Social Media to Comic Con & Beyond
An Update on Promotions to Bring More Players Into the Arcade
by Adam Pratt, Game Grid Arcade & ArcadeHeroes.com
Happy IAAPA Expo everyone! As this had to be written well in advance of the event I can only guess at what will be there for all of us to see. From all of the buzz I’ve been hearing about 2018, it promises to be a “quarter cruncher” of a year.
2017 has been good to me, with my business growing at the fastest pace I’ve witnessed since the initial opening period almost 10 years ago. I will take this opportunity to discuss a subject that is central to my expansion efforts of a new location and new games –– promoting the business.
This is a subject that I’ve covered before, but it is worth updating. We can start with the basics: promotion through Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. It’s free and doesn’t take up a lot of time, but I’ve seen little growth across the three platforms this year. I continue to experience the issue of having more engagement from outside my state, which while I appreciate the interest, doesn’t ultimately help my bottom line. So I try not to spend too much effort here, except with YouTube where I have been seeing a little bit of traction. I recently obtained some extra video equipment that might help me improve the quality of my videos, but that will take some practice and testing.
While those are the most popular social media platforms out there, they aren’t the only ones. This year I have opened accounts on Instagram, Gab and Mewe as well. I’ve seen next to nothing on Mewe yet so I haven’t put much work there, but with Instagram and Gab, I’ve been seeing a lot of engagement. Instagram in particular seems to work much better with local hashtags (such as #slc #utah or #utahgaming) than other platforms, so that has been great for attracting some local interest. Both accounts, as of this writing, however, have under 100 followers so I’ll continue to occasionally give them a little extra fuel and see where it goes.
I have spent some marketing dollars beyond social media. We’ve continued to do a Groupon, but have seen that slow down considerably. It’s probably time to come up with a new deal to attract gamers during the holidays. We did have a local newspaper reach out to us to do a coupon through their popular website, but it only brought in a few people over the month that we paid for, so I didn’t renew.
Then there was getting involved with the Salt Lake Comic Con once again. As one of the largest “Comic Cons” in the country (rivaling San Diego and New York in attendance), it’s kind of a no-brainer to take advantage of the event. Most modern arcade games are based on a license that is tied to comic books or geeky stuff in general so that makes it easy to attract people. This year we took our Star Wars Battle Pod, Batman, Ms. Pac-Man and Pac-Man Battle Royale games again; they were joined by Galaga Assault, Ghostbusters pinball, The Simpsons, Rampage and The Walking Dead. From the pictures I took at the event, this was great for expanding my social media outreach and we gained a couple of new regulars. The games earned well, too, so all-in-all, it was a big plus.
The next marketing project I am undertaking almost cost me as much as taking games up to the Comic Con, but I’m hopeful that it will keep players coming over the long term. I am still hammering out a few of the details at the moment, but I have the most expensive part of it taken care of: game patches.
The idea is to build on something that Activision did back in the Atari 2600 days. They created unique embroidered patches that they gave away to players who sent in a picture of a high score. I designed and ordered several different designs from American Patch and recently received my first batch to experiment with. These cover various genres, promising to “certify” players in the fields of Sharpshooter (light-gun games); Starfighter (space games); Ace Driver (driving games); Golden Age Master (retro games); Pinball Wizard (self-explanatory) and more.
To reward a customer with a badge, I am combining the idea of “achievements” while tapping into my experiences as a Boy Scout earning merit badges (I reached the rank of Eagle a month after I turned 14). I’ve worked up a set of requirements for each patch that needs to be satisfied to earn it. It has to be more than just get a high score on one game. I want people to have to work a little bit for it.
I am still working on a few requirements to ensure a balanced approach, but once complete, I’ll use my YouTube platform to explain it to potentially interested customers and we’ll see how it goes from there.
Hopefully, it will garner more interest than when we attempted an achievements program a few years ago. We attempted to mimic what the Galloping Ghost Arcade had been doing with an achievements program, but for our location, it didn’t work out.
Here’s to the revised approach working like a charm!
Adam Pratt is the owner and operator of the Game Grid arcade near Salt Lake City, Utah. He also publishes the Arcade Heroes blog site and serves as an advisor for the web-based game supplier BMI Worldwide. He can be reached at [email protected].