Online marketing is my job but gaming is my passion. It’s interesting to see how games are promoted online in relation to how I would promote a business or product from a marketing perspective.
Normally I would seek to attract an audience to a service or range of products they are not aware of through a series of processes that result in raising brand awareness, web authority and ensuring the smoothest route to conversion (Or making the sale) once the visitor is on the site. It’s a big process that involves attracting the ‘right’ traffic to a website and increasing the chances of a sale whilst the traffic is there.
It fascinates me that I seek to ‘create a market’ for our clients when in stark contrast, the gaming market is already there and to a great extent their enthusiasm perpetuates the game sales as they willingly participate in promoting the games and brands by populating content online. This is especially true when it comes to MMORPG’s or “Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Games”. The genre includes titles that even non-gamers will likely have heard of such as World of Warcraft, Eve, Elder Scrolls Online or my personal favourite: DayZ.
How the Gaming World Generates its Own Online Advertising
Traditional games are often goal based, whereas MMORPG games are often player – organised goals. These differ from game to game: DAYZ has the goal to stay alive as long as possible and collect loot, WoW has an unlock system but players still organise themselves into raiding parties, Games like Eve have factions to join and a universe to dominate and Rust and Minecraft have an emphasis on building.
Each MMORPG has its own unique, organic eco-system: You have the game itself and the virtual world in which it is based, then you have the servers that the games are played on, each offering a slightly different and unique twist to differentiate itself from the other servers. Within that you’ll have regular players who will form their own factions. This freedom in the gameplay means that the communities playing the MMORPG’s will often organise themselves and effectively do the ‘advertising and marketing’ for the developers out of passion and love for the game. The in-game freedom spills over to the real world as gamers take to forums, sites like reddit and social media to pronounce their enthusiasm for the games they play and in doing so promote it. There is no finer recommendation than word of mouth and the more people playing and enjoying a certain game, the broader the reach for the developers who know that gamers are doing the ground work of promoting the product for them.
You only need look at Youtube, forums and social media to see that it is not simply a case of the developers pushing their products but enthusiastic players cataloguing their in-game experiences through video recordings and blogs or looking for like-minded players to join them on their in-game adventures. Online, sites like Reddit have sub-reddits (Whole sections dedicated to a particular interest) for these games with sections for specific types of players, in-game item trading, tactics and factions… One example would be the Reddit Rescue Rangers who help fellow players with in-game problems in the virtual world. Broken leg? No problem: Leave the game and make a post, then wait for help to arrive! It’s this community spirit that helps drive the games sales, the sense of freedom and the ability to help or hinder your fellow man in a pixelated setting translates to a desire to talk about it and ’show off’ their gaming ability or stash of loot to other gamers for bragging rights.
Freedom in-Game and Desire to Promote
The real draw for this game genre is the freedom. Most games are linear: Make it from the start of the level to the end and progress to the end cut-scene or payoff. MMORPG’s tend to be sandbox games, with huge areas to play in, maybe a city, an entire area of map scaling up to entire worlds or planets and even solar systems. The kind of freedom that cannot be found in real life, to do the kinds of things that might be illegal or so expensive to do in the real world that the virtual world in the only place this can happen… All of course with other gamers assuming an online identity to play alongside or against.
The interesting thing in terms of advertising is that much of it is reliant on the community that play the game. Certainly, you’ll see sponsored ads for Eve Online or Elder Scrolls Online on the Google display network, traditional printed media or tv, but ultimately the true power is with the players who take to various platforms on the internet to inform, speculate, educate and converse about every imaginable aspect of the game.
THE FREEDOM WE SEE WITHIN THESE GAMES ENHANCES THE APPEAL WHEN IT COMES TO USERS WILLINGLY HELPING TO INADVERTENTLY ADVERTISE THE GAME BY TALKING ABOUT IT.
The popularity of MMORPG games will never wane so long as the players actually want to engage with other human beings playing them. Setting your own rules and goals may not be something the players can do in real life – You can be a king or leader in game when in real life you take orders for a living, you turn that on it’s head when you are the one creating the rules in your own corner of the gaming universe. A big fish in a virtual pond.
Brand ambassadors – Sponsored by Companies to Play
Video Streaming sites like Twitch (A website dedicated to live ‘streaming’ live feeds of gamers playing games) have sponsored players. You can subscribe to remove the adverts from their channel or click on their page links offering discount if you visit a sponsors website and use their discount code so the gamer will make a small percentage of the sale. You’ll also sponsors for server hosting, computer components and all manner of relevant ads and links to the gaming world.
Google recently nearly bought Twitch – They see the marketing potential of the channels – Now you’ll notice 30 second ads on channels that you have not subscribed to (Costing $4.99 should you wish to do so) which are effectively like an extension of the Google display network. When Google see the potential of an advertising revenue stream then you can be sure that the marketing potential is on the rise. The targeted traffic is invaluable but it pales in comparison to the passion and enthusiasm of the gamers themselves, whose love for gaming drives them to promote what they are playing and increase the reach and sales ability of those games.
That kind of publicity cannot have a price put on it.
*Update: As of 26th of August 2014, Amazon are reported to have bought Twitch for over $1 Billion.