7 Questions to Ask a Video Game Marketing Agency or Publisher
A video game marketing professional, I get asked these questions. A LOT. When to work with a marketing agency? What about full-service shop – all things video game publishing? Especially by indie game developers. Both by actual paying clients, and by prospects. To someone new to making video games, these topics are easily misunderstood. Esoteric.
To tell the truth, I have lost count. A former brand director with an AAA video game developer-publisher and head of marketing for an early social game developer, I have been pitched a LOT. As in dozens of times each year.
Developing and marketing a video game? AND to have it become a chart-topping hit on the App Store, Steam Store, or Google Play Store?
It is a lot like being in the boxing ring with a Manny Pacquiao, Sugar Ray Leonard, Mike Tyson, or Muhammed Ali…in his prime. The odds are against you. No ifs, ands, and buts about it. Do not forget that for one single second. But if you ask a strapping young lad named Cassius Clay in 1964? At least you are going into the ring with a shot at immortality.
Two possible outcomes really.
Get them right? And your game has the rightful chance at GREATNESS. Be the next Super Mario, Angry Birds, Halo, or Assasins Creed.
Get them wrong? And your game will die on the vine. Like a concept aircraft, that never ever lifts off the runway.
Reviewing Manticore Game’s CORE Engine: Sandbox platform for making video games UGC and video game publishing
More and more young gamers dream about following their passion and working in the video game industry.
The traditional path to making video games? Extremely hard. It is a career with unclear, complex career paths. Convoluted at best. Manticore realizes the difficulty of making video games. Its response? A sandbox environment that makes making video games and publishing video games intuitive and user-friendly. Like others, it has designed a game engine that simplifies the creation process. More importantly Manticore provides a digital playground where you can publish your own games made on the CORE engine. Your concept, your user-generated content or UGC, published when YOU are ready to get player feedback. Think of it as UGC and content creation plus video game publishing in ONE platform.
Core is a game engine built on top of the Unreal Engine.
The premise is to make an all-in-one platform where one can create, publish, and play their games and UGC in the simplest way possible.
Manticore wants to take away the intricacies of game development and let everyone focus on the design elements of the development, rather than having to deal with complex configuration problems.
Engine design and Game creation: Core offers a simple drag-and-drop interface, and also richer coding via Lua.
On top of being built on the Unreal Engine Core also uses Lua for scripting. Lua lets users dig deep and manipulate the source code of their games. Other than that, the creation process is quite straightforward.
Users can just drag and drop objects from Core’s stock library or design their own unique world on top of the frameworks provided by Manticore in the game engine. Like Roblox, this strategy of letting players create UGC to test and engage other gamers is not new. But to revolutionize video game creation and publishing as a category? Ambitious. And amazing.
There DO exist some limitations. For example you can’t import your models or customized materials that you made somewhere else to CORE. Rather you are stuck with the building blocks Manticore gives you in the game engine. Not to despair however. To counter limitations of this self-contained environment, CORE gives you many tools out of the box. These include a huge selection of in-game content that creators can easily take advantage of.
The end results? One can start his or her journey making video games, minus a steep learning curve.
The Core here provides the users with all the barebones stuff with more than just a few gimmicks.
Anything and everything that you can do in a game engine can easily be done here visually
The creation process is intuitive. And provides a positive experience especially for the newbie game developer.What about documentation? Or help getting started? Manticore has provided a comprehensive manual. You can easily access the documentation on Manticore’s website through the Core engine. They have covered everything from Basic Tutorials to the Core API in detail.
They literally give you anything that you need to know about—especially if this is someone’s first time making a game. Consider it an easy transition. One can be a working Joe by day. And a game creator by night. On CORE.
Publishing Games: Built-in Discovery and Publishing in the CORE Engine
You can publish the games created in Core on their platform. Here other players on the engine can hop on in your game and try it out. Think of it as simple quick-and-dirty beta. Including multiplayer on their platform.
Automatic Multiplayer Support
Out of the box, any game published on Core is multiplayer compatible. Why does this matter? A LOT if you are making a battle royale stage or just an FPS shootout Arena. Even without the technical knowledge about backend mechanics, having multiplayer support shortcuts design and testing.
