Marketing Your Video Game Outside of Game Marketplaces & App Stores

Katie Stephan
Katie Stephan • Sr. Content Strategist
March 15th, 2024
Estimated read time: 36 minutes, 0 seconds

Todd Harris knows how to leverage effective video game marketing strategies to get games in front of players. 

As the former COO and Co-Founder of Hi-Rez Studios, he spent 15 years making games and marketing them to gamers — with the studio’s games reaching 150 million players. (At the time of writing, Hi-Rez’s 2014 release SMITE sits at #15 on Steam’s “Most played Massively Multiplayer games” list, with SMITE’s Steam page boasting 40+ million players.)

And as the CEO of both Skillshot Media (a turnkey events production company for esports events) and Ghost Gaming (a “gaming lifestyle brand” that supports esports teams and gaming content creators such as Twitch streamers), he dives ever deeper into marketing to gamers and other gaming industry professionals.

Game marketplaces on platforms like Xbox, PlayStation, and Steam are great ways to earn attention and attract new players to play your game, but with stiff competition and limited real estate in marketplace interfaces such as recommended game views and category pages, game developers are often left wondering, “How can I effectively market my game outside of game marketplaces?”

In this episode of Growth Stage, host and CMO of FastSpring David Vogelpohl interviews Todd about his thoughts on:

  • Why marketplaces can be a difficult way to attract new players.
  • How to cost effectively leverage video game influencers in order to get access to existing player audiences.
  • Clever ways to approach digital advertising in your game marketing.
  • How to use live events and live-streaming to attract huge audiences of new players.

Jump to highlights.  |  Jump to transcript.  |  Jump to related reading.

Podcast Full Interview: Audio

Podcast Full Interview: Video

Video Game Marketing Insights From Todd Harris

Game Marketplaces Like Steam Are Great, But…

Marketplaces can help everyone from major game publishers to indie game developers to get their games in front of players.

Todd said that “One thing that we found is that many marketplaces were not cannibalistic with our own direct-to-consumer channels. They were actually aggregate helpful, right? And so very specifically, a lot of our games, particularly early on in Hi-Rez, were on Steam, which is a great marketplace.” 

But marketplaces are so popular that they can make it hard for game devs to cut through the noise and actually get their target audience to land on their Steam page or other game store page.

“If you look at last year, I think it was 38 titles a day [that were being released] just on [the Steam] platform, so it’s easy to get lost. And the way that algorithm works is, the more popular your game is, the more you get placed on the front center, so it’s hard to get things going.” 

Todd recommends that game devs consider those larger platforms as part of a video game marketing strategy that includes multiple channels for selling games, but that they not rely solely on them. 

Leverage Nontraditional Video Game Marketing Channels Such as Discord Communities and Gaming Influencers

Video game developers should look to take their marketing strategy beyond traditional channels. Community hosting, influencer marketing, cross promotion & partner marketing plans, and more are stretching the ways that everyone from big gaming industry brands to indie game developers can get in front of their target audiences.

“The first phase is focusing on your own community,” Todd explains, citing Discord as a great platform on which to do so. 

“Very specifically, we recommend if you’re working on a game, as early as possible, establish a community on Discord. That is a platform that is endemic to gaming. And unlike other platforms where the algorithms shifts and you might lose the ability to directly talk to the community that you’ve built. Discord (at least for now) is your virtual server — it’s your community.” You can have an ongoing conversation with your fan base without worrying about an algorithm messing that up.

Then, from within that gaming community, you’ll start to see new organic content creators rise up. “They’re passionate about this game, the game genre, or the art style, or the development team — something resonates with them. And they think, ‘You know, I’m going to support these folks.’”

Todd says he “definitely encourages studios to grow those homegrown creators, even if they’re small — even if they’re micro influencers — because every community needs those leaders.” 

The second phase might then be to reach out to the influencers — or to companies like Todd’s own Skillshot Media and Ghost Gaming — for help creating hype and reaching even more potential players.

Maximize Social Media Marketing Efforts With Multi-Use Video Content

It might not require a ton of good game-related content marketing on social media to make a big impact on an indie game marketing campaign or a large studio’s broader marketing strategy.

