Here is the problem, you have released a game, or will soon release one and you have thousands of wishlists. At best you can expect about 20% of them to convert during your first week. But what about the other 80%? Those wishlists represent thousands of people who have expressed some form of interest in your game.
Unfortunately most of those wishlists will never turn into sales. Those wishlists are like that little blob of peanut butter at the bottom of the jar. It is really really hard to get it out and takes so much effort.
Not everyone is a super fan. In fact most people are just, kind of curious about your game. They will like it, they just need a little push. There is always a newer, bigger game to play. They will buy your game… later. But later never comes and they never buy your game.
You need to create some artificial forcing functions to get people to actually make the jump, put up the money and buy your game.
One of the best ways to do this is to employ the well worn marketing technique of FOMO (aka the fear of missing out.) It is one of the most powerful ways to tip those people who procrastinate to take that action and buy your game.
This week I want to teach these techniques to you so you understand and start looking for ways you can employ them:
Limited time sale
This is the simplest and most effective way to induce shoppers to say “Eh what am I waiting for? I just gotta buy this.” You actually don’t need to do much because Steam mandates that your game can only be on sale for 1 week. A Daily Deal (available only for games with tons of sales) are even shorter – just 24 hours.
This limited time discount is very effective at encouraging people to stop procrastinating and buy because this lower price won’t be around forever.
How to use it.
- You actually have to tell people there is an endpoint to the sale. Tell them when the sale ends and how much money they will miss out if they don’t buy right now.
- Then you have to remind them. Again. Send an email and a tweet when there is 24 hours left to buy the game.
- Then send another email when there is 3 hours left in the sale.
Here is another really great tactic that was used by Eastward. List the terms of your sale right in the capsule because it is the most seen bit of marketing that you have control over.
I also like how they list the size of the discount, a call to action “pre-purchase now,” and a bit of copy enhancing the FOMO: “last chance”
Here is another capsule FOMO inducer for Going Medieval
I don’t like this FOMO text as much as Eastward because it isn’t as clear. Will the price go up when it is 1.0? Why should I hurry? What is so bad about 1.0? Are you introducing bugs to 1.0? It kind of comes off as a threat instead of reminding people what the benefits of acting now are.
Being part of the narrative
This is hard to replicate because a lot of this is luck. Sometimes a piece of entertainment just becomes part of the global narrative and you need to jump on so you will know what everyone is talking about.
Example: Back in at the start of the pandemic Animal Crossing New Horizons released and I was not super enthusiastic about it (I played the first GameCube AC to death.) But with everyone talking about it and the limited cyclical seasons I bought it just so I could be in on the discourse and memes. Articles like this one from the New York Times help propagate this FOMO spirit.
Similar discourse defining games are Among Us, and Fall Guys.
Streaming TV also thrives off this. Shows like The Mandalorian, and Ted Lasso all get extra visibility because people want to be part of the weekly conversation around the latest episode.
Again, you can’t really plan on “being part of the narrative.” But it is important to understand the massive effects it has on sales. It explains how a game takes off to do exponentially better than another game. Sometimes, when everyone is talking about a game, it makes it harder for people to sit on the fence because they might miss out on the excitement of understanding all the latest memes or potentially being exposed to a spoilers.
A limited time event is content that can only be experienced for a short period of time. It is similar to a sale but does not involve price. Players jump to buy it because they want to experience a bit of content that will go away soon. A recent example of this is the Ariana Grande concert in Fortnite.
Even if your game’s budget means the best you can do is hiring Frankie Goes to Hollywood you can still use limited time content.
Consider creating a special Halloween or Christmas level. Here is the capsule for Bardbarian with their Halloween Update.
A season is primarily employed by Games As A Service titles. For these games, every few months an update drops with new leaderboards, maps, XP, and themes. They are usually monetized with “battle passes” which offer some sort of faster way of leveling up or exclusive content.
Here is the Season Pass for Magic Arena
Seasons are like limited time events but more systematized. The well established schedule and behavior of a Season pass ensure that players understand this is serious. They really are going to take away this new content on X day so I better opt in now.
Fear of Missing out
Because video games are a digital medium with perfect reproducibility, you must induce some other form of scarcity to encourage shoppers to actually buy your game instead of procrastinating.
It is kind of like a birthday party. There is nothing really special about the actual day. But because the number on the calendar is the same as the day of your birth, it is an excuse to get a bunch of people to show up at your house at the same time. It is a lot harder to ask a bunch of people to just come over for no other reason. If you don’t come now, you will miss everyone and the stories of a great night.
So just think of these as little excuses to have a party.