Magazines and word of mouth were the primary medium of news for gamers in the late 80s and early 90s. The internet had not yet taken its place in the larger conversation – and that meant that it was much more difficult to distribute and consume information about the games we longed to play. Nintendo Power, Computer Gaming World, Electronic Gaming Monthly, and a bevy of other gaming publications all had a piece of the media pie. You could pick these up at your local game store or even the corner 7/11 to get your gaming news fix and learn about upcoming games, cheats, and strategies.
The Way We Consume Media Has Changed
I remember gathering around my friend’s desk at school in ‘96 to try and catch a glimpse of the soon to be released Nintendo game Super Mario 64 in his copy of Nintendo Power. Times have changed…for better and for worse. We’re in an era of digital content now. Physical video game magazines are fondly remembered but unfortunately relics of the past, relegated to dusty shelves and dim libraries.
Creating content for the consumption of a loyal and enthusiastic fanbase has never been an easy undertaking, but now it must be done for a national and often worldwide audience. Before any piece of content can be written, you must start with a plan in mind. What purpose does it serve, who will read it, and where will it be published? Each factor collectively influences the effectiveness of that content. These are content marketing fundamentals for a digital gaming audience.
Building a New Digital Audience
In the wake of the late 90s and early 00s online news boom, publications like GameSpot and IGN rose to prominence. GameFAQs largely replaced the usefulness of providing tips, walkthroughs, and cheats in magazines – because now they were available in depth and for free. Newspapers have been facing this same digital dilemma for years.
That brings us to the main challenge facing traditional publishers: free content. Tactics shifted and magazines started sending disc based demos for subscribers. They’d include additional benefits like exclusive interviews and screenshots, but as online publishers grew so did their own unique content. By the mid-to-late 00s, you didn’t need magazines to get console demos any longer – they were available to anyone with an internet connection just as they’d been for PC gamers in the past decade.
Where online pubs really began to pull ahead was in their sense of community. Forums and comment sections brought in a whole new audience that wanted to connect and share with other fans. In the ‘boards’, many nerds found that their opinions resonated and appeared for all to see…far more often than if they were to send a letter to the editor.
Online connectivity enabled the creation of digital marketing strategies that encompassed social networks, video sharing, media coverage, and bloggers all in one place. These strategies are employed to create online advertising that resonates beyond just gaming.
Providing Value to Global Readers
Creating content that matters to audiences is difficult if you don’t understand why they’rereading your publication in the first place. For any publication in digital or print to maintain and eventually grow their audience, they should apply the principles of content mapping.
- Understand your customers (in this case, readers)
- Identify useful existing content and relate it to your readers
- Discover weak points in your coverage and expand creatively
Digital gaming publications have thrived because they largely understand that their primary audience is interested in the cutting edge of tech in addition to gaming. They consume content on the go and from a variety of devices, like phones or even gaming consoles. They crave immediacy. Instead of waiting a month to read up on the latest game, they can instead hear about it mere minutes after the big announcement or unveiling. Game production studios livestream from conferences and conventions with gaming reporters, giving audiences simultaneous access to live events.
Gaming is no longer a niche interest. Digital games media has thrived specifically because video games and the advancement of technology are fundamentally linked. Nothing will replace those nostalgic moments with print magazines, yet they will never again rise to the prominence they once enjoyed. Digital video game content is here to stay.