Gaming_CoverAs I write this, I’m gearing up for the “Best Four Days in Gaming” – Gen Con 2014. Gen Con is an annual convention attracting more than 50,000 attendees hosted here in Indianapolis. The convention showcases the latest and greatest new creations and ideas in the table-top gaming world. Yes, I said “table-top.” Think less Xbox and Playstation, more RISK and Dungeons & Dragons.

Gen Con is an amazing experience because it brings together brands from the top of the top in the collectibles and toys world and plops them right beside smaller, independent brands who are looking to make a splash. It’s a grand battle of marketing prowess with companies of all business styles, ethics and sizes trying to match each other’s advertising dollar for dollar. In other words, an absolute dream for a someone like me, a marketing geek who’s also an actual geek!

For the majority of the larger companies like Wizards of the Coast and Mayfair Games, the marketing for Gen Con and their overall branding is a day in and day out process. I’m personally inspired by many of the innovative techniques and approaches these brands are constantly taking to up their digital game (pun intended.)

Gaming As New Media

Analog gaming has seen a massive resurgence in the last few years. There has been a gradually weaning off of video games and mass media, and a shift back into the living room, where players are encouraged to spend time having real-life interactions with their real-life friends and family.

We’ve seen the exact same sort of shift in the world of marketing, with campaigns focusing on the direct relationship between business and consumer and bringing humanity back to how we perceive brands. I love how- if you look closely- this match up between gamers and marketers makes perfect sense. We’re all focused on creating the best user experiences and connecting with audiences.

Let’s look at some brands who are doing things right:

Table Top Video Series with Wil Wheaton

Famous actors are putting their voices behind the new emerging popular and social trend of board gaming and geekitude. Geek & Sundry- a private media production company owned and operated by film industry gamers- has developed a series of scheduled videos for YouTube showcasing the many different cross-sections of the gaming lifestyle.

TableTop– a video series produced by and starring Wil Wheaton of Star Trek fame- focuses on normal, non-gamers enjoying table top games. The show is “family and friends oriented,” and aims to remove the stigma of board gaming for the average viewing audience. The producers hand pick only the best and most group-involving games to showcase how games can bring out awesome creativity and form lasting memories. And they achieve all of this through beautiful, well-shot digital video!

The show itself is credited as single-handedly eliminating the “games are for nerds” stereotype in the general population, leading to soaring growth in the games publishing industry and among brick-and-mortar shops nationwide.

The true innovation is in the presentation: A series of regularly scheduled videos on YouTube, akin to traditional television broadcasting, but accessible on the go from anywhere. Their advertising is purely digital and mostly word of mouth, which is also a major feat.

Daily MtG Website

I love traditional trading card games. There is something super refreshing and dangerously addicting about ripping open a sealed pack of cards and delving into its hidden contents. The newly redesigned website for  Magic: the Gathering trading card game emulates these same emotion-driven elements, and I couldn’t be happier.

Within the last few months, the web development and marketing team for Magic: the Gathering has made a big change in aesthetics from an old-school blog roll to all black, minimalist design. The new site has a forward focus on mobile reading, with close attention to the swipe and touch functionality of tablets and smartphones. They have obviously recognized many of their readers are coming through mobile search or “direct” mobile traffic and have adapted accordingly.

Wizard of the Coast (the company who published Magic:the Gathering) has even gone so far as to update all Magic related digital branding to reflect this aesthetic change across the web. They’ve even developed their mobile-centric card game to match the new color scheme and aesthetics.

This is a company doing big things in a very saturated market place. The good news is, they are getting it right. I hope to see even more of the large game publishing houses learn by Wizard’s example with the new Magic website. I also hope these examples will help give you a jumping-off point for your next website redesign or digital marketing strategy.