For many game developers, the traditional way of promoting their products online is broken beyond repair.
With no direct digital access to potential customers, they depend on an ungainly mix of ad exchanges, media buying platforms, data aggregators, agencies, and resellers. The results of such a tangled web are predictable: Unfair prices, low-quality leads and surging churn rates.
This unsatisfying situation has led many game developers to shift their focus from customer acquisition to retention in the hope of boosting the cost-effectiveness of their marketing strategies.
“We now think exclusively in terms of years – not days, weeks, or months,” wrote Kevin Chou, CEO of Kabam, in a VentureBeat guest column on retention metrics last month.
Still, this doesn’t address the fundamental problem that digital advertising often targets the wrong people. And if players aren’t really interested in your kind of game, there’s not much point in spending money to try and keep them around.
A push to invest in ad tech also hasn’t solved the problem. In fact, extending the technology stack has served publishers quite well, but from a buyer perspective it has only resulted in more complexity and no discernible improvement in results.
Part of the issue is an inherent conflict of interest, with ad buyers (game developers) on one side and ad sellers (publishers, agencies and networks) on the other. Whereas ad agencies and networks have an incentive to try to get buyers to spend as much on ads as possible regardless of their effectiveness, publishers have an incentive to keep their audience as vague and undefined as possible. But many developers are no longer content to accept such conditions.
“We’re very quickly getting to a point where we can value your eyeballs. We’re not just gonna talk about how many you have anymore. No one is going to give you money because you have eyeballs,” said Gabe Leydon, CEO of developer MZ, in a now famous interview venting the frustrations of the industry. “We want to know if they’re real. There’s a lot of fake eyeballs. There’s a lot of fraud. We want to know if it performs when we buy it.”
So what’s the answer?
With their troves of user data, web behemoths Google and Facebook continue to have a sizable advantage when it comes to performance marketing. But game developers stand to make their ad buying more expensive — and risky — relying on just a few major distribution channels. And upstart firms promoting programmatic ad technology, though offering greater optimization and an improved ROI, still depend on ad networks. This keeps an unnecessary layer between game makers and their end users.
Our Berlin-based start-up is trying to change the equation with the first peer-to-peer marketing platform for game developers. Launched only in March, Simplaex already counts many of the game industry’s biggest companies as its clients.
We never expected that nearly every game developer we talked to would be so annoyed by the current situation. But people really want an alternative, because the technology stack is getting more complex and their costs are increasing, but their results hardly change.
Our new platform enables developers to buy, engage, and sell to players while bypassing the traditional gaming ecosystem for digital marketing. Using solely first-party data and its own real-time bidder, it essentially functions as a marketplace for player acquisition and retention.
Capturing in-game events of players in real-time, developers can use it to target identifiable users and tailor marketing campaigns on a granular level. Simplaex also offers personalization options to engage and reengage users throughout the lifecycle of a game. Plus, the platform creates new revenue streams, such as monetizing players that are no longer actively playing a game.
Aiming to have direct access to over 100 million players by the end of the third quarter, we are offering developers a live demo of the platform at the gamescom trade show in Cologne, Germany later this month.
Will it mean an end to the lack of transparency, hidden costs, and middlemen failing to add any value in digital game marketing? Only one thing is certain: The current gaming ecosystem is ripe for disruption.
Jeffry van Ede is CEO and co-founder of Simplaex.
Learn how to get the most out of your game marketing efforts athttp://simpl-loadb-ez3eknlwyr8g-187318696.us-east-2.elb.amazonaws.com