Top Ten 10 Fails Game Devs Make When Marketing Their Game

Here's what you're going to learn after reading or watching these video game marketing tips...

What you're about to learn is going to be counter-intuitive. And no PR person, publisher, or advertiser is going to tell you these marketing insights because it goes against their best interest.

What you will learn are insights that will help you market a game that sells itself. If you don't grasp what you're about to learn right now, you'll do what most game dev's do, and spend years making a game and think it's luck that sells a game. Or worse, they spend money on advertising that doesn't work.

So, let's get to the top 10 fails game devs make when marketing their game, and how you can avoid them...

Fail #1: The Traditional Way Of Marketing Your Game Still Works

Ok, so you finish your game. Now what? How do you get your game out there? Trade shows? Game conventions? Kickstarter? Media buys? Banner ads? Pay influencers to stream your game? Steam Greenlight?

This is what you have to do, right?

Well if you've tried this, and your game isn't getting attention and isn't selling, here's why...

Traditional game marketing doesn't work anymore.

Why?

Because the amount of games released every year is staggering. In 2016, Steam released 4200 games. By comparison, in 2012, they just released only 379. By this trend, you'll see over 5000 games released in 2017.

Nearly 40% Of All Steam's Video Games Were Released In 2016
Nearly 40% Of All Steam Games Were Released In 2016

And this is just Steam. What about consoles, mobile games, and handhelds?

So, what does this mean?

This means that the Golden Age of Video Gaming is over. No longer can you just make a game that's good, pay for some promotion, and bingo bango, you have 150,000 sales.

You can no longer rely on traditional marketing because EVERY game dev is doing the same thing. Imagine, 4200 games being marketed the same way. How do YOU stand out when everybody is doing what you're doing?

That's what you're going to learn here: you're going to get insights about how to stand out so your game get's attention, get's more gamers, and gets more sales.

Let's keep going then...

Fail #2: Trying to Copy How AAA Publishers Market Their Video Games

So, I just told you how traditional game marketing doesn't work anymore. But why do so many AAA games use it? If it works for them, why not you? Why can't an indie game dev emulate successful AAA game marketing? Maybe they can get the same results?

Well, it's obvious that AAA games have a lot of publisher money to help them promote, market, and sell their games. If you have that kind of money, great. But that's not what I want to talk about here.

What I'm talking about is an insight that most indie game devs never figure out, and it's this...

AAA game devs spend a lot of money to be "top of mind". They still use traditional game marketing because they need the gamer to NEVER forget about their game.

AAA games pump money into branding, conventions, youtubers, twtich, podcasters to make sure that gamers don't forget about them. They are competing with other AAA games. And the winner's are the ones that spend the most on marketing and advertising. Again, it's more to do with staying "top of mind" and exposure, and less on selling games.

So, where's the insight there?

Well, if you're an indie game dev, paying for "exposure" doesn't mean you'll get sales. In fact, you'll die of exposure (pun intended). Because the moment you stop paying for traditional marketing, that is when gamers will forget about you.

That's why AAA games have to constantly keep pumping money into branding their name. And it's an arms-race to who can spend the most on marketing to get their game promoted. But once you stop spending, you're forgotten.

This type of marketing isn't sustainable for indie game devs. But most never realize this, that they have to constantly keep pumping money into traditional game marketing, and ad campaigns, youtubers, commercial, etc., to keep their game "top of mind".

So, how does an indie game dev stand out? How can you market your game with as little money as possible -- and still get promotion and sell your game?

Read the next fail, and it will soon make sense...

Fail #3: Doing the Marketing AFTER You Finished Your Video Game

So, how do you promote your game if traditional marketing doesn't work or costs too much? How do you stand out and get attention when there's so many games coming out every year?

Well, here's a tip that will change the way you think about your game...

A big mistake most game devs make is, they focus their marketing AFTER they finish their game.

Why is this a mistake?

