Marketing and Advertising

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Marketing and Advertising

Postby Administrator » Tue Nov 29, 2016 11:31 pm

The seed of a good conversation about marketing and advertising for games was planted in the thread about games we enjoy, and I figured that this topic deserved a thread of its own. I have to admit that I'm neither an expert in marketing nor the computer game industry as a domain, so I don't know a great deal about how to introduce potential players to a game. As far as Outer Colony is concerned, I'm trying to employ a multi-pronged approach to spreading awareness, and I've found some (moderate) success in a few different advertising venues.

First, Twitter has been an awesome, awesome place as far as social media is concerned. I don't really see Twitter as a proper advertising medium, though, and I don't really use it that way. For me, Twitter is much more about networking, specifically meeting other, cool game developers, learning about their projects, and exchanging ideas. This kind of networking and contact-building is really where Twitter has been a boon for me, and the advertising / awareness gains have almost been tangential, like a side effect of the networking.

The other thing Twitter has been good for is functioning in its stated capacity: micro-blogging. Twitter has been a great mechanism to keep people aware of what I'm doing from a development perspective on a day to day basis, for the handful of followers I've got that are interested.

As a proper advertising mechanism, though, I'm not sure how effective Twitter has really been.

I think that the most effective proper advertising for Outer Colony was attending a trade show called Too Many Games. Too Many Games was awesome in a variety of ways, as discussed by the blog post, but I think it's been the best way so far to connect with gamers that would be interested in Outer Colony. I met so many awesome people there that I've kept in touch with in the following months, including Mazarus and The 16 Bit Couple.

Too Many Games was an amazing mechanism for turning new gamers on to Outer Colony. The only drawback (and this is minor) was that it was a ton of work, and it did sap multiple days of development time from the month of June.

The third advertising mechanism where we've found some success has been in gaining coverage in media. Our interview with Orange Bison was particularly huge, as Twitter's analytics confirmed the massive boost in impressions and followers that occurred in the immediate aftermath of the article being posted. I think we got somewhere in the vicinity of 100 new followers within a week of the article, which still accounts for ~8% of our total follower base. We saw a bump in impressions in the aftermath of the interview with The 16 Bit Couple, too. Receiving positive press is, of course, a huge help, but it's not always easy to get journalists to take notice.

What sort of approaches have you guys tried in advertising your games? What mechanisms have you found effective and ineffective? I'd be really interested in any insights you might have, as I'm definitely still learning in this regard!
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Re: Marketing and Advertising

Postby Anachronic » Fri Dec 02, 2016 3:27 am

I've done some advertising with Chartboost but I don't think that really applies for Outer Colony because it's a mobile platform. Anyway, I found that with a marketing budget in the hundreds, rather than thousands or tens of thousands of dollars, it did not drive enough traffic to generate a profit using interstitial and rewarded advertisements. Not even close. Now, some of that may be the result of people not like my game or whatever but paid advertising is a tricky area where average revenue per user becomes extremely important, analytics become very helpful, and there is a whole other layer (i.e. job) of being a marketing specialist/data analyst on top of being a developer, artist, etc. I actually had more success with Google Adwords than with Chartboost, but still pretty limited.

I won't lie and sugar coat it; user acquisition for me has been an absolute nightmare. There have been unexpected successes, like getting tens of thousands of downloads through organic search and a couple PR backlinks, but also apps that sit on the store never getting a single download. As much as I'd like to blame SEO and ASO for that, and I do think it plays a significant role, the real problem I think is really presenting well in a digital storefront and positioning your product in a niche category. There are just fewer live wallpapers than games, so those apps were easier to find by people browsing and searching. I do get visits on my mobile store pages that do not convert to downloads, many of them. So your media like feature graphics and screenshots, a promo video if you have one, your app store copy... these are all extremely important I think. There's probably a reason why many top rated mobile games have similar looking icons, and instead of screenshots so many of them use high def graphics with multiple screens surrounded by crazy concept art with copy and star ratings and all that. Creating well-designed graphics, ie graphic design is a whole skill that seems super important for marketing and which I unfortunately do not have the knack at present. Some people will buy your game regardless of how well it compares to others, but I think many consumers are judging your game and making a spending decision based on a comparison of your store listing with the listing of another product.

That's good info about the returns from the interviews. Definitely something to look into more in the future :?
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Re: Marketing and Advertising

Postby Administrator » Sat Dec 03, 2016 2:20 am

Anachronic wrote:Not even close. Now, some of that may be the result of people not like my game or whatever but paid advertising is a tricky area where average revenue per user becomes extremely important, analytics become very helpful, and there is a whole other layer (i.e. job) of being a marketing specialist/data analyst on top of being a developer, artist, etc. I actually had more success with Google Adwords than with Chartboost, but still pretty limited.

