We have a cool opportunity right now to look at HearthStone and make some guesses about the best strategies to market it. It has technically only just launched, but I haven’t yet seen any HearthStone marketing materials circulating.
With the calm before the *marketing* storm, let’s make some guesses
How Would You Market HearthStone
A very real reality is that to achieve profitability, Blizzard could technically not look farther than their own existing user base. In the last article I wrote about HearthStone monetization we covered this point. But this isn’t any kind of perspective you would want to at a major studio. It’s not about how many users you can earn without trying, it’s about the awareness and then engagement you develop with your audience.
I really groan when marketing managers rely on PR syndicates and large media buys to market their game – so here are two original ideas on how I would market HearthStone.
Everyone seems to have a different name for them, but the basic idea is having those with gaming industry influence endorse your game. One of the best strategies I’ve ever worked on was working with YouTube channels with large followings to create videos of them playing your game. The idea isn’t new, but the way we chose to do it is.
The basic strategy everyone goes for is to send through a Steam key so the game can be downloaded by a select few. You drop keys to a dozen or so channel owners and pray they give you a glowing review and publicly endorse your game. Some developers will only even give access to the game upon the condition the game is given a good review or will pay extra for positive feedback. I do not endorse this behaviour on ethical grounds, but also because it is now illegal (in USA) for someone to not explicitly state they were paid to provide a specific stance.
What I suggest you do is this. I was chatting with Hinterland Studios about their upcoming title The Long Dark. It’s a survival sandbox RPG with huge emphasis on realistic survival scenarios. It’s a fairly niche game and handing out copies to YouTubers and other voice leaders might be dangerous if they end up not liking it. Instead, I said this;
“You’ve got to engage the YouTuber with the game so they are excited about the gameplay and actually want to engage their viewres. Watching someone being highly engaged in content is the best advertising. You have a few options:
1. Provide prizes based on how well a player does (based on score or some other achievement). If the YouTuber posts a video of them earning the highest points of all the other gamers they will receive 20 keys go give away to their subscribers or whoever they choose.
2. Encourage production value! Put on a show by setting up a computer outside in the woods in moderately cold weather with specific in game objectives to accomplish before they quit. (Similar to a YouTuber who played Slender in a forest at night)
3. Develop extended narrative. Add an additional handicap for YouTubers to increase the intensity and significance for their failure and success. Getting YouTube viewers emotionally involved with the video will increase the engagement and desire to check out their game for themselves.
This is just a rough example of how I would do it for The Long Dark, but the same principal can be applied to any new title release.
As I mentioned in part 2, HearthStone begs to use the cross product marketing strategy. The core concept relies on the fact that the user base in your other games will be a relevant audience for your new game. By encouraging users in your existing franchises to try your new product, you are accessing your target demographic without any marketing expenditure.
Let’s say we’re Blizzard and we’re doing exactly this. We want to leverage our other games;
– StarCraft 2
– Diablo 3
– World of Warcraft
The intention behind showing users in our other games HearthStone is not just to gain an ad impresion, we want to engage them (as is my mantra)! Successful engagement is when we actually have them excited and gain access to HearthStone content when they would otherwise not be even interested. All well and fine to say the theory, but what does this look like in practice;
– Having WoW in game events which allow players to earn in game currency redeemable in HearthStone for more card packs.
– StarCraft Arcade minigames centered around HearthStone Content with the top 1,000 players on the score leaderboard earning exclusive HearthStone card editions (vanity based, not enhanced abilities).
– Earn a legendary card for speed running Diablo 3 final act without dying.
The overall objective with all of these events is the require the player to input significant effort into receiving the reward which will raise the perceived value of the offering. Players will then be more eager to use or redeem their reward once earned (so they didn’t spend 2 hours for nothing).