Because it's important to think about your marketing strategy during your game development. What I'm talking about is, "baking in" your marketing. Your marketing IS your game. Let me say that again, and maybe write this down on a sticky note and post up it on your monitor...

Your Marketing Is Your Game

Instead of trying to convince gamers to play our game, and buy it, your game sells itself.

How?

By learning how to be savvy with your marketing, you'll learn that trying to promote and market your game after you've finished it, is very difficult. And that's because almost every game dev is doing the same thing. Remember, if you want to stand out, don't copy what everybody is doing.

Instead, "bake in" your marketing when you're developing your game. The biggest benefit to thinking about marketing while developing your game is, you're increasing your chances that the game will sell itself.

And if you're not sure what marketing you should "bake in", then you're in the right place. I'll show you exactly what marketing strategies will help you grab a gamer's attention, and increase the chances of them buying your game.

For example, check out the next fail, and you'll see what I mean by "baking in" your marketing during development...

Fail #4: Trying To Compete With The Top Games In Your Genre

I just told you how important it is to "bake in" your marketing while you're developing a game. And if your strategy is to do marketing after you finished your're game, then it will be very difficult to get attention -- because almost everybody is doing the same thing.

So, let me show you what I mean by "baking in" your marketing...

A big mistake game devs make is, they develop a game that competes in a genre that is well established. Maybe the game dev does this unknowingly, or they think they can be "better", "different", or "cheaper". In any case, they are still competing with games that are top position in their genre.

Here's an example that will make sense to you...

Let's take the survival horror genre. If you try to compete in this genre, you're going to get buried.

Why? And what's wrong with trying to make another survival horror game? Why can't a game dev make a "better" or "cheaper" or "different" survival horror game?

Well, I want to share an insight with you that most game devs don't think about...

As a genre matures, games start dominating that genre. Those games become almost like brands. They essentially become brand names for their genres.

It's hard to compete with a video game that is dominating their genre
It's hard to compete with a video game that is dominating their genre

Here's a quick list of brand names that are filling up the survival horror genre fast... You have Resident Evil, Amnesia, Outlast, SOMA, Silent Hill, etc.

What's my point here?

Well, think about it this way. It's almost like you're trying to compete with Google, or Facebook.

These brands are dominating their "genre". Facebook is the top social network. Google is the top search engine.

But, here's where it gets interesting...

Google tried to compete with Facebook when they pushed Google Plus. Not even with their 2.2 billion user base, could Google Plus compete with Facebook.

Why?

Because Facebook is the top brand name in their "genre". It's almost impossible to compete with top brand names.

Same with gaming. If you're making another survival horror game, it's too late. The genre is matured enough where brand name games are filling up the top spots.

Maybe if you made a survival horror game 5 years ago, you'd have a chance.

And this is where "baking in" your marketing comes in. When developing your game, are you going to be another "me too" game in a genre filled with brand name games? If so, it will be like Google Plus trying to take on Facebook.

So, how do you NOT do this? How do you increase your chances to get noticed in your genre?

Let me show you in the next fail...

Fail #5: Focusing On Making a "Great", "Cheaper", "Different" Game

So you just learned that trying to compete in a genre that has matured, and is filled with top, brand name games is almost impossible. You'll have a hard time getting a gamer's attention. And it will be even harder to sell your game.

But still, game devs make this mistake...

Game devs see that, for example, survival horror is so popular right now, and think, "Survival Horror is HUGE right now... lot of gamers playing it. SO I'm gonna make a game that's better... cheaper... different".

Except, these game devs don't understand how an "industry" or genre matures. Again, when a genre has become popular, it's TOO late to compete in. There are already established games that gamers know about, and like.

For example, a game dev can say they can make a "better" SOMA or Resident Evil or Outlast. Except any of those games will come out with a sequel and get way more attention. Publisher's aren't stupid. When they have a brand name game that's top in their genre, they're going to squeeze as much money as they can out of it.

