In the past 5-6 years, Youtube and content creators have had a huge influence on how well a game does. From people watching walkthroughs to content creators who play video games and upload it on Youtube as their primary source of income and every day, people watch hundreds of millions of hours of YouTube videos and generate billions of views. These people are your core audience who love games like us. It is important to better understand them and the Youtube community to market your game properly.
So, I have been creating youtube content for over a year and a half now, and as of today, April 2017 I have over 85,000 subscribers and over 40 Million views.
So, I will be providing some insights as to how to understand your audience and the best practices that usually work and what is the cost associated with it.
Let's say you are not working for or making the next Uncharted 4 or any other AAA game, and let's even go further and assume that this is the first game for your studio ever! The most important question is how do you make people notice your game.
1)The best case scenario is your game going viral. But that happens to almost 1 in 10,000 games. So, assuming that doesn't happen to you, what do you do.
2)The second best scenario is making the youtube creators to start playing your games. This happens quite frequently because the creators are always looking for new games to show their audience. So, go and find the biggest channels that are out there and are playing games similar to yours, and contact them directly, either through twitter or youtube direct message. From what I have observed, Twitter works the best, so make sure you have a social presence there. I have had many companies and message me to try their games and it has worked and I have had conversations with people who have done the same thing. It works if it doesn't try it on the next biggest channel. Remember this is if you are a relatively new company.
3)The third scenario is to do a paid promotion. If you are going to do that, then obviously you would want your promotion to show on the biggest channels. But wait, that doesn't always work out. You need to find the channels that play games similar to yours, especially with their friends to get the best bang for your work. You need to do your research properly, you can also ask them about user engagement and how many clicks do they usually get on such paid promotions. On average if the channel is around 3-4 million subscribers, they will charge around 4000$ [UPDATE - It is 5x-10x or even more than this amount] for paid promotion in one video.
So, let's say you find your ideal channel and you are done with the promotion stuff. What guarantees that the person clicks on the link or goes and downloads your game, and if it is a paid game, what will make them buy it. So, let's take a look at some examples.
1. Any FPS game
So, if you notice almost every FPS game has some sort of mechanic to show the wow moment. For example, Call of Duty has final kill cam, even Overwatch has play of the game. The reason being it helps the creators to make a montage or "best of" videos which usually generate 2 times or more than 2 times the views than a normal video. I have done that many times in the past and it has always had a significant increase in views which means greater audience reach. So, having that montage factor is important in fps games.
2. Using a random generator for the gambling effect.
This was made popular by Fifa, where you use the gambling slot machine effect to get a character or a skin. The reason you need this in your game is that content creators like "reacting" and shouting as it generates significantly more views. It is one of the best methods to create views. Here is an example of Fifa pack opening
This video has 36 million views, imagine your game sponsored in this video. Such high numbers are usually for movie trailers and music.
3. Targeting for mobile.
One big detail that everyone misses out is that almost 60% of the views generated on youtube are from mobile devices. So, if you make a promotion video and put a link which on clicking opens a website that is not optimized for viewing on mobile, you will not be able to convert it into a paid customer. Here are my actual stats based on devices.
4. Multiplayer and Ideal playtesters.
As mentioned before, the content creators like exaggerating the emotions, and while excited and shouting take the highest spot, co-op and competitive games make them have their friends join their videos. One thing that you need to know about these creators is that they are your "ideal" playtesters. They want to make sure that the game works and it is perfect so the video is perfect. So, they will try their best to make sure that the game or story you create does not break. So, adding co-op and competitive will help them have a support that can cover up if the experience breaks. Also, seeing friends compete or play together makes the audience to associate it with their own friends and leads to them buying and even asking their friends to buy it. One of the best examples is H1Z1 / PUBG.
5. Targeting based on location and other analytics.
So, this is from personal experience, I have tested out different ways to see how the audience engages/ clicks the specific link. Youtube recently announced cards, which allows the user to go to a link or post polls which work on mobile devices as well. So, upon testing, the best result that I personally have found is putting the link or getting the card to popout around 0:30 seconds. The reason that I think is people don't want to see ads at the start when they are expecting the video and most of them don't stay for that long. Sometime around 2 minutes, people start losing interest and it maybe switches to a next video.
Youtube also provides data about the location of the views, and you can use that to find out where your core audience lives and maybe release special events for your content targeted towards the specific audience. Other analytics include the age and sex of the people that watch the videos, so you can use it to proper target your audience.
6. Where to find people
Assuming that Youtube is a fairly new community for you, there are some places such as Famebit.com and Grapevine.com which help you connect and match with your ideal channel. You can also find a lot of analytics for the channels that you are looking for on socialblade.com
So, to summarize, you should try it out with the second method and get the channels to play it without doing a paid promotion, because that has had the biggest impact on the sales, for example, H1Z1, Rocket League, Early Minecraft, Ark, PUBG. Also, make sure that the game has that moment which allows the creators to make a story, it really helps.