Why Some Video Games Sell Themselves and Others Stay on The Digital Shelf

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

If you don't learn how to promote and market your game, you'll get buried in the sea of the thousands of games that come out every year.

I'm not kidding. Let me show you something interesting...

Why It's So Hard To Get Publicity For Your Game

You've probably seen this...

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

So what's so interesting about this?

Many game devs believe that all they have to do is make a great game, and it will sell itself. Or, that they just need to make a "better" game than the competition. Or they just need to make something "different" than the competition.

It's not enough just to make a great game... or a better game... or a different game. That use to work when there were less games. More and more games are being published faster than ever before. Your competition is prolific. Getting attention is getting a lot harder.

With SOOO many games coming out every month, it's up to you to learn how to promote and market your game. You can't use "great", "better", "different" as a crutch anymore.

Why?

Because your competition is doing something new: game devs are now learning that it's not enough just to be a talented developer. They're learning how to market their game because if they don't, they won't get noticed. And if you don't get noticed, nobody will buy and play your game.

The competition is so high, that in order to get attention these days, you need to learn how to market and promote your games yourself.

So, let's keep going. Grab a coffee, tea, water (or a scotch), dig in, and let's learn how you can make a game that sells itself, by learning this...

How To Make a Game That Sells Itself -- And It's Not About Being Better or Different

Here's an insight no game dev, PR person, or advertiser will tell you...

A gamers biggest pain is having TOO many games to play. Not only do they have too many games to pick from -- a lot of them are really good, and really fun.

Again, it's not enough anymore to make a great, fun, interesting, different game. Every game dev is trying to do that!

Those days when you can make a great game, and word-of-mouth would spread easily are gone. There's so many games out now, that you need a different strategy to get attention.

But that's not the insight I want you to discover. Here's what I'm talking about...

In marketing there's a strategy to help you get noticed even though there are thousands and thousands of products competing with you. It's called Positioning. I have to credit this brilliant insight to Jack Trout and Al Ries book "Positioning: The Battle For Your Mind".

Use Postioning to get your video game noticed when there's a lot of competition
Use Positioning to get your video game noticed when there's a lot of competition

(Personal note: I've used this insight 10 plus years ago. It is the single biggest factor in the success of my online store / service I started back in 2005... and I'm going to show you how you can use Positioning to get more gamers).

How To Use Positioning To Get More Gamers To Play and Buy Your Video Game

First off, Don't compete on "different" or "better". Instead do this better strategy...

So, what is Positioning? How can you use it to get more gamers to buy and play your games? How will it help you make a game that sells itself?

Let me show you what I mean...

Think of 5 search engines. Or, what about 5 social networks?

Could you come up with 5 search engines or even 5 social networks? It's hard, hey? The first 2 or 3 are easy to come up with. But after that, you have to think really hard.

Have you heard of wow.com? It's in the top 5 search engines! Pretty impressive. But I've never heard of wow.com. And even though I know about it now, I'll never use it.

What's my point here? What does this have to do with you and getting more gamers?

What's important here is, that you need to think like a gamer does.

When a person buys something, they already have in their mind the top 2 or 3 brands of a product. If they see a product they never heard of, they're less likely going to buy it. They're going to stick with the brand they know. This is why game publishers love making game sequels (even if they're broken, they still sell).

Anyway, wow.com might be in the top 5 search engines, but I'm not going to use it. Google Plus might be a social network, but I'm not going to use it.

Google Plus failed as a social network. Why? Because people already have slotted Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, even LinkedIn, as their top 2 or 3 social networks they use. They already have their top 3 sites "top of mind".

Even Google with their billions of users, and billions of dollars, couldn't get Google Plus into the top 2 or 3 social networks.

Ok, great, now what? How does this insight help you?

The fun is just starting. All of this will make sense soon...

How To Position Your Game and Get a Gamers Attention

Ok, now let me ask you this : Think of a open-world, action game? Right now all I think of is Grand Theft Auto IV. Or what is the top multiplayer FPS? Overwatch? Your answers may be different. But chances are, all the games we can come up with, we can agree on most.