Any player can just easily enter that game. Or you can just invite your friends for a private Showdown. Think built-in discoverability. And limited closed beta. Rather than investing time and energy in traditional market research and consumer insights, Core lets creators TEST the concept for fun, playability and gather feedback with real players. The only question is how many, how broadly, based on the readiness of the game.
Like Game Central Station in Wreck It Ralph, Core lets you play your characters in different games on the Engine
What happens if you get bored with one game? Take a deep breath. The portal devices in the published games lets you play your character from one game and keep playing inside another game. It’s like your own personal avatar and character. One that you can continue playing through different creations with your friends or teammates.
Think of it as an interconnected multiverse of video games. You can just hop into different worlds through these portals and just have a fun gaming experience. JUST like Game Central Station in Wreck It Ralph!
Solo game design:
Or, if you just want to make a narrative-driven game experience, you can also make that on Core.
Manticore has added a whole lot of diversity to its game engine and even more so to its publishing platform. You basically have everything that you might ever want as a game developer. Even after you have designed and published a game, there is replay and repurpose value. In short you can make any design changes that you want quickly and without destroying the game balance.
Learning a new game engine usually takes weeks or months. With its simple drag and drop, Core gives you an Express ticket. To make the game development experience simpler and a whole lot less painful. Not to mention quickly beta testing and monetizing an entire game of your own creation. Your UGC, developed and published your way.
Final Thoughts: Great promise and potential, even in Alpha
Core is a great game engine for video game development and making and publishing UGC. It does have a few drawbacks. Video games developed on Core, for now, can only be published in the Core’s own game library. You cannot take them out, or publish them on any game store for now.
Manticore did said on their website that they are working on making these games available on mobile and steam. But right now, you are committing to developing and publishing exclusively on CORE.
The other big limitation is that, you can’t import any foreign object in the engine that you made somewhere else. So, you are basically stuck within their toolbox and only limited by the tools they provide you with. But overall, for an Alpha version, Manticore has really outdone themselves. And delivered on making a great engine with a surprisingly huge selection of built-in content.
Even the programming model is extremely polished. Some people may be challenged getting used to the built-in code editor. For now, Core is an excellent platform for first-tie game developers. Especially those who just want to create a good game and have fun later on playing on it with their friends.
ASO: App Store Optimization – Secret Weapon in Mobile Video Game Marketing
Why care, you may be asking? When influencing and marketing to gamers, App Store Optimization or ASO is a key tenet. ASO is key to organic Discoverability in mobile app marketing, video game marketing . To reign supreme in the fiercely competitive application marketplace, it is crucial you refine your approach. Start diving head-first into the advantages of ASO to maximize your chances of succeeding on the app store.
To do that, you will have to first understand the nitty-gritty of App Store Optimization. And that’s exactly what we are going to do here in this post. Let’s cut to the chase and dive right in!
What is App Store Optimization?
App Store Optimization is also known as mobile app SEO. For a video game marketing professional, the entire goal of App Store Optimization is to improve the ranking of mobile applications within app stores like the App Store, Google Play, Windows store, etc. Mobile apps specifically created for iOS, Android, and Windows phones. Not the only key to Discoverability. But critical to organic discoverability that the mobile marketer doesn’t have to PAY for.
What exactly happens when you rank your applications on top of these Online application stores? There are many goals to ASO. ASO increases your brand exposure. ASO also generates more positive app reviews and ratings. Which boost the audience engagement with the app. This in turn creates MORE organic discovery of the app.
Investing in App Store Optimization is a great decision. Given the incessant growth of mobile and Internet technologies, people are going to need mobile solutions in their daily lives. The number of app downloads has only been increasing if you look at the last 10 years. In the last year itself, a total of 204 billion apps were downloaded across the world which is a 6% increase from 2018.
Thus, it makes complete sense to invest your time and resources into App Store Optimization.
Important Factors For App Store Optimization
There are many factors that you will have to consider if you want to perfect your App Store Optimization. Let’s talk about these factors in detail.
The title is what most people use to identify your application in an App Store. Apart from that, it also helps you to improve your rankings because a relevant title (that includes the target keyword) can help you rank at least 10% higher. Make sure the title is unique, descriptive, and keyword-rich.
Let’s compare two possible titles.
