The games market is always changing and games marketing has always changed with it. But with ever-increasing post-launch revenues, it seems there’s something more symbiotic between the design and content of the games and the campaigns that support them.
We sit down with Tarquin Henderson, head of EMEA console gaming sales at Facebook, to discuss how changes in the gaming space have moved the goalposts for publishers, and how they can now best reach consumers via their Facebook campaigns.
SCALE UP AND ROLL IT OUT
There’s no doubting that Facebook has scale, and that encompasses a lot of gamers, as Henderson explains: “Over 800m people play at least one Facebook-connected game every month. If we look at a [gaming] ecosystem of around 2.5bn in a couple of years time, we have quite a big slice of that community playing on or with our platform.”
But Henderson isn’t convinced that publishers are making optimum use of that audience; he has a persuasive argument, too.
“If you look at one of the biggest trends at present, it’s the shift to digital. So we now have EA announcing that 61 per cent of their sales are digital,” he says. Of course, Ubisoft and Activision have also recently reported similar shifts in their revenues.
“And I think that is not being represented in the marketing spend,” he continues.
“We’re at a really interesting tipping point, where we see [marketing] teams looking into player value rather than total unit sales. Given our digital and mobile audiences, Facebook and Instagram are really in the sweet spot for that marketing plan.”
Henderson ties this claim into current gaming trends: “One of the other big trends we see is the move to fewer but much bigger franchises. Given the profitability that digital sales, add-ons and post-launch content give, the way we can offer our marketing solutions right through the lifecycle of the campaigns is more important than ever.
“We’re seeing brands increasingly moving to an always-on strategy,” he reveals. “Where previously, there would be a tease and then a launch, and then a big ski jump of marketing investment,” he continues.
“The publishers that are driving the most value from our platform are those that are really supporting their franchises at each stage,” he adds, a claim that matches up perfectly with the longer-tail, evergreen profitability of games such as FIFA, GTA V and Overwatch.
“Fundamentally, with fewer games, engagement is critical – and Facebook is one of the best platforms to drive engagement,” he explains. “We have fantastic native targeting tools on our platform. So we can build an offer to publishers of specific targeted blocks that they just can’t get, even in the digital world.”
And those segments are increasingly diverse, Henderson argues: “Most publishers will only target 18-35 males, who are increasingly hard to get, especially with non-linear TV and the whole consumption of entertainment changing very quickly.
“So one of the most interesting pieces of insight is when we present our proposed segments. For example, targeting female gamers will be part of that, too,” he enthuses. “We can also see there’s huge value on our platform in targeting people, like myself, who are slightly over the age of 40, and who are very deeply engaged in a particular franchise.
“If you aggregate the Top Ten, the average age of a franchise last year was over 15 years. So if you start playing when you’re 20 then you’ll be moving out of that [core] targeting range.
“Facebook can find these pockets of value, and these pockets are massively scalable because of the massive reach that we have on our platform,” he claims. “I think if you were only to target, as the offline media providers can, with unaggregated broad swathes of media, then you’re missing out on this very lucrative segment.”
“With fewer games, engagement is critical – and Facebook is one of the best platforms to drive engagement.”
Tarquin Henderson, Facebook
But reaching these more diverse segments isn’t all Facebook is offering.
“Another trend is around personalisation of creative. We are working to provide broad targeted segments, with certain attitudes and behaviours that we see over-index against other competitive sets. That means that we publishers can build creative that is more adept for a specific segment.”
It sounds complicated, but boils down to presenting targeted creative to specific segments, and with stunning results: “One early example of this is a project we did with Ghost Recon from Ubisoft, where we built out unique segments for its game and ultimately saw one segment have a 63 per cent higher purchase intent rate, using different creative to introduce the brand’s video ad on Facebook. Once you start to get into those numbers, you can see why you would invest and restructure your internal teams to actually build a digital future.”
But Facebook isn’t just obsessing over digital, as it aims to track the effectiveness of its campaigns even on physical sales: “What we’re thinking about now and what we’re working upon is how we can tie specific campaigns to direct sales,” Henderson explains.
In short, that means leveraging integrations on console platforms and with the likes of Battle.net (or Blizzard Launcher if you prefer), to link up Facebook campaigns with real-world, boxed sales.
“That technology is available now, and we’re working with various hardware providers to actually plan that out, and that takes us into a very exciting territory and do what we do with mobile games and look at return on investment almost immediately,” Henderson tells us.
“In terms of building up that long tail, building up that engagement, publishers can actually look at those players and build-up their lifetime value and obviously increase their marketing budgets for the segments that are interesting for them.
“But not only digitally, because once it’s put into a store, whether it’s digitally bought or physically bought it doesn’t matter. We can map that using our platform to a specific Facebook campaign.”
That would allow the true value of boxed sales to become more apparent, letting publishers track consumers all the way from a Facebook advert through a boxed sale, to a final DLC or micro-transaction purchase years down the line.