My point here is, what these games have done are, they were positioned to be the top 3 or so in their genre. And when a game dev makes a game to compete with games that are already positioned in the top 3 or so in a genre, it's going to fail.

Just ask Google Plus. They tried to compete with sites that are already positioned in the top 3 social networks. But it's hard to go against what's "top of mind" in a person's head. Google is the number one search engine. They have a 2.2 billion user base. But even Google's 2.2 billion user base couldn't take Google Plus and beat Facebook.

This "top of mind" thinking happens everywhere. Just look at internet service providers. There are a lot of "cheaper", "better" ISPs, but people still stick to those huge cable networks that offered horrible services that are more expense. Why don't more people switch to a "better" ISP? Because those cable networks are "top of mind".

"Same With Video Games..."

How many gamers complain about AAA games, how they are rushed and released unfinished? How many youtubers complain about microtransactions, yet they admit they pay for microtransactions, too?

Why? Because AAA games have positioned themselves as the top 3 or so in their genre. They are "top of mind". They have so much momentum, that not even releasing broken games or microtransactions will stop that momentum. Not even competition that is "cheaper" or "better" can stop them, and remove them from being in the top 3. The only way those games with that much momentum can be stopped is if THEY screw up so many times that eventually gamers will get fed up. But as long as a game has that much momentum of being in the top 3 or so in their genre, nothing can stop them.

So, how do you compete? Do you make a "better" game? Do you make a "different" game? Do you wait for your competition to screw up and eventually gamers will get fed up, and then you sneak in?

You can. Or you can try this better strategy...

Don't Compete By Being "Better" or "Different" -- In Fact, Don't Compete At All

How do you get your game "top of mind"? Banner ads? Media buys? Paying influencers to stream your game? Waiting for games to drop out of being in the top 3?

If that's your strategy, then you're still competing with games that are "top of mind". You're still trying to do what Google Plus did and compete with the top social networks.

A better strategy is, instead of directly competing with other games, you break off, and create your own sub-genre -- and become number 1 in that sub-genre.

Let me explain...

How The Long Dark Positioned Their Video Game and Marketed It
The Long Dark marketed their video game successful because they positioned it in their genre

There's a lot of open world, survival, crafting games. But the Long Dark has gotten attention because they broke off, and created their own sub-genre. They created a game for the specific type of gamer who doesn't want to kill zombies and bad guys. Having a game where you try to survive the elements like weather, is appealing to A LOT of people. And this small change where the game devs decided deliberately not to put in zombies and baddies to shoot, has made all the difference in terms of standing out. Long Dark created their own little sub-genre, and are dominating it. Now you'll see a lot of "me too" games making "weather survival" games. But it's too late for those me-toos. Long Dark has the number one spot.

Same with Overwatch. There's a lot of multiplayer FPS games. But Overwatch stood out because they focused only on arena battle. Do other multiplayer games offer arena battle? Yup. But Overwatch focused on one aspect, and become known as the number 1 battle arena game.

Do you see a pattern here?

Instead of the Long Dark trying to compete with other survival / crafting games, they created their own sub-genre. Overwatch didn't try to compete with other multiplayer games or MOBAs. In fact, they got RID of some game play features most multiplayer FPS offer, and focused on a small niche: the battle arena. Now they dominate their own sub-genre.

These games have been Positioned to be the top in their OWN sub-genre. They didn't go out and try to be "better" or "different" and compete in a genre that already has an established top 3 games. They went out and created their own little sub-genre and dominated it.

So, how does knowing this help you? How can you create your own sub-genre? How can you position your game to be number one in your own sub-genre? How will this help you get more gamers to play and buy your game?

In the next part I'll show you 3 steps on exactly how to do this...

3 Step Action Plan: How To Create Your Own Sub-Genre, Dominate It, and Get Gamers To Play and Buy Your Game

If you follow these 3 easy steps I'm about to share with you, you'll get more gamers' attention... you'll get "top of mind"... you'll outcompete your competition... you'll get gamers to buy and talk about your game.