VERSION A: ASO: App Store Optimization – Secret Weapon in Mobile Video Game Marketing
VERSION B: ASO in Video Games
Clearly Version A is targeted at a more granular long tail search for keywords like “App Store Optimization” and “Mobile Video Game Marketing.”
Keywords are important to your App Store Optimization quest. Just like in SEO. You will need to put your most important keywords while ensuring that you don’t overdo it. Keyword stuffing can get your app penalised by Google. Make sure you do proper keyword research to ensure your product falls in the right list of applications.
I’ve always had great results benchmarking my top competitors. The above shows a simple keyword profile that shows keyword research, including Apple Search Ads. This informs competitive offensive and defensive strategies. Which in turn helps the video game marketing professional find greenfield and under-addressed keyword opportunities.
The app description is pretty much like the content you put on your site’s landing page. If you are successful in making a user click on your app, that description must be able to close the deal for you. This can be done if the description tells the customer what the app does, the problem it solves, how easier it is to use the app, and why the app is worth the price.
You will never go wrong with high-quality screenshots. It is a crucial factor of your app store page change the screenshot adds to its visual appeal. You should definitely use this part of the page’s real estate to your advantage by taking screenshots of the key benefits and most engaging parts of the app.
App Preview Video
Most app stores will allow you to upload 30 second long videos to showcase your app’s features and benefits. The best way you can use the app review video feature is by uploading recordings of in-app experience and showing what the users can expect from the app’s UX.
Putting the app in the right category will not only help the app store index your app correctly, it will also help the users understand what your app does. The app category should best describe your mobile application. However, if you want it to rank quickly, you must go for a category that is least competitive and put your highly optimized application in it.
App Icon Design
The app icon is one of the most significant parts of your app. It is how your users will recognise you on their phones. So, you must take your time to come up with a great icon design. Most importantly your Icon should be engaging and eye-catching.
Online users are always looking for what other people have to say about your application. It is therefore important that you collect positive app reviews and encourage your existing customers to leave their feedback for the app.
Take a look at the below. This screenshot from AppAnnie, shows the aggregate ratings and reviews, aka Star Ratings for Minecraft, unified across the App Store, Google Play and Microsoft Store. It becomes abundantly clear where the game is loved and highly rated (5-star reviews) vs poorly received (1-star reviews)
App Store Analytics
There are many powerful App Store analytics tools that you can use to design your mobile marketing strategy to perfection. The tools will help you get actionable insights and allow you to make changes that will eventually Boost Your App Store rankings. Some of these App Store analytics tools are Sensor Tower, Appstatics, Appnique, AppAnnie, Appfigures, Applyzer, and more.
See below for a high-level App Store analytics dashboard for Darkness Rises. In one place you can clearly see the top keywords – which directly impact Discoverability – both at the CATEGORICAL level (RPG, MMO, MMORPG) in addition to the COMPETITION targeted by the game (Assasin, Diablo, Skyrim, etc)
Not but not least, in this same single view, you can also get an estimate of the game’s actual download volume and revenue, in one shot.
What is Search Engine Optimization?
Search Engine Optimisation is the process of optimising your online presence to create better user experience and drive more traffic towards your business website.
It can help your website get quality traffic from search engines. Since you want relevant traffic to your website, it is important that you optimise your site with the relevant keywords. Keywords are essentially the terms and phrases your target audience uses when searching for your products online.
Search Engine Optimisation or SEO is the most important part of any digital marketing strategy because it prepares your site for the incoming traffic. Since all your digital marketing efforts are going to revolve around your business website, it is important that you optimise your site to create a solid foundation for your online marketing campaigns.
Factors Responsible for Search Engine Optimization
Let’s discuss the various factors responsible for search engine optimization.
Page Title + H1 Tags
One of the most crucial On-Page SEO factors is the page title. The page title should be optimized by using your primary keyword in it. Website crawlers are always looking for your title tag to determine the content and intent of your page. Let’s say the page is about hiking. The page title appears on the tab where the website is opened while the heading tag is what appears on the page. Let’s say the blog is on xyz.com’s blog. The page title will read something like ‘10 Best Hikes in Colorado | XYZ Blog’. However, the H1 will just have ‘10 Best Hikes in Colorado’.
The page URL can be optimized by including your primary keyword in it. You should make sure that you don’t use any special characters in the URL. It should be kept short so that it is easier for both the users and search engines to read and remember the URL.