“These days, video doesn’t have to be that polished,” Todd explains. It’s fine to skip the high-quality production effects and just publish “a little video that shows what you’re up to, and then simply a call for people to join the community. In the early days, it doesn’t have to be much more complicated than that.” 

Specifically, Todd suggests sharing one or two pieces of concept art or gameplay screenshots that might really hook viewers into checking out more about your game or community. Keep videos vertically oriented (for smartphone viewing), keep it short, and make it shareable.

“The nice thing about the social media platforms now is that between TikTok, YouTube shorts, Instagram reels — one piece of content recorded vertically can be repurposed and reused on a lot of platforms, and shared,” he says. 

And then your followers might even share the content too: “I think it’s just giving people one specific reason why they should care. And that’s often just describing what you’re up to.”

Listen to the episode to hear more! 

Interested in learning more about how your video game, SaaS, software, or other digital goods business can partner with FastSpring? Let us worry about global payments and taxes. FastSpring provides an all-in-one payment platform, including VAT and sales tax management, payment localization, and consumer support. Sign up for a free trial or schedule a demo today.


Producer  00:00

This is the Growth Stage podcast. And here’s your host, David Vogelpohl.

David Vogelpohl  00:04

Hello, everyone and welcome to Growth Stage, a podcast by FastSpring, where we discuss how SaaS and digital product companies grow revenue, build meaningful products and increase the value of their business. I’m David Vogelpohl. I support the digital product company community as part of my role with FastSpring. And I love to bring the best of the community to you here on the Growth Stage podcast. Today’s episode, we’re going to be talking about marketing your video game outside of game marketplaces and app stores. And joining us for that conversation. As someone who knows quite a bit about that, I’d like to welcome to Growth Stage of Skillshot and Ghost Gaming. Mr. Todd Harris. Todd, welcome to Growth Stage.

Todd Harris  00:47

Thanks, David. It’s good to be here with you.

David Vogelpohl  00:50

Awesome, we’re so happy to have you here. And for those listening and watching what we’re going to talk to Todd about today are his thoughts on why marketplaces can be a difficult place to actually attract new players. And what are some alternative strategies that you can employ including leveraging influencers, advertising and other aspects of marketing outside of game marketplaces. So Todd, I’d like to kick off the interview by asking you first. What was the first video game you ever paid for not played but actually paid for with your own money?

Todd Harris  01:25

Wow, the first game I paid for, for it was an obscure title. I suspect listeners may not be familiar with it temple of Apshai, which if you were an old school Dungeons and Dragons, pen and paper roleplayer like myself, Temple of Apshai was an early implementation of a dungeon crawler that was on a TRI-80. And I bought it for the IBM Personal Computer, this would be early 80s. So fairly old school gamer. Paid for that. I have to mention another game maybe even more satisfying because I got a box copy that I didn’t pay for Byte Magazine. When I was a teenager, I wrote to Byte Magazine and said, hey, I’ll do video game reviews for you. If you send me the game, you don’t have to pay me. And they sent me a game called Conquest, which was a port of Joust. Anyone who knows arcade games, Joust: Conquest was a version of that also for the IBM personal computer. So that was a box copy that I earned with a different sort of sweat labor than dollars. So those were two early games in my collection.

David Vogelpohl  02:43

Very clever approach there with Byte Magazine and impressed that it worked. That’s awesome, I could see why that would be way more satisfying than buying temple of ashy with your own money. That’s a great origin story there. So I’m wondering if you could tell me a little bit before we get into the kind of topic topics at hand about Skillshot and Ghost Gaming and what you do there?

