FreeToPlay.biz The Business and Design of Free-To-Play Games

16Sep/091

Who Needs Publishers? How Developers Can Launch Community Marketing Campaigns – GDC Austin 2009

John Lee - BardoEntertainment.com

How to build your own interactive marketing campaign. Self-publishing. Empower you so that when you are working with a big pub, you are in a strong position to work with them.

Games first passion, second passion is community building. Founded Bardo in 2007, focused on combining both passions.

What is Interactive Marketing?

  • Not Facebook profile, not Twitter
  • People connect with 18 friends 1-to-1 and ping 110+ people each week
  • <5% visit social networks for purchase decision guidance
  • <9% of tweets have value
  • Marketing has moved from transaction=based effort to a conversation
  • Interactive Marketing is not ONLINE marketing - although the internet facilitates interactive marketing. Easier to collect info and communicate.

Developing a Marketing Plan

  • Cover the 3 pillars: Advertising, promotion, PR (+business development).
  • Map out key selling points, roadmap for asset release, tentpole events, specific programs, budget
  • Initial programs should be designed to test waters and fine tune campaign
  • Start early enough to build momentum
  • Promote, Engage, Measure, OPTIMIZE
  • Establish your tentpole events - what's the hook?
  • Design to drive interest in 1 big POP
  • Use interactive marketing to go deeper - build the buzz through conversation
  • Blogs, forums, podcasts, events
  • Answer questions

Finding Your Key Influencers

  • The key is not to market to everyone, but the key influencers. These are not necessarily people who will buy your game. How do you find these people?
  • When John was marketing Hudson (Konami's parent co), he found some people who really had fond memories of the company. He then first created a campaign that targeted these people. Created an exclusive club for them, gave them tours and inside info, etc. These are ppl who told them they'd give cover stories if they brought back the company... or retailers who said they'd give direct distrib deals if the company was brought back. Within 3 years, Hudson became the most profitable unit within Konami. Those key influencers were hugely important.
  • Don't treat your key influencers like Rock Stars. You are the rock star. These guys are your entourage. They get into this exclusive club because they hang with you. Go out of your way to take care of your entourage.
  • Gave out Elder Scrolls backstory to key influencers.
  • Focus on High Impact Programs
  • Want to work on high impact programs that drive conversation
  • Blogs have a major impact on purchasing decision
  • Content will always generate a greater response than an ad
  • Position content in middle column - heat tracking shows ads are not noticed
  • Reach out to 1 new site a week - connect with them, get to know people on a personal level, get to know blog's culture and demographics
  • Make it easy for them, create a FAQ or choice sound bites... most bloggers write on the side (ME), limited time money attention
  • Follow and engage readers in the comments section and forums
  • Don't do 1 big story, do lots of smaller stories - blogs generate 1.5 page views per session (about half of all blog readers never go past home page), buy viewers come back frequently - so break up your stories to constantly engage, rather than 1 big story
  • Don't just focus on big blogs... small fan sites can become powerful... even a $200 ad placement for a small site can make them an ally

You Gotta Wow Them

  • Make your interaction shine
  • (shows picture of a crappy demo room - actual room at a huge publisher... room looks like a closet
  • Shine and affect all 5 senses - create an environment that feels warm, including the environment you present in
  • Interaction Shine also applies to online
  • Keep a positive attitude - don't get caught up in flame wars
  • Give your fans a chance to defend you rather than replying right away
  • Don't "sell" your product, but don't get too casual - the focus is not your life story and issues
  • Develop a list of instant answers so that you don't share incorrect info or reveal anything that is still under wraps. Share this list with everyone who is communicating online. But don't just cut and paste those anwers.

More Tips Working with Online Media

  • Meet them in person
  • Live demos - make the demo fun - the enthusiasm of the person demoing the game and the entourage is what sells the game
  • Big sites only cover you a few times and want the exclusive
  • Use smaller sites to share info constantly
  • Create a Press Asset section online, easy access to screenshots, FAQs, videos, logo
  • Get a Media Kit from the magazines or large website - they are free. Tons of good industry data. Many times they will have free research reports.

Go Beyond Virtual World

  • Engage people in real life... plan events
  • Have gear ready to go - podcast and video equipment, digital camera, laptop
  • After 6pm meeting - beers, etc
  • Take advantage of smaller events - i.e. Destructoid's NARP
    Event planning for just a few K
  • Always looking for great games to showcase
  • Sponsorship opportunity - mrdestructoid@gmail.com - can sponsor for as low as a couple hundred dollars
  • Don't just give away swag - make people work for it by interacting with you
  • Booth babes are ho hum, bring on board "escorts" who know how to woo your customers - the escorts served as concierges or guides for high profile guests... made the high profile guests into rock stars... helped them avoiding lunch lines, etc... but also knew how to play Hudson's games - invested 2 full days training them in how to play their games and then used them repeatedly as they already knew Hudson's history
  • Work with other developers to share costs

Common Developer Dilemma

  • Limited time, budget and knowledge for marketing
  • Not enough products in pipeline to keep conversation going
  • Current outreach effort not reaching enough people
  • Built something called "The Kartel" - a social media marketing platform akin to the one American Idol uses
  • TheKartel.com is a new gaming community portal designed to connect devs, pubs, impact players
  • No need to reach out to 100s of social media sites
  • Content is not consumed in isolation
  • Experience is part of a connected conversation - 75% of web surfers read more than 1 blog per session
  • Gamers have one convenient spot to find all the info they want about different game devs
  • Quickly start a fan club
  • Instantly connect with lots of people
  • The Kartel manages all the admin stuff
  • Fosters a lively place where gamers contribute in a positive way
  • Built in rewards and loyalty program
  • Earn Karma points for contributing to community and keeping things lively
  • Sega Nerds example: site been around for 8 years... 3,000 blog posts to date. Home grown effort. Generates more consumer activity than what Sega does internally. To grow it, they went to TheKartel.com - seganerds,thekartel.com. Results - 50% traffic growth in 3 months, potential for 200% more. 50% more time to focus on content and community building.

Final Notes

  • Reach Key Influencers
  • Focus on High Impact programs
  • Engage in Conversation
  • Don't go it alone - form your own Kartel or join one
  • Costly? No - does require heart and soul.
  • Let the rich guys woo a girl with diamond rings and fancy yachts - your strategy: write her a hit song, paint her a $1M portrait, cook her a gourmet meal - bring something to the table that no one else can

Comments (1) Trackbacks (0)
  1. I like the last point, I think this is the key one for us smaller upstarts building new games/virtual worlds :)


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