What used to be seen as a niche hobby, gaming is now an accepted part of the human experience. You’ll see middle-aged businessmen crush candy on their morning commute just as often as teenage girls building empires on Minecraft.
We can thank the powerful gaming devices we have in the palm of our hands, and the massive demand for digital entertainment exacerbated by global COVID lockdowns.
But it’s not only mobile gaming that’s getting the attention — there’s a segment of gaming that’s been growing consistently over the past few decades: PC gaming. And the opportunity is ripe for mobile devs to tap into, too.
It’s safe to say that you can throw away the notion that all PC gamers are hardcore gamers who’ve spent the majority of their adolescence on World of Warcraft. The PC gaming player base today is more diverse than ever before–and we’ll cover why this is a great opportunity for you to capitalize on it.
Slow, boring, and steady growth
Before we get into the meat and bones, it’s integral that we establish one thing: you need a real long-term marketing plan. You might be tempted to have the “if we build it, they will come” mentality. But you can’t replace a 6 month marketing plan by shrugging and saying “We’ll just go viral.” Getting one big streamer to play your game before launch isn’t a marketing strategy.
Genuine success is a combination of paid and organic marketing. It’s about iteration, and learning more about your audience and your mistakes throughout the journey. Building hype is a long but rewarding journey, which we can break into four key steps:
- Understand the market opportunity
- Learn the winning strategies on Steam
- Capitalize on UA channels
- Measure and optimize your performance
Step 1: Understand the market opportunity
If you’re an indie developer building out your dream game, there’s no convincing you to decide on a different genre. However, this is a great place to start when conducting market research.
Choosing the right genre in marketplaces like Steam will determine your competition and revenue potential. Here are a few metrics that can help set your initial benchmarks:
- How many games are released in your genre?
- How many games are sold every year in this genre?
- What is the ARPU in this genre?
If you’re marketing your first game ever, choose a less competitive genre to start out with. Then do a little digging into your target audience. Start by asking:
- What is the style and vibe of my game?
- What are some similar games?
- How can I describe the art style?
- What streamers play games like mine?
- Where does my audience consume their content? ie: Twitch, YouTube, Instagram, TikTok, Twitter
Step 2: Win on Steam
Now that you know who you’re marketing to, let’s use that information to market your game on the largest game marketplace, Steam. It’s very different from the App Store, and has its own unique factors that help you increase visibility and downloads. Here are a few ways you can stand out amongst 50,000 other games in the marketplace and attract players from among 130 million monthly active users on the platform.
The first and most important factor is your capsule, or the hero image you see when browsing an online store. Think about it like your storefront. While stores may have gigantic signs plastered on the windows, others may go for a more pristine and classy look. Similarly, your game needs an attractive and professional design to pique the interest of gamers.
Once shoppers click your capsule, they’ll be directed to your landing page. Like stepping into the gates of DisneyLand, you’ll want to make this page a magical place — with the look and feel that shows its quality. This means all your assets, including images, gifs, and professional gameplay trailers need to be polished.
Images are the first thing shoppers will see — and great imagery helps communicate what the game is about. Also be sure to keep trailers short, and show lots of gameplay footage. And last, don’t forget to tag your game to improve your visibility for organic discovery.
And in the final stage, the gamer can choose to do one of three things:
- Purchase the game
- Add the game to their wishlist
- Go somewhere else
Gamers love window shopping on Steam, and wishlists are a way for them to subscribe to certain games. It also adds a social component where friends can see what games their friends may want and suggest it to them as well.
For publishers, large wishlists are a goldmine. They not only help increase visibility in the marketplace, but they help drive sales. Whenever your game goes on sale, it will notify everyone with your game on their wishlist via email. This is historically converts very well, and helps publishers drive sales sustainably.
Step 3: Capitalize on UA channels
Generating awareness for your game takes time, but having an advertising budget can help accelerate it. Let’s talk about both the most effective UA channels today.
Sign with a publisher. If you’re an indie developer who needs a marketing budget and the connections to get the word out, working with a publisher can be the right solution.
Launch Alphas and Betas. This not only generates awareness and hype before you even release the game, but it also helps keep your most loyal players engaged. Also, having a beta can allow you to send your game for streamers and influencers to try out on their own as well.
Work with influencers. Games like Among Us and Fall Guys really exploded onto the scene once streamers started playing the game on Twitch. While not every game has its lucky break, you can increase your chances by working with multiple streamers and gaming influencers who will share their experience with their audience. Utilize a tool like Sullygnome, Playboard, or HYPR to find similar influencers.
Attend online festivals like GDC, PAX, Tiny Teams, and Summer Game Fest. Whether it’s organized by a 3rd party publisher or Steam, online festivals have historically been proven to drive word-of-mouth awareness, wishlists, and sales. Signing up for these festivals is crucial, as many of those attending them are influential and passionate about up-and-coming games.
Meta ads, Twitch ads, and YouTube ads. If you have a paid budget, these are three platforms that can help you reach your target audience effectively. Outside of remarketing campaigns, you can choose to find audiences with interests about competitor’s games, or gaming PC computer parts, and publishers. Twitch and YouTube are also the biggest gaming streamline platforms right now, so you can speak directly to your audience. However, the most powerful marketing comes organically from streamers genuinely enjoying your game.
Cross-platform ads: Your gamers spend time on various platforms, so it makes perfect sense to engage with them wherever they are. This means running campaigns on channels that you know well, such as mobile and web. At the same time, you can follow the lead of innovative developers such as Kabam, Playtika, and Mistplay by driving growth with CTV ads, and explore offline (out-of-home) ads to convert captive audiences at bus stops, metro stations, subways, and train platforms. Learn more about running and measuring cross-platform campaigns in this guide.
Step 4: Measure and optimize your performance
You may drum up interest from all over the place — a mishmosh of festivals, ads, and social media. To identify your most profitable campaigns and channels, you need to measure and attribute conversions accurately.
And the flows are complicated. Someone can see a Tweet, then a CTV ad, a mobile ad, and a billboard – and it would be nearly impossible to identify what drove the conversion.
Working with a marketing measurement and analytics partner can help connect the dots across various flows that led to purchasing your game. Plus, you can get a real-time view of campaign performance across multiple devices, which is crucial if you’re also selling your game on consoles as well.
In a nutshell
- Conduct market research to determine genre competitiveness, understand the target audience, and identify where they consume content
- On Steam, standing out requires attention to design elements such as an attractive capsule and a polished landing page
- Utilizing wishlists on Steam can increase visibility, drive sales, and create a social component for friends to share game recommendations
- User acquisition channels like publishers, alpha/beta launches, working with influencers, and participating in online festivals are all crucial to your marketing mix
- Advertising on platforms like Meta Ads, Twitch, and YouTube can reach target audiences effectively, but organic marketing through streamers may be more effective
- Expand your reach to allow for cross-platform campaigns across mobile, CTV, offline, and web and measure the impact of each new channel