Since 2021, Leya Jankowski has been editor-in-chief of MeinMMO, Germany’s leading multiplayer site. She started out in late 2016 as a freelance editor at MeinMMO while studying marketing at the Stenden University in the Netherlands and writing articles about games. That’s how she got started in gaming journalism. In 2019, she was offered a job as brand manager of MeinMMO where she worked in the areas content planning, project management, team leadership and brand awareness.
As editor-in-chief, Leya is leading an editorial team of six permanent employees and miscellaneous freelancers. She is the person in charge of content and responsible for the content strategy. That includes a podcast that MeinMMO initiated last year which offers their multiplayer expertise in audible format now, too.
You have been in the games industry for some time. And you have seen many trends come and go. From the beginning of your carrier to today: What has changed most positively in the industry and what bothers you about the current situation?
In the games journalism, we only partially belong to the games industry. We mainly report about the industry and its games. And today we have to work much more journalistically than during the advent of the first video game magazines. To me, that is a positive change.
In the past, it was important that the questions of ‘what’ and ‘when’ were answered: What is this new game and when will it be released? And naturally, once the first review copies are available, the question of ‘how’ becomes relevant: How good is the game? These questions are still as important as ever, but today, it’s even more crucial to represent the complete range of those ‘w’- and ‘h’-questions.
Players are getting the pure and plain facts from so many various channels on the internet nowadays. Publisher have become much better in terms of distributing their news via social media channels or their own launchers. These news end up on Reddit, Discord or other forums in a heartbeat. And with streams on Twitch or YouTube, you can comfortably form your own opinion on the game and its gameplay.
So, now what would you still need us for? Well, first and foremost for classifying plain facts. Nowadays, a huge part of our coverage consists of explaining why a certain game is received so positively or negatively, how hype for a game originated on Twitch, why all of a sudden everyone in your favorite game plays with a certain weapon.
Moreover, social topics are becoming more and more relevant for video games which we are also covering and classifying accordingly. Whether it’s the current lawsuit over sexism against Activision Blizzard or the movement to bring more diversity into video games.
What bothers me the most about the current situation is the hate which is sadly spreading on (a-)social media far too often. When I see how developers are getting death threats because of certain content in a game I get angry and sad. Although that problem is not exclusive to the games industry.
Which key learnings in marketing can other industries draw from the games industry?
From my point of view the games industry is indescribably great in creating strong communities around their products. That’s just naturally the case due to the fact that many of us feel passionately associated with video games.
Video games are such a strong medium because we are actively engaged, we control the action, and we can immerse ourselves in them like in no other medium. That affects us. And in the case of multiplayer games, we even experience the medium with others and thus form connections and create memories together.
A hardcore fan of a video game will defend it to death. Or passionately rant about it, which can absolutely affect the development of a video game. Anyhow, it is loudly being talked about and information is distributed. Good luck finding anything similar to this type of behavior in the context of other products.
Who are your role models in the industry? Is there anybody? And if so why?
Even though he may not directly be a personal role model to me, Jason Schreier is someone whose accomplishments within the gaming journalism I greatly respect. He is known for his inside reports about the conditions under which video games are made.
The reports about crunch, exploitation or sexism in video game companies are largely driven by him. He built up a reputation as the one you talk to if you want to speak about abuse anonymously.
Speaking in marketing terms, he was able to create an own brand surrounding him. Anybody who is interested in the games industry knows his name and his work and that is certainly a remarkable thing for a games journalist.
However, I also think that he is pursuing a certain narrative, which is why you could view his coverage as ambivalent. Nevertheless, I think his coverage is socially relevant and crucial.
How did the marketing & promotion of games change in recent years? Where are we headed in games marketing in the next years to come?
Twitch sets the agenda. Twitch is the fastest way for us to see which games will be talked about in the coming weeks and which won’t. Because we at MeinMMO are always looking so closely at Twitch, we were among the first that covered games like Rust way before most even realized the increasing hype for the game.
Games that are successful on Twitch generally promote aspects that elicit strong reactions and emotions among streamers. Possibilities to interact with others like with Among Us or Valheim are also very important because they offer potential for cross-promotions with other streamers. This can result in quick boosts of range. Many studios are already developing their products with Twitch and streaming in mind.
Which social media channels do you see as key for the games industry?
We obviously follow the official channels of publishers because we can get some information out of them, too. Industry insiders like Daniel Ahmad are good contact points to get a deeper understanding of the industry.
Other gaming portals are important to draw inspiration or get news from. We also follow individual gaming personalities people know from YouTube or Twitch because we see them as an extended arm of the communities.
Forums like Reddit or comment sections are particularly exciting for us in order to see what’s currently on the players’ minds and what they are thinking about.
About the current trend on creators and influencer marketing: The trend towards more micro and macro influencers with a smaller reach and less fans, but more authenticity and engagement: How can the games industry leverage that trend in your opinion?
I think the games industry is already doing a pretty good job with that. I generally follow the apparent marketing campaigns of big blockbuster titles because I’m personally interested in the marketing strategies. And here I observe a healthy mix of range and smaller influencers that are known for certain game genres.
The media landscape has changed massively in the last ten years. However, PR is still one of the most important communications tools in the games sector. Where do you see PR in the next five years, what will the challenges be?
I honestly haven’t really grappled with the role of PR so I can’t really answer this question.
Bonus question: Which project / topic in your job were you particularly proud of?
When the pandemic began and it became clear that there won’t be any chance for physical events, obviously E3 was also off the table. But then people stayed at home and sometimes couldn’t really do anything else other than playing video games. People were thirsty for game recommendations because they had so much time to play.
With Webedia Gaming, which MeinMMO, GamePro and GameStar are part of, we started our own digital event called “Find Your Next Game” without further ado. That was a huge, overarching project with an event stream, videos, a huge number of articles, interviews, and previews.
The event was so well received, it became a regular format for our gaming brands. I’m extremely proud of the fact that we could provide players with an alternative and were able to make the best of the situation.
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