While a keyphrase ‘battle royale’ shows that a user is looking for battle royale games, a keyphrase ‘battle royale monetization’ clearly shows that the intent of the search is to find the monetization opportunities of battle royale games. The page URL for such a query for the former should be ‘www.xyz.com/games/battleroyales’ while for the latter, it should be something like ‘www.xyz.com/games/battleroyales/monetization’. This is perfectly structured and easy to remember.
The use of sub-heading and header tags is important to give your content a definite structure. This will also give you an ample opportunity to place your primary and secondary keywords inside your content.
Keyword placement can be perfected by placing your keywords in the first hundred words of the content. Once you do that keep placing your keywords two to three times every hundred words. The keyword placement should be as natural as possible to ensure a seamless reading experience for your users.
Meta descriptions are an essential part of the On-Page SEO checklist because it allows your content to stand out in this search engine. It also is a crucial role in boosting your click-through rate.
It gives online users an idea of what they can expect in the content. It is important to have a meta description that is around 50 to 160 characters long. The meta description should have a natural and active voice and should resist being spammy.
Like for a company putting puppies for adoption, they can use a description like ‘Find an Australian Shepherd rescue or search your local shelters and rescues for an Australian Shepherd puppy or dog for adoption’. The keyword here is clearly ‘Australian Shepherd Puppy’.
SEO is a process that helps to boost the user experience of your site. You will first have to make your content extremely easy to understand. Make sure there are no broken links in your content. The font type, size, and color should be optimized to boost readability. Not just that, the buttons on your site and the overall site navigation should be optimized to reduce the bounce rate.
LSI latent semantic indexing keywords are essentially the keywords that are semantically related to your primary keyword. Optimizing the content using LSI keywords will definitely help your content boost its quality and get higher ranking on search engines.
Keyword cannibalization should be avoided at all times because you don’t want to confuse search engines. If the crawlers find two or more web pages having the same primary keyword, it will make sure neither of the pages are ranked. Each page of your website should have one primary keyword.
The attention span of online users is reducing significantly. This is an alarming situation for site owners that don’t optimize it for loading speed. If you want your visitors to stay on your site for a long time, you will have to consider speeding up the user experience.
All the above On-Page SEO changes will not work if you don’t optimize your website for mobile. Google has been pushing towards creating a mobile-first ecosystem. Therefore, website owners should make sure their site has a responsive design and can adapt to the screen size of any smart device.
Similarities and Differences Between ASO and SEO
There are many differences and similarities between ASO and SEO. The former is even sometimes called SEO for mobile applications. Let’s go through the similarities and dissimilarities between the two.
The objective of ASO Is to make the application ranking higher for or a certain keyword. The ultimate goal of App Store Optimisation is to increase the number of downloads. Keywords help the applications gain better discovery, which brings high traffic to the applications’ page.
Search Engine Optimisation on the other hand is done to bring more qualified traffic to a certain website by making it optimized for search engine rankings. The better the Optimisation, the better will be its ranking on search engines. Higher the traffic on the site, higher will be the number of leads you get and higher will be the conversion rate.
Search intent is very important when it comes to optimising an application or a website. When it comes to App Store Optimisation, the search queries associated with any application is mostly shorter than that of any brand or its products and services.
people searching for an application mostly enter qualities that are related to specific features of the app. On a search engine, however, people tend to enter longer and more specific search queries in order to get answers for the specific question or get information about a certain product or service.
The ranking factors for ASO and SEO are quite different. For App Store Optimisation, developers have to take ASO ranking factors like app title, subtitle, long description, short description, keyword density, keyword field, in-app purchases, publication name, backlinks, crash rate, reviews and ratings, retention and engagement, conversion rate into consideration.
When it comes to Search Engine Optimisation, factors like keyword placement, content quality and relevancy, content structure and length, meta tags, URL, page speed, backlinks, retention rate, click-through rate, bounce rate, and more are responsible to create a highly optimized website.
The KPIs of App Store Optimisation and Search Engine Optimisation are different as well. For ASO, the KPIs can be the number of organic downloads and installs, conversion rate, keyword visibility and rankings, average ratings and reviews score.
For Search Engine Optimisation, the key performance indicators can be organic sessions, conversion rate, bounce rate, pages per session, keyword visibility and rankings, average session duration, page load time, and number of backlinks.
