Three videogame marketers discussed what they love about their fast-paced jobs and how entertainment marketers might make the leap during a Promax Virtual Session on Thursday, titled “Pressing Restart: Building a Career in Videogame Marketing.”
Cindy Walker, senior director of platform marketing for Microsoft Xbox; Bailey McAndrews Gutierrez, associate director of brand management at Ubisoft; and Scott Hayman, executive producer and chief operating officer at Hammer Creative joined moderator Terri Schwartz, director of content strategy and partnerships at IGN, to discuss what their work entails and what type of people they are looking for when they hire.
Videogame marketing is not for the faint of heart, agreed the panelists—it’s an ever-changing and demanding world.
“If you don’t like working on products that are evolving and changing every single day until the day you release and probably beyond, this is not the industry for you,” said Hayman.
“The industry is always changing so you have to be reactive,” said Gutierrez. “But when it comes to ramping up for a launch, assessing risks and looking for opportunities, you have to be proactive. You have to be comfortable with change and uncertainty and you have to be the person who is driving forward and making sure you have a clear vision of what you want to accomplish.”
That’s especially when launch day is nigh, as Ubisoft is experiencing right now with the upcoming launch of Watch Dogs: Legion, the third iteration of the company’s Watch Dogs franchise, on Oct. 29.
Cinematic Trailer for Ubisoft’s Watch Dogs: Legion
While videogame marketing—and marketing in general—often requires practitioners to have lots of skills, it’s important to know where you shine when it comes to marketing yourself, said Walker.
“The best advice I have received since being at Microsoft is ‘know your superpower,’” she said. “You need to understand what you want to be known for. Honing in on that makes it applicable across a lot of different skill sets.”
For Gutierrez, who often works 60-hour weeks while being the mother of an 18-month-old, it comes down to one simple thing: “will this sell more game units?” she said. “In our industry we can do so many cool things, but that doesn’t mean you should.”
Breaking into videogame marketing requires some basic job-hunting tactics: networking, being up-to-date on LinkedIn and having, maintaining and finding new relationships, the panelists agreed. What you don’t necessarily have to be is a gamer, said Gutierrez, who doesn’t game herself but makes sure she knows her products inside and out.
“I have to be very active in understanding my product,” she said. “I need to be able to understand what sets my product apart and understand the trends in the industry.”
Another key component to successful videogame marketing is understanding and empathizing with the passionate fans out there, who hang out on such sites as Twitch, IGN and on game forums. While it’s easy to dismiss some particularly vocal fans as trolls, Walker said she tries to stay open when reading their comments.
“There’s always at least a little grain of truth in what they’re saying,” she said. “I try not to look at it like these folks are just squeaky wheels, I think about things like can we explain this better?”
And when it comes to hiring people, these three are demanding.
For example, Walker asks prospective hires to build her a “GTM deck” (go-to-market) on the spot, while Gutierrez asks them to describe how they navigated a difficult challenge at work. And hot tip: “I just got away from that guy,” is not the answer she’s looking for.
Hayman’s favorite question to ask interviewees is: “how do you manage stress?”
“This is a stressful business, so with this question you learn a lot about an individual and how they manage their stress. We don’t want someone on our team who keeps all of their stress inside and then blows up at the office.”
That said, much about videogame marketing is similar to entertainment marketing, Gutierrez said.
“Organization is key and I don’t just mean project management,” she said. “It’s also how you organize your thoughts. And I’ll go back to the beginning and echo what Cindy said: What is that key skill set that you are really passionate about? Try to find a role within an organization that really fits that.”
Videogaming is a relatively small and tight-knit community where everybody knows what’s working, what’s not and what the fans are super excited about. This year, according to the panelists, it’s CD Projekt Red’s Cyberpunk 2077, which all three panelists agreed is likely to be named “Game of the Year” even though it doesn’t come out until November.
Cyberpunk 2077 ‘Night City’ trailer
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