Agile Marketing in the Game Industry: An Introduction

Agile isn’t only about development. It might be just the mindset needed to level-up your game marketing...

Will Freeman

Game marketing isn’t what it used to be.

In a not so distant past marketers had to focus on just a handful of channels, deploying long-established strategies to connect audiences with games and gaming brands. Some may even remember it fondly as a simpler time, when a single marketing plan document set out exactly how the following months and years would play out. Long before launch day, everything was set rigidly in place, with any changes to that plan incurring a tremendous effort and last minute complications.

Then wealth of new opportunities presented themselves to game marketers, and those conventional approaches started to lose their relevance.

The rich mix

In the last decade or so the game industry has seen the rise of social media, streaming, influencers and chat-servers. As an ever increasing range of demographics play an ever greater variety of games, so too has there been an explosion in the number of tools that promise to optimise or automate marketing efforts. And as if free-to-play and the arrival of games as live, maintained entities wasn’t enough, there’s also been the shift to subscription services, rewarded ads and an ever changing alchemy of user acquisition and monetisation theory.

If that sheer number of opportunities and channels feels overwhelming to you and your capacity for in-house marketing, you are not alone. The challenge of breadth and scale isn’t exclusive to game marketing. And yet the solution to that challenge came from something that will be very close to the hearts of a great many game makers. Namely; Agile development.

Agile sought to do many things when it debuted in 2001, but it focused on delivering user-centric software on time and on budget through an approach that was flexible, experimental, transparent, efficient and sustainable. It prioritised the value of face-to-face interaction, and – as laid out in the original Agile Development Manifesto – asserted that an iterative process with frequent deliveries of working software achieved better results.

Agile’s influence ultimately went far beyond that intended use case, which brings us back to Agile marketing.

As you may have already guessed, Agile marketing endeavours to embrace the mindset of Agile software development. And ‘mindset’ is a keyword there. Agile isn’t a rigid framework, but a way of thinking and doing. Agile marketing on a free-to-play hypercasual mobile game might employ a very different framework from that deployed on an experimental narrative adventure made by a high-profile indie dev for PC, for example, but each would be guided by the same mindset.

Built for change

Traditional marketing strategies don’t only lack the capacity to address an increasingly rich mix of channels, audiences and technologies; they also fail to offer adaptability. Agile marketing may have emerged some years ago, but all these years later global events present a reminder that the legacy of traditional, inflexible marketing still exists. As the global coronavirus lockdown set in, billboard ads displayed brands to empty streets, and TVs shared commercials with messaging that sat at odds with social distancing and staying at home. When the world changes overnight, traditional marketing needs a few weeks to adjust.

Agile marketing, meanwhile, starts with a deliberately exploratory, experimental process that remains iterative from there out. That’s not to say the Agile marketing of a game is undertaken without discipline or structure. Rather, an Agile marketing plan is structured to allow for changes to the plan, including at the very last moment. It has the ability to respond to influencing forces from outside the marketing department..

At the heart of the Agile approach is the idea of moving away from inflexible marketing plans that have little-to-no capacity to adapt to changes that may come further down the line. Instead, marketing schedules are divided into multiple short form time frames, with the expectation that each will be used to explore, experiment and deliver something functional. If that fails, learn from the shortcoming and change the approach. Furthermore, as with Agile development the tenets of collaboration, sustainability and direct human interaction are key.

All of that lets the marketing of a game be highly adaptive, responding almost in real time to how audiences react to given content, or strokes of bad luck like a blockbuster IP backed by a giant of triple-A suddenly announcing the same launch date as your own creation.

Agile Evolved

Here we’ve seen how an Agile mindset can provide game marketers with a meaningful, impactful way to connect a game with multiple audiences over numerous channels, while negating today’s highly complex media and technology landscape. But that doesn’t mean Agile marketing is without its challenges.

Agile marketing video games absolutely isn’t anarchic. Throwing caution to the wind and merrily ignoring the interest of managers might sound like a refreshing change, but that isn’t the way to do Agile right. It may reject the archaic creature that is the long term marketing plan document, but as touched on above, that’s not to say no planning is needed. In fact, a great deal of preparation and order is required – in a way that engenders experimentation and adaptability. Building a careful plan for a flexible approach is remarkably complex, and keeping campaigns on track while allowing them to be elastic can feel like an impossibility. The nuance of executing an Agile strategy is something we’ll return to in future blog posts.

Here at actioncy., we don’t pretend to have invented Agile marketing. But thinking about how technology could empower game developers to better harness the Agile marketing opportunity is what inspired us to build our platform.

Actioncy. is ultimately a tool that lets game developers plot and deploy Agile marketing plans that are efficient and experimental, able to serve a highly complex channel mix, adapt in a changing world and evolve with a game after its launch. We’ve been inspired by the best of game development and project management tools, and built the platform with insight from a spectrum of games industry experts.

Whether you’re an old school game marketing pro, or a developer keen to put more time into your game than into fighting against your own marketing plan, do reach out. We’d love to answer any questions you have, we’d be delighted to tell you about our beta, and we’re always keen to talk about evolving the potential of Agile marketing.