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SPOTLIGHT: Future Publishing

Ben Parfitt
SPOTLIGHT: Future Publishing

The team at Future spent ages trying to come up with a good slogan that could summarise our mission, products and audience in the games market. Something better than ‘Please buy more ads’.

The existing company slogan – ‘Media with passion’ – was a good starting point. It summarised both the way our staff feel about the products they make, and our audiences.

In the games group we wanted something specific, different and familiar. We came up with ‘Ahead of the game’. Here’s why…

Future is ahead of the game because of our products and our audiences.

No other media owner reaches high volume gamers through as many touchpoints as Future. Let’s just look at one slice of our product mix. How about the Nintendo market?

In print we have a gorgeous Official magazine, a range of Nintendo specials from the GamesMaster team, and an unofficial magazine NGamer. We make covermount merchandise including 3DS cases, stickers, posters and more. We run a busy website at officialnintendomagazine.co.uk, tonnes of other Nintendo content across GamesRadar.com, CVG.co.uk and Edge, and have a rapidly growing Facebook community. We make weekly content on the Wii with our Nintendo TV partnership. We work on live, experiential stuff like the uDraw launch at the Golden Joystick Awards and consumer sampling events like our Metroid challenge at retail.

We’re ahead of the game because we give more choices to consumers and advertisers – we publish wherever engaged Nintendo gamers are.

And that’s just the Nintendo market. On Xbox and PlayStation, as well as all the above, we also make extra on-console content and distribute hundreds of thousands of playable demos with coverdiscs.

With the launch of PCGamer.com we’ve already beaten 2m unique users – and the site only launched last June.

Ask the right questions

We’re also ahead of the game because of our audiences. In short, they buy more games and are more likely to pre-order or buy at full price than the UK’s general gaming population (and we reckon our rival audiences).

One in three people in the UK describe themselves as gamers (Source: UKIE) and while that presents opportunities for software publishers it also brings a problem.

What sort of gamers are they? Are you going to put your effort into spamming the general population with your game using a TV ad, or are you going to dig deeper?

These are the kind of questions we think publishers should ask about the audiences they’re trying to reach. Future has pretty good answers.

Publishers should ask these seven questions about a media audience:
* Do they buy games?
* Do they pre-order?
* Do they own the right platform?
* Do they like games like mine?
* Do they know about my game?
* Are they likely to tell their friends about my game?
* Are they in the right mood to hear about my game?

Get the right answers

If a media owner can’t answer all, or most, of these questions with a well-informed ‘yes’, then no matter how cheap, big or sexy they claim to be, then they are aren’t working as hard for you as Future can.

Here are our answers:

Do they buy games? Yes. We know this because our print readers are already shelling out up to £5.99 for a magazine, and because of the scale of review traffic and comments on our websites.

We also know this because we asked them. In our Big Games Survey (BGS) 2010, they said they bought 12 games in the last six months. And 73 per cent said that the recession did not impact negatively on their games spend.

Do they pre-order? Yup. They’re pretty keen on getting ahead of the game. 68 per cent of respondents pre-order or buy in the first week of release. The trick to making the most of Future’s media is to connect with gamers earlier in the cycle. The proportion of games bought at full price is 73 per cent, versus 57 per cent in console-owning households.

Do they own the right platform? Yes (easy one). With our single format print magazines – like OPM and Xbox World 360 – the clues are in the names. We always sell targeted campaigns on our websites. That means we sell not only the audience on OXM.co.uk, but you can also buy ads serving all our Xbox-related sites.

Do they like games like mine? Yes (harder one to answer). We track audience by genre in our research (yes, they like FPS best) and can share traffic levels for your game and rivals across our sites. So, weirdly, the more we write about your competitors the more ads we can serve for your game.

Do they know about my game? Yes (I should hope so). Future has over 75 games journalists across the world. If you’ve told them about a game, then they’ve told our consumers. And done a better job of explaining the levelling-up mechanics than a billboard could.

Are they likely to tell their friends about my game? Yes. Our forums and comments threads are full of passionate loudmouths and we’re pretty big on social platforms too – over 80,000 folk like PCGamer.com on Facebook (20,000 more than GameSpot). 83 per cent of our audience said they were likely to convince others of their opinions and 50 per cent had talked to ‘many people’ about games in the last year.

Are they in the right mood to hear about my game? Yes. BGS research said that 56 per cent of our readers said their opinion of a game was improved by ads. 96 per cent consider reviews and previews important when buying a game. They come to us to find out what games to buy and advertising is part of that discovery.

Why buy advertising?

Software publishers buy ads for lots of reasons. They should invest to fill the gaps in PR campaigns, ensure a constant presence, drive awareness, improve standout, promote pre-order and drive reach. They buy advertising to make sure their game sells. They should also buy advertising when they have good answers to those seven questions above. The slogan we picked was ‘Ahead of the game’. We think it applies pretty well to the partners we work with, too.

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