Todd Harris  03:07

Sure. So in my background into games quickly, even before Skillshot, is a company Hi-Rez Studios, so it’s certainly relevant, for my perspective on game marketing is the fact that I spent about 15 years making video games. So we developed video games, I’m a co founder of Hi-Rez Studios, I’ve since exited that business and focused on these other companies. But at that Hi-Rez, we developed games and of course, as an independent developer also marketed those games and, and that company reached over 150 million players, between all of the different game titles that it published. So that really informed my view on game marketing. And it’s really hard to develop a game, it’s even harder these days to get people to know that that game exists. So in 2020, I left Hi-Rez, and started this new company, Skillshot. And Skillshot at the end of the day is an event production company. But we saw so much value at Hi-Rez marketing through events that we felt it could be a standalone business. And so that’s what Skillshot is. And I think as we talk today about marketing, I’ll continue to come back to themes of basically community content creators, creators meaning influencers, but in the gaming world, they’re, they’re called creators, so community content creators was and those themes. And so at Hi-Rez as a game developer, we leaned into all of those lanes and it Skillshot, we now provide some of those services to other companies, whether they’re game makers or other companies wanting to grow their brand and their audience.

David Vogelpohl  05:18

And that’s an important distinction as we think about the topics at hand today around marketing your game outside of game marketplaces is your background. I think with Hi-Rez as an independent game developer, you know, you’re not able to leverage the brand recognition that bigger titles are able to leverage and I hear you talk about, you know, community content and creators, you know, bigger studios, obviously, in bigger titles, attract those kind of organically without even having to try. And so, you know, there’s an opportunity for others to take advantage of these strategies. And so, as I think about it, from the independent side, I think that’ll be a good background for the topics we’re gonna cover today, Todd. What about Ghost Gaming, what’s, what does Ghost Gaming do? What is its connection to Skillshot?

Todd Harris  06:11

So if Skillshot is a little more behind the scenes, and fundamentally a business to business company, Ghost is consumer facing brands are very much a business to consumer brand. And we our management group, acquired Ghost, about a year after starting Skillshot. And Ghost originally was eSports brand built in Los Angeles, little bit covering up the logo here. But we really liked the logo, we thought it was just a clean look, and somewhat differentiated in the eSports space. And since acquiring it, we’ve really invested in creators, so we continue to have teams that play on behalf of Ghost and try to win gaming tournaments. That’s the eSports side, their professional players who played a win. But we also now have a large roster of creators who are leaning into gaming to entertain. They’re very good, they’re better than you and I, and they’re better than 90% of the population, but not 99%. So they’re live streaming, they’re creating content on platforms like YouTube and Twitch and tick tock. And so Ghost really is a gaming lifestyle brand. And it often works with our clients in conjunction with skillshots. So Skillshot can run a great event, Ghost brings in the eyeballs, and an additional set of relevant authentic content, because it’s coming from creators and very popular games. So they’re both sibling companies under what one hold. co., which, which I manage.

David Vogelpohl  08:04

Okay, so that’s a good complementary offering, then for Skillshot, I could see why you would be attracted to that opportunity when it first emerged, and then evolving it to include creators and leverage that between the two makes a lot of sense. Have you seen Company A companies, smaller studios have success with creating their own creators? It sounds like you kind of did that a bit through acquisition and modifying the strategy of Ghost Gaming a little bit. But is that a common strategy, I think is can be successful for smaller studios like inventing their own creative roster?

Todd Harris  08:42

Certainly, so. So I think that I would advise any studio in the very early days to focus on community first. So as I say, there’s community, there’s content creators, it all really starts with community and before reaching out to an external company, and I’d love for them to reach out to us at Skillshot, and Ghost. But that’s a second phase. The first phase is focusing on your own community. And from that community, it often births organic content creators, because they’re passionate about this game, the game genre, or the art style, or the development team, something resonates with them. And they think, you know, I’m going to support these folks. And maybe I’m going to earn some money for myself as a creator. And so definitely encourage studios to grow those homegrown creators, even if they’re small, even if they’re micro influencers, because every community needs those leaders even if your community is small. And so, very specifically, we recommend if you’re working on In a game as early as possible, certainly establish a community on Discord, right? That is a platform that is endemic to gaming. And that unlike some other platforms where the algorithms shifts, and you might lose the ability to directly talk to the community that you’ve built, you just never know. Discord, at least for now. It’s, it’s your virtual server, it’s your community, you can have an ongoing conversation with them. It’s not algorithmic driven. So start a Discord community as early as possible, share early glimpses of your game with concept are or videos, it doesn’t have to be very polished. And it’s very likely that out of that Discord community, some organic creators will certainly arise. And that’s really the very first important step, I would say, for any one making a game today that to your point isn’t, can’t lean into a franchise that everyone already knows, or maybe some first party relationship with some other IP that everyone knows they’re really starting something new, and from scratch.

