During annual planning most publishers think about their game launches, and what activations and campaigns they can conjure up to build excitement around those milestone days. However, one thing that we’ve noticed at Project N is that the biggest challenge publishers actually face lies beyond the launch.
As players it’s a familiar pattern: we’re excited to start a new game, we book the day off work, stock up on supplies, and gorge on a full day (or week) of that big new release. However, slowly – give it a week, maybe a month – the initial buzz wears off. Players may hit difficulty spikes or bounce off more complex in-game systems, turning to the web for tips videos, or content in forums on how to tackle a certain boss. Or maybe something else comes out which grabs our attention and starts to pull us away. Many publishers at this point will notice a slow decline in retention as players throw in the towel, or move on to something new.
So what should companies be thinking about when planning their next release? Well, you need to consider that players who enjoy your game will bring their friends. This also means that if they leave, they may take their friends away with them too. It’s important that we think beyond just a launch strategy, and take a holistic view that incorporates the player’s experience of that game beyond purchase and the first few hours, as well as the importance of community building, and the appeal of an ongoing, thriving player base – one which keeps a steady stream of new players dropping by to see what the fuss is about.
Here are some of our tips to really engage with your audience beyond day one:
- Release explainer content: Ideally in both video and written format. Not everyone consumes content in the same way, so you need to cater to both. This should be pushed out progressively, from beginner level and increasing over time to advanced, while also ensuring that evergreen content is refreshed as the game releases updates, DLC, and so on.
- Use paid social media advertising: You can’t get away from this in 2021. Organic social on its own reaches only a small percentage of your audience (2% on channels like Facebook), and paid is the only way for your messaging and your product to be seen more widely – and with clear targeting to find your next set of fans. Increasing your own data set is the most valuable part of your marketing toolkit – it’s vital for finding new players, retargeting, and evaluating success. If your boss doesn’t agree to sign off budgets for social media, we’re very happy to share more stats to scare them straight.
- Build community: Create a unique space for fans of your game to feel like they are around like-minded people, and proud to be part of the community. Offer to host fan feedback sessions, exclusive livestreams to “meet the devs”, Q&As, and live tournaments (if applicable), as well as ensuring that you have your community management covered from replying to comments to creating fun content for your audience to engage with.
- Create your own influencer program: This one scares people. Budgets look intimidating for influencers, and the question publishers ask is: will we really see a return on investment? The truth is that you need to go big with an influencer face to have real cut through, or you can scale the opportunity at a lower cost. The second is more lucrative, and creates more value in your community, by creating your own influencer program without the influencer price tags. This can be hosted on your existing website or a separate micro-site, and fan advocates are invited to sign up to the program in exchange for keys, merch, early access, etc. Project N has website solutions to help you on your way with this, and we’re able to support you in building a platform that you will own for life, rather than continue to pay influencer agencies high fees for one-off campaigns.
- Integrate the numbers: Evaluating your marketing performance is vital to continued success. Are people slowing down at this particular point in the game? Is there any issue with that particular quest or boss? Should we produce more explainer content to help people dive deeper or get more from their playtime? Should we place more paid social content targeting those who we believe have reached a certain point in the game? At Project N we’re constantly evaluating the gaming market, and we’re supported by our parent company Network N and the 140+ websites in our ad network, which combine to provide in-depth data to help us identify patterns and spot trends. Contact us if you’re interested in exploring the information and insights we hold.
While you only get one launch day, every game’s release should be backed by a marketing plan that goes far beyond that. If you need support with yours, contact us.