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It’s challenging enough for publishers and developers to launch a game in their home territory and have it become a success. But trying to replicate that across different countries around the world is even more difficult if they don’t prepare properly ahead of time.
“My advice is to have an open and transparent conversation with the developers, to develop a baseline set of expectations. The key question I always start with is, ‘What makes your game unique?’ or ‘Why would a user want to play it?’ It’s a simple question on the surface, but it’s quite nuanced,” said Anthony Crouts, senior director of marketing at Tencent America.
“From there we begin the process of gaining market insight, and helping developers really to understand the foundational positioning.”
Crouts was one of four panelists at GamesBeat Summit 2021 to chat about what publishers can do to differentiate themselves in the global gaming market. The other speakers included Xsolla president Chris Hewish, Rogue Games CEO Matt Casamassina, and moderator and Niko Partners president Lisa Cosmas Hanson.
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Everyone agreed that it’s a long and grueling process to adapt your game to different territories. Casamassina noted that a game has to go through rigorous testing procedures to see if an audience will respond well to it. This might cause developers to become discouraged or impatient, so it can be helpful to reassure them during this time.
“You have to go in and say, ‘Folks, your game is awesome. It’s likely going to find some audience, but we want to help you find the greatest audience.’ And the way to do that is to peel it back layer by layer and understand user behavior. It’s not fun, but it’s something that needs to be done, especially for mobile games,” said Casamassina.
Hewish added that it’s important to start building up online communities in the regions you want to launch your game into. That involves finding influencers, community managers, forum moderators, and other advocates that’ll support your game within those countries.
“One of the biggest fail points for developers is assuming that what works in one place is going to work somewhere else. Whether that’s what works on one platform will work on another, or what works with one region will work with another region, and that often is not the case,” said Hewish.
He used payment methods as an example. Studios in the U.S. and Europe tend to assume that, like their home markets, everyone has easy access to a credit card — but that only makes up a small number of the global gaming audience. Thus, it’s important to do your research and support other local payment methods in the lead-up to launch.
Crouts said that for Tencent, which operates huge global hits like PUBG Mobile and League of Legends (via Riot Games), content dictates everything when it comes to marketing and community outreach. You have to know what you’re marketing and who you’re marketing it to. The company takes a “very integrated approach” to promotion, having both developers and the marketing team working closely with one another.
“It’s a very two-in-a-box strategy that we implement. We have to know what each other’s doing: We have to know what they’re making, and they have to know how we’re promoting and marketing it as well,” said Crouts.
With the U.S.-based Rogue Games, internationalization is just as important as localization when bringing its products abroad. If it’s bringing a game to Japan or China, it tries to find opportunities to make its games more culturally appealing beyond just the translated text. Casamassina said they take a specialist approach to marketing, where they partner with local influencers who speak to the kind of audience they want for their games (like FPS fans if they’re promoting a shooter).
Sometimes, your global rollout may not be a success even if you do take all those cultural adjustments into account. In those cases, Tencent falls back on what Crouts called the company’s “secret sauce” — the capability to quickly change plans in case the first approach doesn’t work out.
“So we have pivots in all of our plans that we do, and we look at different scenarios. If everything is going great, we’re going to double down. Or if something is not going to plan, we look at all of our metrics and we have our targets in there. If we’re not hitting certain targets, we will pivot to other opportunities to see how we can switch things up, so to speak,” said Crouts.
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