David Vogelpohl  11:19

Okay, so that’s sage advice. And so the idea is to create my community early on whatever Discord is my platform for that, and then try to get that community going, if you will, so that way creators naturally emerge from it. And regardless of where your strategy goes, in terms of paying or partnering or trying to gain the attention of influencers, it sounds like what you’re implying is that the root of that should be your own community, and Discord is a great place to have that be the home. Is that a good rundown of that, Todd?

Todd Harris  11:55

[Inaudible] percent, yeah. And again, I’m speaking from our firsthand approach at Hi-Rez, even before we started these other companies. And then even before Discord was a thing, you know, we did it with, with forums, you know, even before Reddit and before Discord, there were, there were company owned forums, but the philosophy was the same talk to your community early and often. And those advocates, you know, that’s the, that’s the kindling, that you need to eventually hopefully start a growing fire of enthusiasm for your project. And so you want to nurture that community today, specifically on Discord and feed the kindling oxygen through drops of new information about your game. So that they know by being a pat a part of that community, they’re getting those early looks, and potentially helping to influence it. That’s another thing that we used at Hi-Rez and many game developers are doing now is that feedback cycle. So it’s a two way conversation, not just throwing content at that audience. But whether it’s surveys or whether it’s meet and greets, and conversations like like this with some of the key community influencers and really bring them in to the development process of I think that generationally, this generation of gamers, they they like, seeing behind the scenes, they like learning how the sausage is made. And they like to have a voice even if it’s not always listened to. And that’s very different from those early games that I bought or earned. It was the developer was on the ivory tower, and they just handed a box and people liked it or didn’t. But now it’s a much more organic process. Like developing an app, you know, where it’s iterative.

David Vogelpohl  13:57

Yeah, pushed updates, definitely changed the speed at which that feedback loop could be applied. So I’m curious, and it’s interesting to hear you were co founder there at Hi-Rez. So I’m guessing even maybe up to the time you left, when you’ve launched a new game, maybe it was difficult to get people to join that Discord channel or the forum or subreddit or whatever it was, what were some techniques you use to get people to participate in that conversation where you adding calls to action within your games? Where are you approaching it in different ways? Like for someone launching a new space, how do they get people to join it?

Todd Harris  14:39

Yeah, so I think you’re right again and and after one successful game and one email list and other things, it’s easier to transfer folks to your new project and you develop a reputation and we saw that at Hi-Rez from not having any games to publishing multiple games, but I mean, to get started, it really is being somewhat active and familiar with the space of adjacent game genres. And so, you know, for those out there making games, there are waves of genres of popularity, you know, Battle Royale wasn’t a thing until it became a thing. And then there were multiple genres associated with it. And so there tend to be early adopters that are fans of a certain genre in terms of the mechanics of the game, or maybe art style, they really like animais presentation, maybe Tak, you know, they’re following the latest new graphical developments. And so a short snippet. These days, video doesn’t have to be that polish, but a little video that is showing what you’re up to, and then simply a call for people to join the community. I think in the early days, it doesn’t have to be much more complicated than that. Just putting out there that this is the project that these are the maybe some of the key folks involved sharing one or two pieces of concept art or gameplay that you feel are really a hook. And even more specifically, when it comes to content. These days, I would advise vertical content, short form and shareable. You know, the nice thing about the social media platforms now are between tick tock YouTube shorts, Instagram reels, like one piece of content recorded vertically, can be repurposed and reused on a lot of platforms and shared. So if you really decide you like the project, you’re sharing it on your, you know, on your platform as well. So, yeah, I think it’s just giving people one specific reason why they should care. And that’s often just describing what you’re up to.

