Game Launch Marketing Strategy: The Importance of Game Demos For Visibility

by Game Marketing Genie, on 17-May-2023 12:12:10

Marketing a game is as essential as designing levels and polishing the user interface. The big development studios are spending millions on ads and celebrity endorsements. If you can't compete on these terms, your best bet for finding players for your game is a solid digital marketing strategy.

Making a game marketing strategy is easy, but creating a good game marketing strategy that works isn't. A whopping 36.9 percent of Steam games have never been played. The same fate awaits you when you fail to market your game.

To prevent this, we've got the best marketing techniques to help you lay the foundations of a successful promotional plan that will give your game the attention it deserves. Let's get started!

Busting myths about game demos

Myth 1: Demos over-expose your games

The worry of being "over-exposed" is nothing new. Developers often complain that demos make potential players feel content and lose interest in the game.

But it can go either way. A demo is a tool that can either increase or decrease interest in a game. It unlocks two enormous marketing channels besides your regular audience: streamers and festivals, which is why we recommend them.

Your demo gives streamers material to use in promoting your game. A demo is a quick way to get streamers (and their audiences) interested in your game before it's officially released. Streamers can't try out your game before its full release if you don't provide a demo first.

We talk more about how demos are great for festivals in this blog's "events" section, so read on!

Myth 2: Demos shouldn't be up for long

Another question frequently asked by developers is, "Should I take down my demo after some time/a festival?" Some marketers advise pulling your demo after a major promotion to create the fear of missing out (FOMO) and motivate people to take steps before the opportunity is gone. 

But we don't. There's no telling when some random streamer you've never encountered will come looking for you. Therefore, all you need to do to ensure the greatest possible exposure is to maintain that demo. Streamers have many games to play, so you don't know when they will have time to play your game — and it may not be during the period you planned to have your demo up!

Myth 3: Demos shouldn't be kept up or released close to your game launch

Most game devs believe demos shouldn't be released close to your game launch because it will spoil the surprise or novelty factor. 

However, having a demo closer to your launch will build curiosity and act as bait for potential gamers. It can be a great tool to spread awareness about your game and hype up players for a release that's coming soon. 


Why demos work so well for game marketing

They give potential players a taste

Only those interested in your game will take the time to play the demo. A well-crafted demo will hint at the most exciting aspects of your game without giving too much away. Twenty minutes can do wonders, including a quick introduction and some actual playtime. 

Influencers can use them

When an influencer streams a demo on YouTube, it raises awareness of the game among their followers. People don't need to play the demo themselves; they can watch their favorite streamer and wishlist the project if they like it. And hey, if it appeals to them enough, they might try the demo anyway. 

Getting the attention of a popular streamer before the game's release can significantly boost the number of people who put it on their wishlists and the likelihood that they will purchase the product. 

Get visibility with Influencer Game Marketing: How to Get Streamers to Market Your Game.

Figure 1: A chart showing an increase in wishlists just by watching a demo from a streamer. Source: Game World Observer

They're excellent for events

Big online festivals like Steam Next Fest can boost your profile's visibility on the Steam homepage. However, you require a demo to enter a festival like Steam Next Fest. Recently, we helped a client market their game during this festival!

Participating in festivals like this is a great way to keep your audience and the press engaged with your work, which can lead to increased wishlists. Sending out a press release at the right time after releasing a demo can help keep your game in the minds of journalists and, if you catch the right one at the right time, increase your chances of being featured in a festival or event roundup article. 

Great for community building and feedback

Get people talking about your game before you launch, gain feedback, and help grow your community with a demo. It's challenging to bring interested players into your community and keep them there as active, engaged participants without some incentive. 

A demo is a great way to unite your Twitter responders, Reddit commenters, and TikTok viewers into one cohesive group, typically organized around a Discord server. Remember that a demo you share with a community might look different from one you share at a festival or in a press release or investment pitch. Along with finalizing and polishing your work, a community can develop if cared for and given access to regular updates.

What do you need for your demo to work?

A good demo

Viewers will love it if your game is easy to pick up and play. But we don't mean that the game itself is easy, but that there isn't a massive learning curve.

Remember that demos must balance being so easy and complex that no one wants to try them. Your intended players will flee if the demo gives them a false impression of the game's difficulty. Keep an eye out for overly complex demos that are beyond the comprehension of an average person.

The standard length of a demo depends on your game's length. Do some research and see what others in your genre think.

Paid visibility

The fact that people don't play your demo isn't due to a lack of interest on their part; it is because they are unaware that you even exist. 

Because of this, you need to boost your demo (as well as your visibility) by using paid promotion and influencer marketing. You can reinforce brand recognition and familiarity with an attentive audience that is less likely to multitask. Gamers are intelligent and powerful. Research by Anzu found that 51% of gamers offer advice to their peers, and 47% have an impact on the behavior of their peers. In addition, 46% make an effort to be ahead of the curve regarding topics like emerging technology and fashion. 

Advertising your game is a great way to get your message out to influential gaming community members. Those who play for ten or more hours per week also have twice as much discretionary income as non-gamers. 

Find out more in The Complete Video Game Paid Advertising Guide!

The ability to leave players wanting more

Your demo should leave players with the impression that they have seen only some of what the full game offers. This is especially vital for narrative-driven games, where players need a realistic preview of the story's potential development. 

This was especially crucial in the Ghostrunner demo, which featured comedic moments, playful minigames, and more serious narrative threads. The demo's upbeat beginnings keep the player engaged, but the demo concludes with a melancholy tale. They wanted to end the demo on a cliffhanger so that players would be left thinking, "Okay, I want more of this." 

No matter the nature of the gameplay, the demo's conclusion should leave the player thinking, "I'm not done discovering this yet."

gamer in front of pc

Get your game on with our game launch guide!

Enjoyed this article? Want to know more about launching a game? We've got much more to share with you in The Game Dev’s Guide to the Best Game Launch!

Remember that a demo's purpose is to attract new players. So, it's an essential element of your game launch marketing strategy. Don't waste your audience's time with details that won't make them want to buy the game right now. Knowing the worth of a demo will help you pay close attention to it. 

At Game Marketing Genie, we can help promote your demo or explore other marketing channels. 

Let's talk demos today

Topics:Video Game Marketing StrategyVideo Game MarketingGame Launch

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