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How YouTube could fit into your game marketing strategy

David Cullinane 24 January 2020

There’s no doubt the impact that YouTube and the growth in user-generated video content has had on 21st-century media. What started as a seemingly hilarious video-sharing platform for clips of your neighbour’s cat has fundamentally revolutionised how we communicate and share ideas, thoughts and opinions. 

In the same way that advancing technology has enabled video games to challenge the status quo of books, film, and TV for narrative-based storytelling, the rise of digital media has provided us with ways in which we can build huge communities and attract global audiences in the most targeted way yet.


The rise of YouTube

YouTube, in particular, has grown to become a goliath in user-generated video content, elevating individuals with a passion for gaming into pseudo-celebrities that hold great sway over their audiences. Needless to say, video games and YouTube go hand-in-glove, with gaming content standing as one of the biggest draws to the site.

While the idea of watching someone else playing video games may be baffling for some, it has become a huge pastime for a global audience. According to YouTube’s recent ‘Rewind 2019’, Minecraft alone amassed over 100 billion views throughout the year, taking pole position amongst a diverse body of gaming genres. 

The power and reach of some of the biggest influencers is reflected in the huge audiences they command and their ability to cross over into the mainstream. PewDiePie might be one of the most famous examples; he is currently the third-most subscribed channel on the entire YouTube platform with 102 million subscribers. Others, such as the Yogscast, Achievement Hunter, and Game Grumps, became vast businesses that support large headcounts. Like YouTube, Twitch – the popular game-streaming site – has many similar success stories.

Their influence is undeniable. Many developers can pin their success on the exposure given to their games by YouTubers whose success can be attributed to great video content that is dynamic and fun to watch. Would Minecraft be what it is today without all those videos that evangelise it’s complicated but intriguing crafting system? Would Fortnite be the mainstream-penetrating success if not for streamers like Tyler ‘Ninja’ Blevins who, as a case in point, became a big enough name to land an invitation to American talk show ‘Ellen’?


A lucrative opportunity

While these are outliers, there are still many examples of developers and publishers who have seen a sizeable uptick in sales as a result of being featured by a popular games channel. 

For a developer or publisher, marketing a game through a successful YouTuber can be a symbiotic relationship – both get something out of the situation. Like any marketing, it won’t be free and will need to form a part of your overall strategy, sitting alongside the trailers and cinematics that should also form part of your approach. Any big-name channels that commands a large audience will expect payment for their service. Typically, they get this money and any income from their views, providing you with the opportunity to show your game to hundreds of thousands – if not millions – of people.

There was a time where there was an almost antagonistic relationship between YouTubers and game studios. In the past, some publishers would claim the income on videos featuring their games and Nintendo at one point had a YouTuber partnership scheme which siphoned some of the money. But most have come to see the value in YouTube, with Nintendo and others taking a much softer approach. Now they embrace these channels, sometimes even inviting them to press events that actual games press might not be privy to. Both developers and publishers have grown to appreciate video content that shows their game in a positive light – that is both engaging and entertaining – can only be a force for good. 


The future of marketing?

Some might say we’re seeing a shift in how developers market their games. Large-scale press events are increasingly expected to have a presence online; simultaneously webcast around the world instead of remaining an exclusive event for those who happen to be in that part of the world. A good case in point is the XO19 event that took place in London in November last year and became a showcase for Microsoft Studios’ upcoming games. Such events (which happened to feature the trailer for ‘Everwild’) always provoke huge debate, both positive and negative. Youtubers can typically contribute hundreds of hours of commentary before, during, and after such large-scale events. 

Regardless, such events reinforce the point that online video is a key tool in the armoury to promote, discuss, debate, and, ultimately, help sell a game. Prestige events such as XO19 and the many trailers they feature can fuel endless discussions, reverberating around the internet for months to come. Online video can take many forms – from enthusiastic influencers espousing their favourite game and slickly presented publisher webcasts to beautifully conceived CG trailers. Providing influencers with great video content can ensure your game is discussed endlessly for months on end, with Youtubers providing the fuel to keep your game in the public eye. 

But this is just one part of your marketing strategy. Before you turn to YouTube, make sure you have a fantastic trailer for them to push to their audience. At REALTIME, we have a strong history of creating attention-grabbing trailers. If you want to talk about your next project, get in touch with me at [email protected].