Having been in the gaming industry for over five years, I have seen tremendous changes within games marketing. The most notable change has been the shift from traditional console marketing to mobile-centric marketing - an area I am constantly learning from. What makes mobile marketing so interesting is that it continues to evolve and grow based on the market player and technological demands. There is no one-size-fits all approach to achieving an effective mobile marketing campaign and many current practices are based on constant testing. Through my experience at GREE, I’ve learned various foundational approaches including the key learnings below, which can apply to developers of all shapes and sizes, regardless of budget or scale.
With over 2 million apps in the Apple App Store and Google Play Store, how should you optimize marketing for your mobile game? At GREE, we take a 5 step approach to our game launches, each focusing on a different way to maximize visibility in the mobile storefront. Here I will explore ways in which developers can tailor this 5 step approach to their own needs and resources, so that all developers big or small can take away a few tips on how to successfully promote a game in today’s crowded market.
Phase 1: Research, research, research. Marketing doesn’t start when a game hits the market, it starts before the game is even in development. We work closely with the product team to help determine two key pieces of every game: theme and art style. By researching competitors conducting user surveys, we are better able to identify what the target market is interested in playing. We’ve learned that the right theme and art style can really expand the audience pool of potential interested players and dramatically change conversion rates (CVR). Finding the right style converts more users at a cheaper cost.
If you have a smaller development team you can create surveys using low-cost tools to gauge your target market’s intent and interest in downloading a game based on specific game themes (for example: horror, fantasy, crime, war). The results will guide you on what direction to take your game. Once the theme of the game is determined, you should apply your findings to your art style and get creative! Try creating the same character/environment in different styles, and put them to the test to see which designs your players prefer. This trial and error can help you predict how well a title will convert and be received in the market.
Phase 2: Partner with Product: After you’ve determined the theme and art style, it’s a close collaboration with the PMs to develop the core elements required for a marketable game – icons, titles, app descriptions and screenshots. This is what we do at GREE and is a crucial step in the process.
Understanding the key value propositions of the game is essential to developing compelling marketing collateral for our games. Through focus groups and surveys we’ve conducted on end user behavior, we’ve learned that the following factors affect a potential player’s intent to download:
1. Game Reviews/Player Ratings
3. App Descriptions
App icons are very important to a game’s discoverability and a big part of the branding of a mobile game. We’ve seen CVR improve nearly 2x with changes to the icon design alone.
At GREE, we create the majority of our icons in-house, but there are many creative agencies that offer icon development. Once the icons are drawn, test them in online/mobile surveys, banners, and polls, or utilize A/B testing platforms to determine which style players prefer for your type of game. Start with 20 icons (not including variations) and whittle your choices down to 5-10. Be sure to have a collection of solid icons to use before each beta launch, so that if your marketing metrics aren’t at benchmark, you can easily swap them out. If 20 icons is too costly or time-consuming, start by testing out just a couple and see what sticks.
Screenshots are also extremely important to the overall success of marketing a mobile game since they give the players an idea of what the gameplay is like. It’s important to pick the in-game shots that show compelling and unique content that distinguishes yourself from the competition. For GREE, we create 3-5 concepts for screenshots and test during beta to find what resonates most with our target consumers.
Phase 3: Test, test, test. Once the game is in beta, this is your opportunity to test your assets to see how well they convert players. Beta should be open to countries with a similar audience makeup to the US, so that results are indicative of what to expect when you release your game globally.
Closely monitor your ad campaign KPIs and make sure your click through rates (CTR) and CVR are up to par against your competitive set. Benchmark data should be provided by the ad networks that are running your campaign.
We always recommend launching and testing on all platforms, however, you should know that Google Play allows you to change out marketing assets (titles, icons, screenshots, app description) quickly, whereas a submission is required for all changes (other than the app description) on the Apple App Store.
It usually takes 6 weeks to figure out the combination of assets that will drive the most engagement for players. Monitor the performance of each asset by looking at your ad campaign conversion rates. If you’re keeping your ad spend, networks, and banners constant, any increase in CVR can be indicative of the how well the new assets are performing. The key is to make sure you are increasing oCVR (CTR x CVR) so that you can buy installs at a lower cost. Ask the networks what the benchmark is for that type of title, so that you can gauge how well your App Store landing page is performing.
Phrase 4: Launch! Once you’ve completed all your testing and the game is ready for global launch, place the best performing icon, screenshots, and app description in the App Store/Google Play Store and hit SUBMIT (then pop the bubbly)!
Phase 5: Sustain: This step might be ignored by developers but is actually one of the most important! Even after a game has launched, we still continue to optimize our creatives to make sure we are constantly bringing in quality players. This can include anything from updating your screenshots to revising your store description if a new feature releases in your game. If there is a holiday, you consider changing your icons and screenshots to include elements from that event. (At GREE, we’ve seen CVR increases in doing so.) It’s important to refresh your creatives so that you’re constantly attracting quality and engaged players by reflecting the best elements from your game.
The great thing about mobile marketing is that you can always track the performance of assets through analytic tools and working closely with your User Acquisition team.
There are many things you can do as a marketer to ensure your launch is successful. Regardless of your size, scale, or budget - the beauty of mobile marketing is that you can quickly and completely tailor your campaigns to make sure they are worthwhile. Marketing and the mobile gaming industry changes constantly so it is important to have a good balance of both traditional and non-traditional marketing techniques. There is not one correct method and that’s what makes it an interesting challenge. I’m looking forward to seeing what new areas we can explore to market our games and excited to see what 2014 holds for our industry!