A new business called A List Games is launching a service to make it easier for independent digital game developers to market their video games.
Pasadena-based A List Games (we can’t bring ourselves to spell it as they do: [a]list games) says it will identify promising digital games — mobile or social games that are distributed through app stores or online — and market them in ways that big game publishers do. It can, for instance, tailor marketing campaigns from soup to nuts, covering market research, planning, creative, and even media buying. That’s a first for the game industry.
Indie game makers often have a tough choice. They can sell out, or shell out. If they get a lot of money to publish a game from a major publisher, they often lose control of the game content. That’s a form of selling out. If they go it alone, they can wind up shelling out a lot of money to fund their games and market them. The problem for the indies is that, while there is a boom in mobile gaming, only a tiny percentage of the games are making money.
A List Games, a division of digital marketing company The Azyenberg Group, says it takes one of the big risks out of traditional publishing deals. Many indie game makers are scrappy enough to find their own capital, so A List Games will not fund games. That’s a big difference between what A List will do and what a traditional publisher does. A List Games calls itself a “go to market” company. While it won’t fund games, it will fund the marketing plans for the games. In exchange, it negotiates how it can be paid: perhaps by getting a share of royalties or some other way.
A List will focus on marketing because too many good games are getting lost in the clutter among tens of thousands of releases of new mobile and online games. It will tap Ayzenberg Group, which has focused on marketing video games for the past 17 years. It has helped market hundreds of titles and it creates incentivized sharing programs, which are an increasingly big component in building audiences for games. It can, for instance, use the incentive marketing programs that Ayzenberg developed to get new players to try our games such as World of WarCraft.
A List Games will make commitments to spend a certain amount of money on media advertising. That’s pretty rare for small budget digital games. The company is focused on online, massively multiplayer online, social, and mobile games for iPhone and Android devices.
A List Games is headed by general manager Steve Fowler, former vice president of business development at the Ayzenberg Group. Its chief strategist and creative director is Eric Ayzenberg. Strategy Analytics estimated that the digital online game market will double to $24.8 billion by 2013, growing at a compound annual growth rate of 19 percent.
The A List Games business was started earlier this year. Rivals include traditional game publishers and indie developers who do their own marketing, as well as public relations firms that do a lot of marketing. Advisors include former Microsoft games chief Ed Fries, Smith & Tinker founder Jordan Weisman, Big Screen Gaming founder Alyssa Padia Walles, and analysts Michael Pachter and David Cole, as well as Ben Straley, head of metrics firm Meteor Solutions.