Targeting Your Perfect Players

The number one reason why video game user acquisition campaigns fail is from poor targeting.

Who are “Gamers”?

Gaming is no longer a niche. Now boasting global revenues greater than the film and music industry combined and 2.7 billion gamers worldwide (up from 200 million just 15 years ago) it is the world's biggest entertainment medium. In fact, a US study in 2019 showed that 87% of consumers identified themselves as gamers. The industry has never been bigger but also the competition never as fierce with thousands of titles released every year.

The video game market is also changing and evolving, moving from a “device-centric era to a player-centric era powered by new technology”. Big players are scrabbling to build competing digital platforms which house as many games as possible, which in turn makes discoverability a major problem for game developers, trying to be found in noisy platforms against mega brands with big budgets.

This means that marketing your game has never been more important. The problem is when everyone is a gamer and the market is so competitive, how do you target for the players you want and how can you ensure they are gamers that will be interested in your game.

So how do you ensure you target the right players?

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Define Your Audience

Before you spend any money, before you craft any marketing copy or creative, before you even build your social channels you need to have a fundamental understanding of your game and who your perfect player is. Remember if you just target “gamers” you could be targeting 87% or more of the population. Ferrari do not market to all car owners, they have a very defined audience with specific wants. Similarly, a mobile puzzle game would not specifically target PC FPS players as their core audience. That is not to say there cannot be overlaps in audiences, but you must start from a clear value proposition for players to understand your game and why they want to play it.

So ask yourself these questions

  • What is my game? (genre, mechanic, hook, story etc.)
  • Who are my ideal players? (demographic, play type, platform, play style etc.)
  • What games do they play? (competitors)
  • What content and news do they consume? (What are they watching, reading etc.)

If you cannot answer these questions clearly and with detail, don’t start marketing.

Define Measurable Goals

First and foremost, define what initial success looks like, this might be break even or a certain number of downloads or monthly active players. Whatever this is it must be a viable and commercial goal, not “make a great game that people like”, that’s what everyone wants. This is vitally important to give you an understanding of budgets and what activity is viable. If your entire project budget is already spent and you still need to drive 10,000 downloads, then obviously paid media can’t be an option.

You also need to have at least a rough benchmark of what a player is worth to acquire, this could be LTV or a calculation of margin. Whatever this is, it gives you the breakeven marketing costs for acquiring a player, so you can quickly understand if activity is working or not at the strategic level. If you only make $5 a download or for your lifetime value and its costing you $6 to acquire them then you are losing money. This sounds basic and it is, but even experienced video game marketers can lose sight of core metrics when large numbers are being thrown around or the business is not measuring and validating the right metrics in the pursuit of player volume and market reach.

There is a huge amount of complexity around business KPI’s which we will follow up in another article, but the important thing is that you set metrics that are relevant to your game’s viability and use these to help guide your marketing efforts.

Tracking and 1st Party Data

The richest and most accurate data available to you is your own. Your data is a source of truth about who your players really are and how you acquired them. It is vital that you make sure you are recording and analysing this data not just for gameplay but for marketing. This is increasingly important as competition in the market starts to outstrip demand and 3rd party data becomes further locked down or inaccurate. This means you need to be on top of tracking, unfortunately this is also a common problem in the video game industry thanks to the prevalence of walled gardens, though there are options for attribution available.

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Understand Your Marketing Platforms

There are many websites, apps, social media and content platforms that gamers use, but just because something is in a “gaming” category doesn’t mean it will be a good source of players for you. If you have created a puzzle game appealing to women in their 40’s but provide all of your community updates via Discord its likely you are missing your audience. Likewise, a MOBA appealing to teen players would not normally be running programmatic ads on newspaper sites. Understand your audience and where they spend their time. There are caveats to this of course, the biggest of which is “unless the data says otherwise” but you should always start from a clear well founded hypotheses and then let the data prove or disprove it.

Once you understand where your prospective players are, then you must thoroughly understand what can be done on those platforms. Again, just because your players use a platform does not make that platform the best or more accurately the most cost-effective place to acquire them. Many platforms have paid media options for targeting, but some may be generally better for organic acquisition and community management, it really depends on how your audience uses them. However, most of the time we find that paid campaigns are simply let down by poorly implemented targeting which does not go deep enough beyond the “gamer” group to target the core demographic or that marketers are relying on a sole channel or campaign. This results in poor conversion, high costs and the belief that paid marketing does not work.

Use Creative That Matches Your Targeting

Finally, once you have defined your players, set your goals and targeted your audience you need to have copy and creative that accurately explains both what your game is and what they need to do next. Once your targeting has been triggered it is your advertising collateral that is now solely responsible for creating the next action. Many expertly targeted campaigns have not succeeded due to poor or incorrect ad formats being used, badly worded copy and the lack of a clear call to action.

Summary

  • Truly understand who your core players are beyond simple labels like “mobile gamer”
  • Define your goal and set reliable KPI’s for measurement
  • Ensure you have tracking in place and utilise your data
  • Understand the marketing platforms and how to get the best out of them
  • Create targeted advertising creative

If you're still unsure about how best to target players in your user acquisition campaigns or just want to talk video games marketing, get in touch.

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