If you don't follow these 3 steps, you'll just do what most game dev's do, and hope that they get lucky that their game will sell... or worse... they spend money on advertising that doesn't work.

My goal is to teach you how to market your game yourself, and make a game that sells itself. So, here's exactly what to do...

Step 1: Take Control Of Your Own Marketing and Don't Rely on Hope, Luck, PR People and Advertisers

So, let's sum up everything you've learned so far...

My point here is, that as a game dev, you need to add marketing to your skills. Don't rely on "better" or "different" as a crutch. Don't spend money on advertising and PR that may or may not work. Don't hope that you get lucky. Take control of your marketing.

Why?

Because if you don't learn how to market and promote your own games, then you'll get buried with the thousands of games that come out every year.

But if you do learn how to become a bit savvy with your marketing... if you take control over your own marketing, then you'll make games that sell themselves.

So, what exactly do you do then? That's next.

Step 2: Don't Be "Different" or "Better" or "Cheaper" -- That's Not How To Stand Out

Remember how I told you about Google Plus trying to get into social networking, and failing? Well, if a game dev is making another survival FPS, or another 8 bit platformer, or another pixel art puzzle game, then they are the "Google Plus" of gaming. They are trying to compete with other games that are already "top of mind" in a genre, that are already in the top 5.

And when a game dev says their game is "better" or "different", it doesn't matter. Remember, it's almost impossible to compete with already established winners. Being better, cheaper, different isn't enough. Just look at the all the internet providers that are cheaper, better, different... they still can't outcompete huge cable networks that offer far less superior internet service.

Same with gaming: if a game dev looks at the games in their genre, and says, "I can make that better". Or, "I'm going to make X but different", then they're going to lose. That's not how to stand out. Those game dev's are just making "me too" games.

This step is important because I want you to stop comparing your game to other games. When you do that, you'll fall into the trap of trying to be "better", "cheaper" or "different".

So, how do you compete? How do you avoid being another "me too" game? How do you stand out, and compete with games that are already "top of mind"? How do you take control and make sure your different game gets attention?

That's next...

Step 3: Be Different By Doing LESS and Focusing On What's Unique About Your Game

Remember how I told you about Long Dark, and how that game is getting noticed? The Long Dark did something brilliant. Instead of adding MORE stuff like zombies and bad guys, the devs deliberately took AWAY features.

Why is this important? How does this differentiate from all the other games?

A slight change where you take away features, parts of game play, or a game mode, helps you avoid trying to compete with other big games. Why? Because then you will be seen as the game that does something unique, that no other game does. That's how you stand out.

Again, you're not trying to compete. You know now that trying to be "different" or "better" than other games is not how to get attention.

By offering LESS features and game play, you're telling gamers that you're not another "me too" game. In fact, you are created a new sub-genre that no gamer has played yet. That's how you get attention. That's how you create a new sub-genre that nobody is taking advantage of.

You want that feeling in a gamer when they discover a whole new genre and think: "YES! This is exactly the game I wanted... why hasn't anybody done this!".

This is how gamers feel when they discover Long Dark. "Yes! Why hasn't anybody done a simple game survival game with NO zombies or bad guys?".

Gamers now slot The Long Dark as the number one game where you survive against the elements like weather. And there's a huge market for gamers who don't want to kill zombies and bad guys. The game dev's took one aspect of a BIG genre, broke off a piece, offered less features (like killing zombies), and made their own sub-genre. And are now the number one game for that sub-genre.

Let me show you other examples of when doing LESS means you're differentiating yourself from the others (and getting attention because of it):

Facebook is a huge social network. One of the features was the "status update". Twitter took what was fun about Facebook, and only focused on the "status update". Twitter did LESS than Facebook. They broke off, and created their own little sub-genre, and become number one in it.

Another example...

One of Photoshop's best feature was its filters. They made it easy for pro photographers make their images look really good. Then one day, Instagram took the best part of Photoshop (filters), and made it easy for normal everyday people to show off their photos. Again, Instagram broke off a little piece of a big genre (photo editing), and created their own sub-genre (photo filters). They did LESS than Photoshop. And they stood out for doing so.