I used to work on a system that had a tangential component focused on compiling analytics, and it is a vast, deep, complex domain in its own right.

One theme I've seen both from you and another guy I follow on Twitter is that it's really hard to get appreciable ROI on small advertising campaigns. It's almost as if you need a massive budget as a prerequisite for getting mileage out of Adwords / Chartboost / Twitter / Facebook / other sorts of campaigns like these. A few hundred dollars doesn't seem to make inroads. I don't know exactly why that is, but it seems to be the case.

Part of the difficult here, at least for me, is that advertising / marketing proper lie outside my area of expertise. Neither I nor anyone on our team has any formal experience in marketing, and nobody really has any experience selling product in the video game domain, either.

A large component of being a capable organization is understanding your strengths and your deficiencies. Marketing is not a strength of ours. We're trying to figure it out, but truthfully, we have no idea what we're doing. Sometimes you've got to hit challenges like this head on, determine the right course of action, and overcome your deficiency - ultimately make it into a strength. Other times, you've got to get outside help and work with people who have the right expertise and know the domain. It's this lack of domain-specific expertise that might make working with a proper publisher appealing. We'll see how things unfold in the next couple of months, but working with a publisher or hiring the right consultant seems like the kind of thing that can help in this regard.

I won't lie and sugar coat it; user acquisition for me has been an absolute nightmare.

Don't feel bad! As far as metrics are concerned, I'm probably doing far worse. We're in an extremely difficult market segment. Just look at Twitter. There are a million bozos shrieking about a million indie games. I am only one such bozo, shrieking about one such game. Rising above the sea of shrieking bozos and getting noticed is no small task.

That's good info about the returns from the interviews. Definitely something to look into more in the future :?

Absolutely! We're holding off on contacting more journalists until we've cut our public release. Once we've done so, I'm going to see if I can drum up some more coverage and organic community growth. After all, you're working with both hands tied behind your back when you're trying to build a community around a game that can't be played yet!
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Re: Marketing and Advertising

Postby Anachronic » Mon Dec 05, 2016 2:54 am

Administrator wrote: One theme I've seen both from you and another guy I follow on Twitter is that it's really hard to get appreciable ROI on small advertising campaigns. It's almost as if you need a massive budget as a prerequisite for getting mileage out of Adwords / Chartboost / Twitter / Facebook / other sorts of campaigns like these. A few hundred dollars doesn't seem to make inroads. I don't know exactly why that is, but it seems to be the case.


You definitely might be right about that. I don't know for sure, but I have a hunch that marketing spending has an ROI in an inverted U-shaped curve. Returns on each dollar spent probably increase as you spend more and are gaining more awareness from your target market, peak at some point, then decline as you've saturated the market with advertising... It is possible to measure some metrics on smaller campaigns though. If you're getting impressions but no click-throughs or downloads, even on a small budget, it's probably a sign that your ads and store fronts need to be improved. It's the same with ARPU. Even with a small campaign, if you're spending a dollar to acquire each new user but only making a cent (or worse nothing) from them then you'll likely never hit a point where marketing becomes a profitable endeavor. It's easier when you're selling you game, because your marketing costs per user just have to be lower than the price of your game. It gets more complicated with advertising and in-app purchases on mobile, because it's more difficult to predict and track ARPU. I feel like if I did a better job at integrating advertising and IAP into my games I might be able to make marketing profitable early in a game's life, but it depends on the shape of the U-curve.
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Re: Marketing and Advertising

Postby Administrator » Tue Dec 06, 2016 12:01 am

Anachronic wrote:Returns on each dollar spent probably increase as you spend more and are gaining more awareness from your target market, peak at some point, then decline as you've saturated the market with advertising... It is possible to measure some metrics on smaller campaigns though. If you're getting impressions but no click-throughs or downloads, even on a small budget, it's probably a sign that your ads and store fronts need to be improved. It's the same with ARPU.

Man, you've got the know-how in this domain. You sound just like sales / marketing guys I've worked with in the past. Outside game development, do you do marketing or advertising work? You certainly don't have to answer if you'd prefer not to, but I'm way impressed by your expertise in this arena. If you picked this all up on the fly from your work selling apps, you are a certifiable ace!

It gets more complicated with advertising and in-app purchases on mobile, because it's more difficult to predict and track ARPU. I feel like if I did a better job at integrating advertising and IAP into my games I might be able to make marketing profitable early in a game's life, but it depends on the shape of the U-curve.

