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Luc Duchaine on marketing’s role in game development

Whatever the size of your studio, you should be thinking about marketing from the start of the development process.

Luc Duchaine is a 23-year veteran of Quebec’s video game industry. He joined Behaviour as Head of Brand Marketing in 2021.

I often joke that I have two missions working in gaming: the first is to help gaming get global recognition on the same level as film or television. The second is to see marketing play a key role in the development of games.

Whatever the size of your studio, you should be thinking about marketing from the start of the development process. Too often, marketing is only considered after decisions have been made about the game’s potential for success; the marketing team is handed something to sell without allowing them any input on the product itself. A lot of people don’t see the value of bringing marketing in at the conceptual stage or even pre-production. Money at this stage is often seen as better spent on a programmer, designer, or artist.

Here are three points I think people need to consider about marketing and how marketing teams can help early on in the game development process.

Entertainment Ecosystem

Marketing can help you assess and understand the entertainment ecosystem, from themes that resonate with consumers and the trends in entertainment to the topics that no longer attract audiences and those that do, and so on.

Knowing your competitive environment is critical to the success of a product and you need answers to these questions if your product is to be relevant in today’s market. Not looking for these answers is basically going in blind and hoping for the best. ​

Gaming Industry

And then there’s the gaming industry. It’s marketing’s job to analyse and understand the competitive environment. How big is cross-play right now? Should you go for it? Is the investment justified? Deciding to have cross-play will have a big impact on your development​. Is e-sports going to be a thing for your game? Even if you have a multiplayer game, are you e-sport compatible and should you go for it? If yes, is it for awareness or to make money?

What happens now? You have some monster games that are blowing up those borders between genres and you have other games that are being more niche in their experience.​ You have classic games that incorporate some modern concepts. Look, even Tetris and Pac Man have a battle royale mode. ​

Having marketing involved at that point will help you answer those questions and make educated choices.

Gaming Development

Gaming audiences have grown and changed dramatically in the past 20 years, as have the game makers, but the game makers are not changing as fast as the audience. Game designers in their mid-30s do not have the same motivations and expectations as people between the ages of 15 and 25. ​Having a marketing team involved early one will allow you to do that research, check the market fit between the ideas and concepts that you have and the audience.

When you make a game, you think about the game mechanics, the art direction, the animation, the storyline, etc. Marketing thinks how to package it, how to promote it, how the audience will react. You can do those things in parallel or you can do it in conjunction and benefit from each other. When we hear about certain features, it can impact our plan and when you hear about our plan, you can decide to push certain features. ​

Our job in marketing is to amplify the uniqueness of your game. ​In certain cases, some features could become much bigger and more important if we work together to amplify them. 

By working closely together, we will be able to create an ecosystem that will engage players around the game or the brand for the long term. It’s important to be genuine in the stories we tell, as well as transparent. This is possible through social media, live streams, influencers, and game updates.

At the end of the day, whether we like it or not, we are all fighting for their time. To develop and market games in 2022 is more complex than it was 20 or even 10 years ago. ​The general entertainment offer is bigger, more diversified, and more accessible. ​ The gaming industry has also exploded in terms of offers and possibilities​, and our audience is more knowledgeable, diverse, and demanding. Involving your marketing team can be a decisive factor in your game’s success if you engage them from the start.

Luc Duchaine
Head of Brand Marketing