Where should marketing sit within the game development lifecycle? It's a topic of fierce debate in some development circles, with the separation between the development team and 'post production' roles clearly defined.
In 2022 is that separation still justified?
Luc Duchaine, the head of marketing for Behaviour Interactive argues persuasively that for many studios, it's a risk that should be removed and marketing experts should be an embedded part of the development team from the very earliest stage of pre-production.
Every part of the games sector and the wider entertainment market has changed hugely in the last ten years. the split between the different screen sectors - film, TV and games were significant, with little crossover outside licensing between each market.
Thanks to the market penetration of sophisticated multimedia devices (the smartphone in your pocket), this context has changed enormously. Now games are competing directly against some of the world's largest entertainment companies, streaming services, and social media platforms to capture people's time and attention.
Games grow up
This convergence with other media is compounded by the fact that the whole notion of games has changed at the same time. Stand alone experiences, limited to a single device, are now the exception. The introduction of new opportunities such as cross-platform play, games streaming, soft launch and free-to-play have all changed the nature of games - and the audience which is playing them.
Where marketing fits
The role of the development team is pretty clear. Their focus will be upon creating compelling game mechanics, storyline, art direction and creating an amazing experience. By including marketing people from the outset, these core skills can be complemented with people who can research the audience, understand the environment the game will launch into and do all of the research to minimise the risks and provide the game with a far greater chance of success.
Even before the development process begins, marketing has a key role. Is there any demand for the type of game you're planning? What should the game be called? Before time and resources are committed to a game, the marketing team can help to ensure that will find a receptive and engaged audience.
The key is reciprocity. Marketers can help set consumer expectations and create a more authentic and genuine connection with the core audience. By building a truly engaged core audience from the outset, the studio can use them as ambassadors and have their goodwill and support to help the game reach secondary and tertiary audiences.
Expertise versus opinion
Developing and marketing a game in 2022 is more challenging than it was 10 or 20 years ago. The audience is better informed and more demanding than at any point in history. The difference between success and failure can be razor-thin. By including your marketing people at the outset can give a studio a far better chance of success.
If everyone in game development is a gamer, not everyone is necessarily a marketer. "Marketing is an expertise," says Luc. "Everyone can have an opinion about it, but that doesn't make them an expert.
If you want to know more, you can watch Luc's entire presentation from Pocket Gamer Connects Toronto.