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Devs see power of platform holders, YouTube

Surveyed creators say video personalities slightly more trustworthy, much more effective than traditional press

Developers are sold on the importance of discoverability, and a new survey from the organizers of the GDC Next conference sheds light on where they feel the biggest payoff for their efforts on that front can be found.

Not surprisingly, being in the good graces of people running digital storefronts was considered especially beneficial. Of the more than 300 developers surveyed, 36.6 percent of them said the support of platform holders was paramount to improving discoverability. However, that support was also seen as difficult to obtain; more than 73 percent of respondents said the platform holders don't do enough to help discoverability on their virtual storefronts.

The next best thing to a having an in with Steam or the App Store was getting a boost from popular YouTube personalities, which 24.8 percent of developers said could have the most impact. Spotlighting from traditional media brought up the rear, with only 14.5 percent of those surveyed identifying it as the most important factor. That lagged behind even community engagement, which received 15.6 percent of the responses. Traditional media also lost out when it came to trustworthiness. When asked who they considered to be more trustworthy, 55.75 percent of developers gave the edge to YouTube personalities, with 44.25 percent siding with traditional media.

The survey also underscored developers' appreciation of how important increasing awareness for their games is. More than 69 percent agreed that good promotion is equally important as making a good game when it comes to financial success, with 7.7 percent believing it's actually more important than game quality. Despite that, nearly half of those surveyed had set 10 percent or less of their budget aside for marketing.

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Latest comments (19)

Paul Johnson Managing Director / Lead code monkey, Rubicon Development6 years ago
Game quality has almost no bearing. You can sell shite and you can not sell great stuff. Where you land on that scale depends on how good your marketing is.

I'm still skint because my marketing is shite, not my games. Before you assume I'm being arrogant, the quality of my games doesn't really matter at all - too few people see them to judge. When your marketing is great, THEN the game matters. But only then.

Edited 2 times. Last edit by Paul Johnson on 17th September 2014 9:09pm

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Jason Schroder Senior Programmer, Io Interactive6 years ago
Hire a good PR person Paul, get them handing out assignments to Youtubers. Works for EA and Youtubers are on board with the idea. Plus it seems people trust them more than traditional media..

http://www.cinemablend.com/games/EA-Gets-Outed-Paying-YouTubers-Positive-Battlefield-4-Need-Speed-Coverage-61773.html
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Elphège Kolingba Brand Manager 6 years ago
Paul, what did you mean 'depend on how good is your marketing'? Do you have some examples of good marketing selling average/bad games? I would be keen to hear your stories :)

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Elphège Kolingba on 17th September 2014 3:50pm

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Show all comments (19)
Paul Johnson Managing Director / Lead code monkey, Rubicon Development6 years ago
I have lots of stories, but they all seem to describe what doesn't work!

For good marketing, see Flappy Bird, Angry Birds and Clash of Clans. The latter somehow managing the feat of making advertising a return on investment. :)
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Paul Johnson Managing Director / Lead code monkey, Rubicon Development6 years ago
Ok, one of those was lucky marketing, but it still counts. :)

The other two are solid well made games, I'm not having a pop at them. But they're not 100x better than there nearest competitors and the difference is down to marketing.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Paul Johnson on 17th September 2014 4:11pm

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Paul Johnson Managing Director / Lead code monkey, Rubicon Development6 years ago
And to answer your question as it actually is, as opposed to what I read or you edited.

If you want to see good marketing selling a really bad game, I have this to share. I once worked at Mirage Technologies. No, not on that. :)
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Dave Smeathers Senior Software Engineer, Fireproof Studios Ltd.6 years ago
None of those are bad or even average games though. There are a lot of people who really enjoy them.

Hearing the stories about what doesn't work might be more helpful?

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Dave Smeathers on 17th September 2014 4:37pm

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Paul Johnson Managing Director / Lead code monkey, Rubicon Development6 years ago
His original question was just "show me good marketing".

Here is good marketing selling a bad game that I alluded to earlier. It made a ton of money:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rise_of_the_Robots

For failures:
We have a BAFTA nominated PC and mobile game that earns us practically nothing. It has great reviews so people like it. It's just that because our marketing is bad, there's just not enough of them. I'm sure most indies will share that story.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Paul Johnson on 17th September 2014 4:58pm

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On mobile there's two ways of getting users. One is paid user acquisition. If you have hundreds of thousands, or better yet, millions, to spend on it EVERY DAY, then you are good. Or if you have tens on millions of active users on your existing games to whom you can market.

Another way is to get organic growth i.e. word of mouth.

Game media's are unfortunately a thing of the past. Youtubers fill the gap to some extent but they cover less games than traditional gaming magazines and sites.
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Alex Lemco Writer 6 years ago
Devs, ask yourselves this question.
What do you think would have the most impact upon sales: a short video series on Yogscast featuring your game, or a positive review from a major traditional gaming outlet?

Chances are that the former will outweigh the sales impact of the latter, right? But now here's a more troubling question. Out of those two outlets, which one will you have to pay in order to feature your game?

There are advantages to dealing with YouTubers as opposed to traditional press, the problem is that it's a double-edged sword. They aren't bound by the rules of traditional media and so you really need to know what you're doing if you try to promote your game through them. And yes, the quality of the product does matter.
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Paul Johnson Managing Director / Lead code monkey, Rubicon Development6 years ago
I would take mr Pie slagging one of my games to high heaven over a glowing 95% review on a popular gaming site. Without a moments thought.

