First, I want to thank you for taking the time to read this article of a stranger for you and for the industry. Now I'm going to go straight to the point since this may be a 10-minute reading. Let's talk about digital marketing for indie games or advergames.
Motivation to prove the world wrong
For the past couple of weeks, I've been noticing several articles and posts on twitter about how indie games are dying and that there's no future due to the amount of either crappy games and excellent games that had a horrible marketing campaign or none. As a dabbler in the industry and a super enthusiastic game developer, I'm strongly reluctant to believe that indie games are dying. Several authors have talked about it but I'm going to mention just one. Here's the link to the article that motivated me to prove the world wrong.
In this article, as well as on some other posts, the author refers mainly to the 80's where a crisis in the video game industry caused the near bankruptcy 0r extinction of companies like Atari, but then NES came up to scene with its marvelous Super Mario Bros to put players on a hype and save them from the crappy and soulless games that flooded the market. By avoiding getting in too many on details about that era, theorists of the "indie game is dead" idea point out the fact that this kind of crisis is cyclic, and we are about to experience a new valley of the death for indie games.
Am I agreeing with this fact? Mostly yes but I also believe that the indie game industry must not die at all. This crisis generates changes, and changes are motors for innovative ideas, business models, and sub-industries or even brand new industries. A revolution is about to come for indie developers and new business models must be found for us to survive.
How many times as an indie have you been fully committed by heart and soul to a game that you later crowdfunded in any of the available platforms? How many times have suffered through an exhausting marketing campaign, gathered enough money to finish it and after publishing it, you had to start it all over again with your next project undergoing the same stress and economic problems, hoping that players around the world will like it and help you to finance it again?
The cycle starts over and over, which is fine, that's our current business models for small or one-man companies, but it will not provide a stable source of income from a captive audience. I believe there's a niche of opportunities if we focus our efforts in Digital Marketing using Games.
Digital Marketing as a Business model for Games?
This isn't even a new thing. There is what we know as advergaming. However, it still remains incipient and just a few big companies are willing to invest some of their money on promoting their brands in this genre. But we should focus on the small man, the pizza restaurant owner, the hairdresser, the nails spa lady and give them ways to increase their business by using ours.
My theory is: I can use games to position a brand, boost their potential customers into “leads” and if I successfully gamify their customer experience, I can increase the possibility of selling a service, in this case: my video game design school.
The Experiment (June 24th)
Currently, in Mexico, we are undergoing presidential elections and there's a candidate who is very popular on social media but not that much (apparently) in trending inquiries. "El Bronco" is the nickname of Jaime Rodriguez, and his profile is of a farm man who had struggled a lot to achieve what he has now. There have been several attempts to murder him and his son got killed by the Narco, and his little daughter of 2 years old got kidnaped by them. He even fought back at a shooting to rescue one of his bodyguards. So, with all of these said you may imagine the kind of personality he has and why he got so much attention on social media. One of his main competitors is AMLO (Andres Manuel), who is one of the laziest, tricky, and corrupt politicians in Mexico, his presidential adversary for the 3rd time after losing previous elections.
After this brief background, I decided to promote my game design school using his profile and popularity and created a game called "Bronco Wave" mocking up a pixel version of this character fighting back fanatic followers of AMLO, and popping up messages challenging AMLO's proposals and even mocking up some of their silly responses. I created this game in about 6 hours using assets and focusing on a simple easy platformer level where the fun comes from comparing those candidates’ campaigns and by making those Webones (lazy zombie-like followers) work, since "work to change our country" is the center topic of El Bronco's campaign, which seems to be coherent to me. After finishing the small level, I made a video and, almost effortlessly and without any paid promotion, but only organic traffic, the video in my personal account went up to 1.1k views in just a few hours. That's a lot, considering I'm no one to the world.
The video was my strategy for putting my brand in the "Evoked Set" of the customers. If you are familiar with marketing strategies, this will make you recall the funnel in which we try to put our customers in until they become "Leads" and start considering our brand for an actual purchase.
After the video went almost viral among friends of my friends, I uploaded it to my brand's Facebook page and it reached over 1.5k viewers and got almost 500 plays. All of thiat came through organic traffic, and of course, I mentioned my game and left some download options: Google Play download, plays at Newgrounds for iOS and Kongregate for PC plays.
My brand's video triggered the downloads of the game from Google Play, for which I promised that if I had over 100 downloads I would create another level. Here's a nice little goal: if players liked the small level, found it fun and that made them consider changing their vote intentions, I'd be placing my brand, or in this case "El Bronco’s” brand in their "Consideration Set", which ends up motivating them to share it with their friends.
As the time went by, the game downloads started to flow from 2 on one day to 16 the second day. And now I am at the point where I need to hook the player a little more so I can prolong the life of a game with an incredibly short gameplay. We are talking about less than 3 minutes. So I added 6 achievements and a leaderboard and things just got better. It went from 16 to over 230 the third day.
By now, the 4th day, I'm still excited about the next update at Google Play console to see how many more downloads and reviews my game will get. And, as a nice addition to that, of course, I had to share in my personal social media account, the regular progress of the game, which by today (June 27 at 1;57 am) is #2 in the list of trending games in my region for the adventure genre.
This also got people asking me for information about digital marketing and some others asking for my game design school program. But it doesn’t end here, I also received a WhatsApp message from a contact sharing a screenshot of one of his friends talking about the video, the game, and the message in it, which made total sense to him. That makes me think that I went deep enough to even make him consider changing their vote intentions and sharing the video directly from my business social media account. For obvious privacy reasons, I can’t post a picture of this message.
Thanks again for coming all the way along to this point.
And now, considering I'm no one to the world and no one to either game and digital marketing industry, with only “in book” experience, the results I achieved in just 3 days by applying my theory and exploring a new way of doing business with games are astonishing in my opinion. I believe if we, as game developers, create games focused on promoting the consumption of products and services by using rewarded strategies natural to games, and by selling them as digital marketing services, then we will find a new way for monetizing our small firms. I believe we could start a revolution about how games are perceived. They are not only meant for ludic purposes but also as a reliable business model. That could be a way into making our finances easier for the creation of our next great projects.
I believe that all of what I stated above enforces the fact that indie games will undergo a crisis, but we must migrate to a disruptive business model, in this case, digital marketing game strategies, if we wish to prevail as an important and growing industry.
In the end, you, reader, became part of my digital marketing strategy and now you know me.
Here's some hard data about how my campaign was performing as of June 27, 2:21 am:
Personal account video plays: 1.2k
Business account video plays: 490
Business account video, people reached: 1,562
Total Google play game downloads: 301
Total uninstalls: 69
The general rate at google play: 5 stars with 14 rates.
Thanks again (I’m not Canadian) and I’d love the hear your thoughts on the subject. Please, drop a line on the comment section and let's talk about it! 🙂