Video game PR vs influencers? Pros and cons for game devs

In case you weren’t convinced about just how pervasive video games are in our culture, know this: almost 70% of Americans play some kind of video game each day. As a game developer, it’s up to you to create sick games for the general public — and capitalize on an increased market size by leveraging video game PR and influencer marketing. 

In this article, we’ll take you through:

  • Why you need a promotion plan for your video game  
  • The differences between PR and influencer marketing
  • Pros and cons of traditional PR for gaming
  • Pros and cons of influencer marketing for gaming 
  • Other important methods of indie game marketing
video game pr vs influencer marketing: pros and cons for game developers

There is no doubt that the evolution and growth of gaming from a solitary niche activity to one where viral games are played with peers around the globe and shared with millions on many platforms (think: YouTube gaming, Twitch) has led to immense growth and game sales.

Also, keep in mind that this virality and global interest has fundamentally changed how brands and game developers approach game marketing and advertising. It’s worth noting that the gaming industry is now one of the most competitive industries in the world.

This increased consumer interest in the gaming industry (exceeding a whopping $100 billion in 2017) has done its part to attract a lot of new players to gaming communities. This means more competition for game developers and gaming brands, which means it’s harder than ever to penetrate the market.

The changing landscape of video game marketing and promotion

You may know that with every passing year, indie game marketing becomes more and more about influencer relations, video game journalism and content. Unlike other products that can get away with simple ads and promotions, video games are so dynamic that they often have a whole culture unto themselves. A simple promoted post on Instagram doesn’t quite capture that the way influencers and coverage from a respected industry outlet can.

If you’ve been on YouTube or Twitch lately, perhaps you noticed that the gaming industry has gotten fully aboard the influencer marketing train. As a result, it’s now common practice for leading video game manufacturers and developers — and even online gaming communities — to develop and maintain partnerships with YouTube’s best gaming influencers in order to capture the attention of the industry’s huge new audiences and potential consumers.

It’s still important to keep in mind that video game PR can be just as effective when promoting a new game — in a time where everyone is zigging to hire gaming influencers, you might consider zagging to stand out with some top tier press coverage. Getting your video game covered through some traditional video game journalism in a beloved gaming publication is a great way to build brand equity early on, and it shouldn’t be overlooked by game developers. And if you have some contacts in the video game journalism world, your job can be a little easier.

why you need a promotion plan for your video game

Why you need a promotion plan for your video game

As mentioned above, the gaming industry around the world has become a powerhouse in recent years. Just look at Bungie’s famous video game Destiny, which debuted with impressive sales of  $500 million in its first 24 hours on the market. 

So, in a competitive market with so much excellent gaming content on every platform, how can you get your video game out in front of the individuals who would like to play it? This is exactly why you need a good promotion plan for your video game.

Yes, most AAA game developers and brands have the budget as well as “the name” to get their products seen. And yes, every other advert on YouTube or Facebook is promoting whatever big video game is coming out next — but that doesn’t mean there’s no room for your game to make a splash, as long as you have the right plan in place.

It also helps new brands in the space to take a multi-pronged approach to video game marketing. Besides shelling out money from a beginner budget for advertising, keep in mind that the big games often get a lot of coverage from video game PR and blogs, whose readers are excited and hungry for the latest scoop.

Content is currency in the video game industry

Before we dive into the difference between video game PR and influencer marketing, let’s investigate one of their primary similarities — they’re both methods of creating compelling content about your game.

There is no doubt that gamers upload a lot of content online on a daily basis. Note that they use current social media platforms, such as YouTube and Twitter. You know that Amazon noticed this opportunity in the video game industry and developed a great platform exclusively dedicated to game streams — Twitch.tv.

So, the earlier you familiarize yourself with the market by devising a suitable promotional plan for your video, the bigger the benefits and advantages will be. Your plan should include both video game PR and influencer marketing as a means for creating relevant content about your game.

Focus on creating a dialogue with your online gaming community

With online gaming, there’s more of a DIY peer-to-peer ethos than you might see in other niche communities. Players are likely to have strong opinions about the games they play, and because the very act of gaming allows them to interact with like-minded people, it’s just a matter of time before conversations about your game start to buzz across online communities.

Dialogue and feedback from your online community is a marketing asset you should harness right away, and a good PR or influencer marketing strategy will help you do just that. Did you know that video game influencers, such as Twitch influencers and YouTube influencers, are often in direct contact with your audience?

Keeping tabs on what your audience is saying about your brand and your game can give you ideas worth pursuing — whether it’s ways to harness their own language and sentiments in your advertising materials, to constructive improvements you can make to your game to keep players happy.

When you’re thinking about what kind of promotional content to create for your game, think about what medium and channel will help you start a conversation in your community. This will help you not only improve your product offering, but become a leader or pioneer in your gaming niche.

Said differently, both video game influencer marketing and video game journalism can both help you develop a community around your brand, establishing relations with your prospective customers.

influencer marketing for indie games

The difference between PR and influencer marketing

Maybe you’ve heard that PR and marketing have always had a complicated relationship. It’s true that traditional publicists and marketers will claim that the differences are quite clear. Traditionalists will point to awareness versus advertising, and brand-building versus revenue-generation. But these days the lines are a bit blurrier — and that invites innovation.

This distinction is particularly blurry when it comes to influencer marketing and video game PR, especially given the prominent role that video game PR agencies play in facilitating and improving collaborations between video game influencers and developers looking to promote their game.

But for the sake of clarity, let’s break down the major differences.

What is PR in the gaming industry?

PR is a strategic communication process that develops mutually beneficial and long-term relationships between video game brands and their public audience, which includes consumers. In other words, PR helps develop connections between a gaming brand and various media outlets in order to reach their target audience.

While your video game PR agency can certainly send YouTube influencers a press alert, or invite several bloggers to your press event, there is no obligation for gaming influencers to write about your products on the basis of this outreach.

Keep in mind that with PR, you trade guaranteed exposure for the promise of organic posts. Influencers don’t have to take your offer, and bloggers don’t have to write about your event. In fact, the unpredictable nature of PR is likely why it’s so alluring to both sides of the gaming industry.

What is influencer marketing in the gaming industry?

Unlike video game PR, influencer marketing comes with a guarantee — however, you will also have to pay the price. With video game influencers, you have considerably more control over where, when, and how your gaming product and brand will be seen when you work with gaming influencers, which is excellent.  

It’s worth noting that influencer marketing entails strategic (usually paid) collaborations between gaming brands and video game bloggers or streamers. The most important part of this type of strategy is focusing on authenticity. These types of influencer partnerships are most successful and generate the most ROI when the gaming influencers are truly enthusiastic about your brand or product.

Even though influencer marketing was born from marketers collecting endorsements from Instagram bloggers with huge followings, there are a ton of other platforms out there for finding influencers in the gaming niche: Twitch, YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, and even TikTok — to name just a few.

Game developers can reach out to specific Twitch influencers and ask them to promote your gaming products in a certain way in return for payment. Once you come to a formal agreement with the gaming influencer of your choice, you will have a guarantee that your products will be featured on this gaming influencer’s channels. Unlike video game PR, it’s acceptable to make this a required part of the agreement since you’re paying for it.

To wrap up this section about the differences between these two approaches, remember that influencer marketing and PR can always be used together or separately. If you decide to use a combination of the two, try to keep both strategies in harmony to get the best results for your gaming brand.

At the end of the day, both influencer marketing and PR share the same goal — which is to show the public all the reasons to love your gaming brand and products.

Pros of traditional PR for gaming

Many people don’t realize this, but the main role of a public relations agency is to be an effective interface for communication between the gaming brand and the public. As a game developer, your public relations team will be responsible for making sure your story or announcement is delivered to the right audience and in the right way.

Improve your brand’s credibility

Tradition exists for a reason. Publicity gives your brand rapid credibility, as the content is considerably more informative and authentic and is coming from a well-established source. Studies also show that video game PR and classic journalism lend more credibility in the eyes of gamers compared to advertising, which is often perceived as more promotional and potentially dishonest.

Better engagement with gaming communities

Your gaming brand can strengthen relations in domestic and international markets by generating press coverage in well known outlets. This is especially true if you’re able to get coverage in niche industry publications. When your gaming company understands the relevance and importance of building relations with the gaming community, it helps enhance visibility and the positioning of your gaming brand with the players most likely to care about what you have to offer.

Test your target market

Having a clear cut target market for your gaming brand is now of paramount importance to be successful in a competitive industry, especially online. A video game PR campaign can help you test your message and product offering with different audience segments and evaluate whether you should keep focusing on a certain type of audience. For example, if your new game is resonating with video game journalists from a particular niche, you might consider doubling down on promotional activities targeted towards the audience for that niche.  

Cons of traditional PR for gaming

Lack of control, and guarantees

Keep in mind that unlike paid advertising, you can’t exactly control how your gaming brand is portrayed by the various media outlets, where your message will be placed and when it will appear. Video game journalists are welcomed and encouraged to share their own interpretation of your game, and that might not always go to plan.

ROI risk

Although a video game PR campaign can yield an impressive return on promotional expense, at the end of the day it’s impossible to guarantee press coverage. Choosing a PR agency with a strong network of video game journalists and a demonstrated history of impactful press placements can be a huge help, but even the best publicist can’t guarantee ROI.

