How games get players?
Marketing. For many independent game developers, it's a curse word, a monster in the closet and/or the darkest nightmare. Unfortunately, if you're planning on getting money back from your games, you need to take it seriously and focus on it. Don't let the luck decide your business, you need to try at least.
In this post, I try to wrap up some of my experiences from my previous mobile game projects. How did/did not get players for our game(s). I'll write another article soon, where I take a closer look for PC games!
First of all, it's good to understand, that there is no single recipe, to publish a game and succeed 100%. There are ways to increase your chances though! The more you do the required actions, the higher the chances are. When running a marketing campaign with a low (or zero) budget, you need to get creative. In this post, we look more into the "proven ways" of getting players for your game.
When looking at the current mobile game field, the most efficient action you can perform right now is the "traditional" UA (User Acquisition) campaign. This means spending hundreds, thousands or maybe hundreds of thousands for ads campaign(s) in media like Facebook, Google UAC, Chartboost, Instagram and so on. After spending enough money for the UA campaigns, you are able to discover what type of marketing materials work and what does not. You're also more able to identify your focus group, which is always a hard task to do without properly collected data.
Testing out different marketing materials is also one of the key elements when doing UA. It can be surprising, what combination of ad video and focus group start to get players in with a low cost. In some cases, it can take thousands of dollars to get the idea of your core user and what they prefer to see in the ad, to actually install the game.
It’s good to remember, that only getting the user to click on, is only the beginning. Their next stop is your game store page (Appstore, Google Play…), which needs to be from the same world than the ad was. And of course, the same goes for the game itself. If the whole pipeline from seeing the ad, jumping to the store page and installing the actual game is seamless, you will most likely get more loyal users for your game.
(If the user sees beautiful videos and feature descriptions, but the actual gameplay is wholly different, you will most likely see players installing the game, but leaving right after.)
By failing to do this, the pipeline cracks at some point. This can be noticed when looking at the analytics, and seeing that people do visit your store page, but don’t install the game. Or maybe they install the game but leave/uninstall right after.
What I prefer to do, right after getting some marketing materials in order, is to go for the 'data-driven marketing'. What's that?!
Here is a quick example:
- Make 3-5 different videos and/or promotional images for the chosen platform (Facebook, Admob, Unity Ads...)
- Plan your focus group to the platform
- Run test with a minimum of 100 EUR.
- See/analyze results. Try to make assumptions what worked and what did not.
- Repeat the process but fix the issues you discovered
Of course, this type of marketing is rather risky, since there is no guarantee that "you will get your money back". But that's a risk you must take if you're serious with your game.
But hey, why could you just tell your friends and family, Twitter pals and other people to spread the word? You absolutely can! This is a very, very slow way to get players for your game. Since (most likely) your game is free-to-play, it requires a big amount of players to start generating the necessary revenue.
If you don’t have the budget for doing user acquisition campaigns (UA), your best chance is to make the store page and in-game content as polished as possible and reach out to stores (Google, Apple) for featuring your game. You can always seek a publisher, who has the budget for the required UA. (Getting a publisher for your game is a whole different story, which I can cover in coming blog posts!)
ALWAYS try to get some size of a marketing budget for your game. It just fastens stuff a lot and saves your precious time which you can use for the actual game development. If you still don't have the possibility of getting a marketing budget, you need to start planning the whole development process as part of your marketing strategy, and you need to start it from the day one.
Leave a comment below if there is something else, which you would love to hear from marketing, or maybe something else!