The gaming market is a global phenomenon worth almost US$600 billion. Worldwide, gamers congregate in forums to swap tips, rumours, and gossip about their favourite titles.
It makes game marketing incredibly challenging. On the one hand, your audience could not be more engaged with your brand and product. On the other, they are hypersensitive to inauthenticity and will attentively follow your every move. So, if you release a teaser in Brazil, it won't be long before fans in Korea know all about it, forcing brands to think globally.
How can brands create the most effective marketing possible in such an unforgiving and fast-paced market? One answer is experiential; intelligent experience marketing can harness fans' hyper-engagement with the brand to drive results for both new and existing game titles.
At a panel during the Brand Experience 360 conference, some of the industry's leading experts were asked how they approached experiential marketing for gamers. Fayola Douglas, senior reporter at Campaign, chaired the session, and was joined by Pablo Dopico, head of gaming & EMEA global brands & agencies at VidMob and Perla Bloom, manager of global marketing strategy at EA Sports.
"As a gaming company, we target a truly global audience," said Bloom. "We have to lean into different types of content when we think about who the audience will be. If we don't, we get players who feel we're not including them, which means they don't believe in our message or buy our games. We must stay true to our audience."
"There are so many platforms," added Dopico. "It's really difficult for a big concept to fit everywhere; you have to understand where you can tailor it. It's about doing those small tweaks and changes to ensure that your message shows up in the right context, with the right emotion on the right platform. That's where our AI comes in, to show you the way to tweak your content and experience to get everything each platform has to offer."
Later in the discussion, Bloom talked about the role of global events in games marketing. "There are always these assets that gamers expect. These include the launch and gameplay trailers, which are golden because gamers just want to see that gameplay. You've got to be careful not to put too much of your marketing budget into big out-of-home media. Marketing needs to be useful to the player and give them added value and understanding of the game."
"If you bring something of value, whether it's information or something such as early access, unlockables, or anything that gamers will value, they love to be taken on those journeys. But only if there is a worthwhile experience at the end of it," said Dopico. "One of the big challenges is when games become more like a service you subscribe to. Then you perhaps don't have a big product drop to build these events around. You have to work harder to keep your players engaged and maintain your share of voice."
Bloom then talked about how gamers became co-creators, cementing their engagement with the brand. "For the Sims, there are external ways you can create toolkits for different skin colours and hairstyles. It's about how EA can lean into what our gamers are doing and what that ecosystem looks like. To give you an idea of how engaged our players are, some of them will look at a game frame by frame for clues about what's coming next. They will even look in the source code for clues about future updates. In one case, we actually put false clues in the game code so that we could surprise them with a new character they weren't expecting. That was part of our experiential marketing."
"It's important to have people you can talk to who can give you a really good understanding of what the community is feeling," said Dopico. "This gives you an insight into how they will react to a specific message or experience. You can engage with gamer ambassadors in many ways, for instance, by offering early access to features. If you allow them to test and to give feedback to the dev team, they are happy to do that. And when they see that their feedback makes it into the final product, that's a fantastic reward for them. They love being part of that decision-making process."