David Vogelpohl  17:04

Do you find that game companies over under index on marketing their genre, like I’m just thinking about, like marketing, I might have seen for Epic products or something. I don’t know that they say, Fortnite Battle Royale or something like that. But do you feel like genre should have a more central role, especially early on? When you’re trying to get those early adopters?

Todd Harris  17:25

It’s a good question. I don’t think you have to be so on the nose around describing the genre, I would more say that. Gamers are so sophisticated these days. And there’s a lot of built in assumptions around what comes with a genre. And it’s more being sensitive about that. So if you are positioning your game as a first person shooter game, well, the audience has expectations, including that, like, the gunplay should be really good. Like it should have a feel to it and a half done. And if you were to position that way, and have put out some content that looks kind of janky it’s not going to resonate right now, that is not so much a feature in a in a different style of game, right, if maybe you’re going more for a role playing game. So I think it’s more about just being aware of what elements are most important for fans of your genre and making sure you’re representing those because you’re always judged on your weakest link, not your strongest and so you don’t want to you know, you want to play to your strengths. And in no game will be perfect at everything. So just know what’s most important in terms of the genre. And that’s, this is really more of a game, product management and design piece, then a marketing piece, but it does convey all the way through into the marketing.

David Vogelpohl  19:03

Yeah, if the graphics are good, and the physics are great, but the game is too slow. That’s your weakest link, and I might stop playing your game. Okay, makes sense. So let’s kind of get down into the marketing channel side though. So marketplaces are great places to attract new customers, but it can be hard to compete, especially for smaller studios, getting those coveted you know, slots in the genre category views. So what are some additional channels I heard you mentioned tick tock, obviously, social sharing and things like that. But what are other marketing channels game studios can use to attract new players?

Todd Harris  19:40

Yeah, so to describe the problem, as you say, I mean, marketplaces are great. And one thing that we found is that many marketplaces were not they were not cannibalistic with our own direct to consumer channels. They were actually aggregate helpful, right? And so very specifically, a lot of our games, particularly early on in Hi-Rez, were on Steam, which is a great marketplace. But at this point, you know, if you look last year, I think it was 38 titles a day, just on that platform, so it’s easy to get lost. And, and the way that algorithm works is, the more popular your game is, the more you get placed on the front center. And so it’s hard to get things going. So again, I would encourage folks to look at those marketplaces, but not necessarily rely on them, certainly for discovery. And so, community as far as so you’ve got a Discord channel. Now you want to, you want to amplify so it starts with good content. So you know, even before worrying about tick tock, or am I going to pay for Facebook ads or that sort of thing, you are going to want to put out content related to your game and and see organically what resonates with people, right content these days is shared. So what do you have in terms of a gameplay video or announcement, or a creator talking about it that actually is resonating with people and getting engagement. And then because again, the gaming audience is just very content, hungry, insatiable appetite, and then you can, and we’ve effectively amplified that, on platforms like Facebook, I mean, Facebook, people talk about the aging audience. And that’s true. I encourage Facebook, just because the targeting is so good, it’s just a great way to get data on again, like how much is our content really resonating? Because it’s so exact, we can target players of this other particular game in the genre, or in this one particular geography. And so it’s, it might turn out to be a good performance marketing tool for you where you can in fact, acquire customers at a lower price than the long term value, which is the goal. But worst case, you can with very little money. Test your creative marketing message in different geographies, you can test different creative and it’s, in my mind, still probably the most efficient platform for testing the creative and then Tik Tok is a great platform, it’s great because the right content with $0 of amplifying can reach a very large audience. That’s the great part of the algorithm based approach. And so, you know, our brands are very active on Tik Tok. And I definitely encourage people to put content on that platform. And then creator marketing, you know, again, at Hi-Rez when we looked at where we had the most return on investment, it was certain events, which we can talk about, and leveraging influencers back then, specifically, it was YouTube, and Twitch influencers. Now, the mix has gotten a little more complex. But that is where we saw the biggest return on investment events, specifically eSports events for Hi-Rez, and then spending with creators after you have a homegrown program of creating your own influencers.

