Since marketing is essentially about hitting moving targets, a year is a long time and some of those tips have ceased to perform as greatly as they used to.On the other hand, new trends and opportunities have emerged. We figured we’d give you an update of where the needle currently is.
Be of note that most of our tips are only applicable if you have a minimum monthly budget of $50,000 to play with. Even that amount would be considered low.The market has kept evolving and the barriers of entry have kept rising. It is my personal belief that it has become close to impossible to launch a mobile game without a proper marketing budget nowadays.But feel free to prove me wrong and let me know!
If you are a low-cost indie developer pouring every dollar into your craft, then your strategy should focus on grass-root evangelism more so than paid marketing.
The good references to follow here would be people like Rami Ismail from Vlambeer or Tim Rogers from Action Button.If your overhead and costs for running your studio are low enough, this can work out for you.Think indie rock band breaking out of a garage. Go on a world tour. Get out there and talk to people about your games until they care. A lot of people.
Another alternative is to look for a publisher.We’re back to this indeed -the barriers of entry have risen, competition is fierce, long gone are the gold rush days of 2008-2011.
Now to the list of actual tips!
1. YouTube & influencer marketing
With CPI on the rise in data-driven UA channels, 2015 has seen many publishers shift to YouTube and so-called Influencer marketing to promote their game.The most talked about campaigns are probably those of Seriously for Best Fiends, as discussed at Pocket Gamer Connects panels by Phil Hickey and Matt McMahon.
Many others are flocking to it too, from GREE to Space Ape and Scopely.Not to mention that nowadays, hot YouTubers like PewDiePie or Miranda Singh have their own game out, rising to the top of the charts on the back of their community alone.
Every channel has a star
Be of note that the whole influencer marketing trend is no longer limited to YouTube. Twitchers, Snapchatters, Instagrammers and Viners have all been targeted by various game publishers as well lately.
The minimum budget to hope hooking up with a YouTube star is $50,000 nowadays and prices are rising fast.
If you want to dangle your feet into the waters for a lower fee, or scale cautiously, I’d recommend looking into GameInfluencer.com as they accept campaigns on a CPM basis, mitigating your risk and reducing your overhead.Recently acquired by Chartboost, Roostr seems to be following a similar model although I must admit I haven’t used them first-hand to date.Another hot tip is to use TROPHiT to better boost and track effectiveness of each YouTuber campaign.
2. Emerging markets
If competing in top mature markets proves to be an expensive fight, sometimes it can be cheaper to conquer less crowded territories that are about to boom.Better be a big fish in a river than a small pond in the ocean. This way, you get to grow with the market, surfing the wave when the tide rises. A lot of eyes are on India and Russia at the moment, as these countries offer fast growth opportunities and boast huge population sizes.
There are other overlooked nations too.Did you know that Taiwan generates more app revenue than Germany or United Kingdom? Many smart marketers also have their eyes on Turkey and Middle East, Mexico, Brazil, Indonesia, Vietnam, Thailand and South East Asia in general.After all, we closed 2015 with the Asian continent generating 54% of the global mobile revenue pie.
Emerging Markets are full of alternative Android stores, such as 9Game, MoboMarket, Mobogenie or CafeBazaar. There are also dozens of opportunities with telco operators (carriers) and device manufacturers in many of these territories.
Playphone offers distribution in emerging markets
To reduce the workload of fulfilling builds and updating them for every additional channel, companies like Flexion or PlayPhone (owned by GungHo Online) come in handy.Both these companies own wrapper technologies that enable developers to effortlessly turn a freemium Google Play APK into a build that can be distributed everywhere. The wrapper integrates carrier-billing and credit card processing. Carrier billing is vital for converting in emerging markets, where credit card penetration is low.
3. Social hooks
Sharing, chatting, inviting and gifting to friends across social media is critically important.From a user acquisition (UA) perspective, along with app store optimization, this is what ultimately helps many a mobile game publisher bring the effective cost per install (CPI) levels under lifetime value (LTV) projections.It’s also crucial for user retention, cross-promotion and community-building.
Throughout social media integration has thus become a critical component of any successful or ambitious free-to-play game.
It’s one of the few areas where innovating and one-upping the competition can be both cost-effective and scalable.Maximizing your K-factor can boost your daily organic install rate a great deal on the long-run. It also serves all your other activities by naturally decreasing the eCPI of every campaign (for every user you buy, you get more organic uplift).
There have been lots of efforts from many developers in this field, by seriously incentivizing players to visit its Best FiendsInstagram account from its in-game Fiend of Fortune wheel, or PrettyGreat working out an ingenuous selfie system inside Land Sliders, to name just two quick examples.
There are also a few ready-made SDKs to keep an eye on when looking to boost social hooks:In terms of gameplay video sharing and streaming, you should consider Kamcord and Mobcrush.GetSocial enables you to tap into the hot and trendy chat messaging apps (Kik, Kakao Talk, LINE, Whatsapp) in addition to the social media classics.
Previous iterations of their SDK had a few hiccups but its new update seems to have addressed all those concerns and is poised to make GetSocial one of the hot marketing tools in 2016.
4. Pre-registration campaigns
Anybody who has launched a game in South Korea or Japan is familiar with AdWays pre-registration services on Android.Pre-Registration is all the rage in Asia, with the best case study I’ve seen to date being 6 Waves’ tailor-made campaign for Age of Three Kingdoms in Hong Kong.
Before Day 1
Pre-registration consists of incentivizing players in reserving their in-game name prior to live date, and then leverage the pre-registered users’ simultaneous downloads to burst into the top-10 charts right on launch day.
There are lessons to be taken from this trend for all western marketers.
Besides Adways trying to get their service green-lit by Apple (which after 4 rejections is unlikely to happen, given that their service may be breaking an App Store rule or two) – although you can get it here on Google Play – the 6Waves example shows that with some effort, some proprietary solutions can be executed.
5. Using promoted IAPs as marketing boosters
I already brought up TROPHiT in the YouTube section of this write-up, their tech actually works across all UA channels.
Recently, the Israeli startup has also introduced ViXN which is another great way to leverage Virtual Items and IAPs as marketing boosters.ViXN is essentially an exchange platform for virtual goods and unwanted in-game currency.It can be used by marketers to encourage churning players of their old games to convert currency for their latest game; potentially turning inactive players into loyal superfans.
Another company leveraging Virtual Items out of app is Creel, which connects hit games with loyalty programs of big brands, banks, airlines, credit card companies etc.
It’s all about enabling digital items to be among the goods that loyal consumers can retrieve as rewards with their miles or points.A great new way to boost visibility in widely untapped digital territories.
6. TV commercials
Sure enough, Superbowl and Prime Time ads are the privilege of deep pocketed moguls.However, there are a multitude of TV stations in today’s global world and many of them offer quite attractive rates for their advertising inventory, which is often aimed at a much more targeted audience than their mainstream counterparts.
A quick glance at iSpot.tv shows ad buys from mobile game publishers constantly on the rise across this medium, and it’s not just Machine Zone, Supercell, GungHo and King anymore.
Priced for all
Besides the fact that “TV builds brands like nothing else”, when done right, TVC currently boasts better eCPI rates than the sky-rocketing rates getting paid on data-driven digital UA channels.Something to consider when your title has proven itself at a smaller scale and you prepare for growth mode.
Although, it’s not to be started until you have a minimum of $50,000 to allocate to a territory over the course of a single weekend.I strongly recommend this very good summary read on this topic.