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Pre-release marketing

02-26-2010, 05:50 AM
#1
Joined: Sep 2009
Posts: 71
Pre-release marketing

Marketing before official release is almost as much effective as marketing after release. Together they are able to make a huge buzz around the new title. But what methods are the best for pre-release marketing? Sending out announcements, early publishing of video and screenshots, something else? Please, share your experience or experience of other developers, whose pre-release marketing strategy you like.
02-26-2010, 03:00 PM
#2
Joined: Feb 2009
Location: San Francisco, California
Posts: 5,305
Pre-release marketing involves much more than crafting a press release and sending it out with the hope that the media will pick it up. In general, this approach will not work. By looking at pre-release marketing tactics, you’re already ahead of most devs.

The most essential thing to do right away is have a clear and honest assessment of your game in terms of adoption and differentiation. Does it have the “wow” factor or even something that is notably different that will pique interest. I don’t mean to sound blunt, but a high percentage of games available in iTunes really aren’t very good or worthwhile. You really need to be honest about it because if it’s a lousy game, any hype you build up will quickly be diffused. As a marketing person, I’m usually pretty blunt with clients because it doesn’t do anyone any favors by making false promises and under delivering.

If I haven’t burst your bubble yet, here a few tactics to consider. The first is to focus on building your community, and one of the most accessible ways is through social media tools such as Twitter and Facebook. You can generate followers and keep their interest by providing early videos of gameplay or even brief interviews talking about the game itself. Twitter and Facebook are simply delivery vehicles…where you make your impact is through the content you provide. Controversial material will often help with generating attention, but this is a gamble that can backfire. Conservative is often what I suggest especially if you haven’t done viral before, but this all depends on your comfort level.

You can also use giveaways to generate buzz, but of course this depends on your budgetary constraints. But used strategically, these can have high returns by generating word of mouth from your followers. Promo codes are an often used gimmick, and if you’re smart, you’ve selected a specific release date rather than allow Apple to randomly release your game. By selecting a specific release date, you can secure promo codes early and use those as part of your giveaways.

With that content, you should also branch out not just to the typical game and review sites, but to other outlets as well. It’s a typical mistake to simply focus on a site for example such as TA. While TA may have a large audience, I often see devs give up because TA won’t cover their game. That’s a bad mistake. If you understand your target audience for your game, there are other outlets even more relevant than TA simply because it reaches the right audience. Let me know give you an example—children’s games that border on educational. I’ve heard from devs who constantly ask me how to get on TA because no one responds. My response is that you should be looking at other media outlets beyond gaming sites that reach parents and kids. Think about it—Parenting Magazine has a circulation of 750k, and most are looking for educational games for their kids. Know your audience and what they actually read. TA, STP and IGN are not the only games in town.

The use of a lite version is good tool as well, and I typically suggest you get the lite out before the full paid version if possible. If the game is good, the lite version will spur enough people to want the paid version, and the delay between the two can generate the buzz you want. Often what I see in iTunes is the reverse where devs release the paid version followed by the lite. The potential problem with this approach however is that you’ve lost a good deal of buzz by the time the lite version comes out especially with the subsequent and continuing release of new games. From a pure strategic standpoint, it’s to your advantage to do the opposite because nothing beats the initial hype that comes from the release.

These tactics are just some ideas, but they do a lot more to build awareness than advertising. Advertising/banner ads usually don’t pay off. In fact, the click through on ads that generate actual sales is so low, you wind up losing money. Again, PR/viral/word of mouth should be done way before you even think about advertising if at all. Advertising before you do any of this other stuff will simply be a waste of money.

Btw, if you’re considering hiring a PR firm, you’d be better off hiring a consultant who is more cost effective and more likely to give you the attention you deserve. PR firms tend to have too much overhead and overpromise results.

02-26-2010, 04:46 PM
#3
Joined: Feb 2009
Location: San Francisco Bay Area
Posts: 172
Quote:
Originally Posted by Big Albie View Post
Btw, if you’re considering hiring a PR firm, you’d be better off hiring a consultant who is more cost effective and more likely to give you the attention you deserve. PR firms tend to have too much overhead and overpromise results.
You seem to have a good understanding in this area. Are you subtly offering your services as such a consultant?

I am intrigued about the idea of deliberately releasing a lite version first. My first instinct is that you would lose a lot of sales from people who were willing and able to make a purchase after trying out the lite version but then either (1) forget to purchase the game after the full version comes out or (2) too much time passes and all the other hot, new games coming out wind up pushing your game so far back on the "to buy" list that it never gets bought.

However, what you said about building buzz and maximizing initial sales also has merit and perhaps, as a dev myself, I am falling into the dev's fallacy of releasing a lite version afterwards in order to revive interest in an app.

Perhaps the key to success in employing this strategy lies in picking the right timing between releasing the lite and full versions. That is, we can take some time to build buzz but not too much time or else we may lose out on potential sales.

I need to think about this some more but I feel like there is some correlation here with the strategy of releasing a game at full price and then putting it on sale versus launching at a discounted sale price before bumping the price back up later...
02-26-2010, 05:08 PM
#4
Joined: Feb 2010
Posts: 286
Do Demos even work? I would have thought if people were interested, they'll put down a couple quid on a game. However if you give them the option to try it and they hate it, then they'll never buy it. I mean theres so many games I woulda wasted my money on if there wasn't a Demo or "Lite" and Apple call it.
02-26-2010, 05:14 PM
#5
Joined: Feb 2009
Location: San Francisco, California
Posts: 5,305
Actually, I'm not a gun for hire but I do marketing for tech companies. I just think devs sometimes hamstrung themselves even before they're out of the gate.

