Marketing and PR in the world of video games, has always felt like it is in a weird place. Whether it’s the constant battle between (arguably) overzealous fans and video game creators, the shift to games with more wide appeal, or the long history of clashes over sex and violence in entertainment; video game marketing and PR teams appear to have a lot to deal with. The industry is expected to make somewhere around $137.9 billion next year with an audience of almost 1/3 the planet’s total population (source). So, it’s no surprise there would be a few slip ups as it continues to grow exponentially. As a long-time gamer, it seemed as though they were finally coming into their own over the last 10-15 years. Recently however, there has been a disturbing number of what I could only call PR/marketing disasters.
- Electronic Art’s mishandling of micro-transactions and progression in Star Wars Battlefront 2 possibly causing it to miss sales targets.
- Blizzard Entertainment’s unveiling of their new Diablo mobile game and its response during the presentation to the disappointment of its hardcore fans of “Do you not have phones?”.
- Rock Star Game’s stories of employee mistreatment during the development of Red Dead Redemption 2 and questions about the ethics of the development crunch process.
- Most recently, Fallout 76’s poor reception and possible false advertising of an item included in the most expensive edition of the game.
These are only a few off the top of my head, but they all share the same pain points. The main lessons that can be learned from all of these kerfuffles are:
- KNOW YOUR AUDIENCE. In this day and age companies are privy to so much data about their customers it’s almost downright terrifying. Many of these companies seemed to have done little-to-no research into what the response might be to their announcements or couldn’t care less about how their audience prefers to be treated. This violates basic best-practices of communications with loyal audiences.
- INNOVATE. This is the lifeblood of video games, but it’s true for all business and marketing. Even though it can be a tall order in an age where there are arguably “no more new ideas” it can’t be the decision of executives looking for long-term success to SIMPLY copy formulas that have helped their competitors rake in money. I’m looking at you, micro-transactions.
Regardless of the mistakes, the industry itself is almost as entertaining as the medium they employ and is a great source of some of the best AND worst marketing has to offer.