Even if a game dev makes a better game, it doesn't matter. These brand name games already have momentum. They are already slotted in the top 5 games in their genre.

Being "better" or "cheaper" or "different" doesn't work in a genre that has matured.

Let's look at the business world, and this will make sense why being better doesn't work.

There's a lot of Internet Service Providers that are "cheaper" and "better" than the leading brand names (like Comcast, or Bell here in Canada).

Even though there's a lot of smaller ISPs that are cheaper and better, they never overtake the big brand names. Why? Because the ISP market has matured. The players in the game are established. And people gravitate to what's number one or two or three -- without thinking. That's why these big ISPs still make millions even though everybody hates them.

Another example, is Youtube. There's so many problems with Youtube, and even though there are "better" video sites that are trying to compete, they'll never overtake Youtube. Youtube is number one. They got the top spot in their "genre". It's almost impossible to knock off a number one brand name off it's pedestal with "better" or "cheaper".

Same with gaming. Most game genres are saturated with top brand name games. Even if your game is better or cheaper, it's going to be really hard to get attention. And it's almost impossible to knock off a game that is established in the top 5 in their genre.

Fail #6: Not Knowing Why People Buy and Play Games

Why do you think people play video games? This is serious question. And it's important because most game devs make the mistake of assuming why -- but never really know why. And when they start assuming why people play their games, then they decrease their chances of promoting and selling their game.

Let me explain why this is the case.

What get's a person to click on a link, and put a game in their online shopping cart, open their wallet, fill in the online sales form, and click the BUY button? Why do people spend a lot of money on video games? In fact, a lot of people buy video games and NEVER play them.

The obvious answer to most game devs is, the games are fun. It's a chance to release stress. And you can play with your friends, and not think about work or family or responsibilities. It's a way to escape reality.

Or another obvious reason people buy games is, they want to collect games, and they like to see them on their digital shelf -- and it doesn't matter if they play them or not.

These are the simple, most obvious reasons people play games. But there is a deeper motivation to why people play video games. And knowing this will help promote and sell your game. Let me show you a list of non-obvious reasons why people play video games...

Non-obvious reasons why people play video games...

Why should you care about all this? Because this will help you when you're developing your game. This is what I mean when I say "bake in" your marketing, or when I say, your marketing IS your game.

For example, if you know people like gaining personal prestige, than maybe you can incorporate a mechanic in your game that lets the gamer feel and experience this feeling.

Fail #7: Asking a Gamer To BUY NOW Without Building a Relationship First

Remember how I told you that the Golden Age of Gaming is over? And thousands of games are coming out every month -- more than ever before? And that the traditional way marketing and getting a gamer's attention isn't working anymore because there are so many games?

But there is a way to get a gamer's attention -- and it's free.

To get the attention of a gamer when there's so many games coming out every month, you want to use the strategy that's called "Stair Step Modern Marketing".

I forget where I learned this, but here's how this works...

When you meet a person for the first time, and you ask them for a huge commitment in the first meeting, they're going to run away. Imagine you meet somebody you like, and you ask them to marry you in the first meeting? It's going to scare them away.

This is exactly what happens when a gamer meets you for the first time, and you ask them to BUY NOW.

Gamers need time to get to know you, and your game, and what they'll get out of it if they play your game and buy it.

You need to build a relationship first, before you ask them to BUY NOW. Again, this is called Stair Step Modern Marketing -- meaning, every interaction with you is one step in building a relationship first, before you ask them the big question: "Will You Marry My Game"?

Star Citizen's biggest success is their ability to develop a relationship with their gamers
A model for video game marketing: Star Citizen knows how to build relationships with their gamers

A great example of this is what Star Citizen is doing. They have a weekly Production Schedule Report, where they tell their fans and backers their weekly milestones. What's happening here is, they're building a relationship with their gamers built on trust.

