isn’t entirely dissimilar to how operators in the iGaming industry market themselves. With video games, people commit to buying a game that, for the most part, hasn’t been fully revealed yet. Whereas with iGaming, people sign up to sites, deposit some funds to then get more content (bonus money) to play the games. For example, the casino bonus will often include free spins to play popular games like Gonzo’s Quest as well as some bonus money.
It’s very similar in that people are inputting money for something that they haven’t fully experienced yet, and possibly know very little about, but because of this bonus, players are more than willing to do so. It’s a great way not only to boost sales and get more knowledge of the interest – thus decide if more traditional advertising is needed – but it also allows the gamers to get a nice bonus reward for their commitment.
It should also be noted that giving too little or too much can have adverse effects. Not giving enough of a bonus, such as Assassin’s Creed: Unity which offered a bonus pair of pants, or offering too much as an exclusive for the pre-order, such as Alien: Isolation’s set of exclusive missions, can make the gaming community tear shreds out of the campaign, or accuse the developers of money-grubbing for a product that they haven’t completed. Finding the sweet spot has proven to be key.
Adapting to a vigilant gaming market
With the rapid development of gaming of all sorts, audiences have seemed to go with the flow, such as with mobile games’ microtransactions – people accept them as the game is free to play. But when developers blatantly try to pull more money out of their players who have paid a premium price or the games don’t live up to their advertising, the gaming community shows their outrage on immensely popular forums like Reddit – the prime examples being the debacle that EA have found themselves after the release of Star Wars: Battlefront II, and No Man’s Sky.
Overall, the video games industry has done well to market their games around the world, and adjust to the change of technology and preferences of their audiences. However, now and then, they slip up, and when all the marketing doesn’t equate to a good product, the gaming community sounds off.