David Vogelpohl  23:44

For the eSports events, are you talking about live and virtual events? And then if live, are you like, coupling that with an existing event, like a conference or you know, some other place where game players are already congregating, like wouldn’t have been on the event side?

Todd Harris  24:05

So yes, you know, and again, Skillshot does events, small, medium and large. And so the first phase, when you’re really coming out with your game, right, it’s it’s now open beta, it’s there’s some kind of milestone marketing beat you have a new DLC something significant. Often it is an event going where people already are so you’re integrating at a large festival, often a gaming festival. There’s many of these, you know, all over the world, and you’re showing the game there. And then importantly, you’re also capturing content from that event. So it used to be if you would show up at a dream hack or Pax or some of these large consumer festivals that might get between 30,080 1000 Live foot traffic, that’s what you got. And then you got the press out of it. But today, we feel that the template is showing up there, when you have something important that’s new. But then working with the partner or yourself capturing a ton of content, from that event testimonials, there will probably be creators there that maybe are discovering your game for the first time. And so amplifying, you know, maybe that 30,000 becomes 3 million with the same footprint at the event. But because you’re live streaming, or you’re capturing content and making videos afterwards. So that’s the big opportunity with those launch events go where other people are, and then reach more people over the internet. And that’s really for the discovery side of it. Esports is more of an ongoing platform. And it’s a way to generate more ongoing content that your players help you collect and build community. And so eSports is often less of a discovery technique, and more something that increases engagement and monetization, because there’s just because there’s more passion. And we also have the data, you know, that shows folks that are watching eSports themselves, so they’re watching other people play to be the best at a game, they tend to play more and then spend more. So that’s like a phase two set of events that can be run. Specifically, like at Skillshot, one of the publishers that we work with been privileged to work with for many, many years. And so there’s a large game publisher called Ubisoft and Ubisoft, acquired a much smaller company called Blue mammoth, they make a game called Brawlhalla. Brawlhalla is like a free to play version of Smash. And we’ve been working with them, since they were a tiny, independent developer, they now have over 100 million registered players. It’s basically the most played fighting game on the planet. And a lot of that has been the partnership with their studio to not just launch the game, but to continually run a large set of eSports events that keep their community engaged, playing, spending, going to competitive events, and so forth. So I know we hit a lot in there, but I wanted to hit the events for discovery, compared to the events for ongoing engagement.

David Vogelpohl  27:49

Yeah, so the eSports side, is it the is the typical playbook there that I’m going to hold an esport event or tournament for my game. I’ll either manage that myself or hire another company to manage that for us attract players primarily from my existing community. And then kind of leverage the nothing attracts a crowd like a crowd all of it for acquisition, it sounds like is that a common playbook on the eSports? side?

Todd Harris  28:20

That is a common playbook. And I would say I would advise folks to work with a partner on the eSports side, even if they later decide to take it in house. I mean, unlike content development, where I would kind of tell someone, look, you can with your iPhone these days, record something and start putting content out there. And that’s an easy way to get going. Esports is a separate enough endeavor that, number one, you just need to decide, am I doing eSports just as a marketing event, and we’re kind of going to do a one and done in which case it makes sense to work with a partner versus build internal capability. And you’re really just doing a launch tournament, or an early tournament, just to get more word out? Or is this really a fundamental part of our game design where we want to build a competitive game and we want to support eSports long term? In which case again, there’s a lot of other disciplines involved that most game developers don’t have. How are we going to prevent cheating? How are we going to look at the broadcast experience? How are we going to partner with all of the other ecosystems that are out there in college and high school and pro and now there’s national teams, there’s a lot there that you know, that’s a whole separate business development efforts. So again, I think it’s a decision that should be deliberate. And also one where partnership often makes a lot of sense. Yeah,

David Vogelpohl  29:56

standing up eSports function within your org obviously sounds very difficult. I feel like that’s also sage advice. On the influencer side, you know, obviously creators and video games, you know, dominate a lot of the a lot of the conversation in terms of share voice that players are hearing and seeing. How does, how does a studio go about trying to get exposure with influencers in an authentic way, and I know, you know, some will do pay to play and disclose that. And, you know, each brand will make their own choice on things like that. But how do companies pursue that in a in an effective and an authentic way.

