Darrel Rade takes a look the different ways in which online games are marketed – and what this can offer the player

The phrase “build it and they will come” was popularised by the 1989 film Field of Dreams, and while it may have been true of building a baseball field, it doesn’t apply to business in the real world.

If you don’t tell people about “it”, how can they know it exists? The gaming industry is no different; it would be possible to build the greatest game of all time, but, without marketing, it would be a huge flop.

Videogame companies spend significant proportions of their budgets to raise awareness of, and inform their potential customers about, their latest games in order to convince them to either hand over their hard-earned cash or give up their precious time to play.

This is the case for both traditional console and PC games, as well as for newer mobile and online games. Aside from paid-for advertising, gaming companies have many additional tools in their marketing arsenal. Here are some of their favourites.

The media

Have you ever wondered why the media can get access to games before they are released to the general public?

The reason is of course because journalists are given early access to games to create hype and raise awareness of these titles, and then (hopefully) the journalists will give positive reviews that will persuade potential customers to buy them.

Typically, this is done in three stages:

  • Reveal This is when the first screen shots or gameplay footage of a game is released, and somewhere a short playable demo is available. This is enough to get the media talking about the game. This can be many months or years before a game’s release; in the case of videogame smash-hit Grand Theft Auto IV, the reveal trailer was a year before the game was put on sale.
  • Preview This is where the game is nearing completion, and usually a playable demo is available for the media and reviewers to use. This allows them to get a better feel for the final product and inform their readers and viewers of the game’s features.
  • Review Usually the review stage gives the media outlets access to the game shortly before it is released to the public so that the reviews can be released to coincide with the launch of the game itself.


Collaborating with other big brands has been a technique employed by marketers for many years. You will find celebrity endorsements of almost every product you can imagine, from breakfast foods to mortgage products – these types of collaborations have been used everywhere. Another example of this is the collaboration between Uber and Spotify that allows Uber riders to play their Spotify playlists through the speakers of the car they’re in.

Collaborations have been used by igaming companies for many years. Countless branded games, including slots, roulette and card games, have featured film characters, sports stars and more.

Recently, PokerStars and UFC joined forces to launch new UFC-branded “Spin & Go’s” games that offer tickets to watch a UFC fight in Brazil. Land-based casinos also engage in collaborations, such as the agreement between Caesars Entertainment and the Philadelphia 76ers.

“A well-executed marketing strategy will create an impact greater than the sum of the parts

Freemium offerings

“Freemium” software has been around for about as long as computers have been. Freemium usually means that a free version is available, with paid-for upgrades that unlock more features.

These are common in many areas of the gaming industry; for example igaming platforms allow players to play most of their games using virtual money to practice their skills without wagering real cash.

Console and PC games often have demo versions available where players can only get access to one level or have a single weapon to initially try out the game.

Mobile app-based games were among the first to pioneer free games with paid versions that unlocked ad-free versions. For example, Angry Birds originally had an ad-supported free game and an ad-free game that cost £0.59. Other mobile games sometimes charge for extra lives or virtual cash or to skip waiting times.

Generally, gaming companies choose a wide range of marketing tools to create their marketing mix, which are designed to complement each other. A well-executed marketing strategy like this will create an impact greater than the sum of the parts, particularly if the company can create a hype that gets people talking about the game on social media.