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Why is it so difficult to market my game?

16/09/2021 Written by The Game Marketer

It is estimated that 3.32 billion people count themselves as gamers, that’s 40% of the earth’s population. With such a big market it can be really frustrating for game developers when they struggle to get any interest in their games. We often get calls from small developers saying things like, “we have tried everything, but nothing seems to work!”

So, what is going on and why is it so difficult to market video games?

Why is it so difficult to market my game?

The video game market is more competitive than ever before

The video games market is one of the most competitive markets in not just video games, but all sectors. In 2023 total video games revenue reached $196 billion, more than US movie and sports industries combined. Great you might think, more money to share around. However, this massive industry gains new entrants every year and not just indie developers, companies like Netflix, Amazon, Google are all interested in getting a slice of the pie and have deep pockets to both create and market their new ventures.

Technology is also making it easier than ever before to create games often without coding experience with game engines and image packs all available off the shelf and in many cases for free.

All of this means that every year over 10,000 games are released on steam and by 2022 there were a staggering 1 million games on Apples App Store and 478,000 Android games. That's without even talking about console games and games releasing on other platforms like itch.

The inevitable outcome? Video game developers have to work harder than ever before in order to succeed in this unforgiving environment. They have to offer great gameplay that's responsive when it comes to what players want AND be able to cut through the noise of so many other games with marketing.

You didn’t really try to market your game

We don’t mean to be mean when we say this but when developers tell us they tried something already we do ask for the detail. Not that we don’t believe them but context, consistency and targeting matters.

“We paid an influencer and got nothing”. Which influencer and were they actually one who gets good engagement from players who like your style of game?

“Paid media doesn’t work for us”. OK but which platforms, what targeting, what images and videos?

“We can’t get PR coverage”. OK but who did you target and what did you send them?

Any video game marketing that isn’t properly planned and executed is going to have poor performance. That isn’t about your game, that’s how it works. If it was easy, you wouldn’t be reading this.

Best Strategy for Market your Game

You don’t know who you are marketing to

Everyone eats food, right? So, do you think everyone should like the Hákarl the fermented shark meat from Iceland, so strong that most people gag when they smell it?

Just like food people enjoy all different types of games, some more than others and some not at all. They are all still gamers but targeting them as a homogenous group is basically ignoring their needs and more importantly a massive waste of your marketing efforts. Some people will never be interested in your game, and that’s ok.

It doesn’t matter what type of game you have made; It IS in a niche. Those niches can be relatively bigger or smaller but thanks to a ginormous market there is room for everyone. You might think your game will have universal appeal, but this just isn’t true. Some people point to casual games like Candy Crush as having universal appeal but like any other game it has a niche, it’s a puzzle game. Now, the puzzle game niche on mobile is big, which gave Candy Crush over 300M players a year, but had they released on consoles they might have been lucky to get a tenth of that number.

Similarly League of Legends which is a hard-core PC MOBA is a niche game, it just happened to be a 200M player niche. Niches can be huge so never shy away from stating what your game is. Players need to be able to identify the games they like easily. If you try to reach everyone you are actually more likely to reach no one.

When developing video games, targeting your marketing is important because video game developers need to work harder than ever before in order to succeed in this unforgiving environment.

Video game marketers have to compete with other forms of media

Media competes for our attention by constantly trying to catch it. Marketing teams know that this is the best way to spread their message because it ensures people will be exposed to information. Consumers are bombarded with information constantly, not just for games but by everything from soap powder to Hollywood movies. There is more media being produced than can ever be consumed from Twitch Streams to TV shows and it all vies for our attention. If you think you are only competing against other video games, you are wrong. You are competing for the worlds most limited resource, time.

You think marketing is a dirty word

Within the world of game developers there still persists the theory that “if I build it, they will come”. That if you just make a good game then players will flock to your game and money will pour into your bank account. Sadly, not only is this not true, its actually becoming even less likely as the market develops. With so many games and increasingly so many platforms to buy them from its highly likely players will never even find your game let alone buy it.

On top of this developers tend to see marketing as at best a necessary evil and at worst something only used car salesmen need to employ. They think its some kind of mass coercion whereby players are duped into buying something against their will. Well, I am here to tell you if that kind of marketing was even possible everyone would be doing it. As a game developer what you should be against is bad marketing. Video game marketing is a natural part of making a game and when done right educates and informs players to make personal choices.

There is no universal way to advertise a video game

There is no secret shortcut to successfully market your game. Every game is different and what worked for one title may not work for another, even if they are in similar genres. You need to spend time really understanding your target audience, what they like and don’t like, where they get their information and build a consistent marketing message that speaks to them directly.

Whilst you can duplicate some elements of the marketing of successful competitors its highly dangerous to do so wholesale. You need to develop your own game marketing strategy which aligns with best practice but still allows for your unique game to shine.

The other issue is that times change and so do players. For instance, just because a game saw success getting a specific influencer to cover them doesn’t mean you will too. Do your research properly and find out if this is still something that makes sense for your player base.

Best way to Market a Game

Your game isn’t ready to be marketed

If you have no assets, no story, no setting, no team and no name, then you don’t have anything to market. Go develop something before you jump into marketing!

Don’t get us wrong we are big believers in starting game marketing early, but you must start with something tangible that players can at least understand. Equally if you start sharing information and assets only to completely change these elements later this undermines your integrity and makes players and press less likely to take you seriously.

You are going to get much more traction if the things you are sharing are at least somewhat polished and you have a defined direction of travel that makes sense.

If the information you are putting out is too insubstantial no one is going to care, especially if you are an indie studio. Even the biggest studios tend to wait until they have a defined project before releasing information.

Final thought on why marketing your game is difficult.

Marketing in general is difficult because there are many different factors that can affect success. It can be hard to track performance and in many cases, results are not instantaneous. On top of this the video games market is more competitive and fragmented than ever before meaning marketing is increasingly difficult.

None of this means that you should give up.

What you need to do is realise that marketing your game is now almost as important as making it. And as such requires equal amounts of effort and budget. Take the time to develop a real marketing plan for your game and fully understand who your perfect players are. From there you will be better prepared to build your marketing capabilities.

And if you still need help why not drop us a line?