And here's a cautionary tale:

You lose trust with gamers when you stop communicating with them
A cautionary tale for video game marketing: At The Gates stopped talking to it's gamers, and lost trust

The lead developer of Civ 4 decided to start his own 4x strategy game, At The Gates. But before he put up his game on Kickstarter, he had a podcast talking about game development. He built a small group of game followers before he announced his game. And he managed to get $400,000 from his Kickstarter campaign from his podcast followers and fans.

But then he stopped talking. He quit the podcast, he no longer gave out updates. His fans have turned on him. People funding him has stopped. even though the developer says he's still working on the game. And it's too late, he's lost so many fans because he stopped talking. He stopped building that relationship.

Remember, you're competing with thousands of games. And these games are all trying to get a gamer's attention. Gone are the days of where you can just us traditional marketing like commercials, banner ads, and even paying youtubers and people to stream your game. You need a more sophisticated approach, and start with focusing on building a relationship first before you ask a gamer for a huge commitment, like BUY NOW.

Fail #8: Not Offering a Free Demo

The obvious reasons of a free demo is that gamers LOVE free stuff. And it's an easy way to get as many gamers to play your game -- essentially promoting it at the same time.

But here's a not so obvious reason...

I just told you about how to slowly build a relationship with your fans before you ask them to BUY NOW. And to build a relationship, you need to start communications with a gamer somehow.

So, how do you even start that communication? How can you get gamers to come to your Kickstarter, or developer blog, or developer podcast in the first place?

A free game demo is your best "lure".

But a lot of game devs make the mistake of thinking a demo game is a waste of time. But now with so many games out there, you need to work a bit harder to get a person's attention. And asking them to BUY NOW is getting harder and harder to do.

A better strategy is to build a relationship based on trust. And a game demo is a simple way to offer a gamer something where they don't have to commit to anything.

Remember my analogy: you don't want to ask somebody to marry you on the first date. That's too big of a commitment. Same when trying to sell your game, you don't want to ask a gamer to BUY NOW. You need a gamer to trust you before they commit to buying your game. And a demo is your best way to start that communication, that relationship, that trust, because a demo is low commitment.

Use a free video game demo to build a relationship with gamers, and build trust, before you ask them to BUY NOW
Use a free video game demo to build a relationship with gamers, and build trust, before you ask them to BUY NOW

Just look at Resident Evil 7. Their past few games got horrible reviews. They lost trust with their fans. And a lot of fans didn't trust that Resident Evil 7 would be any good because of their past games.

So the first thing Capcom did was put out a fantastic demo. They took a risk, but they were confident that their game was good -- and different from the games prior. And it worked. This little demo gained back the trust. It build free word-of-mouth. And when RE7 launched, gamers already trusted Capcom, and bought the game.

A free video game demo will also help you increase sales
Maybe a free video game demo would have helped Watch Dogs 2 gain back trust, and increase sales

Now look at the flipside: Watch_Dogs. That first game had amazing PR behind it. It got gamers excited. But the game turned out to be less than expected. So when the second Watch_Dogs came out, it sold LESS. That's because gamers lost trust. Even though Watch_Dogs 2 is reviewed as a better game than the first one, it's too late. They lost trust with the gamer.

But imagine if Watch_Dogs 2 had a free demo? What if gamers could see how the developer turned around and made a better game? What if they used a demo to build trust with the gamer before they launched? I bet they'd sell a lot more.

That's my point here... as a game dev, it's important to build trust with a gamer, and maintain a relationship. And the best way to start a relationship where they trust you, is to offer a free demo.

Fail #9: Believing In The "Game Dev Myth"

Let's pretend you love cooking.

And you go to chef school, or you are a self-taught chef. You get a job at a fancy, 5 star restaurant. You become a superstar chef. You build up a name, and you're recognized as a leading chef. So, you decide that you're too good to work at a restaurant, so you start your own. Besides, YOU are why restaurant is so popular. Why give them all the fame and money? Why not start your own?

