How to Promote Mobile Games Like a Pro

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How to promote a game: our experience

Let’s be honest: a game can be buggy, monetized from head to toes, full of generic art and poor gameplay, but still earn a million if advertised right. On the opposite, a game could be a free to play masterpiece and still fail because of bad promotion. And most young developers with great game ideas promote them wrong.

Why do we need to promote games

We need promotion to make the people aware of your game. How do they even know that your game is good and fun to play if they don’t even know it exists? So you need to make them know.

The advertisements and promotion system isn’t focused on direct sales. For example, there’s an average John watching TV. He sees an ad of a new toilet paper brand Paperino. He won’t immediately jump off the couch and go to buy it. No one in Paperino’s marketing team expects it. But when John will go to the store next time and remember he’s short on toilet paper, he will also remember the ad. Maybe he will buy a paper he’s used to, maybe the cheapest one. But there’s like a 15–35% chance that he will buy a Paperino just because he knows it.

paperino game advertisement

These kinds of ads work because our brain is a lazy thing. If focused, it can solve mathematical problems and invent computers, but 90% of the time it’s in a relaxed state. While being in this state the brain will think in “Know it/Don’t know it” categories. If it comes to choosing what to buy, the brain will go for a known thing more often, then for a complete stranger. And it works with games too.

So the game advertisement is focused on making the people aware of your game. It can have funny consequences. For example, when you see an ad for a racing game, you may feel like “I want to ride some fast cars”. Then you go to the AppStore and look through racing games until you find something familiar: Need for Speed, Asphalt or the advertised game. That’s how the ads work for real.

We still agree that CTR and direct installs are valuable metrics, but we want to show you that the good promotion will have a cumulative effect.

How to make a game more familiar to an average user

When you’ve invented a new genre you may face the problem with installs. Nobody will install a game after looking at the screenshots and description, if they can’t understand what the genre is. So there’s two ways to solve this problem: to develop in existing genres or to show what your game is and how to play it.

To present the game you can write a description. For example: “You are going through an abandoned city fighting monsters with magic and steel”. No, it’s not Dark Souls or Devil May Cry, it’s Hexen developed in 1995.

hexen game promotion example

To make a description more clear you may take some screenshots. But the screenshots aren’t 100% accurate: they don’t show the core gameplay. Here are screens of said Hexen and The Elder Scrolls: Daggerfall. Hexen is a FPS with no roleplay, and Daggerfall is an RPG. But can you guess it from screenshots? No.

hexen and daggerfall

So to fully explain your game you must record a gameplay video. Try to show main gameplay cycles, unique mechanics and most interesting moments. If it is necessary, explain what is happening with captions or subtitles. The best example of doing so is Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice trailer. There are no rendered scenes to make a false advertisement: every single frame of this trailer is from the actual game.

Those who bought Sekiro, knew that they would be fighting samurais, giant apes and flaming bulls. They also knew that they would jump around, use prosthetics tools like flamethrowers and firecrackers and one unique mechanic — resurrection. They became familiar with the game without playing it, and if they feel like they want to swing katanas — they will buy it.

Now watch the trailer of a random unpopular mobile game. Can you understand what you need to do in order to win? Or how to play it? We can’t and we don’t want to install it to find out.

Conclusion: a trailer must clearly show the gameplay and it’s features. Be honest, do not gloss things over, or you’ll never make money in the long term.

Why do you need to make good graphics for advertising materials

When it comes to advertisement many developers focus on words and names instead of graphics. Speaking the truth, the name of your game or the main character doesn’t matter. It’s the quality of the game which makes the name a famous brand and not the name itself.

There are so many music bands with artsy names and logos they’ve spent weeks to create. There are bands that change their name every year thinking:

“The Deadly Dragons doesn’t sound good so nobody listens to our songs. Let’s call us The Deadliest Dragons, it will make us rockstars!”

But if their music is bad, the rebranding won’t help them.

Call of Duty would still be a great FPS even if it would be called a “Purple Heart”, “Men at War” or something else. Angry Birds would still be popular as “Birds and Piggies” or “Slingshot Adventures”. The popularity of your game depends only on its quality and not the creative name.

game promotion brand

So the name of your game doesn’t matter, forget about it. Better focus on what is interesting for the audience: the art and the gameplay. The game’s icon must represent the overall art style and be memorable, like that bird in Flappy Bird. If your game has a simple memorable character — use it. If there are many characters — use the most memorable of them. The audience will see it, ask “What this cute thing will do in the game?” and click the ad.

How to promote a game when you have your icon and trailer

The best way we know is the YouTube channels. Many users don’t trust gaming websites if it comes to mobile games — they think that every positive review is paid by developers. But they believe that those guys who run YouTube channels are ordinary people, who look for the new games and make TOP-10 charts based on their experience. Oh, they are so wrong.

youtube game promo

Those YouTube channels owners are trying to make money just like everyone else. And you can pay them for showing your game and talking about it for a minute or so. Even more, you can pay them to mention your game in a particular place, like the best or the third one in TOP-10.

But what’s the point of showing the same gameplay trailer on some dude’s channel instead of Facebook advertisement or in other game ads? The point is that the YouTube audience has come to see his video exactly to find new games to play. While Facebook audiences are minding their messages and are annoyed by endless advertisements.

Based on our experience, $1000 spent on YouTube will make 3-10 times more than $1000 spent on any other advertisement platform. And as a free bonus you won’t be struggling with determining your target audience.


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