Todd Harris  30:43

So if you started with your Discord community, and you’ve homegrown some influencers that are passionate about it, and they are probably people you don’t have to pay, they’re entrepreneurial, and they feel like, wow, this game has potential and I can make some bucks on YouTube or Twitch or Tik Tok by being early on this game. And that’s what they’re excited about. And that’s great. Phase two is you want to support them with some sort of official partner creator program. There are platforms out there that help you with that. And we don’t offer those sorts of tech platforms. And I wouldn’t necessarily recommend one over the other. But whether you do it homegrown, or look yourself, that is a way you can provide support. Often that support might not be anything more than, you know, free codes, or if your game has in game currency, maybe some monthly allotment of currency. But you’re asking them to continue to create content and exchange you’re providing value within the game. And and that’s a step you could also and should do your self if creators are a part of your strategy. And then at some point, again, it is there’s often ROI around paying, you know, for additional level of higher reach creators or creators from a different ecosystem may be a genre that’s adjacent to you, and you kind of owe that community a chance to discover your game and decide if they liked that as well. And so that usually involves some financial outlay one way or another, it might be directly to the creators, it might be a lot of times we will do it is between Skillshot and Ghost will work with the developer to host an event. So maybe this is a tournament or showcase. And it has a large prize pool associated with it based on could just be winning or could be engagement metrics. But in that way, a lot of the funding is the prize pool, the creators aren’t being directly paid, but it’s interesting enough for them as an opportunity that they participate. And so rather than paying directly, it’s, there’s an incentive there that the developer is helping to underwrite. And some for some companies, they they like that approach, you know better than directly paying an agency or a creator network, both approaches can work we’ve done both effectively. And I would say another piece of just wisdom is I think, in our experience, and also quit, put out some data supporting this. You don’t have to go for the mega mega influencers that also are more expensive to get their attention. Medium size folks that have a community often provide better return. Just when you look at the amount spent, and then the percentage of the community that is actually engaged with the new game. So oftentimes supporting a larger number of mid sized folks versus a one and done with a with a top person is a better strategy. It’s also more likely that those mid size folks may adopt your game from that point on because they like it and their community likes it if you’re at the very top of Twitch, and it’s a great place to be because you’re you’re in demand and you get a lot of paid gigs. And so you you tend to go where the ongoing money is versus a campaign that engages mid level folks, and they decide, oh, I’m going to add this in to my weekly stream and do it one night a week or two nights a week. So another thought there.

David Vogelpohl  34:55

I like how you pointed out that you need to consider the entrepreneur Muriel aspect of the influencer, even if you’re not paying them for their, you know, for a spot within their audience, they’re whatever they’re publishing in. So it makes me think like you talked about providing the mechanisms to support them like codes or in game currency so they can play your game and demo the aspects they might be including in the content that they’re creating. What are your thoughts on like relationship management? I mean, is that an in house function a lot of times? Or how should studios think about having relationships with those influencers?

Todd Harris  35:40

That’s a great question. So again, this Discord first approach, there typically is a community manager who’s related who’s who’s having a relationship with, you know, 100, then maybe 1000, or 10,000, you know, folks on Reddit and on Discord. So that is a role that is very important, may not be a full time role, full time position. And then often studios will utilize that same person in the early days, but then potentially add a big creator, relations manager, you know, if it becomes a big enough piece of their strategy, and so it is an important role,

David Vogelpohl  36:24

Right, because you’re gonna let them know about, you’re gonna let him know early on about releases, or DLC, there’s things like that.

