Thorsten Hamdorf worked for various companies in the games and film industry in marketing, sales, product management and business development, also in leading positions, among others for Eidos Interactive, Virgin Interactive, Paramount Home Entertainment, ATARI and dtp entertainment. There he was responsible for both regional and international marketing. Since 2014, he has been Head of Marketing, Market Research and Member Services at game – Verband der deutschen Games-Branche.
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?
What really excites me is the evolution of the industry as a whole. Today, the industry is more diverse, more diverse and more inclusive than it used to be. That’s great. And as a medium, we’re reaching a lot more people today, male and female, young and old, on so many platforms and with so many different game offerings than ever before. All of that contributes to a greater variety of games that are created by allowing many more people to give free rein to their creativity, reaching and enriching people all over the world.
What bothers me about the situation today is the phenomenon that some people can’t seem to cope and behave badly as a result of this growth and with this broadening of the industry. With the increased reach of our medium and the digital channels of today, unfortunately, the likelihood of troublemakers who create a bad mood in the community and abuse the medium for their own purposes and views also increases. And some particularly noisy groups thus contribute time and again to a bad image of our industry, ensuring that it has a bad reputation and is considered toxic in places. That’s annoying for the perception of our industry and our medium, because it’s actually so wonderful and the people are predominantly so open, warm and passionate, as you can also experience at gamescom, for example.
From a marketing perspective, on the one hand, it is of course fantastic nowadays that the majority of advertising activities can be measured and evaluated. On the other hand, digital distribution and advertising have led to a massively intensified competition for visibility.
Which key learnings in marketing can other industries draw from the games industry?
Two old wisdoms: Change is the only constant. And if you don’t move with the times, you get removed with time. The games industry has always been quick to adapt to technical innovations, to drive them forward itself, to find new ways and to demonstrate a pioneering spirit and creativity. It is therefore very innovative, tries out new things quickly and continues to develop rapidly. For example, new marketing models such as free-to-play emerged and became role models for other industries. The industry is also very good at customer acquisition and community management, which in turn is very attractive for many traditional service industries such as banks or insurance companies. And games are good at making complex information easy to understand, e.g., through tutorials, customized learning curves, progression, interface design, etc. All these elements are examples of motivational design that can also be exemplary for other industries (keyword: gamification).
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?
Everything is new and yet everything remains the same, just repackaged and adapted. In the past, there were TV commercials with testimonials and PR was the key to success. Today there are influencer collaborations and social media campaigns. So, there are always new platforms for distribution, more and more A/B testing and metrics. The battle for eyeballs has become tougher. But what always remains important: the creative idea. You have to light the spark. The potential to go viral is greater today than it used to be, but it’s harder to achieve. We see a trend toward increasingly individualized communication, stronger customer loyalty and upselling.
Which social media channels do you see as key for the games industry?
After all, I no longer am marketing products, but am active for the association. We therefore rely on the channels that enable us to reach the key players that are important to us. These channels are Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram, as well as Slack as a closed group.
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?
With the right themes, games can achieve excellent results here. Many smaller influencers together also result in large ranges and are partly more favorable, as well as more cooperative, since they still want to grow. And with smaller influencers, you can sometimes also address more pointed target groups more precisely. Ultimately, it’s all a question of fit.
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?
The challenge will continue to be visibility, credibility, and authenticity. All media, whether journalistic formats or influencers, have to finance themselves and therefore need reach. And this reach requires attractive topics. Here, it is always a challenge to find the right mix between top titles, pearls, niches, and own personality. PR will therefore continue to face the task of standing out from the crowd, identifying multipliers, and generating reach in order to spread its own messages.
Bonus question: Which project / topic in your career are you particularly proud of?
Phew, each station had its own challenges and successes. It was an honor to work on such great products as “Deus Ex”, to celebrate sales successes with “Drakensang” or to have accompanied classics close to my heart such as “Once upon a time in the West” or “Star Trek” with innovative campaigns. In my current position, I am proud to have made a significant contribution to the fact that today we have a single, strong, and powerful association with more members than ever before. I was able to contribute to this with strategy, market data and sales successes, as our entire team here works professionally and with passion for the industry and the medium of games.
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