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Video game marketing predictions for 2020

Here are a few things I see taking place in the murky marketing world supporting video games and companies near the video game industry in 2020.

Influencer relationships

This has been a thorn in everyone’s side as more and more micro- (and macro-) influencers are on the rise.

It’s hard for small businesses and small devs to track results. It’s hard for big devs and businesses to not get burned from their relationships.

There’s going to be more scrutiny here, legally and ad-spend-wise, when it comes to influencers in 2020. The savvy influencers are going to be the ones who can provide an inquiring business/potential partner with data and tracking information on their direct impact.

A media kit is a must if you’re going to work with an influencer. Who’s their primary audience and what’s their reach? But now businesses need more or they’re going to waste too many dollars across too many self-proclaimed influencers.

Advice from Exothermic: If you’re a business, make sure you get metrics attached to your influencers so you know what you’re getting from your ad spend there. If you’re an influencer, you better up your game and differentiate yourself on the accountability front.

Distribution strategy becomes more important

Fragmentation is finally hitting the relatively peaceful PC industry compared to the years it’s been plaguing the console world. It’s not new. But now the digital-only devs, who are typically the smaller ones, will have more of a challenge of optimizing a game for multiple channels (or finding partners who can port for them).

Marketing is traditionally made up of the four P’s – price, place, product and promotion. Most people think of promotion as the only relevant marketing piece. But place, in this instance – your distribution channels, is still a marketing question for devs to consider when it comes to where people will find their game.

Advice from Exothermic: For the smaller devs, do your research. Figure out who your audience actually is and where they are – it doesn’t have to be super detailed research but some cursory information is a must now that there’s more players in the field. Mobile devs have done this already with the fragmented stores and fragmented OS (Android vs. iOS vs. Windows vs. others), console devs have done this already for years – smaller indie devs will need to be more focused and learn from those lessons in other areas.

More realistic expectations and niche games

This is more of a hope than a prediction but as there are more stories on Gamasutra and other sites like Medium with behind-the-scenes data on what performance truly looks like for small (and big) devs, I hope there are more realistic expectations for game launches. More info = more informed decisions, yeah?

A few good ones to check out:

Advice from Exothermic: Use metrics and learn from others to be realistic with your game launches and your marketing efforts. Not every game is going to have the impact of Untitled Goose Game, friends.

Less TV media spend, more digital spend

Seems obvious to me but a digital spend has more direct results and a more solid ROI. TV is too mass-market and there’s too much loss. Devs can’t afford it.

Not to mention that people are cutting the cord more than ever before.

That being said, video itself will continue being super importantly for the games industry. Especially in the form of trailers, gifs, and live-streaming.

Advice from Exothermic: Make sure you’ve got a good relationship with a videographer either on your team or externally. Video is going to keep being important.

The decline of E3

Sony is skipping E3 for the second year. More and more publishers are doing their own events, like Blizzard’s BlizzCon. Or reaching their audience directly on a regular basis, like Nintendo’s Nintendo Direct broadcasts.  It’s only a matter of time before we have some sort of EpicCon here in NC…

After the whole journalist-leakage situation and the event going public in 2017, I’m personally feeling a pretty solid good riddance to bad rubbish vibe.

Advice from Exothermic: Conferences aren’t as critical as they used to be for lead-gen and B2B or B2C presence. Technology is enabling people to have video calls, livestreams, and more without dropping thousands on flights, hotels and all that jazz. Get creative (and thoughtful) without your outreach and don’t just assume that E3, GDC and Gamescom are required to attend anymore.


We’re starting to see a trend back to transmedia again as IP is the focus with supplemental, original content to support it. As games are perpetually being updated, it becomes more important to support fewer games for longer periods of time and invest more time, money, and marketing dollars in ’em. And then the games spread to other areas like books/comics (think: Overwatch), movies (think: WoW), music (think: LoL), and more.

Advice from Exothermic: It’s going to be easy to lose money here if you’re a smaller organization. If you do a transmedia play with your IP, make sure you’re thoughtful about how much it’ll cost to maintain that as another channel.


This is a big one at Exothermic as we’re anti-retargeting and anti-list purchasing. (and gaslighting, too)

Between GDPR, CCPA and a whole slew of other acronyms, privacy pushes are going to impact marketing strategies more in 2020. Just within the first month of 2020, we’ve already seen Verizon pretending to offer a “no-tracking” search engine, the FTC investigating ad blockers, a report on dating and fertility apps selling data and more. Also I found this PDF for the first time and fell in love with it.

People are starting to realize just how much their data has been abused previously. It’s about damn time.

Advice from Exothermic: Be sensitive of what data you’re collecting, how you’re storing and what you do with it, people.

Voice content

Due to Alexa and Google Home and podcasts – expect voice marketing to become more of a thing. Voice search is going to be a bigger thing. Hey google, what’s a Fortnite? What’s the answer going to be? Is it going to be the definition of a fortnight or is Epic going to pony up some cash to own that answer?

Advice from Exothermic: If it’s relevant, consider adding voice search as a channel to your marketing outreach. It’s still pretty new but a lot of lessons from radio marketing will transfer over to this arena.


This prediction is basically an excuse to post a link to one of my favorite movies of all time:

The companies who stick our their necks and take a stand will be rewarded. And also vilified. But brands have to take a stance now – or constituents will do it for them, as we’ve seen with Blizzard and their China fiasco.

People are voting with their dollars more and more.

As my friend Julia put it in a blog post recently for The Marketing Arm,

he New York Times called the 2010’s the “decade of disillusionment.” Paranoia, polarization, and mistrust reined the decade and it’s pushed us all to rely more on emotion and less on facts. Our consumers are less inclined to trust institutions they once took for granted.

This created a white space for marketers. By aligning with a cause or concern, brands can now takeover by being “of service” as a social good. Dominos’ “Paving for Pizza” is fixing bad roads without government funds. Where government let consumers down, Dominos is picking them up.

Brands can capitalize on this trend by first establishing their target’s grievances outside the category then establishing strategic partnerships to be the hero.

Advice from Exothermic: Be authentic and be careful if you’re going to involve politics in your branding – know that it’ll come with a cost. But if it’s important to you, it may be a worthwhile endeavor for your brand.

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