Marketing is all about timing, and as we all know, Apple really doesn't do devs any favors. That's why pre-release marketing is so important. If you wait until the game is released, you've already missed the boat.

As for putting out a lite version before the full paid version, you definitely do not want too much time to pass between the two. I'm a believer that putting out a lite version first is to your benefit. What often happens is the reverse...where the dev puts out a paid version first. And, by the time they put out a free lite version, the momentum and buzz is already gone. If you use the lite version properly, you can convert many of the lite users to fully paid. Of course, this all depends on how confident you are about your game and its worthiness. If the game blows, a lite version won't help your cause.

As for pricing promotions, I think you also run into problems by using price reductions prematurely. This all depends on what you deem to be a fair price at least in the world of iTunes. I will say that once you cut the price, you pigeonhole yourself into that lower price. The majority of buyers especially those who follow gaming will not buy at a higher price especially if you pull the trigger on a sale too soon. You not only irritate the early adopters with a premature sale price, you also lose leverage with future sales. There is a time for them, but you have to be smart about when to do it.

Last edited by Big Albie; 02-26-2010 at 05:16 PM.
02-26-2010, 05:19 PM
#6
Thats true. But I think that's why he was saying a lite (or any advertising) will only help you if you have a genuinely good game. If you're game sucks and you're trying to "fool" people into buying it, then it probably won't succeed anyway in the long run. If your game is good, then a lite will only make people want to buy it that much more.

I am curious about the whole "initial sale" vs "later sale" thing though. IMO dropping the price later on down the road after release just seems... meh to me. As a consumer I might hold out on buying a game because of these stupid random sales because I know most of the time they are bound to drop in price sooner or later. And then I forget about the game altogether and never buy it. An initial sale would SEEM to allow for a better chance of the early push, where the volume of games sold seem to matter most in order to try to push into a top 100 list. Also as a consumer in this case, you feel rewarded for getting the game early rather then punished.

As for the lite version thing... I am definitely curious to hear more about this, including peoples' experience with releasing a lite before, at the same time as, and after the full version.
02-26-2010, 05:33 PM
#7
Joined: Feb 2009
Location: San Francisco, California
Posts: 5,305
Pricing strategy is always a gamble and it can work either way. Whatever you decide should be fine as long as it's part of an overall plan that makes sense. The issue I see (or at least get the impression) is that a lot of these decisions from marketing to pricing are done haphazardly. It's like they wake up one morning and see sales are in the tank, and it's "Let's lower the price to see what happens."

Talk to any marketing or PR person, and the first thing they'll do when it comes to planning is to develop a week-by-week timeline detailing activities. The farther out, the better it is depending on the release date. Rush jobs are not good when it comes to launches.
02-26-2010, 07:59 PM
#8
Joined: Feb 2010
Posts: 286
The best pricing model now is to make your game free and then charge for in game items. With how easy it is to buy things on your Iphone, people don't tend to think about how much money they're actually spending. The good thing is if you keep your game up to date, the hardcore will give you a constant revenue stream. You'll get a few casuals who will pour a few quid into the game and that is just a bonus really. I think Farmville is the latest proof of how successful that model is. Tap Tap revenge show you how it can apply to any game though, charge for cosmetic items and people will buy them. I also love how they give you credits for going on the advertising which they're obviously being paid for.

I have no problems with Micro Transactions, as long as they don't force you to pay. Give me a way to earn it in game or just make the purchases purely cosmetic. When you start doing what PK AOE does where you need food to level and the only viable way of getting it is paying... when I say no and uninstall.


I think Demos have proven to be pretty useless. I know COD4 is a known quantity but it wasn't well known to many gamers and it sold millions without a demo. All the Demo gives the chance to do is lose you sales. If people are interested they will put down a couple quid no matter what. If the game is good then it'll have good reviews so they wont need to worry.

Last edited by Scaramoosh; 02-26-2010 at 08:01 PM.
02-26-2010, 08:12 PM
#9
Quote:
Originally Posted by Scaramoosh View Post
The best pricing model now is to make your game free and then charge for in game items. With how easy it is to buy things on your Iphone, people don't tend to think about how much money they're actually spending. The good thing is if you keep your game up to date, the hardcore will give you a constant revenue stream. You'll get a few casuals who will pour a few quid into the game and that is just a bonus really. I think Farmville is the latest proof of how successful that model is. Tap Tap revenge show you how it can apply to any game though, charge for cosmetic items and people will buy them. I also love how they give you credits for going on the advertising which they're obviously being paid for.

I have no problems with Micro Transactions, as long as they don't force you to pay. Give me a way to earn it in game or just make the purchases purely cosmetic. When you start doing what PK AOE does where you need food to level and the only viable way of getting it is paying... when I say no and uninstall.


I think Demos have proven to be pretty useless. I know COD4 is a known quantity but it wasn't well known to many gamers and it sold millions without a demo. All the Demo gives the chance to do is lose you sales. If people are interested they will put down a couple quid no matter what. If the game is good then it'll have good reviews so they wont need to worry.
Yet we don't currently seeing this model working for ngmoco, who is spearheading the freemium efforts on the AppStore.
02-26-2010, 10:29 PM
#10
Joined: Jun 2009
Posts: 139
good post, I am always wondering why some good company release a lite version before the paid version, not I got some reason, thank you man.