Level up Your Marketing: Strategies from E3

02 Jul

Applied Marketing

Photo provided by E3 Expo

Video games need marketing. And not just any marketing but smart marketing. The Electronic Entertainment Expo, better known as E3, in the Los Angeles Convention Center is the chance to shine.

With how big the industry has become, it’s no surprise that last year nearly 70 thousand people went to get a glance at upcoming video games and tech.

From enticing your audience with an intense trailer to actually handing them the controller so they can play an exclusive demo; there are lot of familiar marketing techniques at play. Marketing does not exist in a vacuum of board meetings and out-of-touch commercials, rather it can also be a bombastic marching band.

So buckle up and strap on a VR headset if you will as we explore prime marketing strategies this conference has to offer.

1. Strong Titles

Hmm, I wonder what I would call a game where you simulate flying planes

Your brand needs a name. It has to be something the consumer can remember, can understand, and can spell correctly enough when they look up the title on google. A short and sweet title is a classic and it’s not just me that knows that.

Let’s take a look at a few titles Microsoft revealed at their press conference.

  • The Outer Worlds
  • Microsoft Flight Simulator
  • Gears 5
  • Elden Ring

None of these titles have any fancy made up words in a try hard effort to stand out (YIIK more like YIKES) and almost all of them provide a sort of story/premise. The Outer Worlds has worlds that are not nearby; you fly planes in a flight simulator, the Elden Ring is a shattered object “that defines the world itself”, etc.

 The odd one out is Gears 5, but since all the previous titles were from the acclaimed “Gears of War” franchise there is some leeway in the shortened name.

Also, aside from Microsoft Flight Simulator, they are all four syllables or less. This makes them both easy to say and spell out which means an increased likelihood that they stay in the consumer’s mind. With the plane game, the phrase ‘flight simulator’ is so common yet descriptive that it can’t fail. And when all else fails just typing flight simulator into google will get you results of this game.

2. Capitalizing on the Competition’s Mistakes (aka Roasting)

A cup of coffee above a cozy fire
Spilling the tea, roasting, grilling the competition. Lot’s of food related terms for some reason.

I’m ecstatic that there are both articles on the formal and colloquial definitions of this action. You see pitchforks outside your competitors window, capitalize on it. 

That’s what Sony did when the Xbox One was initially revealed. One surprising report was that users would have to pay Microsoft a fee to play a used game and later on that some used games would not be playable depending on the publisher. In addition, the console would have to perform online checks and would restrict users playing offline games if the check failed.

So what if I wanted to borrow my friend’s game so we can play it at my house? Gotta check online if the publisher would allow me to even do that. Might as well just have him lug his Xbox one over to my house to avoid such an anti-consumer practices.

So, what did Sony do as Microsoft had their users jump through hoops? They had this message to say at E3 2013.

See the crowd cheer as the simple message “PS4 supports used games” lights up on stage. With each reveal the crowd just keeps on cheering, cementing the PS4 has the stronger of the two (at the time) next-gen consoles.

3. Sincerity and Connecting with the Consumer

Road sign that says authenti-city
An uncharted place

Success is driven by sincerity. Would you rather listen to what an advertiser who is actively trying to manipulate your predictable feeble mind with buzzwords and fake enthusiasm or a person who is genuinely excited to be there to speak with you?

During the Microsoft conference actor and Fortnite skin Keanu Reeves introduced the upcoming video game Cyberpunk 2077. In the video below you can see how Keanu was entranced by this “fascinating story” that the developer CD Projekt Red had cooked for the futuristic open world game. He put on an intense narrator voice as he described the setting and he had fun with it. He knows what he’s doing is cheesy and that just adds to the joy.

But perhaps the highlight of his appearance was his exchange with an excited fan. After excitedly talking about how “walking the streets of the future is going to be breathtaking” a voice cries out “you’re breathtaking”. Keanu laughs and points at the (general direction of) the audience of the audience member to exclaim “You’re breathtaking. You’re all breathtaking.” It’s these small moments of cheeriness and humor that add a much needed human touch to the presentation.

Thus, It’s no surprise that Keanu’s whole presentation has a page on KnowYourMeme because he knows how to sell the game with his personality and energy.

4. Tease your Audience

That one pixel looks like Ant-Man. I knew he would be in this movie!

Just like for movies, video games have their teaser trailers too. It helps build up the hype for what your studio is planning next. Add some mysterious dialogue, maybe a familiar tune, and a short look at the setting and you have the ingredients for dozens of rumors, analyses, and blog posts about your game.

Bethesda Game Studios has mastered this craft as they gave a sneak peek at the next entry of The Elder Scrolls franchise. From traversing the Boston wasteland in Fallout 4, to the cold cold region of Skyrim for the 10th time, consumers are engulfed in the fantastical open worlds Bethesda creates.

That’s why the below video has garnered so much attention. Fans have been yearning for this game and they are now hyped up to hear that it is in development. The tune gives off an adventurous vibe as proud trumpets tell fans to put on their helmets and dive back into the world of Tamriel again. The panning shot of the mountainous area spurs debate on just which region of Tamriel this game will take place. It’s the perfect balance of not showing to much but not showing too little. 

5. Provide a Sample

Dog not included with your test drive

If you want to sell a car then one of the best things you can do is offer a test drive. Consumers who try out the product first hand will see and experience details that aren’t shown on the company website or trailers. They grow accustomed and used to the game, and will leave yearning for more.

So, if you want to sell a game then offer a demo. It’s hard to find footage of a single demo in depth, probably because there is a policy against leaking exclusive footage, but from the below video you can see what the booths at E3 offer.

Even more loosely, offering the consumer a look into the world of your game through booth design is effective as well. Offer props and mannequins to take pictures with, an exotic car to eyeball over, or even just a comfy couch to play the demo on. These are the experiences that consumers will share with their friends and get your brand heard.

Thanks for reading and if you know any good (or bad) examples of marketing at E3 be sure to be breathtaking and post a comment about it.

Jonathan Aguilera

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