I have spent most of my life in the video game industry (if you are curious about my story, you can read about it here). In the past 5 years, I have concentrated on Brand Positioning. After having worked for some of the most important video game companies on three different continents, I concluded that Brand Positioning is the most important part in the development of a video game.
Yes, it’s true. Unless you start with Brand Positioning, it is completely useless to start writing even a line of code for your video game.
Only a few years ago it was still possible for a video game with good graphics and original gameplay to easily prosper with a minimum marketing effort.
Today this is no longer the case because the video game market is completely saturated. You can still start with a good idea about a video game, but before putting it into practice you need to make a proper market analysis.
What do 73% of indie developers do instead?
They go straight into developing their game. “If I like it, everybody else will.”
It doesn’t work like that.
Every day you dedicate yourself to creating your video game. Perhaps you are a single developer; perhaps you are part of a group of friends who have recently opened a software house together, aimed at earning money through a common passion.
You and your team have been working hard for months. Often doing crunch time in front of your monitors, in the middle of the night. You have given up quality time with your loved ones, in the belief that your sacrifice will one day be rewarded.
Finally, your game is published. But soon you are forced to face a harsh reality: your game is not as successful as you expected. Sure, some people have downloaded it, but sales don’t cover all production costs, let alone giving you and your family the profit you deserve.
This is not your fault.
The video game industry is in constant rapid change and it’s not easy to keep up with. Like other industries, such as the automotive and beverages industries, it has now reached a mature phase.
Developing a good video game today is no longer the key for its success.
Like you, I too worked hard and went through frustration, for days, weeks, and months, when developing my video games. During those periods, I never had much time to spare with my family and friends.
Then the exciting moment when you press the green button to publish the video game on Steam, Google Play, or Apple Store arrives. But the excitement fades away and frustration soon takes its place once you realise sales and downloads are rapidly going down to zero.
The Real objective of an Independent Game Company
The objective of your software house is not to create games and sell them. Your company’s main objectives are two: innovation and marketing.
- INNOVATION: You will not get ahead by creating a clone of Candy Crush or Fortnite. In the following articles, I will show you some concrete examples of this, but now I just want to make sure you agree with me on this first point. If you disagree, then you can stop reading right now because this article is not for you.
- MARKETING: Any company with sporadic or non-existent marketing is not a real business and should never be managed as such.
You probably are about to tell me that you have a bad opinion of people who do marketing: “We do all the work and they take all the credit”, and so on.
I used to have the same opinion.
And do you know why? Because I didn’t actually understand what marketing really meant.
Marketing is not what publishers and advertising agencies tell you or make you believe.
The purpose of marketing is not communication
- Doing marketing does not mean carrying out a campaign for the acquisition of players on Facebook or other platforms.
- Doing marketing does not mean contacting all magazines of the sector, attaching Steam keys in the hope they might write an article on your video game.
- Doing marketing does not mean contacting influencers in the hope that they will publish some videos of your game on their YouTube channel.
- Doing marketing does not mean making market surveys that are basically useless. They are useless because people don’t really know what they want, and there is quite a difference between saying what video game they would like to have and actually paying for it when you serve it to them on a plate.
- But above all, doing marketing does not mean paying an advertising agency great amounts of money to make an advertising campaign that doesn’t even make sense. You may remember the famous advertising campaign of COD, in which Fish and Chips was given as a gift when ordering Call of Duty 4. Uhm?
The purpose of Marketing is to decide what game to develop and how, as well as looking for a vacant and profitable Positioning in the mind of the player
Why in the mind of the player?
Because today’s videogame market is completely saturated. There is no ‘physical space’ left to fill. This means that it is very difficult to find or create a new category (or type of video game) that is entirely empty and with enough interested players to make it prosper.
The only solution to the problem is to fill the ‘mental’ space inside players mind. Your objective will no longer be to realize a videogame that doesn’t exist on the market, but to find space within the players’ mind, space that you can occupy with your video game.
This also means that Marketing must be done before and not only after developing a video game.
Why then do the majority of companies start thinking about marketing only when the game is already in production or even once it is ready to be published?
Because that’s how things have been done in the past.
Traditionally, marketing begins after the game is completed and its price set.
Marketing had the sole purpose to communicate to players that a new game was out. That’s it.
Let’s take Supermario as an example. There was no need for marketing, since competition was practically non-existent. No other platform games existed. Even those games that followed Supermario had it easy: SimCity, FIFA, Street Fighter, to name some.
Today everything has changed, and the old rules and conventions no longer apply. Unfortunately, old habits die hard and it will take time before Marketing is recognized by the video game industry for what it really is.
Since its birth, the video game industry has been going through 4 phases. I’ll analyze them in the next article, don’t miss it.
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To the success of your video game.