YouTubers and first-parties win out in GDC Next discovery survey

In order to better understand the contemporary game industry in advance of GDC Next 2014 featuring ADC, Game Developers Conference officials have surveyed over 300 game industry professionals about their opinions on launching and marketing games across markets that grow more crowded every year.
The results of that polling process reveal several fascinating trends in the way that modern game makers balance their marketing and community outreach efforts before, during, and after their game has launched.


GDC Next and ADC, which aim to highlight practical ways for developers to increase the creative and financial success of their projects, are taking place simultaneously on November 3rd-4th, 2014 at the Los Angeles Convention Center.
The game industry believes great marketing is a year-round effort, but tends to do most of it right before a game comes out
When respondents were polled about when they promoted their last game the most heavily, the most popular response (35.7 percent) was to do the brunt of the marketing work in the month leading up to their game’s launch. Promoting the game most heavily after launch was the second most common strategy (20 percent), with smaller percentages of respondents claiming they focused their promotion efforts in the six months prior to launch or equally across the entire development/launch/post-launch cycle.
However, when asked about when they thought they should be promoting their games most heavily, a third (33 percent) of respondents felt that it was equally important to promote before, during, and after launch. 48 percent felt that it was important to focus on marketing at some point prior to launch — 13.3 percent said more than 6 months before, 23.3 percent said less than six months before, and 21.5 percent said to promote most heavily in the month prior to launch. Only 8.9 percent believed it was most important to promote after you launch your game.
This suggests that many game industry professionals aren’t practicing what they preach, and are often driven to focus the lion’s share of their marketing efforts right before or after their game is released.
Platform gatekeepers and YouTubers are seen to be a developer’s best shot for getting their game noticed
When asked about what sort of publicity would give their game the biggest revenue boost, more than a third of survey respondents (36.6 percent) felt the answer was to be featured on a digital storefront like Steam or PlayStation Network.
Being featured in a video on a very popular YouTube personality’s channel was the second most popular choice (24.8 percent), followed by community engagement (15.6 percent) and being featured on a very popular video game website (14.5 percent).
Based on these results, if developers can’t cut a deal with their platform holder to get top billing on a storefront, they believe their best bet for driving people — and, by extension, revenue — to their game is to convince a popular YouTuber to cover it, in addition to going the established route of sending out requests for coverage to game enthusiast sites.
YouTubers gain prominence as discoverability becomes a problem on crowded digital storefronts
As a followup, it’s worth noting that respondents split nearly evenly along YouTuber/traditional media lines when asked about whose opinion they trusted most when it came to games.

However, the YouTubers won out — 55.8 percent of respondents said they trusted YouTubers more than traditional press.
Nearly three-quarters of those surveyed think platform holders must do more to improve discoverability
The majority of survey respondents (73.4 percent) also said they agreed with the statement “platform holders aren’t doing enough to improve discoverability on digital storefronts” to some degree, with 22.1 percent of total respondents falling into the “strongly agree” category. It’s worth noting that of the other 26.6 percent who did not agree, only 4.1 percent of all respondents felt they strongly disagreed.
These responses suggest that platform holders can do more to meet the needs of contemporary game makers.
Most respondents wish they’d spent more money marketing their last game
Almost half of those surveyed (47.5 percent) said they set aside 10 percent or less of their overall budget to market their most recent game. 30 percent said they set aside between 11-25 percent, and the numbers drop from there as the percentage of overall spend on marketing gets higher.
However, when asked about what percentage of total budget respondents would like to see invested in promoting a game, the majority (44.3 percent) cast their vote in favor of 11-25 percent for marketing efforts. Only 17 percent said they thought 10 percent or less of a budget was enough to set aside for marketing purposes, while 30.4 percent of respondents said that 26-50 percent of a game’s total budget should be spent on marketing and promoting it.
As a corollary, we should point out that only 7.7 percent of respondents felt that good marketing was more important than making a good game. 69 percent of those surveyed felt that good promotion is equally important to making a game, and 23 percent felt that making a good game is more important than promoting it well.
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