Traditional Media Loves these Mobile Game Types
Traditional media coverage has declined in importance for most mobile developers. If faced with limited resources, working on newer alternatives like niche communities, YouTube reviews, and Google or Apple App Store features can seem like better uses of time (and resources).
However, some mobile games can still reap strong returns from the traditional press. The question is: when is it a good idea to bet on getting media coverage? While there’s no sure answer, pattern-matching against recent successes can offer a good indication.
We worked out a short list of press-friendly game types with Thomas Bidaux, whose research company Ico Partners is developing a tool to track PR across the world of games. Below are the six categories we identified.
1. Games with a build-in gaming audience
The biggest press hit for mobile games this year was Fallout Shelter, a game that fully exploited its relation to a popular PC/console game.
Fallout Shelter broke records with almost 600 game press articles in a single day on its launch announcement—the largest spike ever achieved by a mobile game. Part of developer Bethesda’s strategy involved positioning the announcement on a slow news day, knowing that the traditional games press would be looking for material.
2. Games with pop culture or celebrity branding
Most developers don’t have a game franchise with 18 years of history to exploit. But they can simulate franchise power with celebrity or brand tie-ins, as Glu Mobile did with Kim Kardashian: Hollywood. Many developers are choosing this route, with games like Demi Lovato: Path to Fame, Disney’s Descendants and even Miranda Sings vs Haters taking advantage of star brand power.
As with the previous category, the name branding alone is enough to pique the interest of many journalists. But be aware that many branding exercises are more powerful on social media than with the press, as demonstrated when Despicable Me was announced on the same day as Fallout Shelter. “Fallout was on one side and Minions on the other. Minions had less than 100 articles, compared to the 600 for Fallout Shelter,” says Bidaux.
3. Games with a business tie-in
Type in a simple Google search like “Clash of Clans earns billions” and you’ll find hundreds of articles by big-name outlets reporting on the game’s revenues—without mentioning much about the game at all. Activision Blizzard’s acquisition of King this year prompted endless articles arguing that mobile games couldn’t possibly be worth the price.
For smaller fish, it’s a great press hook to say that your quirky game has passed some threshold of downloads, whether that’s 10,000 or 10 million. “In many ways, it’s like mobile is a business story more than looking at the game. Once you have some success, [journalists] talk more about you than what the game is about,” says Bidaux.
4. Games with unique visuals
“There is no exquisite beauty…without some strangeness in the proportion,” wrote Edgar Allen Poe in Ligeia. This is a truth that game journalists have an instinctual understanding of, producing hundreds of articles about beautiful-but-strange games like Monument Valley.
“I’m hoping that the PR push we’ve done helps give the title a legacy, rather than it all being over within weeks,” says Luke Whittaker of his recent launch Lumino City, which uses video of intricately crafted toys for its unique visual edge.
For indie developers, finding a visual hook is one of the most viable routes to press love. A few screenshots or short video may be sufficient to pique a writer’s interest. “For the traditional game media, [visuals are] something they understand,” summarizes Bidaux.
5. Games with developer community cred
Those developers who cultivate a strong industry presence may be able to use popularity among their peers to reach a wider audience.
Bidaux points out Seattle-based studio Spry Fox as a good example of this. Founders David Edery and Daniel Cook were well known in the development community before starting their company, and have used their connections to spread the word about their games, including the recently-launched Alpha Bear.
6. Games that are weird
Finally, there is a type of mobile game PR success that can be summarized in one word: weird. Games like Goat Simulator, Neko Atsume and, yes, Flappy Bird generate torrents of press because, well, the story pretty much writes itself.
Flappy Bird is the archetypal example of this category. The game itself is almost insultingly simple. Its developer, Nguyễn Hà Đông, lives in distant Hanoi, Vietnam. The game was a sudden viral hit—then just as suddenly killed by Đông. All in all, Flappy Bird generated a perfect storm of head-scratching facts.
We may never see a game as “weird” as Flappy Bird again, but indies still find a bit of its magic on a regular basis. Neko Atsume, for example, is a somewhat inscrutable game about attracting stray cats. And in Goat Simulator, you just butt things. This oddness goes a long way: Goat Simulator out-competed major company franchises like Angry Birds Stella and Lara Croft for its mobile launch.
If your game doesn’t fit any of the above categories, never fear. It’s still better to have a focused PR strategy that targets these media outlets than none at all.
“UA companies, publishers, ad companies, investors, middleware providers, and even Apple itself use our sites daily for research on what’s new and interesting. We’ve often been told by former App Store editors that what we cover is a major factor in what gets featured every week,” TouchArcade editor Eli Hodapp wrote earlier this year in an impassioned defense of traditional press.
For more on how to get press coverage—whether or not you have a special hook—check out Chartboost’s guide on how to pitch your mobile game to journalists.