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22 Nov 2013

Marketing Your Educational Game

Yesterday, I wrote an article detailing how indie developers can develop educational games that are actually fun. It came at a proper time as well, as the educational market (especially on mobile platforms) is heating up and becoming quite a profitable niche. Yet while I was writing the article, I found myself wondering how indie devs can actually market their game. Sure, the educational niche may be seeing growth, but when you’re trying to pitch your ‘educational’ game to the masses, how can you ensure that people are actually going to want to play it? After all, who wants to be told they’re actually learning, right?

In the same way that developing an educational game that doesn’t feel ‘educational’ (i.e. knowledge isn’t being shoved down the player’s throats), so too is it tricky in marketing this type of game. Yet, it’s possible to do so by following a few tips. Within no time, you will certainly have enough people interested in your educational game.


But first: do you want your game to be strictly an ‘educational’ game?

In other words, is the goal of the game simply to be an educational tool? Do you want to play your game? Are you content with marketing your game towards only students, educators, and/or parents? If you are, then contact individuals in the educational niche and pitch your game to them. I highlighted this a few months ago in my “The Art of Pitching Your Game to the Media” post, so follow these tactics with a focus on educational blogs, publications, etc. rather than gaming publications (although if there are publications dedicated to educational games, strive to contact them too).

It bears repeating as well: do not aim solely for top publications! As stated in the post linked above, ‘scatter’ your pitches to small sites, blogs, YouTube personalities, and so on that focus on educational content. Again, follow the tips in the post linked above, and you will be on your way to marketing your educational game properly!


For everyone else – do you want your game to be ‘educational’ yet fun?

Do you want your game to be a little less Elmo’s 123,’ and a little more Civilization and Kerbal Space Program? If you do, then continue reading because the rest of this post details how to market your game in a way that details that it is fun for everyone yet players are going to learn a little something along the way. Again, it’s a balancing act to be sure, but with careful consideration to how you market your game, you will be successful.


Highlight the ‘synopsis’ of the game first, ‘educational’ components secondly

What do I mean by this? Think about different game descriptions you have read for games marketed to strictly educating children and games with educational components. When reading a description for a children’s game, right away the description mentions the educational components of the game. Again, this is where it pays to know your audience, as parents/educators are 99.99% of the time reading these game descriptions. They want to know how it is going to help their child learn to learn.

On the other hand, with a game like Civilization, the game mentions that players are tasked with building a civilization that will ‘stand the test of time’ while treating the fact that players will be learning about leaders throughout history, wonders of the world, and so on as an afterthought.


This accomplishes two things:

  • It entices everyone, not just parents/educators.
    • Learning along the way isn’t even considered as the focus is on the gameplay.
  • The historical accuracy is treated as a sign that the developers focused on inserting vast amounts of detail into the game.
    • The Assassin’s Creed games does this very well, in that it treats using historical accuracy as a sign of quality instead of a hindrance
      • By this logic, educational elements = attention to detail.                                                       
      • They do not = an educational game that is going to force players to learn.


By the logic above, even the upcoming Watch_Dogs is an educational game, in that much of Chicago has been recreated, thus teaching players all about the architecture and the city of Chicago as a whole. When adding educational elements become treated as a dedication to focusing on details of the game, you have certainly hit a ‘sweet spot’ with marketing your indie game, in that it becomes much easier to pass your educational game across as a game with solid gameplay that may ‘accidentally’ teach players a little something along the way.


 Don’t solely state that the goal of the game is to educate the player

Your everyday gamer does not play a game to learn. They play a game to escape, to let their mind wander, and to be free of the duties of their lives. Yet, when they play a game such as Sim City, they are learning about city planning and how to balance happiness and wealth among their city. When playing a game such as Kerbal Space Program, they are learning about physics. Again, when playing a game such as Civilization or Assassin’s Creed, they are learning historical facts that will stay with them for the rest of their lives.

Ask anyone who Roderic Llançol i de Borja is that did not play Assassin’s Creed II, and they will probably have no idea who you are talking about. Ask someone that played the game, and they will tell you that he was the head of the Catholic Church until his death. These players learned something, yet if they knew they were going to learn anything from playing the game, many of them may have opted not to play it in the first place.

Thus, my point is this: never state that your game is going to educate the player. Again, your average player doesn’t play games to learn, they play them to escape. Treat the educational elements of your game as an attention to detail rather than making it the goal of your game, and players will be more inclined to play it.

As you can see, marketing educational games is tricky. They have a certain stigma to them to be sure, and especially if you want the masses to enjoy your game while learning, you need to be creative with how you approach the marketing of the game. Yet it can be done, and if done successfully, players are going to be enjoying your game while learning a little something along the way in no time!

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