Can PR Make Your Wishlists Explode?
When it comes to releasing games on Steam, wishlists have been a tried and true indicator of performance. Not only in predicting how well a game will perform in terms of sales, but we actually use wishlists as one indicator (as well as many others) to measure the success of a PR campaign. Marketing is a complex beast with many variables and moving parts to consider at any one time. What works for one campaign, doesn’t necessarily work for another. So I will put a caveat at the start and say that while wishlists can be a great indicator for marketing, there have been many cases where success was shown in different areas. But that’s for a whole other blog post.
It’s important to understand the impact the game itself has on PR, but also marketing in general. Marketing is never a fix for an uninteresting, boring game or poor game design choices. Especially when the game is in a saturated genre. PR, like all forms of marketing, is a direct multiplier of a product. Creating a game that stands out in a unique way gives any marketing the ability to potentially generate consumer interest. A generic game with no unique identifiers will hardly ever lead to large amounts of interest. PR success derives from the synergy between a good product, good marketing and accurate audience targeting. The examples shown below have had their names removed for confidentiality purposes and permission was given to share these results publicly.
Getting media and influencer attention pre-launch can be massive for a game and can create an equally big impact on your wishlists. Not only will this benefit you at launch with Steam’s own algorithm allowing you more on store visibility on launch day such as front-page placements and even potentially a featured spot but gaining early attention pre-launch can ease the path for gaining real traction for both securing more coverage at the launch and building a strong community around the game.
When it comes to making the needle move, however, good, targeted PR can have a large impact on getting that wishlist counter moving in the right direction.
Example A –Indie Game after one PR push
We had one indie come to us for a 6-month build-up campaign before their launch of an action platformer. The game was acquiring wishlists at an above-average rate for an indie in the genre (around 150-200 per day on average) but they were struggling to gain attention in both the media and influencer space. The priority was to establish the game in these spaces, and so we planned out the first PR push by reworking an entirely new press kit, changing the core pitch of the game to target the interest of media, reworked the steam page visuals and text and developed a key features list for the game that revolved around the unique selling points rather than focusing on the genre.
From the first initial push alone, the team managed to secure several articles, including a top-tier placement, which instantly led to a huge spike in wishlists over a couple of days. We then did a follow-up with some additional targeted media to gain an extra few articles to drive further traffic to the store page which helped create a smaller spike.
The subsequent increase in brand awareness as well as the long tail traffic from the content not only resulted in a large spike in wishlists but also saw a net positive impact on long-term wishlists. Their daily increase in wishlists jumped by 100% over the next several weeks.
· PR push created a strong increase in wishlists short-term
· PR push had a significant impact on daily wishlists, with post push averaging 100% more per day compared to the previous period.
· Pre-pitching weeks in advance allowed the game to secure placement in multiple outlets.
· Doing follow-ups post push created additional coverage leading to extended increases.
· Optimizing the store page text and visuals increased the view to wishlist conversion.
Example B – 60k+ wishlists in 3 months
The next example was an indie RPG created by a small team of five. The total campaign was over a 12 month period, but we wanted to make a splash right out of the gates to improve pre-launch visibility on Steam the moment the Steam page was released.
This would happen in five stages in the initial first three months of the announcement.
1. Pre-pitch RPG-centric sites and journalists with the announcement of the game under embargo, to launch the steam page on the day the news came out. This was designed to target the RPG fan base directly.
2. Right after the launch, we would begin a social media content campaign designed to hit RPG communities and players who are very active about the genre across Facebook, Twitter, Reddit, and Tiktok.
3. Approaching top-tier news sites with new information about the game, we choose to focus solely on unique differentiators about the game and hit a nostalgia angle as this was a CRPG.
4. Target a handful of RPG-focused influencers to produce content or news regarding the game to gain attention on YouTube.
5. Begin a microscale social media ad campaign targeting RPG players with content that synergized with the previous PR efforts.
As the graph shows, launching the steam page alongside the targeted media articles allowed the Steam page to gross almost 20k wishlists in one day, which was supported in the following days by a consistent synergized social content campaign that kept the wishlist growth steady. PC gamer and Kotaku had a massive impact on exposure and wishlists, obtaining thousands in a very short space of time. We also saw that both articles were a source of constant traffic to the store page in the weeks following their coverage. In the subsequent weeks, some targeted micro-influencer content and additional mico ad campaigns allowed the game to generate over sixty thousand wishlists in just under three months.
· Launching a steam page to coincide with media exposure produced favorable results and helped boost traffic on Steam.
· Social media content campaigns produced small but constant results allowing wishlists to continue to grow rather than decline or plateau.
· Top-tier media has a strong influence on wishlists and favorable coverage can generate lots of traffic, even long after coverage has been published.
· Post push ads allowed for wishlist conversions and long-term heightened store page traffic. They also helped in capturing people who had seen the game in media and social media previously but did not take action. This helped long-term brand recognition.
PR can be used effectively post-launch of a game for a variety of reasons, whether it’s to get out regular content updates, talk about development or to simply look to get the attention that the game wasn’t able to get at launch. Many indie games have seen massive success years after launch solely based on things like an influx of streamers, YouTubers, and media. This also coincides with shifts in how players discover and purchase games. Sure, 9/10 times a strong product launch is preferred to see long-tail success, but with limited bandwidth for both influencers and media, sometimes it just isn’t possible for some companies to get the attention the game needs and often deserves at the launch.
For the case study below, we took a niche indie game that had zero traction at launch. Around 8 months after the launch the developers asked us to testpilot a PR push to measure the results in three areas:
1. Would the game be able to get coverage so long after the launch with no original traction?
2. Would coverage lead to any noticeable shifts in store traffic?
3. Would the traffic obtained be targeted enough to convert into meaningful actions such as purchases or wishlists which would potentially convert at a steam sale?
We focused the post launch PR push around a small content update the developers had prepared. Prior to the outreach, the game was averaging around 30 wishlists per day but very little sales conversion was occurring, even from historical wishlists. We formed a strategy around securing some small target influencers to take a look at the game on their streams shortly before we pushed out the content update announcement. This strategy led to some interesting results that convinced the developers to then roll out multiple content updates in the following months based on what they achieved.
· Influencer content from small, targeted influencers led to an immediate uptick in wishlists.
· The content announcement and subsequent coverage from media led not only to a rise in wishlists but also saw a 5000% increase in sales versus the 3 months prior.
· Major publications had the largest measurable impact on wishlists for the niche game and spurred direct wishlist conversions.
· Daily wishlists rose to a consistent 70 per day average compared to the 30 per day prior.
Overall we have seen consistent results from PR pushes for both pre and post-game launches. The effect is measurable and repeatable for many different games and genres. We have also observed games that have longer-term branding activations have more consistent long-tail success versus short-term gains. Some great examples are games that struggle to attract wishlists pre-launch as a measurable metric yet, due to brand recognition efforts, have fantastic sales upon the launch and seem to storm out of the gate very quickly regardless of wishlist numbers. That said, we still strongly recommend looking at wishlists as a good key performance indicator, but as a part of other KPIs too. Never put your eggs all in one basket. Don’t count your chickens until they have hatched, and other chicken-based phrases apply.