Jun

3

Social Gaming Takes Word-of-Mouth to a New Level

Mark Stephens

It’s fair to say the rapid adoption of social tools has changed the gaming landscape over recent years and even more so as more gaming goes mobile. We all know these social features are important for player engagement and interaction. But what about developers and game distributors? Aren’t they also benefitting from the social side of social gaming? How effective are these tools in actually marketing the games?

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The Best Form of Marketing is…

It’s long been said that the best form of marketing is word-of-mouth.

In the past, when someone liked a game – like Manic Miner on the ZX Spectrum for instance (am I showing my age here?) – they would tell their friend, who would get a copy and all his friends too. When they got together they might compare scores and talk about tricks and tactics for going up through the levels. This was always pretty effective in promoting the game locally and would be backed up by heavier artillery – magazine ads, newspaper ads, maybe in-store flyers and point of sales gear; perhaps the odd TV ad for the really big game companies.

Nowadays, word-of-mouth is taken to a new extreme. If I like a game I tweet about it to let people know and maybe make a Facebook and Google Plus post about it in case anyone missed the tweet. Perhaps it’s “liked” and shared multiple times. It is re-tweeted and every time I get a score worthy of telling the world, my settings make sure it’s announced again on Facebook.

It’s almost impossible to miss being well and truly “word-of-mouthed” these days!

So, if the old adage about word-of-mouth marketing is true then social gaming is a developer’s and distributor’s dream. It’s how people can find your games – and it barely costs a cent.

The only problem of course is – everyone’s doing it.

Ascending above the “Noise”

When everyone’s doing it, it just becomes like a white “noise” that gets blocked out by anyone with a brain.

A bird singing on its own is usually a pleasant sound…great if there’s a duet. But when there are thousands of birds it becomes a bit of a racket – not to mention a messy affair with bird poop all around (our old game Seagull’s Revenge showed just how much mess one bird can make, you may recall.)

So how do you rise above this noise?

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Some game companies use marketing “tricks” or try to “game the system” but we found out to our cost in the past that this can back-fire horribly.

The best way to get noticed is to let the game itself do most of the talking for you. Design it according to the principles of creativity, visual engagement, simplicity and mental challenge and you are along the right track; add all the social elements to the game certainly – make it easy to broadcast the news about the quality of your game. That means multiplayer modes, live streaming, and simple integration with the main social-media platforms.

People will discover your game if it’s good enough; forcing the issue is likely to be unpopular as social media audiences tend to shy away from anything heavily marketed. Signing up for a game needs to be seen as a voluntary decision, not one pushed through spam.

But the influence of one’s peers in helping you make the decision to start playing a game is clear. Just as we are more likely to visit a pizza restaurant if a friend recommends it, we are more likely to play a game on the strength of a personal recommendation.

The Applifier Study

Applifier is a network for social games and apps. It recently released a study about sharing habits of gamers on social networks.

Finding these sharers can be key to a game’s success on social media:

[Around] 20 percent of users are sharers. [These are] highly valuable users as they actively share from games and are more likely to download more games, play more often and for longer, and are more likely to covert to paying users.

Applifier also found that an important element of encouraging people to share appears to be making videos about the game. Over 80 percent of social players had watched a gaming video in the previous week, leading over half of them to download the game in question.

Everyone is starting to take notice of these changes. The PlayStation 4 and Xbox One are both trying to integrate a more social style of gaming into their consoles.

The hope is to not only make the gaming experience more interactive and social to satisfy the customers; but also to make it easy for them to act as “ambassadors” for the games and the consoles, spreading the word far and wide in time-honoured fashion. A lot, lot quicker than ever before!