How to use esports as a marketing tool for your game:

My history with esports has been an absolute rollercoaster of discovery, excitement and joy that all started
way back when I stumbled across a TV Channel in the UK showing an MLG Halo tournament. Much to the
shock of my incredibly young self at the time this was popular to the point where they had crowds for this
stuff! Crazy right? That hobby of mine that only about four or five kids at my primary school were into was
being shown on TV to an actual audience. The seriousness of this discovery only hit when I went down the
YouTube rabbit-hole of the then ridiculously successful Starcraft scene, which led to Quake, to Dota 1, to
Counter Strike 1.6. Instead of watching the earliest forms of gameplay walkthroughs, or the popular early form
of YouTube memes at the time I was watching reruns of Starcraft, highlights of the latest CS 1.6 matches or
anything in-between. It wasn’t until I hit Sixth Form and worked on a Dota 2 League called ‘Delota’ with my
friends Joe and Jamie that the true extent of what esports means was understood. I was learning about
sponsors, how to advertise the league, how to source teams and get them interested. All of this made me
think: ‘Hey, this is a whole bunch more than just the pros playing their awesome high level of gameplay’ And
right I was. If you look at the esports scene now it’s awash with tailored advertisements, huge collaborative
merch lines, musical performances and prize-pools that attract every form of mainstream media.

What exactly is the point I’m getting at you might ask? Marketing. Plain and simple. Not only is esports a great
way to keep your community alive post-launch, it’s also phenomenal at showcasing your title to a wider
audience! Who doesn’t love a two-fer? So, with this article of sorts I’m going to somewhat attempt to break
down the ways in which you (As the awesome dev or other games industry type you are) can make the most of
the esports scene for your game. The important thing to remember is that all of this is meant to be scaled to
your own project, your own community, and your own budget. We can’t all be Valve or Riot Games. Another
thing this article does is serve as a way for me to get over my crippling sadness after losing many-a match
when I played on the Dota 2 and Overwatch teams for my university (I’m still getting over our absolute
shellacking at the hands of Durham).

Anyhow before I draw myself into an endless pit of despair at my esports ‘career’ – Here goes nothing:


1- Create Hype!

I’m sure we’re all familiar at this point just how far a good bit of hype can go. Hell, we’re now in the age of
trailers for trailers, for trailers. Its madness, but it works. Hype is the number one method to get people
talking, and not just talking in circles that’re already going to get hyped (That’s awesome, but not the key bit
here). The best bit is when they start talking to their friends who might not necessarily be involved in that
sphere of interest normally. I know I was a victim of this when I was first initiated into playing Fortnite, I’d
always been a PuBG guy but when one of my friends was like ‘Hey, want to chill in Discord and watch the
Fortnite tourney with that huge prize-pool’ I thought why not. Well, here I am now a few years on with solid
playtime every season.

When it comes to your own project, you need think to yourself just how you want this hype to go down. How
early do you want to start publicising your event? Who do you want to aim it to first? Where are you going to
do it? Some great examples would be in-game ads, maybe a temporary banner showcasing the date, what’s at
stake and all that. The number one thing is that you can’t be late with these things. Give people time not only
to consider if they want to watch it at all, but also if they want to consider competing! More competitors
should mean more interest, and that means more hype.


2 – Be on brand

Brand. No, not the game or the League of Legends champion. I mean straight up branding. This bit is
paramount to success as there’s nothing a community of dedicated players dislike more than something that’s
off-brand. This could be done through badly selected advertisements, the guests you get for your event, or just
how the tone of the whole competition is set. This section isn’t as in-depth as the other points here, but it’s
one that can link in with all of them. Create hype in a good way? You’re on brand. So on, and so on. I think to
this day a certain league is still recovering from having a specific ‘DJ-K’ perform at their inaugural season finals,
and that is absolutely something we all want to avoid.


