How the law of familiarity can help you sell more games

Are you familiar with… the law of familiarity? You should, because it’s one of the most important tricks you can leverage to sell more games!

Think about the last game you bought. Was it a game you’ve never heard about before? Unlikely. Was it a game that you saw mentioned on your Twitter feed once or twice, with artwork you recognize from a YouTube thumbnail and gameplay that seems familiar because of a Twitch stream you watched the night before? Of course it was, because that’s how most people make their purchasing decisions.

Choose which button to press meme with "keep scrolling" and "buy" as the options
decisions, decisions, decisions…

What is the Law of Familiarity

You may not notice it, but the law of familiarity drives your decision-making. People tend to choose what they’re familiar with, especially if they have to pay for it. Imagine your fridge breaks down, and you go to the store and have to pick between all the brands. It’s very unlikely you’ll choose a brand you’ve never heard about, because people have the tendency to think “If I’ve never heard about it, it can’t be any good“.

On the other hand, they are much more likely to pick a name that rings familiar. If one of the creators you follow has played the game before, and you’ve scrolled past some YouTube video’s talking about that game recently, then it must be good, right?

How to use the Law of Familiarity to your advantage

Most game developers are aware that game marketing is crucial, but that doesn’t necessarily make it an easy service to sell as a marketing agency. Think about it, you’re selling something that doesn’t have tangible results. You’re selling “exposure”. The results of a marketing campaign can’t just be measured in sales, because it can have a very long tail. A great marketeer will make sure that your audience gets exposed to your game through a variety of channels. Why? Because of the Law of Familiarity!

When scrolling through a large list of Steam discounts, most users don’t even pay attention to the games they’ve never heard about before. But if they scroll by a game they’ve seen mentioned on their favourite news outlets, podcasts and social media, the odds of that user being stimulated by your game increases exponentially.

Leonardo Dicaprio meme of him pointing at something he recognises.
You want them to do this when they see your game

That’s what marketing is. You want to be on the mind of your potential customers. You want to be known. And to do that: your game needs to stick. The key to making something stick: repetition and recognition.

The Rule of 7

Who knew pirates had to worry about so many laws and rules, right?! The Rule of 7 states that your audience has to see or hear about your game at least 7 times to become familiar with it. That’s why there isn’t something like “being too early” when it comes to game marketing. It may take a long time to get the attention of your audience at least 7 times.

Fry from Futurama waving a handful of cash with the text "Shut up and take my money ... but only after I've seen your game 7 times"

Create a Twitter account and share weekly insights into the development of your game. Try out TikTok. Go to events. Apply for awards. Think of ways to engage with your players. Look for YouTubers and Twitch streamers to create content for your game. Send out a press release to news outlets. Create Reddit posts. Offer review copies to journalists. Let your favourite podcast host interview you. Run social media ads. Apply for Steam events.

There are so many ways to get eyes on your game and the more effort you’re making, the higher the chances of your audience becoming familiar with your game. Granted, running a marketing campaign takes a lot of time, knowledge and experience. That’s why we made game marketing our whole focus. So if you have any questions, make sure to reach out!

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