Presented by Xsolla
The biggest challenge for a game studio is consistently standing out from the crowd. Join Dean Takahashi and other industry pros at this VB Live event for actionable insights into increasing your game’s visibility, extending its longevity and growing your business.
It’s hard out there for a smaller game studio. The market is crowded with competitors, the ad networks have gotten harder to use, especially with the Apple ATT (app tracking transparency) changes making it more difficult for a smaller game studio to target specific audiences. And after two pandemic-fueled years of historic highs in consumer spending, the market has actually dropped $1.2 billion, compared to Q1 2021 based on Q1 2022 stats.
“It’s a market that right now really favors deep-pocketed large publishers,” says Jon Radoff, CEO of Beamable. “They’re able to do cross-selling between games, and have the capital to sustain to the other side of the macro economy we’re in.”
Happily, industry spending and consumer engagement is still significantly higher than pre-pandemic levels, but getting noticed by those consumers has become complicated business for developers with decidedly more shallow pockets. But there’s one particular tactic that can give your game an edge, Radoff says – tapping into your audience.
“You have to build a strong community around your game of players as early as possible because your players are the best resource for understanding your product-market fit,” he says. “They’re also the folks who are going to become your advocates.”
Community contributes to the stickiness of your game, creating surprisingly strong social bonds between players. Community chat and sharing also continuously surfaces the game in social media, encouraging players to react and re-engage with game content. The third piece is customer acquisition.
Take Discord, for example, which according to Radoff, is highly under-utilized. It’s used primarily as a platform for guild chat rooms, but developers aren’t leveraging it enough as a platform for communication and raising awareness. Radoff points to a company called Midjourney. It’s actually not a gaming company, but rather an AI art generator. And to actually use the art generator, you have to be in their Discord.
“The neat thing is, Discord actually becomes the place where you do the work,” he explained. “And so it has this interesting virtuous cycle.”
“Any time you can identify cases where you can pull people toward a community platform like Discord, even if they’re not showing up for the community per se, but showing up to try the product, you can use that as a way to surface awareness to other people. Then that becomes the customer acquisition channel, instead of having to do a bunch of expensive advertising where Mark Zuckerberg gets all the benefit instead of your game.”
Why community building is work
However, there are challenges to community-driven marketing programs. Among them is the fact that they’re difficult to scale. That’s part of what’s driving the movement toward Web3 gaming, Radoff says. Some developers are banking on the theory that players with a vested stake in a game’s economic structure will also invest in the game’s community, hoping their assets will increase in value if the player base grows. But the rise in Web3 gaming has also highlighted the other big challenge a community-focused marketing plan poses for every game.
“If it really is about building the community for the long term, that’s great,” he says. “If it’s just about the carnival hucksters flipping assets and speculating, that’s not a long-term behavior. Those aren’t even people who plan to play the game.”
So, authenticity is key, on both the studio and gamer side. But developing strategies with natural, organic velocity within social media and other online communities, that’s the hard part.
Can the Wordle formula be replicated?
For an example of that organic velocity, Radoff points to the success Wordle had as a social media phenomenon. Suddenly, intriguing green and black grids were appearing across Twitter and Facebook feeds daily, as an increasing number of players shared their daily scores. If you knew, you knew. And once you found out, you wanted to be part of the gang and show off your performance. The developer didn’t have to make a community; he simply made it easy to share a daily puzzle result.
While the final financial gain for the developer would be considered peanuts for most studios, it’s still a master class in creating word of mouth – and in understanding how to leverage the technologies and the platforms where people hang out together. But while it’s the kind of magic that’s easy to copy, it isn’t likely to strike twice. Much of Wordle’s success was also the creativity and the novelty of it. Sparking similar excitement is, unsurprisingly, a matter of experimentation, just like the rest of game development.
“I really encourage game developers not to get fixated on the big idea that’s going to work,” he says. “Instead, give yourself the bandwidth and the runway to try a lot of smaller ideas to find the one that will scale up. Get the community started earlier and use it as an opportunity for customer feedback. Focus on rapid iteration, experimentation, and continue building that community so that you learn what people want – it’s super important. Especially for a small studio.”
To learn more about the cost-effective techniques that are helping studios of all sizes reach bigger and better audiences, increase the longevity of their games and more, don’t miss this VB Live event.
- How to get your game noticed in a crowded marketplace
- How an effective UA strategy can make or break a game
- Where and how to spread the word about your latest release
- and more!
- Jon Radoff, CEO, Beamable
- Chris Hewish, President, Xsolla
- Dean Takahashi, Lead Writer, GamesBeat (moderator)