Whether you’ve played it or not you’ve most certainly heard of the Game Fallout 4.
You want to know why?
Well its simple. Their marketing was spot on.
In this article I’m going to explore the ways in which Bethesda gave their game the best possible chance of survival in such a harsh and unforgiving environment.
But that’s not it…
Because we like to take things one step further, I’m not only looking at Everything Bethesda did right with Fallout 4′s marketing BUT also how as a game developer you can use these to your advantage within your own games.
Cutting straight to the Chase: The Release date
Unlike other game studios, *Insert name here*, Bethesda took the sensible approach to building hype.
Instead of announcing the development of their game years in advance they gave their development and marketing team more than enough time to get the right things into place.
This means two main things:
- No extreme, ridiculously far away release dates.
- No stress, time restraint free development
Keeping it simple by setting a foreseeable release date in their own time factored massively into the success of their development.
And here’s how you can use this with your game:
View your game as a progress bar. (Refer to the image below as an example)
Unless the development of your game has reached 3/4 the way through this bar, do not post a suspected release date or showcase any in game footage to the general public.
But Dan I want to tell everyone about my game and want feedback on it!
Of course you do. It’s human nature.
Large companies such as Bethesda employ rooms full of people that can talk about Fallout 4. There is literally nowhere someone could turn without being able to get honest feedback on a feature they’ve implemented.
So naturally you’ll need to adapt to reach the above checklist.
- Find someone / a group of people to bounce ideas off. (Incubators such as ones like the Games Hub work great for this)
- Agree a point on your progress bar for when you’ll tell the world about your game
- Decide what progress has to be made to reach this progress point
To maximise your games’ chances & reduce stress give yourself enough development time before marketing
Merchandising done right?
Every successful game has it.
But the the real question is what made Fallout 4 so different from the others…?
Let’s start by taking a look at the current merchandising for Fallout 4:
- Fallout 4 Beer
- Fallout Pipboy
- Fallout lunch boxes
- Vault boy Xbox one controller
- Vault Tec t-shirts
- Vault 111 Steelseries headset
- Fallout 4 Soundtrack
- And a plethora of other merchandise on their website
Chances are you’ve heard of at least one of the above.
You want to know why?
Because Bethesda has released each individual piece of merchandise as if they are they’re own product and not just a thing to throw in on the side. They put their faith in their merchandise.
Not only this but you’ll find the majority of their merchandise is done in partnership with other large brands ranging from Carlsberg and their Fallout beer to Xbox and their unique Fallout Controller.
They’ve leveraged their merchandise to be beneficial to their partners whilst giving them a pretty sweet deal in return.
Applying this to your own game may be harder but is achievable.
Yes, I know merchandise is not marketing, however the majority of merchandise is made to create more awareness around your brand.
Get this right and you’re only adding to your chances.
Let’s get physical.
Yes I know, you’re an indie dev making an “Indie game” but what’s stopping you from achieving a Physical release of your game along with all the wonderful nicknacks that come with it?
I caught up with Andrew a developer of the game Unbox – an interesting “self-delivering cardboard box” game where you play as the box.
Andrew was telling me about how many Indie games go unnoticed due to the fact that they “miss out on the masses of markets” available.
“Ask one of your parents, do they know what steam is, probably not. However ask them to buy a game from the local store… And the answer will be yes”
That’s why Andrew decided to publish with Game marketing experts, Sold Out, who could potentially handle a physical release in the later stages of their game.
With their help, unbox will have the ability to overcome the “financial and skill wall” that comes with a physical release.
Other ways to go about this?
When researching this article I found numerous other sites out there, ones such as Merge Games.
They too are one of the few Indie Publishers that handles games in retail.
In a way I guess you could call them specialists in creating boxed games and limited / collector’s editions (that more importantly appeal to fans.)
Finding ways to provide added value merchandise should not have to cost you the bomb.
There’s plenty of ways you could explore this scene providing you have the creativity and will behind you.
