Gamers don’t want to be marketed to; they want to be entertained. Chris Hassell, founder at Ralph, shares his expertise on engaging and expanding your game's audience beyond the initial launch

Chris Hassell, founder at Ralph, talks about how audiences are evolving and how you adjust your approach to better relate to them.

There’s been a step change in entertainment media marketing in recent years that means retention of audience is now just as important, if not more so, than audience acquisition.

This is primarily because streaming services have become omnipotent in the worlds of TV, movies and music, along with a necessity on behalf of platform owners and content providers to build longer-term engagement with fans to keep those all-important ARPUs up.

However, in video games, one of the most immersive forms on entertainment we have, there has been a tendency to focus on trailers as the focal point of both major (and minor) video game release campaigns, which often results in a ‘blink and you’ll miss it’ one time hit for the target audience – once that release window has passed, it’s on to the next one.

Chris Hassell from Ralph Creative

Chris Hassell from Ralph Creative

But with major players lining up video game streaming services, there’s a real opportunity for platforms and publishers to go ‘beyond the trailer’ – to start working in the context of immersive, ongoing and evolving marketing plans for a game, with an emphasis on continuously learning and adapting based on feedback and real-world occurrences over the entire life-cycle.

And audience acquisition, we find time and time again in the on-demand TV space, is best driven by existing, passionate fans sharing the love they have for a product with other people.

So, if you’ve already acquired even a small audience around a game, how can you creatively engage with them and give them the impetuous to share your title with their friends and family through the channels they inhabit?

We try and become what we call ‘mega fans’ of a piece of content, whether that’s a game, TV show or movie – that means learning everything you can about it so you can act like a mega fan and engage with others on their terms and in a language they understand.

In video games this is about dropping the barrier between the development and marketing processes – this is the key to encouraging people to buy or subscribe to stuff. The closer a marketing team is to production, the more they can understand the property, what makes it tick with its audience.

And the great thing about taking this approach is that marketing ends up sitting between the two sets of people who are most passionate about a product – the people that made it and the people that play it.

This can lead to all kinds of interesting interactions that, especially considering we are talking about multi-year content lifecycles, can be economically beneficial due to high organic engagements.

One adopter of this thinking is Square Enix, which avoided traditional gameplay trailer marketing for its Life Is Strange 2 release last year in favour of an emotive promo video that showed real people reading out letters from their best friend.

We helped them build on that approach with a more immersive, story-led promo for this year’s Life Is Strange 2 – Episode 2. The video brings the game into the real world, providing continuity from the first campaign, with both reflecting the game’s themes of friendship, loyalty and devotion.

There are myriad ways of achieving a similar goal, whether that’s simple banter on social media, bespoke content spun out from the main property, or elaborate real world experiential activations.

However, consistent and accurate tone of voice is always essential – not just as a company trying to sell something, but for the essence of the property itself. And for long-term engagements it’s crucial that you listen to what the audience is posting about a product and respond in a real and genuine way using that same tone of voice.

To keep audiences immersed in a piece of content and coming back for more we need to harness their passions – how you choose to do that is only limited by your imagination.

Founded in 2005 with offices in London, NY & LA, Ralph are trusted by the world's biggest brands to create experiences that audiences love and share. www.ralphandco.com

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