GamesBeat

How to maximize your online game launch

Above: Card Hunter: free to play, difficult to sell.

Image Credit: Jason Wilson/GamesBeat

Brent Decker is the an associate director of strategic accounts at Digital River, Inc.

For every video game megalaunch like Grand Theft Auto V or Battlefield 4, hundreds more – including yours – are worthy of attention. So how can you ensure your latest title breaks through the noise?

The good news is strong decision-making can trump a strong marketing budget. If you plan, prepare, remove barriers, and provide as many inducements for purchase as possible — and mix in smart promotions — you can push your game out the door without breaking the bank. Here are three major areas to consider:

Product strategy

Determining what to offer consumers, and when to offer it, can strengthen your game’s appeal before launch and provide continued momentum long after launch day. Industry statistics show that preorders drive 30 percent of all online game sales and another 15 percent comes from the actual launch. With nearly half of all online revenues coming at or before launch day, good preorder planning is essential. Start by mapping out your product strategy. Determine which variations of your game — Standard, Limited and Collector’s Editions, direct sale — you will offer and when you will offer them — each option can produce important incremental revenue.

Collector’s Editions often generate up to 15 percent of total orders and more than 20 percent of total online revenues. Consider promoting these coveted editions to boost your preorder campaign. For example, let your fans know that the more Collector’s Edition preorders the company receives, the more goodies you will add (and more customers that will become engaged in your launch).

And if you’re unsure what your fans are looking for, poll your players via social media. You’ll be surprised at the useful feedback you receive about possible incentives, bonuses, and content — even pricing.

GamesBeatPurchase flow

To ensure a positive consumer experience as well as maximum revenue impact, think like your customer. Why should I buy now? Who will have the best deal? How can I get my hands on the game by launch day? Is there a coupon online?

On your e-commerce site, make it easy for your customer to buy from you. Optimize the number of steps in your checkout flow. Research shows, for instance, that shows that removing unneeded pages and steps can create double-digit conversion increases.

Best practices in shopping-cart design include making the “continue shopping” button less attention-grabbing than the one for “checkout.” Once the buyer is into the checkout, create bread crumbs that indicate where shoppers are in the process as well as collapsible promo-code entry fields to reduce cart abandonment while shoppers search for coupons.

One of the most important online strategies is to use purchase terms as incentives to complete sales. Make standard shipping free if at all possible, with an option to pay extra for premium shipping in order to “get it on launch day.” For preorders, make it clear that you won’t charge the buyer’s credit card until the product ships. (It’s wise to offer a pre-order “price match guarantee” as well, in the event the price drops).

Finally, develop a smart shipping calendar. Review all orders and addresses 14 days before launch and ensure that inventory reaches the warehouse 10 days out. Ship both two-day and standard orders two days before your launch; that way, the higher-class packages will arrive on time, with the free shipping orders reaching their destinations within one to three days of launch.

Traffic drivers

Game titles based on a franchise license clearly have an advantage because they can drive their promotional efforts to an established website. When combined with an effective SEO campaign, licensed games can generate over 50 percent of sales from just these two components.

Yet any game can generate excellent traffic with the right outreach. If you’re bidding on paid search terms, bid on your most high-profile brand and commerce terms—and maximize the benefits of paid search by creating targeted purchase pages with straightforward ad copy. Customers don’t like to be confused; it’s important to make it as easy as possible for them to buy.

If you purchase online display advertising, be sure to start with site retargeting. This ensures that your site visitors see your product ads on other sites after they leave your site. Reminder ads like these can create sales lifts of 10 percent.

Other outreach such as email and social media keeps your fans updated and generates excitement. For email, always include a clear call-to-action and link to your purchase page “above the fold.” As for social media, remember outlets like YouTube that provide multimedia opportunities.

Of course, no game launch campaign is complete without analyzing the results. A review of franchise site effectiveness, cross-channel performance, advertising clickthroughs, and other marketing metrics can help you develop your campaign regimen. By assessing areas for improvement and identifying where you succeeded, you can sharpen your launch skills—and make every product introduction as exciting as the game itself.

Brent DeckerBrent Decker, an associate director of strategic accounts at Digital River, Inc., works with game industry publishers, developers, and vendors across the globe to help them develop innovative commerce and e-marketing solutions aimed at growing revenue and customer relationships.

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