So you do. You start your own restaurant. And it also becomes a HUGE success. Great! Your dream of being a successful chef owning his or her own restaurant is fulfilled.

Except, you realize, you love cooking and you HATE running the restaurant. In fact, you're no longer a chef, but a manager and a business owner. You have to worry about finance, marketing, accounting, human resources, etc. So you hire people to do that. But now you got MORE responsibility because you have to manage all those people. So you went from doing what you love, being a chef, to a business person that manages people.

What's my point here? What does this have to do with getting gamers to play and buy your game?

As a game dev, you have to be ok with the fact that you will be wearing a lot of "business hats". You're going to have to love running a business as much as you love game development.

And that's the "Game Dev Myth" -- finishing your game is not the achievement. The achievement is getting gamers to play and buy your game. Finishing your game is only half the battle.

Sometimes, game devs realize that they're happy just making games, and they go back to working for somebody else. That's ok.

But the ones that succeed, are the ones that accept their new roles as a "marketer" or "manager". To be fully independent means you're ok with that extra responsibility.

And if you're ok with no longer being just a game dev, and you're more ambitious than that, than you are increasing your chances of selling more games.

You are now going to become a successful marketer, and you understand the underlying reasons why gamers will buy and play your game.

And the next game you develop, you'll build-in your marketing, and the game will sell itself.

Just look at other business people and game developers: Steve Jobs was one of the best marketers I know. Was he a programmer? Was he a designer? Sure. But he was more of a marketer, than anything else. He knew the underlying reasons why people buy stuff -- and he made products from that knowledge.

Even Todd Howard from Bethesda is one of my favourite marketers. I honestly don't like the guy for some reason, but I do respect his marketing. He knows how to "bake-in" marketing when designing his game. He makes games that sell themselves. Yeah, they use a lot of traditional marketing like commercials and ads -- but that's because they have a huge budget. But he knows how to design games that sell themselves.

My goal here is to show you how important learning marketing is when developing your game. Without it, it's going to be really difficult to get a gamer's attention, get a gamer to play your game, and get a gamer to buy your game.

Don't think of it as "marketing". Think of it as you being a producer and a designer.

Ok, what if you don't want to be a marketer, or producer, or designer? Can't you just pay publishers, PR people, or advertisers to do that?

Well, that's the last fail...

Fail #10: Relying on Publishers, Advertisers, and PR People and NOT Relying on Yourself

This is the biggest fail of all. And I get it, most game devs don't want to be a "marketer" or "salesperson". And it's a lot easier to pay somebody else to do that for you.

But here's the thing...

Nobody loves your game more than you. Nobody understand your game as intimately like you. Giving away control over how your game is marketed and advertised to somebody who probably will never play your game or doesn't understand it like you, is like giving away everything you worked for.

Advertisers and publishers are busy. You can't depend on them to be as hard working and loving toward your game as you are. They have many games they have to think about. And they only exert effort into games they know will sell. They never give a fighting chance to the games they don't want to take a risk on. They can't afford to pump money into EVERY game they get. Even AAA game publishers pick and choose who they decide to put all their money into. And they even cancel games that were almost finished because they don't want to take a risk.

But by learning your OWN marketing, you're giving yourself a fighting chance. You're increasing your odds in getting a gamer to find your game, play it, and then buy it. You're learning how to make a game that sells itself. If you let somebody else do that for you, you'll lose that valuable skill of knowing how to make games that sell themselves.

Do all successful game devs know how to market their game? No. And some video games sell like crazy with very little marketing, PR, and advertising.

But those are the only ones you hear about. But what about the thousands of game devs that work year after year, and make BETTER games than the ones they see sell off the shelf, and never see their own game get the same attraction?

So, where do you start? How to you begin your journey into learning how to market your video game so it sells itself? How do you get gamers to play and buy your game?

Here's your next step...