Differences Between App Store and Google Play
When we talk about the differences between App Store and Google Play especially in the terms of App Store Optimisation, there are 5 key differences we should always consider. We will take the example of Call of Duty: Mobile to help you better understand the differences.
The app title is important in both App Store and Google Play. However the main differences in the number of characters allowed in both of them. The former allows for 30 characters while the latter gives 50. If we take Call of Duty: Mobile into consideration, its title takes 21 characters on both the stores.
Subtitle Vs. Short Description
Again, there is a difference in the amount of room for the short description. For App Store, you will get 30 characters and 80 characters on Google Play for the short description. Call of Duty: Mobile has mentioned ‘Battle Royale, PvP, Sniper’ as its short description and the same on App Store.
If you are optimizing your application for App Store, you should not worry about the long description as it is not a ranking factor. For Google Play, however, you can optimize your long description with relevant keywords. You should maintain a keyword density of 2-3%. When optimizing for the App Store, you will want to focus on creating an actionable long description while on the Play Store, you can optimize the description to make it more searchable. And that’s exactly what Call of Duty: Mobile has done on their respective pages.
You can upload a total of 10 screenshots on App Store while you can only upload 8 on Google Play. The screenshots are very much visible on the App Store but on Google Play, users will have to open the app listing. Call of Duty: Mobile has uploaded 7 screenshots on both the platforms.
App Previews Vs. Promo Videos
You can add up to 3 preview videos on App Store while you can only add one promo video on Google Play. The videos play a crucial role in Conversion Rate Optimization for your application listing. Call of Duty: Mobile has uploaded one video on both its platforms.
There you have it. We have shared everything you need to know to optimise your mobile application for the app store. We highly recommend seeking help from ASO experts who can guide you through the process and help your application rank higher. Have questions? Feel free to put them down in the comments section. Also, don’t forget to subscribe to our newsletter!
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Wondering how to get started with App Store Optimization in 2020? Check out this extensive App Store Optimization guide to take the first step. Read now to know more!
NBA 2K21: New Gen Console Video Game Marketing Pricing Justified or Gouging
Pre-orders for Take Two Interactive’s NBA 2K21 is here. Kotaku staff writer Ash Parrish‘s NBA 2K21 Will Cost $70 on PS5 and Xbox Series X has opened up Pandora’s box. An age-old debate, the question basically boils down to this. About something seemingly sacred – about video game marketing and pricing.
Is a $10 price premium justified to get the exact SAME game on next-gen consoles? Or is this a reckless assault on the $60 price tag we’ve all come to accept for AAA games?
If the thread of 170 comments posted in the last 48 hours is any indication, there is no easy answer.
One thing I know for sure. No matter what the publisher marketing and PR team says, there can be no pleasing everyone. Without addressing the right from wrong, or getting into the details of making video games and publishing economics. Allow me to distill the factors, and the types of consumer research and insights, that video game marketing and video game publishers, take into consideration.
Video Game Pricing
Video game marketers have multiple tools for consumer insights and market research at their disposal. To answer questions about “willingness to pay” and “ability to pay” marketers can conduct one or more of:
Discoverability is hard and needs to be thought-out and designed-in, from the start.
Consumers have choices. In fact, lots of choices. The world has come a looooooooooooooooooong way since the days of single-player FPS games like Duke Nukem, even if that IS still the Video Game Greatest of All Time. Although my mind is permanently numb from visions of kicking ass and chewing bubble gum.
In his blog, Simon mentioned the 4 keys to “Memetic Shareability.” What are they exactly? These are: Quirky Hook, Stunning Art, Gif/Replay Exports and Genre-Like Signifiers. A few examples quickly come to mind.
GAME-CHARACTER COLORATION: In Heroes of Dragon Age, the Twitter-featured character tier progression for Saboteur Hawke
Visually contrasting and storytelling. The clear Character Tier Progression (headware from None to stylized Hood; Armor from leather to iron to steel to gold-trimmed steel; matching weapon evolution) were classic RPG attributes, where color and fabric connotes Rank, Defense, Damage and more, not to mention visual appeal. What does this mean? Simply encouraging player “Peacocking” and sharing on Twitter, Pinterest, and more.