3 – Highlight your community

Your community is key. Sure, you don’t have to kowtow to them if they’re all saying you should nerf something
about a facet of your game you know works just how you want it to, but when it comes to how much your
community loves playing your title that’s just a fact that cannot be ignored. No matter the size of your game
you’ll still attract content creators, MVP posters on Discords, and in more specific relation to this article,

There’s nothing your community will love more than a feeling that they’re appreciated (Which they are!) What
‘highlighting’ them means is obviously relative to what your project can allow. Is there a way to feature a
content creator in some sort of trailer for your event? Can you invite on a guest-commentator? What about
encouraging an art-contest? There are so many ways to do this, obviously this can go right back to the previous
section about being on-brand. Highlight creators you’re comfortable with but be careful not to alienate parts
of your community that’re important to the hype levels, and thus the relevance of your game. All this lines up
into some excellent free marketing, get those hashtags rolling!


4 – Collaborate

Collaborating ties in the most to that message of being on brand as well as hype. Whilst this might not apply to
all projects out there as it often lends itself to requiring a bit more clout it’s always important to keep it in

As esports gets more mainstream we’re seeing equally mainstream organisations try and get involved, be that
through musical artists (I’m still getting over seeing Darude play Sandstorm live at Dreamhack), the companies
that get involved in advertisements for your event, or even through something more unique like a
merchandise line that collaborates with an already established brand. The most famous example of this being
Riot’s choice to team up with Louis Vuitton at the absolute high end of the spectrum for collabs. However,
there’s a great alternative to this that focuses on smaller brands with bespoke designs. Do a bit of researching,
find some places doing great T-shirts, hoodies etc. and ask if they want to team up on a limited run to support
your tournament and game, the results might surprise you! The added benefit of collaborations like this is
adding a lovely bit of FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) to your event. Again, you can probably get the gist of this
now. Everything interlinks, and all of it comes together in a nice recipe to create a cacophony of awesome
marketing opportunities.

Limited time and esports linked gameplay events? Twitch drops to get people back to playing? There are so
many ways you can get players to feel that the event can benefit their gaming experience. Some of the best
examples of this would be Valve’s approach to ‘Compendium’ systems during their International event, or
Riot’s weekly activated missions during Worlds. Not only do active players get a reason to engage with the
esports event, but you might just get in a bunch of new players looking to snag those rewards that the limited
event is going to provide for them.


5 – Bring people to the game

This one right here? This is the golden ticket, the heavy hitter, the one we’ve all been waiting for. Because at
the end of the day, what is it we really want from extra marketing? You said it stranger: Players. Chances are
with the spotlight on your esports event there’s going to be gamers out there that’ll think to themselves ‘Hey,
why don’t I check that out too, it looks kinda fun’ and that is exactly the goal we want to have! Not only will
new players come to the game because of it but returning ones will re-install, hop-on and remember why they
enjoyed playing in the first place. You can always add to a desire for a player to want to check the game out
with some limited time events that’ll give players some rewards for playing during the window of the esports
event at hand such as XP boosts, exclusive cosmetics and so on. If all goes well, a number of these new arrivals
or returning gamers will stick around for longer, which in turn helps the health of the game as a whole.
As #Gamedevs we all know that it’s the community that decides if your game has the potential to head
towards producing esports activities through competitive play. However, you know your own game has
potential so be sure to plan ahead for any opportunity that arises.

That being said, hopefully you all get my drift. Marketing is key to the success of your game, and esports is a
way to supplement an already existing marketing campaign. It really is that simple! Now, again, this is
completely relative to the size, scale, and budget available to your game, but the main fundamentals stay the
same. The main thing to remember however if you do come around to planning and hosting your own event is
to make sure to keep it enjoyable. Don’t risk making the event seem boring, uninspired, or just a very obvious
attempt at getting people to try the game out. If you keep the community and the game at the top of the
esports iceberg so to speak it’ll all work out great!


If you are interested in learning more about this Ben will be doing a free webinar on the topic on March 29th
see for details.