Mobile games marketing "doesn't work at all" - Reil

Natural Motion CEO says well-executed PR campaigns make no difference to downloads

Natural Motion CEO Torsten Reil has said that marketing and PR campaigns for mobile games have absolutely no impact on the number of downloads of a title.

Speaking during Game Horizon in Newcastle today, Reil said that there's no worth in marketing a game in the traditional sense

"We learnt the hard way that we really needed to rethink marketing. I don't think it works at all," Reil told the audience.

"It has no impact that you can see for a big game when you run a dedicated, very well executed PR campaign, it does nothing, absolutely nothing. The download numbers that you're dealing with overall are so huge that any PR downloads that you create are just noise.

"The only thing you could argue is that maybe it gets you just over the hump to get a viral thing going. Whenever we've done PR and then not done PR there is no difference. It doesn't mean PR isn't useful in general, for the company, for recruitment, it should definitely have a role but I'm seeing more and more PR agencies for iPhone games realising that they don't actually move the needle anymore in terms of overall game downloads," he added.

There are much more successful ways to entice users to click on and download a game from app stores, according to Reil. Its most successful game, My Horse, has been downloaded over 11 million times, with concentrated design key to catching a users' eye.

"There are better ways of marketing a game and creating downloads. Some of these are how you use the App Store. We've found the name of the game is incredibly important in terms of discoverability," he said.

Natural Motion engages user testing of "several million" people to try out game names and icons. "The icon is your packaging," he said. "You can essentially double the number of downloads by getting these things right."

And viral marketing isn't dead, said Reil, as users still want to show off their latest games and apps to friends. Console developers with experience in high production values have a distinct advantage here, he added.

"You can go viral in the old fashioned way on these devices. People will go out to a pub and show your game to their friends if they really like it. Very often it's because of production values and overall graphics. This is where we have a huge opportunity. We always want to wow people. Whether the traditional gamer or the mass market gamer they want to show off what they have on their phone."

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Latest comments (7)

Thomas Dolby Project Manager / Lead Programmer, Ai Solve9 years ago
I can't say this surprises me too much, the average casual player isn't usually someone who will be reached by the typical PR campaigns for games, you'd have to try other channels.

The mobile market is becoming a massive library of titles, and most people tend to be judging all the books by their covers, and who can blame them with all the problems with discoverability there is at present. I guess it'll just be something that is solved with time and analysis.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Thomas Dolby on 27th June 2012 1:11pm

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Julien Wera Marketing & PR Manager, Massive - A Ubisoft Studio9 years ago
I think saying that "PR doesn't work at all" is an extremely limited vision. Just like you don't do the same type of PR for an MMO or for a console game, you just need to change your type of campaign for a mobile game.

Companies such as PopCap have done PR for mobile and social for many years now successfuly, but they don't take their clues and inspiration from traditional gaming communication strategies.
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John Pickford Owner, Zee 39 years ago
This is very true. Our audience for the most part do not look at gaming websites or magazines. They aren't hobbyists.

Reaching this audience is the greatest challenge for a mobile publisher. Clearly word-of-mouth is key but that's not something you can guarantee will happen. Not even close.
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Marc Ambasna-Jones Managing Director, Marcom PR9 years ago
It's a good point Matt and worth raising. Not untypical with other industries too but I also agree with Julien. You can PR mobile games but it is a different approach, one where the traditional press release-based tactic fails miserably. It's also about choosing your battles. Not all games are worth a big PR push. It also comes down to the target market. Younger demographics are not reached by magazines and websites on the whole but the 30 plus age groups are different - they do read reviews and websites more. But the game has to stand out too - there has to be a story or a story created. We do PR for Neon Play and apart from when it was the 10 billionth downloaded game (pure PR luck!) other coverage (BBC, Sunday Times and Guardian in particular) have had an impact, but only with certain games that fit the demographic. I agree Matt that PR probably has a stronger case in business development for recruitment, partnerships and branding etc but that's not to say mobile games PR doesn't have a future.
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Bruce Everiss Marketing Consultant 9 years ago
The article shows a misunderstanding of what PR is. Good comments though.
Certainly conventional games media have little effect, but they only form a minuscule part of the total media out there.

If the Queen stood on her Jubilee barge and told the world to play Gobang Social it would definitely work.
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Terence Gage Freelance writer 9 years ago
"If the Queen stood on her Jubilee barge and told the world to play Gobang Social it would definitely work."

And if I had a trillion dollars I would buy out Sony Computer Entertainment and Microsoft Game Studios and merge them to create the XStation, with launch titles Halo 5 and Uncharted 4.

Sadly I don't think either of those two examples will ever come to pass.
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Harry Cole Account Manager, EML Wildfire9 years ago
I think Matt is right, PR needs to adjust its focus when working with mobile gaming. Word of mouth is the strongest PR you can possibly have, individuals positively promoting your game in social circles but that's not realistically going to happen over night. As well as generating initial interest, PR can be used to create an environment for positive word of mouth to spread. I would say it's incredibly important to concentrate on the messaging that is coming from your own channels (website and social media), you have to nurture your potential audience and create a place for them to engage with other fans. A traditional PR campaign for casual mobile title is destined to fail. Achieving coverage in mainstream media is the key to reaching the wider audience, that's what developers should be asking PR teams for.
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