Sites like Indie Box work with developers to craft bespoke merchandise and send it out to their own large fan base.
Hand crafting to may be an option for your game providing you or someone else has the time to spare. You’ll read about a real world example of this technique later in this article.
Along with the announcement of their release date, Bethesda did something quite clever.
They informed everyone about their debut game being released on the night, “Fallout Shelter”
How Fallout Shelter changed the playing field…
With a little bit of extra investment into their franchise, Bethesda shook up the battle grounds and secured themselves that very important extra bit of interest in Fallout.
For those unaware Fallout Shelter is a stand alone, free to play mobile simulation game in which you control your own vault.
The concept was simple but resulted in an overnight sensation resulting in it becoming the number one downloaded game in 48 countries.
What’s important to remember: this game was marketing material.
Reach an untapped market. Get new fans for free, sell more copies when Fallout 4 releases.
You may not be able to create two games, but you can do this:
Create free assets for you game to share with your fans. From artwork, music and even physical items there’s plenty to go around.
A great example of this can be seen from Teaboy games, developers of the game Fallen.
I caught up with Fraser who explained to me their quirky decision behind their rather interesting freebies:
We wanted something much more interesting and engaging over existing content out there (such as flyers and leaflets), and of course we LOVE Tea – Tea bags were a natural choice for us.
In a relatively inexpensive way (the cost of time and £40 for 500 teabags + materials) Teaboy games had managed to create a memorable piece of marketing that will keep people interested in their brand.
Find out more about them from our Indie Dev Diaries segment
Examples specific to you and your game are hard to list as the dynamics of your situation dictate the sort of stuff you should be releasing to keep interest up.
If you know you can release hilarious video shorts from your game, then go ahead and do that!
If you have a talented composer in your team, and you know your fans enjoy your music then give them something to!
Fallout 4’s name has been EVERYWHERE
How you can use this in your game?
Obviously you don’t have millions of pounds to spend on advertising space.
What you do have is the power and knowledge to get your game out to as many people as possible in the places that matter.
Of course its going to take time (unless you have a team of evil minions at your disposal), however if you have some sense of your target audience then you should already know how to reach them.
If this is something you find yourself struggling on or want to make sure you’ve got it right then check out the checklist download which has a page attached for this specific purpose.
Assuming you fully understand your market reach, contacting local press as well as global games press should be a breeze for you.
Make sure to leave no stone unturned by pursuing all possible outreach avenues for your game in a way that is personal to each source.
Fallout 4’s marketing is ongoing
Have you browsed Twitter, Facebook or Reddit in the past few days?
You’ll no doubt still be seeing a few pictures floating around with more and more expected as the modders kick into action.
People are actively encouraged to share their in game experiences with the world through subtle features that Bethesda included within their games.
What are these features?
If I was to name them all then we’ll be here for quite a while, but below I’ve picked out one below to explore in a bit more detail.
The on going marketing of easter eggs.
This may come as a bit of a surprise to you, but it’s certainly no lie.
Easter eggs are a hilarious and personal way of increasing the on going marketing of your game.
When a player sees something that they believe they would not have normally noticed they will immediately want to share this with their friends.
A good example of this the teddy bears that are all so abundant throughout Fallout 4.
Players have slowly been noticing the peculiar positions that the teddy bears within the game have been placed leading them to be be plastered all over social media.
It even got so far that one reddit user felt the need to create an album of all the bears together.
Here’s a few ideas you could explore in your own game:
- Add share buttons to your game
- Run content competitions
- Showcase the best content
- Add more value to your game over time
- Utilize social media and user interaction
- Press release important additions
- Use seasonal events to your advantage
- Include funny and entertaining things within your game to share (think easter eggs)
- Highlight and encourage video content / streaming
Now It’s Your Turn
You just saw a real life example of a major piece of game marketing in action.
But for you to get value from this, you need to take action on it.
The next step? Download the checklist below.
Click on the image and enter your email to get access to the free checklist: