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5 Mistakes in Video Game Marketing (And How to Avoid them)

By: Renzo Guevara

gamer girl thinking of video game marketing mistakes

A mishandled marketing campaign can mean an early game over. The games industry is no stranger to customers feeling like they were betrayed with false promises. Some video games have become famous for how different their initial showing was compared to what was released. Here are some examples of what not to do when marketing your video game. 

Lying about graphics

Every developer wants to put their best foot forward. An impressive first showing of their game would mean a lot more interest, especially if it’s a brand new IP and not connected to any established franchise.
When Ubisoft first showed Watch Dogs at E3 2012, audiences were immediately sold at how impressive it looked from a graphical standpoint. It was touted as a real glimpse into the future of gaming as it was ushering in the eighth generation of consoles.
It received countless awards ranging from critic’s choice, best showcase, and most anticipated release from multiple sources. Come release day in 2014, it was soon found out that the developers lowered the quality of the graphics without telling anyone.

You don’t promise a bucket of candy only for you to give out just a piece of mint per person. Always make sure that if you are showing off something, it’ll reflect what the final product will be.
All the hype and praises at the start won’t be worth it if you end up losing the trust of the people – which is exactly what happened with Watch Dog’s sequel as it received significantly less sales compared to its predecessor.

Extreme Initiatives

Sometimes, being “different” to stand out isn’t always a good thing. It’s one thing to get attention with your campaign, it’s another to anticipate what type of attention you would want to surround your product with.
When Sony was attempting to market a white-colored PSP, they had a caucasian woman look down upon a black woman. You can probably guess how well that ended up for them. The ad was so controversial that it is still being talked about years later.
Another example would be EA’s attempt at appealing to a younger demographic with a video called “Your mom does not like Dead Space 2” and surely enough, moms definitely did not like it.

Be careful with your messaging and make sure that it’s not just for shock value. Being edgy is catchy but it certainly won’t make everyone happy.

Misleading gameplay previews

You wouldn’t market coke and then serve up water. Aliens: Colonial Marines made the mistake of showing previews that didn’t accurately represent the final game.
A video showcasing an immersive atmosphere, impressive gameplay, and accurate enemy designs, had fans of the classic film franchise excited for a great gaming experience. When the game was finally released, all that was shown in the demo was nowhere to be found.
The developer and publisher of Aliens: Colonial Marines got sued for false advertising by the way.

Present what your game truly is, not what you want the audience to think it might be. You can control what the public will want.

Deceptive Trailers

The Dead Island cinematic trailer was considered one of the best trailers in gaming. It showed an emotionally resonant tone that would bring in the drama and suspense. When the final game was released, it had the resemblance of what a car looks like to a piece of bread.
With B-movie levels of wacky writing, the game’s narrative was a far cry from the soap opera tone the trailer was trying to suggest.
Although cinematic trailers are visually impressive and allow for more creative freedom as you’re basically making a mini-movie without the constraints of your game’s systems, you run the risk of going overboard.

Stay true to what you’re selling. If it’s dramatic – present it as such. If it’s fun, don’t make it look like it’s trying to win ‘best in drama’ at the Oscars.

Over promising

Cyberpunk 2077 promised a lot of gameplay innovations and unique features that had fans anticipating for almost 10 years. As you would expect at this point in the article, it did not deliver at any of those.
When the game kept getting delayed multiple times while the heads of the studio kept insisting that development was going smooth, it had gamers confident in a product that would meet expectations.
A good marketing campaign is more than just generating hype, it’s also about tempering expectations. Be realistic about what you say and consumers will be realistic with what they’re going to be looking for.
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