Exactly, and this is where I struggle with some analytics. Any data is only as useful as the accurate and meaningful conclusions you can draw from it. Like you say, a simple metric like cost per user attracted via marketing can be very easily converted into practical knowledge when you compare it to the revenue generated from a sale. But things like impressions and page views and other statistics that have definite but intangible value are really difficult to weigh against marketing costs. Making sense of this kind of data is a profession in its own right, and I give all the credit in the world to people who can reliably do this.
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Re: Marketing and Advertising

Postby Anachronic » Tue Dec 06, 2016 4:37 am

Administrator wrote: You sound just like sales / marketing guys I've worked with in the past. Outside game development, do you do marketing or advertising work? You certainly don't have to answer if you'd prefer not to, but I'm way impressed by your expertise in this arena. If you picked this all up on the fly from your work selling apps, you are a certifiable ace!


No worries. I worked sales in a bike shop for a few years before becoming a mechanic, and a decent amount of my freelance writing work is in sales/web copy so I've learned the lingo. Thanks for the vote of confidence; I can talk the talk but don't really have a portfolio of successfully-marketed products to back it up unfortunately
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Re: Marketing and Advertising

Postby Administrator » Wed Dec 07, 2016 9:49 pm

Anachronic wrote:No worries. I worked sales in a bike shop for a few years before becoming a mechanic, and a decent amount of my freelance writing work is in sales/web copy so I've learned the lingo. Thanks for the vote of confidence; I can talk the talk but don't really have a portfolio of successfully-marketed products to back it up unfortunately

You'd be surprised how valuable this kind of knowledge can be as a software developer. One of the neat things about software engineering is that it requires you to become an expert not only in building software, but in the subjects pertaining to the software that you're building.

If you can pair deep knowledge of another subject (physics, medicine, or, in this case, marketing) with software development, you instantly become one of a very small number of people on earth that possesses that particular set of expertise, and that can make a person extremely valuable. In my experience working for a credit bureau, if you could walk into an interview and talk analytics with a sales director and data structures with the chief engineer, they'd almost certainly break out the sacks with dollar signs on them to try to entice you to sign on with them.
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Re: Marketing and Advertising

Postby Anachronic » Fri Dec 09, 2016 4:38 am

Administrator wrote:If you can pair deep knowledge of another subject (physics, medicine, or, in this case, marketing) with software development, you instantly become one of a very small number of people on earth that possesses that particular set of expertise, and that can make a person extremely valuable. In my experience working for a credit bureau, if you could walk into an interview and talk analytics with a sales director and data structures with the chief engineer, they'd almost certainly break out the sacks with dollar signs on them to try to entice you to sign on with them.


One can only hope! I've got a weird mix of experience with my cycling industry background and copywriting so it's sometimes tricky to find ways to connect them all, but it's all been coming together nicely lately and I've finding cool ways to apply my skills in tech. I know I get a little carried away sometimes though with seeing the possibilities in a job from a sales or writing perspective though, and have got to be careful not to get too far off track from the core competencies the relate to the actual job duties.
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Re: Marketing and Advertising

Postby Administrator » Sun Dec 11, 2016 7:12 pm

Anachronic wrote:I know I get a little carried away sometimes though with seeing the possibilities in a job from a sales or writing perspective though, and have got to be careful not to get too far off track from the core competencies the relate to the actual job duties.

I think this is something that varies a lot with organization size, too. I've found that when I've been working for a very big company, they're much more interested in separation of responsibilities and having you focus on your own, specific duties. Outfits with meaningful org-charts and international headquarters seem to work this way.

But in smaller companies (less than 20 people), management is often happy if you can wear a bunch of different hats - even really different ones, like sales and engineering. In the company I worked at with the Czar, the more tenured software guys like him participated in sales types of calls all the time.

There are always pros and cons for bigger and smaller companies, but that highly varied skillset can be a tremendous asset in the smaller workplaces.
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Re: Marketing and Advertising

Postby Anachronic » Thu Dec 15, 2016 6:48 am

Administrator wrote:There are always pros and cons for bigger and smaller companies, but that highly varied skillset can be a tremendous asset in the smaller workplaces.


This whole thing with the DHH has got me wondering about the best organizational structure for a successful indie dev studio. I'm starting to think that a team where everyone contributes to all aspects of the game's development (including marketing, development, testing, maybe even art and sound/music) is the most likely to succeed. It's a bit of a departure from the Agile team formula although I'd really love to work in an Agile environment... kinda like having a core team of 2-4 scrum masters/generalists. Not really sure how that would work out could lead to some serious conflict. Basically would be risking a ton of role confusion in order to get productivity benefits in multiple areas? I don't really have the organizational experience to predict how it would turn out.

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