People can make their own mind up when they see the game. The key is getting them to see it. It's purely about numbers.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Paul Johnson on 18th September 2014 12:14am

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Paul Johnson Managing Director / Lead code monkey, Rubicon Development6 years ago
@Kim. If I had millions to spend I'd just pocket it and retire tbh. Maybe do some ludum dares. :)

People slagging Notch off are making my head spin.
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Alex, unfortunately the case is that even ridiculously positive review from any traditional media outlet does not really do anything (I'm talking about mobile games here). Or negative review either, for that matter.

So large majority of mobile gamers do not use traditonal medias at all when it comes to choosing a game to download that for most part they have no impact whatsoever. There are some "money upfront" youtubers and that seems like shady practice. If you think it from traditional media perspective. But hey, remember those full page ads in major gaming magazines for example? It's well-known secret that buying enough ad space from a magazine helped get your game a better score, cover placement etc. Money did change hands, it's just more mundane practice now with Youtubers.

Traditional gaming media is in crisis. I hate to say that, having been doing game reviews since 1996 and still doing that on the side, but that's a fact. Us old timers, we still read stuff, but gamers under 20 years do not read even web reviews, let alone stuff printed on paper. They follow youtubers for their gaming information and if you want to reach them, then the biggest article in the biggest traditional gaming site does not help.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Kim Soares on 18th September 2014 6:32am

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Paul, personally I might do that too ;-) But alas, as few of us have millions on our own account, that makes getting a VC to give you millions to burn on user acquisition is so crucial to make it in mobile games.

You can swap investor millions with premium publisher, losing chunk of your POTENTIAL revenue. With investor you would lose chunk of your company, no matter if the game does well or not.
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Paul Johnson Managing Director / Lead code monkey, Rubicon Development6 years ago
There was a piece by Rovio a while ago that explained they spent 10 years as a tiny company perfecting their marketing skills with the aim of making a megabrand later.

Development wise, anyone could've written AB and it wasn't particularly inventive either, there were similar games before it. What Rovio got so right was the marketing driven stuff they put into the source code. The personality of the birds to be used for advert imagery, etc.. That's marketing, not developing. Rovio themselves have acknowledged all this.

As a programmer myself I could write AB pretty quicky and it would be crap. All the things that made AB a long project with a bright future came down from the marketing people.

I wish to high heaven I could find the article I refer to. It was quite explicit.


After that we still have luck, marketing, marketing.
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Paul Johnson Managing Director / Lead code monkey, Rubicon Development6 years ago
Or to put this another way, think of (some types of) marketing people as developers. They should go in the credits for the development of the game, not the selling of it.

I don't mean advert execs and pr type people in this, but those guys who say "if we had this bright coloured bird with an angry face, it would stand out - here's a sample, try it". They may even be programmers or artists already on the core team, but if that's the case they should credited under both categories and paid double.

"Marketing" isn't just "selling". It's about capturing the essence of what people want in a game and giving it to them. The stuff that goes beyond finding a niche or doing physics really well or having a good story. Get that right and the rest writes itself. Good marketing makes sure the story is so good that people will make up their own endings.

I know this but I can't do it. It's either an acquired skill I never perfected or a gift I've not received. Those with that gift make a lot of money and I don't begrudge them a penny. I want my own, right on the dev team.

EDIT: Just to clarify, my earlier points were more about the "selling" part. Can't do that either but you can at least hire that in.

Edited 2 times. Last edit by Paul Johnson on 19th September 2014 11:47pm

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Paul Johnson Managing Director / Lead code monkey, Rubicon Development6 years ago
Or just to shorten that all down a bit.

Good programmers make good programs.
Good artists make good art.
Good designers make good designs.

Marketing makes sure it's the right good art and the right good design.
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Robin Clarke Producer, AppyNation Ltd6 years ago
@Paul Johnson

No amount of marketing skill will make a bad game sustainably successful. Quality absolutely matters.

The metrics you are pointing to to gauge the quality of your games are near-meaningless.

If you make an amazing game in a genre that isn't suited to the platform/has a confusing proposition/too few users of that platform care about, it will still struggle.

The "anyone could write AB" argument ignores (or maybe forgets, it was five years ago after all) what Rovio did that nobody else did. Previous games in the genre did not solve the control scheme, or provide a compelling metagame, or ruthlessly cut out anything that didn't serve the positive feedback loop. They spent more time and resources than anyone else on getting the presentation right, but if the game hadn't worked they would just have ended up with a pretty game nobody wanted to play.

We still have a lot to learn, but I keep in mind Steve Martin's advice: "Be so good they can't ignore you."
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Jeff Tawney Director, Hairy Moose6 years ago
@paul Hello mate, only just seen this thread. I agree with the bulk of your comments, but as the guy at Time Warner in charge of marketing Rise of the Robots, I have to add one key observation and one confession. The big learning experience for me was not that good marketing can sell a bad game, or that good marketing has to be at the very heart of a game's team - both true - but that good marketing should stop a game being released if it's not ready. I must confess I didn't do that and, in retrospect, that was a massive mistake. All the stuff we did, and all the money we spent, would have achieved so much more, if we'd insisted on giving the dev team more time to rectify some pretty basic problems with the game.
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