Difficult to measure PR impact

Maybe you’ve heard that it can be difficult and tricky to measure the effectiveness or success of your PR activities. While you may count published stories and media mentions, it is harder to determine or gauge the impact this has on the target audience. This is something you want to address before any press coverage goes live — implementing small tracking measures like UTMs on your press links can be a huge help.

Pros of influencer marketing for gaming

Now that we’ve covered the pros and cons of video game PR, let’s dive into the art of influencer marketing in the gaming industry.

Gone are the days when playing video games was a child’s pastime or adults’ downtime hobby. Gaming is a way of life, with tons of adults tuning into streaming channels and events, and loyally following their favorite gamers on every platform. Your gaming brand now has an opportunity to partner with these influencers and tap into their loyal followers.

Reach your target audience

The key to a successful and effective marketing campaign is reaching your target audience. This is because the right audience will be more inclined to interact with your message and be quick to react or respond accordingly.

You know that video game streams mainly attract a young audience, such as Gen Z and Millennials. So, implementing a suitable gaming influencer marketing strategy can help you reach audiences you may not be able to reach otherwise. And reaching new and younger target audiences can help you improve your bottom line, and keep the attention of the upcoming generations of gamers.

Raise genuine brand awareness through gaming influencers

Raising brand awareness is one of the biggest challenges, particularly for new gaming brands in the industry. These brands constantly look for new platforms where they can inform gamers about their products and brands.

While there are several effective and efficient methods for creating brand awareness, influencer marketing is certainly proving to be a game-changing one, which is excellent. And the reason is that gamers love hearing from the stars and personalities they deeply trust, and therefore follow closely online.

Engage your audience with authenticity

It’s clear to see that online gaming communities see gaming influencers as real people they can rely on and trust. They genuinely trust their recommendations and opinions, so influencer endorsements impact their engagement and decision-making behavior.

It’s important to note that the engagement is not restricted to purchasing decisions. One of the best things about influencer marketing is that your target audience will respond much better to a message that comes from someone they rely on and trust. And online gaming influencers are considered a trustworthy and reliable source of information.

Cons of influencer marketing for gaming

Fake followers

You may have heard of ghost followers, which can bring down the performance of influencer marketing campaigns. These are inactive or fake users on social media, usually created by bots. Note that they are a big issue for influencer marketing as they do not really engage with influencer content.

This means that some gaming influencers can appear to have a huge following, it is actually inflated or fake and will have only a modest impact on your gaming brand growth.

A good way to assess whether an influencer is the real deal is to check the ratio of their likes and comments to the number of followers. If a gaming influencer has 30k followers but only gets 30 likes on their Instagram post, there could be some ghost followers at play.

High costs

The influencer marketing space is notoriously opaque when it comes to benchmarking payments and costs for influencer campaigns. Did you know that some of the most popular gaming influencers charge a lot of money in order to talk up your brand and products? Because of this, it’s very possible to invest thousands of dollars without really seeing a reasonable return on your investment. 

This is why it’s a good idea to go through a trusted third party to set up any influencer marketing campaigns you have in mind. If you use an experienced agency for this, they’ll help you avoid common pitfalls and put a solid contract in place to protect your investment.

Choosing the wrong influencer

A survey revealed that 61 percent of marketers find it challenging to identify the right influencers for their marketing campaigns. Note that getting it right takes some effort and time, and if you do it wrong, it may cause a lot of damage to your brand reputation.

Again, you don’t have to go it alone — this is something an established influencer marketing or agency should be able to help you with.

Other indie game marketing channels to consider

Don’t overlook other social media platforms

A huge percentage of indie gaming fans now spend some of their time on platforms such as Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter. And others also use TikTok and Snapchat. So, leverage these platforms in order to market your game.

Game review websites

This is another excellent approach to indie game marketing. Note that pitching your game to one or more review sites can help increase discoverability and promotion.

However, before you pitch to game journalists and review websites, it is important to have your game’s hook as well as a press kit with all of the details and best visuals. Keep in mind that once you have all these essentials, you only have to research game review sites and journalists that can cover your game.

Final thoughts

In the competitive gaming industry, the marketing phase is as crucial as the development stage. In fact, some people claim that promoting your indie game is one of the most important hats an indie game developer wears.

But to do this well, game developers have to build up an understanding of both video game PR and influencer marketing. However, if you are feeling overwhelmed and confused or would just rather concentrate on game development and leave promotion and marketing out of your workflow, you may partner up with an agency that can handle this aspect for you.

Loopr can help you understand who influences your gaming brand, competitors, as well as current market trends. As a video game PR and marketing agency, we can help you customize your marketing campaign and effectively reach your target audience. Get in touch with Loopr for help with your video game PR and influencer marketing strategy.

Can’t get enough of this stuff? Check out our video game PR case studies to learn how we’ve helped indie game developers and esports brands just like you.

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