Video Game Publishers Reach Millions Via YouTubers, Other Influencers

360PR’s Meredith Gandy (San Francisco) and Mark Nolan (Boston) at the Game Marketing Summit.

Now in its tenth year, the Game Marketing Summit in San Francisco is a gathering of some of the best minds in video game marketing today. GMS is a celebration of this fantastic industry, and aims to, in their own words, “arm gaming industry marketers and creative leaders with the most progressive tools and knowledge.” This year’s theme was Elevate your game: connect, amplify, and succeed. The agenda included talks on cutting-edge virtual reality technology, how music and gaming go hand in hand, harnessing the power of a game community, tips for mobile marketing, and many more.

But there was one important theme that was mentioned over and over – and is something we at 360PR know well: influencers. 8 or 10 years ago, the current buzzword would have been “bloggers,” implying writers that didn’t work at a large publication and managed their own web presence. Today, “bloggers” are just part of our regular press – and even some of the biggest gaming industry sites such as Kotaku call themselves a “blog.”

In the games industry in 2015, the word “influencer” usually means a personality that broadcasts live or recorded video on a site like YouTube or Twitch. They’re also known as “content creators,” “new media personalities,” or sometimes just “YouTubers.” Certain influencers have amassed gigantic followings of loyal fans – Swedish YouTube personality Felix Kjellberg, better known as PewDiePie, has well over 36 million subscribers and covers games from tiny independent studios to the biggest multi-million dollar publishers. Even one mention of a title on PewDiePie’s channel can catapult a new game to the top of sales charts.

This year’s GMS assembled an entire panel on influencers, featuring popular influencer Justine Ezarik, a.k.a. iJustine, along with representatives from ActivisionUbisoftCarat, and Electus. Justine shared really interesting insights about what works – and what doesn’t – with her community. Above all, Justine stressed the importance of authenticity, another big theme at this year’s conference and in the industry as a whole. Justine has worked with various brands as her celebrity stature has risen, but she said that her fans will always know when she is talking about a product she isn’t familiar with. And they’re not afraid to share their thoughts with her when they feel she’s being insincere.

It’s not just the top influencers who are changing games marketing. More and more, brands are putting the fans themselves front and center, and building campaigns around fan engagement. The marketing team at Electronic Arts turned football fandom into a social media taunting tool with Madden GIFERATOR, which allows anyone to build their own animated images based on scenes from the latest Madden title. Handing the keys over to the public is a scary proposition, but Madden and NFL fans ran with it – and even some NFL players got involved. The Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment team (which 360PR has worked with on multiple titles) shared a fascinating case study outlining their partnership with Wikia for last year’s hit title Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor.Warner Bros. and Wikia identified some hardcore ambassadors from Wikia’s community of millions to build a database of deep knowledge about a complicated game (and J.R.R. Tolkein’s complicated lore), months before the game was announced. After launch, Shadow of Mordor players had a place to interact with the community and learn more about the game – on a scale that would have been impossible to achieve otherwise.

These were just a few of the big ideas presented at #GMS2015. From start to finish, the day was packed with ideas, inspiration, and hundreds of reasons to be grateful to be in this industry at this exciting time. We’re both counting the days until next year’s event – and we hope to see some of you there!

For more information contact 360PR+.