Maxi Gräff has been in the video games industry for 12 years, six of them with Microsoft. She started out at the International Data Group (IDG) where she wrote for GameStar and GamePro and founded the YouTube channel High5. After standing in front of a camera and producing daily videos about video games, movies and tv series for three years, she switched to Microsoft. She is currently overseeing marketing communication for Xbox in the German-speaking region.
You have been in the games industry for some time. And you have seen many trends come and go. From the beginning of your career to today: What has changed most positively in the industry, and what bothers you about the current situation?
The industry became more inclusive. There is so much progress happening in game development in terms of accessible gaming but also with representation & diversity in storytelling. There are specific jobs that focus on these tasks and in a more general sense I also see positive progress for women in gaming. However, despite all the great progress that has been made, we’re still at the beginning and there are many areas needing improvement. The great thing about this industry is that when it comes to inclusion, there is no competitive thinking and we’re all candidly sharing our learnings and developments with each other.
Which key learnings in marketing can other industries draw from the games industry?
In the video game industry, there is one thing that you want to sell before anything else: fun. With video games, we want to delight and put a smile on the faces of people. And this affects marketing and drives community engagement. The players are always at the center of this operation and the feedback loop, optimization and playout is an ongoing cycle that generates loyal customers. Think about your target audience at every step of the way and do nothing without them.
Who are your role models in the industry?
Jade Raymond was my absolute role model when I just started out, but I also stayed a fangirl of Bonnie Ross and Kiki Wolfkill to this date. For me, there are many role models in the community, like Melanie Eilbert and Dennis from Wheelyworld, who are actively advocating for accessible gaming. I also take my hat off to the developers and streamers who have been met with hostility but don’t let that stop them. There are many everyday gaming heroes and heroines that make gaming a better place.
How did the marketing and promotion of games change in recent years? Where are we headed in games marketing in the next years to come?
The digital proportion is growing steadily. Media campaigns are focusing on social and online. Even retailers set up new channels and increasingly address their target audience directly through social and digital events. I think games marketing is going to keep developing digitally and change content-wise – with focus on the community, storytelling and diverse content.
Which social media channels do you see as key for the games industry?
Instagram, YouTube, TikTok, Snapchat, Twitch, Facebook, and Twitter.
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?
There are networks and providers that automatically help with placing their products. That’s a good mechanic which is especially helpful in teams with limited resources to consider influencer channels in the own amplification plan. The biggest advantage: affiliate marketing and programs where both sides profit from.
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?
PR is and continues to be an important element. Some companies link PR with marketing, some draw a distinction between them. I’m a fan of the latter. PR isn’t a form of advertisement, but an equal partner in communications. One that provides safety and maintains relations and results in a positive positioning. But PR also fights for an equal voice because it doesn’t have clear figures like marketing does. The challenge is and continues to be the measurability of measures with adequate tools and also the mindset in leadership teams. At Microsoft, PR sits at the same table with the management which tends to be the exception than the rule.
Which project / topic in your career are you particularly proud of?
One of my current projects was the „Women in Gaming“ controller which we’ve realized in partnership with Serviceplan and Fijak. We rebuilt the controller so that it can play voice lines. I gathered different voices from the international industry who recorded a positive message. We then sent the controller to influencers in more than 20 countries. The feedback has been very emotional and at the center of the campaign was the message that everybody is there for everyone.
Treasures and Insights
from leaders in tech and gaming around the globe