Skillz Blog

Testing Tips For Developing Marketing Creative For Game Launches

Author: Nathan Proctor, Creative Strategist at Skillz

Kevin Costner lied to us when he said that “if you build it, they will come.” He was, of course, talking about a baseball field. But the same inspiring but ultimately overly optimistic philosophy can be applied to new game launches as well. Why? Because it doesn’t take into account that consumers are exposed to around 4,000 to 10,000 ads each day or that there are over 4 million apps available in the app store. Marketing matters. In fact, it matters a lot.

But have no fear. We’re going to walk through the 5 steps that the Skillz creative team takes when preparing for a new game launch.

Step 1: Identify Your Audience

If you don’t know who you’re speaking to, how effective do you think you can be? Relevance is crucial to effective advertising, especially when you don’t have massive marketing budgets. Imagine, for example, being a 70-year old widow who was just shown a sneaker ad full of 20-year old hipster models. If what you have to say isn’t relevant, then all the hard work you put into the product will go unnoticed.

The truth is that not all gamers are alike. So the first step is to ask yourself “who’s my audience?” What’s their age? Their gender? Their marital status? Their habits? Their likes and dislikes? If you don’t have access to this kind of data, then do a little market research (Google is your friend) and look for player demographics by game genre. It’s a good start. Although you may need to pay for a detailed report, this upfront cost, if used appropriately, will give you a much better chance at marketing success.

It’s perfectly natural to be overwhelmed by this amount of data. So it can be extremely helpful to create a small number of customer profiles to put a face on your audience. For example:

  1. Amy: 30-year-old single woman living and working in a large city
  2. Brenda: 30-year-old suburban mother on maternity leave
  3. Mary: 30-year-old married and working woman who has no children and is living in a rural area

Once you have these profiles, you’ll be able to think more thoughtfully about how your game fits into the lives of your players.

Step 2: Find a Purpose

Let’s be honest for a moment. Well-recognized studios putting out their 4th game in a popular series may be able to show the gameplay in order to convince the audience to play the game. But if you’re not one of those studios, it pays (literally) to be honest with yourself and recognize that your game by itself is often not enough. Instead, understand that your game must fulfill a need in someone’s life, maybe one people don’t even know yet. If you can speak to something your customer wants, then your customer is much more likely to respond.

Let’s say, for example, your customer is Brenda. She’s on maternity leave with her two-month-old daughter and spends a majority of her time at home. She may not consider herself a gamer. But the fact is that she always plays games while she’s nursing her daughter. As such, she needs a game she can quickly pick up, put down, and pick back up again. At the same time, she also needs a game that’s relaxing. After all, her life is hectic. She’s getting very little sleep.

In sum: If you speak directly to Brenda’s specific needs, she’s much more likely to give your new game a try.

Step 3: Ideate

Let’s come back to Brenda. You’ve already identified two important audience insights: time and relaxation. But there are obviously several ways an ad can speak to those needs. Your task in Step 3 is to come up with a handful of different ways to do just that. You might, for example, come up with the following:

  1. Concept 1: Show a mom taking care of her baby. Be authentic and honest. Avoid cliches as much as you can. Show that being a mom is amazing and difficult, especially when she has to wake up at 3 am to feed her newborn daughter. Which is the perfect time to play your game.
  2. Concept 2: Showcase Dad coming home from work. It’s finally Mom’s time to relax for a few minutes. It’s been an exhausting day. Brutal even. She takes a bath and then plays your game. It helps her decompress.
  3. Concept 3: Gameplay is the focus. Show how relaxing it can be – almost meditative. Show the game being paused and then unpaused. Then end with a smile.

Notice how Concepts 1 and 2 only show the gameplay at the end. This is not the industry norm. Allow me briefly to explain why more game marketing must buck this trend.

It’s a natural instinct to place your gameplay at the center of your ads. You’ve spent countless hours developing it. The game design is beautiful. The gameplay is captivating. But the harsh reality is that the digital media landscape is filled with gameplay-only ads and, as a result, players have a difficult time distinguishing one game from another, much less feeling motivated enough to click an ad, install an app, and start playing a game. That’s why we strongly advocate for thinking beyond the game. It’s one of the most effective ways for your ad to stand out from this sea of sameness. Remember that people see 4,000 to 10,000 every day. Gameplay isn’t enough to stand.

In sum: First identify a problem (based on your audience insights in Step 2) and then position your game to address and speak to that problem.

Step 4: Produce

Video is king. Why? Because it captures and sustains our attention. Keep in mind that videos don’t have to be expensive to produce.

At Skillz, we use a lot of stock photography to create a video slideshow. Be careful using stock assets though. They can come across as inauthentic, which undermines how customers perceive your message and your game. If you google “authentic stock photos,” you’ll find several websites that cater to this kind of asset.

One last thing. Don’t be afraid to create ads that utilize user-generated content (otherwise known as UGC). Beauty isn’t everything. In fact, it can sometimes hurt you. Polished animations and motion graphics can signal to people that your ad is, in fact, an ad, which, as a result, will often lead people to automatically filter your game. Getting seen is half the battle. User-generated content is often more likely to be seen. Embrace it.

In sum: You must create videos, but don’t be afraid – there are inexpensive and creative ways to make effective videos.

Step 5: Game Launch (First & Second Wave)

To ensure you have the most effective game launch possible, it’s recommended to break your game launch into two waves. During the first wave, you want to test out the different creative concepts that you developed for each customer profile. This will allow you to collect and analyze data so you can determine which concept is most effective. If you’re interested in learning more about how to measure campaign effectiveness, then check out the blog “How to Market Your Mobile Games in 2019.

Once you have identified the most effective concepts, then it’s time to start developing iterations based on those effective concepts. When you’re fully prepared, kick off the second wave of the launch by ramping up spend on your campaigns.

All Skillz-powered games are infused with short and sweet competitive tournaments that provide players with the ability to compete for virtual currency or real-world prizes. Our own creative marketing team has found this is a highly convincing value proposition, which is consistently leveraged in creative for user acquisition purposes. If you are interested in learning more about how Skillz can help engage, retain and monetize your game, then check out for more information.