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When I saw the Bitmob Writing Challenge for this month, I didn’t give it a second thought. After all, I don’t have a game that I’m trying to promote, and I’ve never been to a gaming convention in my life. What do I know about advertising?
Then it hit me: We’re constantly subjected to companies’ attempts to pique our interest in their products. Teaser trailers, page banners on websites, “leaked” gameplay videos, previews, I’ll bet you’ve seen them all. If anyone is qualified to talk about advertising, it’s people like us.
Which ads are the most effective? When’s the right time to advertise? Here are some tips on how I think companies could promote their games better.
1. Don’t create controversy for controversy’s sake
I understand the misconception here. It’s easy to assume that if a big controversy is associated with your game, more people will search for it on the internet. That’s basically free advertising, and all advertising is good, right? Unfortunately, that’s bullshit. The Dante's Inferno fake controversy (where EA hired people to stage a mock protest) is the kind of stunt that makes people believe that gamers are all a bunch of fat, foul-mouthed, violent losers. Don’t make us look bad just to manufacture some extra attention.
2. Don’t give fans full disclosure, even if we ask for it
We all want to know about your game, but don’t pull a Super Smash Brothers Brawl. In that case, Nintendo slowly revealed all of the characters and stages over the months before they released it. Telling fans every little detail like that ruins all the mystery. Keep your game mysterious and elusive; only the need-to-know information (improvements, additions, basic story summary and gameplay) should be made available to the public.
3. Use trailers correctly
Remember that amazing Dead Island teaser? That’s what an early trailer should be. Shown off maybe a year before the actual title’s release, they give us time to speculate and hype the game. Gameplay trailers are great as well and should be used to help potential customers understand how a game actually works.
4. Advertise at the right time
“Shown off maybe a year before the actual title’s release” is the key. Internet users have notoriously short attention spans, and it doesn’t make sense to show us a game too much unless it’s coming out in the next year.
Hmm…I seemed to have missed the E3 coverage for this one. Oh, wait…*searches internet*…I guess I’m too early.
5. Engage the community
Get people involved, encourage the fans to spread the word, and make people work to see the really exciting stuff. A great example is Ubisoft’s recent “Unlock the Assassin’s Creed 3 Trailer” promotion. The person who posts a video of your game on Twitter and Facebook is worth far more than some banner on a page. All you have to do is make them want to show their friends.
That’s how I think companies should advertise, but I’m not the only one who’s affected by stuff like this, so hit up the comments and let the world know what you think!