Todd Harris  36:31

That’s right, it really is, you know, the — the PR listeners may not may not like this, but I might my truth telling, I would say, you know, the old role of, of PR, and talking to the gaming media, used to be magazines, and now websites. The creators are more important and have higher reach these days and higher relevancy to consumers around where they’re going to get their games. And so, creator, management, community management, more important than grass relations, for anyone that’s just actually looking at growth. So yeah, it’s a similar sort of function, though, just a little less buttoned up a little less corporate speak a little more real and authentic. And another tip, you know, they’re entrepreneurs, right. So they, and they know their audience better than you do, you know, your game, but they know their audience. So working with creators, whether it’s that Ghost or, or your own, the brands that do best, release the reins a little bit, and let the creator do what the creator does, that is authentic, because they only make money when they put out content that resonates with their community, and brands that hold things too tightly, the message is gonna look sponsored, like a canned read, the audience is going to know it, creators not going to be into it as much. And those tend to not be ongoing relationships that are a win win, which, of course, is what you want.

David Vogelpohl  38:23

Yeah, thinking that you’re going to the best expression of your game is in X way. And maybe that’s, I don’t know, you’re like trying to push a speed run and they want to do more like a challenge type thing. I could see where over forcing that could produce very authentic content. Well, Todd, this was very informative. I really appreciate you joining us today and sharing your thoughts here.

Todd Harris  38:48

Awesome. Well, hopefully it’s helpful. I, as you know, independent game developer in the past, I’m rooting for everyone who’s, who’s working hard. It’s, it’s very hard to make a good game, even harder to get people to discover your game, and, and certainly appreciated sharing the tips. I can give a parting call to action for folks. Just if you’re interested in these topics, you can follow me I’m @ToddAlanHarris, mainly on LinkedIn and Twitter. And that’s myself as well as these companies. Anyone that wants some help or a partner in helping their games get discovered, we’d love to have that conversation.

David Vogelpohl  39:33

Excellent. Well, thanks, Todd. Really appreciate it again. If you’d like to learn even more about what Todd’s up to you can also visit Thanks, everyone for joining us on the Growth Stage podcast. If you’d like to learn about how FastSpring can help your digital product business grow, check out Thanks, everybody, and enjoy the rest of your day!

Video Game Marketing and Monetization

Already using a merchant of record like Xsolla to sell your game? Check out the many reasons why you might want to use more than one: Why FastSpring Is a Great Complementary Solution for Your Existing Video Game MoR Integration.

Dig into what players miss out on when they opt to play a mobile game instead of on PC in How a Lack of Direct-to-Consumer Options Hurts Players.

Read highlights from and listen to our podcast episode with Richard Grisham, former COO of Out of the Park and current Director of Business Development at Com2Us: Game Localization Success Story: Quadrupled Sales in South Korea.

Learn more about the success of Out of the Park’s partnership with FastSpring, in Out of the Park Developments and FastSpring: A Case Study.

Mobile Games Marketing and Monetization

Epic Games has taken up the fight against app marketplaces on behalf of mobile game devs, but Is What Epic Wants for App Stores What Other Game Developers Actually Want?

Whether you’re a small indie dev or a growing mobile game studio, the mobile gaming industry is changing in ways that might give you more ways to sell your game(s). Learn How to Sell a Mobile App or Game Outside App Stores.

In-Person Events

Looking to grow your in-person conference wish list? Check out some of the video games industry shows FastSpring has sponsored and attended:

News About Apple App Store, Google Play Store, Epic Games, USA Court Cases, and the EU’s DMA

Press Release: FastSpring CEO David Nachman on Google Play Case Ruling: “This is a Win For Gamers and Studios”

News: U.S. Supreme Court Rejects Appeals From Apple and Epic in Antitrust Case

News: Terms of Play Store Settlement Between U.S. States and Google Revealed

News: Potential Apple App Store Policy Changes Due to EU’s Digital Markets Act (DMA)

News: Tentative Settlement in Google Play Direct-to-Consumer Antitrust Lawsuit Announced

Katie Stephan

Katie Stephan

Katie Stephan is the Senior Content Strategist at FastSpring. Besides her extensive marketing experience, she has an MFA in creative nonfiction writing and has served her local communities as a college writing instructor.

Try FastSpring

Get a free account and see why FastSpring is the ecommerce partner of choice for software providers around the world. Try our full-service ecommerce solution today to unlock revenue growth for your online company.