What I want you to take-away from this is, when you're trying to Position your game, focus on ONE thing you're good at. Do LESS. Why? Because that's how you get a gamers attention. People gravitate to games that specialize at a few features, gameplay or story.

Trying to compete by being "different" or "better" is not how you stand out. You stand out by focusing on one aspect of your genre (like game play, game mode, story, feature), and develop that as your single best part of your game. That's how you create your own sub-genre. Gamers will start seeing you as the leader in that sub-genre. And gamers gravitate to new sub-genres they never heard of before. That's how you get attention. That's how you get more gamers to buy and play your games.

Do This Right Now

You just learned a lot of stuff. So good job! This took me almost 10 years to figure out. And sitting and learning is one thing, but taking action is where you really learn.

So, I put together an exercise that will only take about 10 to 15 minutes. It will help you discover new insights about the game you're developing in a way you never thought of before.

You'll learn how to make your game stand out by seeing how it's creating it's own sub-genre that you can dominate.

Get More Gamers Attention, Sell More Games, By Creating Your Own Sub-Genre You Can Dominate

So you learned that trying to be another "me too" isn't going to work (just look at Google Plus). And you learned that being "better" and "different" won't help you stand out.

A better strategy is to Position your game to be "top of mind" in the mind of a gamer. Remember, a gamer doesn't have time to research games. They have too many to pick from. They are lazy. So they gravitate to the top 5 or so games in a genre.

To become the top 5 games in a genre, you need to create a sub-genre no game dev is taking advantage of.

How? Take the next 10 to 15 minutes to answer these questions. You'll gain insights about your game that no PR or advertiser will tell you. Use what you've learned about your game to help market and promote your game.

Ready? Let's go!

What Really Is Your Genre?

This may sound like an easy question. But I want you to pay special attention on how you answer it. This will give you insights about your own game that you've never thought of before.

If you answered, "indie game", then keep digging. What kind of indie game? Puzzler? FPS? Platformer?

Ok, say you're a platformer. What kind? FPS? Ok... what kind of FPS Platformer?

Keep digging. Maybe there's a word you come up with that nobody has used yet? Think of genre's like "rogue-like" as an inspiration.

That's what I want you to look out for when doing this exercise. What's a word or name that you can come up with?

The reason I want you to do this is because this will help you gain an insight about your game that you've never thought of before. You'll see your game in a new light. And once you know your sub-genre, then this will help you differentiate yourself from the competition. Knowing this will help you talk about your game in unique ways, that don't sound like every other game.

What's One Feature, Game Play, Game Mode, Story About Your Game That Sticks Out?

Again, keep digging by asking yourself this question:

Why? Because the goal is to create a NEW sub-genre that you can dominate in. You want to become the next "rogue-like". I'm not talking about making a roguelike game. I'm talking about taking a feature, game play / mode, story so that gamers know you for being the "X" type of game.

In other words, this is how you NAME your own sub-genre. Once you name your own sub-genre, then that's when you start dominating it.

And remember, the only reason you're trying to create your own sub-genre, and name it, is because that's how you get attention.... that's how you stand out.

Trying to be "different" or "better" in a genre that is already dominated by other games, is not going to get you attention. The game dev's that focus on being "better" or "different" just become "me too" games.

A better strategy is to do what other many successful games have done and NOT competed with other big games... but created their own sub-genre.

This is how some video games sell themselves: the game devs made a game that fills a sub-genre that no other game dev is taking advantage of. This gets a gamers attention.

The games that stay on the digital shelf are the games that are trying to compete with HUGE brand name games, in a genre that is matured and has an established top games. It's hard to stand out around huge brand name games.

"So, I'm Serious About This..."

Open up a word document, or get out a pen and paper. Write down these two questions. And take the next 10 to 15 minutes to answer these two questions.

What Really Is Your Genre?

What's One Feature, Game Play, Game Mode, Story About Your Game That Sticks Out?

If you take the time to do this right now, I promise you you'll learn a new insight about your game that will help you make it stand out from your competition.