The Conundrum of Game Marketing
A conundrum that has constantly plagued my mind for a while now is the lack of marketing with some video games. Now, there are situations where this is understandable – small indie titles that don’t really have the budget to put out multiple trailers and reach out to big media outlets to get their game talked about is the norm. There are so many games that have fallen through the cracks in this way. Even some non-indie titles have suffered the same fate, though. If a game is released at the same time as other popular titles, it can end up being overlooked by both fans and media outlets.
But what I’m talking about goes a little beyond just not having the budget. The issue I really wanted to talk about is more about what feels like a lack of trying – a lack of care. What could only be described as leaving your game dead on arrival. No tweets about the release of your game, mo trailers put out on official channels, and not giving review codes to outlets (big or small) to try and get it spread around.
Today, I just want to go through this attitude that I’ve noticed with three games that have released this year: NEO: The World Ends With You, Everyday Today’s Menu for Emiya Family, and Yu-Gi-Oh! Rush Duel: Dawn of the Battle Royale.
And just as a note, I do not work in the gaming industry, nor do I have any marketing experience. This is just coming from a frustrated fan who wishes that companies would do more to try and get their games out there.
NEO: The World Ends With You
The official statement released by Square Enix a few weeks ago brought this thought to my mind in the first place. According to their reports, this new addition in The World Ends With You series underperformed compared to initial estimates. Now, there are definitely some factors that go into this result that aren’t quite on Square’s shoulders. NEO: The World Ends With You released at a very busy time of the year. Even just referencing our July 2021 releases article, you can see that July had Ys IX, Monster Hunter Stories 2, Samurai Warriors 5, and Cris Tales. And while it can be argued that fans of one game may not buy the other, there is ultimately still some overlap.
TWEWY is also a niche series, despite the fact that a good portion of JRPG and Square fans seem familiar with the title. There is absolutely no way that this series would ever pull in Final Fantasy or Kingdom Hearts numbers just on brand recognition alone. There’s also the issue with this game being perceived as a sequel to the first The World Ends With You game. This might have turned some people away, who may have thought that playing the first game was required to fully understand the sequel, even though that is not the case.
Now, compared to the other games mentioned in this article, TWEWY was marketed the most. There were tweets made concerning the game’s release, both from Square as well as Nintendo’s official accounts. Trailers were occasionally showcased, although mainly on Nintendo Directs. There was an anime announced (albeit starring the cast of the original games) and yet, one could say that outside of that, that was about the extent of the marketing in the west. Now in Japan, supposedly, marketing has been insane – I can’t really speak to the extent that Square is attempting to get the word out about TWEWY over there.
All in all, attempts were made, but it kind of feels like Square didn’t do quite enough in cementing this title into people’s minds. I remember the release day coming and people being shocked that it was actually out then, for goodness sakes.
Everyday Today’s Menu for Emiya Family
This game is quite the strange one to have been released in the west. Based on the popular Fate franchise, it is a spinoff of the original visual novel games. Cooking games aren’t quite a popular genre, though Cooking Mama does have some mainstream recognition. And while it’s not strange in itself that this game was created, it’s strange that it was localized.
This one is perhaps the saddest one to think about, given the tight corner Aniplex has worked themselves into. Fate isn’t a stranger in the video game realm here in the west, what with Fate Extella showing itself on several platforms. There’s also the cash cow that is Fate Grand Order on mobile devices. And even outside of video games, Fate in itself is very popular. The last of the Heaven’s Feel movies just released last year. New series and movies are in the process of being made right now – the series pretty much prints money.
So why did Aniplex do absolutely nothing to promote this game when it first came out? No tweets, no promotional videos on official channels, and no reviews with the game’s release. Of course, details about the game slowly trickled out thanks to fans and by now, you can find a few articles about the game, as well as a tweet on Aniplex’s Twitter about the Thanksgiving discount. But otherwise? Zilch. Nada. Nothing.
There are also a lot of choices with the Fate franchise that Aniplex and the other license holders do (or don’t do) that don’t quite make sense. Why release a spinoff game in the west, but not the official visual novels that this game is based off of? Why release this game only in the US eShop and not other English speaking countries? Why release a game and announce nothing about it day of?
Now, Aniplex is a bit of a wild card. While they do publish games, they mainly deal with anime and music distribution. Still, if you are putting out a product, you need to at least make an attempt to get some attention paid to it. It doesn’t have to be a crazy amount of time and effort spent but, at the very least, putting out a statement with the release of the game seems like a no-brainer solution.
Yu-Gi-Oh! Rush Duel: Dawn of the Battle Royale
This recent Konami release is the latest in me scratching my head at just the lack of care that seems to be paid towards games that are being released. Now, Yu-Gi-Oh! is by no means a small franchise. Most people have probably heard of it, whether it’s the anime or the card game. The series brings in a lot of money with Duel Links and the constant packs releasing for it. Now popularity of the spinoffs can be debated, but just brand recognition alone, fans of the card game are likely to at least look into the game.
However, leading up to the release of the game, information was very sparse. Outside of a blog entry on their official website, there wasn’t much information to be found about Rush Duel. There wasn’t even a price that was put out (although the price tag of $39.99 was floated around by fans). You couldn’t even find an entry for the game on the eShop until release day. That’s something I expect to see from shadow drops or indie games, not from a company like Konami (no matter how much they’ve dragged their reputation through the mud).
Similarly to Aniplex, there were also no reviews to be found about the game come release day. Now this is probably just a regularity for the Yu-Gi-Oh! franchise, given that Legacy of the Duelist seems to have been handled the same way. However, there is another thing that has shot this game in the foot, and that is the lack of an anime dub. You can’t even watch the Japanese version on official channels like Crunchyroll or Funimation. Now that is more of a problem with Shueisha, who hold the rights, rather than Konami. But it sure doesn’t help with trying to get people to buy a new game centered around new characters.
Why Are We At This Point?
So why have these games been left to fend for themselves, with varying degrees of success (or failure)? Is it because the companies felt that brand recognition alone could drive sales? If so, that’s a very ignorant point of view. TWEWY is a niche series, Fate is popular but spinoffs rarely do well in most circumstances, and Yu-Gi-Oh! has a barrier of entry thanks to being based around the card game. You can’t exactly print these games and expect sales in the millions – even cracking 500,000 is ambitious.
Another thing could be expectations. What are the expectations of game sales for these titles? Obviously, NEO TWEWY didn’t perform to Square’s liking, but what exactly were they expecting? Were their expectations in check and it just didn’t do that well? Or were they expecting higher than average numbers, just because of the amount of Switch holders? Is Konami expecting similar numbers to Legacy of the Duelist? Does Aniplex have no expectations?
It’s just a bit frustrating to see a game or series that you love treated as though it doesn’t need to be marketed. We’ve all had that feeling, where you want more people to hear about a game. But word of mouth can’t be the sole seller. Sure, if I hear a game is good, it generally piques my interest. But then I look into doing research. Making it harder for people to find information about your game isn’t the way to go about getting your game sold.
But this is just me shaking my fist and shouting at the sky. Have you guys had similar feelings concerning game marketing? What’s a game that you wished a company promoted more, big or small?