Why Influencer Marketing is the New Go-To UA Strategy for Indie and AAA Devs

Ray Bautista, head of biz dev at Turbo Studios, shares why the team went all-in on influencer marketing, how the strategy affected the soft-launch strategy of Super Senso and how they plan to continue to utilize influencer marketing post-launch.

This post originally appeared as part of Chartboost's quarterly Power Up Report which, this quarter, focused on the impact of influencer marketing on mobile games.

In 2013, a group of AAA game veterans (employed by the likes of Nintendo, Zynga and Kixeye) decided to leave their comfy gigs behind to create a small, independent studio in hopes of changing the way mobile games are experienced.

This team behind Brooklyn, N.Y.-based Turbo Studios didn’t have a groundbreaking technology up its sleeve or a new genre to introduce. What they did have was the willingness to acknowledge that the current system of mobile game user acquisition and community building was broken: high CPI costs and the big guys—their former bosses—always ending up on top.

Instead of releasing a suite of mobile games to combat this on day one, Turbo took its time to study the industry. Eventually, they landed on what they think is the key to a new wave of UA and engagement: influencer marketing.

“More than 90 percent of our marketing strategy and our UA strategy is going to be focused towards streaming platforms, towards video creation through content created by social influencers,” says Ray Bautista, who worked at Sony Games before becoming head of business development at Turbo.

After three years of research and development, Bautista and team are gearing up to release their debut title: turn-based strategy game Super Senso—which has already gained momentum in soft launch as a result of their influencer strategy.

Here, Bautista talks about why the team of vets is all-in on influencer marketing, how the strategy has affected the game’s soft-launch strategy and how they plan to continue to utilize influencer marketing post-launch.

How have you seen the marketing and UA strategy for mobile games change over the years?

The mobile audience has matured. I think when it comes to the old-guard philosophy of casting the widest funnel possible to see what sticks, continuing to pump money into a UA campaign to help with churn…the mobile community is no longer accepting of that.

I can really see the shift now with companies like Super Evil Megacorp. Even though Hearthstone was originally developed for PC, their success was based on mobile. And even Supercell, with Clash Royale. It’s all pointing toward games of substance, games that have strategy behind them, games that are competitive. And the audience is savvy enough to understand.

And these strategic games rely heavily on community, which the influencers have. Is this why you’ve focused so much on influencer marketing for Super Senso?

Super Senso is unapologetically going after the core, mid-core competitive audience. Yes. For us, it really boils down to community building. Even if we had the funds to have the current traditional user acquisition campaign, even if it’s our main strategy to acquire new users in our title, it wouldn’t work for our game because I really believe that the return on investment and the type of user you get and acquire from those traditional campaigns is throwaway. These traditional UA methods aren’t targeted towards a core gamer, an individual that will actually understand our game and our play style. Sure, players from a traditional UA campaign will download the game, they’ll install—which, at that point, counts as an acquisition—and probably delete it 10 seconds later. The influencer space, on the other hand, really hits that community we’re after.

How have you seen influencer marketing affect your soft launch?

It’s really been about determining not only who the evangelists and champions of our community can be; but it’s also about building a foundation of players that not only get the game, but also are loyal to it and really help us, at an organic level, spread the word about how awesome the game is.

From an influencer perspective, there isn’t any better way to do that and to reach these folks than through them. The influencers have built these amazing communities that trust what they say, trust that if they are actually cosigning on a game and saying, “Hey, you should try this out,” that they would only be streaming it if it’s something that they believe their community would like. And at that point, if it’s something their community’s going to like, we’re talking anywhere between hundreds of thousands to millions of players. That right there is better than any traditional mobile UA that I can think of in terms of investment.

You’ve seen some success in the soft-launch with influencer marketing, but what does the strategy look like post-launch?

We’re in it for the long haul. Our play is the long tail. When we look at post-launch as it relates to influencer campaigns, we want to try to make everything we do as authentic as possible. What we’re hoping to do, as we want to keep the game going and as we want to continue to build the community out, we’ll continue to not only creating community hooks that will get streamers and content creators and gamers excited, but also pick top-tier content creators to work with them to create the content they’d like to see.

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