The Power of Advertising and Cornering the Casual Market

When it comes to brand recognition on the casual and mobile markets the new top dogs at the moment would be King and Supercell for Candy Crush Saga and Clash of Clans respectively.

KateUptonGameofWar

Both titles are incredibly simple in terms of design which has led to other developers trying to compete with them either with clones or similar titles. However, today’s post talks about why this is a giant mistake and how these developers and others leveraged advertising to make competing against them on their terms impossible.

Branding and Awareness:

When we look at the casual and mobile markets, the top games are not the most complex titles but go for simple gameplay with quick engagement to pull in the casual audiences. It’s what led to Angry Birds, Farmville and the examples above becoming major sellers pulling in millions of dollars.

Given the profits these companies have earned, it goes without saying that they want to continue with building their brands and awareness. As we’ve talked about before, discoverability is one of the biggest issues facing the mobile and casual markets and it’s more important to have your game be in the public eye than it is to spend a long time in development making something unique.

And this is where these companies have differed from traditional game studios that would use their profits to give them leverage in creating new titles and IPs. Instead, these studios have found a different avenue towards sustaining profits and protecting their brand — Advertising.

Marketing Dollars:

Because the IOS store is so flooded with new titles being released almost daily, it’s important to have a brand that people know and recognize outside of stores or Facebook. This is why we’ve seen a strong marketing push by social and mobile games into other forms of advertising.

King-candy-crush-logo

King’s marketing for Candy Crush Saga has been all over the place to keep its recognition strong.

Over the course of 2014 we’ve seen commercials and merchandising of popular casual games. Clash of Clans has had several TV commercials along with Candy Crush Saga. Angry Birds have been transformed into toys, candy, spin off games and even their own animated kids’ show.

And most recently, there was the commercial for the title Game of War featuring supermodel Kate Upton that premiered on Thursday Night Football.

Obviously, these examples cost a lot of money and according to Forbes; the Game of War developer Machine Zone spent 40 million dollars on its ad campaign that includes Kate Upton. Traditional game developers reading this may be scratching their heads at the moment over the insane amount of money being used in advertising these titles. But this goes back to brand awareness and discoverability and why this money is being put to good use.

By getting their games out in front of the consumer like this, these developers are making sure that people not only know about their titles but become familiar with the brand. This is why King was so adamant that “Saga” was a trademark part of Candy Crush as they wanted people to know the gameplay along with the brand.

By associating the gameplay and the brand this way, these developers are locking in their gameplay and preventing people from trying to compete within the same genre. Because consumers now associate the gameplay with the brand, it makes them more willing to keep following the brand rather than try something new from an untested source.

This is the trick that is cementing these brands in the consumer’s eyes and why developers need to realize that they can’t compete in the same space now.

The Weight of Advertising:

By spending money on advertising, these developers are circumventing the problem of discoverability with the IOS store. This leads to a feedback loop of them having enough money to spend on advertising which leads to more sales which leads to them spending more money on advertising.

AngryBirdsmerchandise

Angry Birds is not just a game anymore but a full on merchandising machine for Rovio

 

If another developer tries to capitalize on the game design of titles like Candy Crush Saga, Angry Birds and etc, they are in for a rude awakening as they are most likely going to be dwarfed by the fact that everyone knows who the biggest developers are.

The only chance a developer has is to have the amazing success that started developers like King and Rovio onto the fast track, but given the problems facing developers trying to stand out on the IOS store, this is a lot harder than it sounds.

For anyone who tries this option, they will find themselves competing with the millions of dollars these developers are spending on advertising. And unless you already have big success, there is no way that an Indie developer will be able to compete budget- wise with the likes of King or Machine Zone.

Unfortunately, there is no way to fix this unless these developers run out of marketing funding which is more of a sign of problems with the market than with the developer at this point. This is why trying to become the next “Candy Crush Saga” or “Angry Birds” would be like winning the lottery and it’s up to you if you want to take that bet.

That’s All for Now:

And lastly on a somber note, this is my last post with Xsolla for now. It was a great time writing here and I hope that everyone enjoyed my work. If you would like more from me, you can check out my site: Game-Wisdom where I focus exclusively on Game Design and Industry topics.

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2 thoughts on “The Power of Advertising and Cornering the Casual Market

  1. Are you 100% sure that Machine Zone spent 40 million $ just for Kate Upton’s image rights?? This sounds way above market standards. Isn’t this rather the total amount spent on the entire campaign, media buying included? (Also: what is your source on this?)

    • Josh Bycer says:

      I double checked the article and it was in fact 40 million that included Kate Upton’s appearance along with the ads and I edited that section to reflect that.

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