You Know What's Made BDO So Popular? Streamer summit1g
Video game marketing grew past simply having a cheesy commercial on TV. Nowadays, companies are using Twitch streamers and YouTubers to get the word out. The success of Undertale is one of the best examples. While the creator was already well known for his work on Homestuck and a popular Earthbound hack, the main reason it got so much attention was because of a 2013 demo sent to popular YouTubers and streamers. It gathered exposure and popularity at that time, leading to a massive explosion on release. It's not the only game marketed like this in the last few years.
Korean Studio Pearl Abyss released Black Desert Online in the US and Europe in March of 2016. The game itself made a lot of interesting promises such as a wide open world, player driven economy, a focus on a variety of skills such as cooking or gardening, personal housing, and ship construction. Interestingly, it's kept many of these promises on release.
While Pearl Abyss isn't a small studio per say, the game did have a tiny presence in the west. The game didn't get any attention from mainstream audiences outside of a shrinking group of MMO fanatics. To make things worse, the game's release was a disaster, similar to that of the original Final Fantasy XIV. It's a relatively accepted fact that a bad launch will reflect in an MMO's longevity. Releasing on Steam was one of its last gambits for survival.
Enter summit1g. The popular twitch streamer just reached 2 million followers and averages 21 thousand viewers per session. He's been streaming popular games daily for over three years now, gathering up a dedicated group of followers simply through time, effort, and charisma.
When Black Desert Online released on Steam and gained some popularity, a group of viewers bugged summit1g to play the game until he caved. A later conversation with fellow streamer Destiny reveals that summit1g was actually lost on what games to play, and never thought he would pick an MMO up. Nevertheless, he spends a lot of time grinding up in the game now, with the help of donations from his viewers.
summit1g's impact on the game is notable. When the game first released on steam, it averaged around 17 to 18 thousand concurrent players a day. After summit1g started streaming, you can see it slowly rise to around 23k-24k players a day. Furthermore, since he started playing the game, fellow streamers joined in to take advantage of its new popularity, further spreading the word of the game around.
This is becoming a common practice in the industry. Game developers are constantly sending demos to YouTubers and streamers prior to release to drum up hype and day one sales. This is especially important for small developers that don't have the resources big AAA studios do. Since they probably can't afford an eye-catching stall at an expo or proper marketing, community advertisement is their most reliable way to spread the word.
Streamers are an important part of our culture now. Game marketers should take note of the impact streamers can have on the survivability of a game. If a popular streamer takes notice, the game can become a hit across the internet. If nobody takes notice, it can inevitably become buried under a flood of other games.