Start a video game website sounds awesome, doesn’t it?
It’s probably because you get paid to talk about your love of gaming. It’s also probably because you want to give back to the community. Whatever the reason, it’s an awesome idea.
That’s not to say you won’t have challenges when building this gaming site.
There are some big, established players in the market.
Plus, lots of online personalities across Twitch, gaming forums, and in-game soaking up the attention.
It takes a lot of hard work to go pro as a video game streamer.
The gaming website will definitely help with that.
You’ve got a job cut out for you!
Building a Video Game Website: Press Start and Earn Money like Lootboxes
I’ve been a gamer all my life.
I vaguely remember my parents owning an Atari 2600.
But, it wasn’t until my introduction with the NES in the 90’s that my fascination for the genre really took off.
Fast forward all these years and my collection of systems and games have grown immensely.
Coincidentally enough – my fascination with the Web and online business grew at an equal pace.
Then one day it dawns on me that a stab at affiliate marketing – with video games – might just be an immense opportunity
After all, I knew I had spent thousands on gaming – surely others have (and continue to do) as well.
The following is a primer if you’d like to get into starting a video game website.
I wanted to introduce this topic because video games are a big deal — it generates more money than Hollywood.
So, you can see this is quite the prime choice if you’re trying to find a good niche.
Part 1: Get (Kinda) Deep into Gaming
I can’t stress this enough: you need to play video games if you want to talk about them.
Think of gaming the same way you think of fanatical football lovers. They get active. They’re playing the sport. They’re on the message boards discussing the games. They’re doing research and chasing rumors to find juicy new details. They’re following the developers on social media. They’re sharing videos and writing about it all the time.
Gaming has an adoption cycle.
From a gamer perspective you’re generally lumped into:
But the reality is that there’s a huge spectrum in-between.
This is because, like with any hobby or interest, you start with the basics and eventually go deeper into the subject.
Some individuals stick to casual games due to a variety of reasons (time, financial, etc) while others devote their existence to gaming (buying at launch, producing shows, and more).
The casual games you’d expect would be ones often found on the app marketplaces or commonly seen via Facebook games.
Really, these are simply games where the skill level is low — they’re the type of games to pass time and have fun without getting too involved.
Hardcore steps it up via competition, difficulty, learning curves, time investment, niche genre, and more.
These are those types of individuals that usually treat gaming as their main form of entertainment so they’re willing to put in a lot of time.
There are also those that consider themselves pro gamers (professional gamers that actually earn an income from their gaming), retro gamers (those that stick to the older games), and you could even throw in those that consider themselves arcade gamers.
I’d recommend if you want to do the video game affiliate thing you stick to that middle ground.
The middle ground (the core gamer) will give you enough perspective to understand the genres (along with experience playing the games and consoles).
Will prevent you from getting too deep.
When you’re too deep you start to over analyze everything and often get somewhat smug about gaming – it’s best to be a neutral voice when you’re first starting as an affiliate then start niching down and developing a brand.
The First Step in Building the Video Game Website
Really, the “research” that comes with getting into the video game niche is all about just playing games and following the industry. This is one of those affiliate markets that’s truly fun, all-around.
Here are some steps if you want to go deeper into it all:
- Pick up a few games that are on the charts for your phone and computer.
- After you’ve played through them make your way to consoles.
- Start with some of the classics then make your way to the newer systems. At the same time – start reading video game news sites, message boards, and following video game channels on YouTube.
- Talk with people about gaming and make gaming conversations part of your normal chats.
- Put in an hour or two a day just for gaming (and more if you’re getting hooked).
Phase 2: Carving a Niche to Stand-Out in the Market
There are many different game genres on the market.
Right now, it’s all about battle royale games.
The types you choose greatly depend on your level of gamer (remember in the previous post about casual, hardcore, and all the in between?).
You’re in no way cornered to play just one genre of game. On the contrary, a broad mix of games will give you a better understanding of the industry and a better perspective when describing the experiences, features, and technical leaps.
To look at a few of these along with an obvious example:
- FPS – Call of Duty
- Action – God of War
- Fighting – Street Fighter
- Platform – Super Mario Bros.
- MMO – World of Warcraft
- Survival Horror – Resident Evil
- RPG – Final Fantasy
- Simulation – Second Life
The task of listing out all the genres would be a truly daunting task — have a look at the following image created by Reddit user NcikVGG.
This also happens to show the adoption of these games and their platforms.
Now the big questions are:
- Where to start?
- Which to choose?
- How can I be different?
Usually, you would turn to a keyword tool and research to see what the market demands but as I’ve said video games are quite saturated by content creators already.
Choosing your niche should be more about your voice rather than the game.
Everyone has access to games (as long as they can afford the investment or if they choose to take a more illegal route of obtaining them). This is the reason you shouldn’t have to focus on just the big AAA titles.
Choose the games that interest you.
There’s a reason for this:
- You’re going to enjoy the experience
- You’re going to discover a passionate player base
All of this reflects on part 1 about becoming a gamer – you have to try different things.
There are some genres that you’ll absolutely loathe (and that’s okay) while others you pick up as if they were second nature. In the beginning, you want to identify with those types of people like you.
The Second Step in Building the Video Game Website
Here are your action steps for defining your niche within the video game niche.
1. Play (a lot) of different games
Go further into each of the genres of video games by using sales charts.
Also use other roundups provided by gaming websites like Polygon, IGN, or Metacritic, to choose a handful of titles that define the genre and then give them a whirl.
2. Fall in love with a genre
Narrow down your selection of favorite genres and then explore a handful of additional titles for each of those sub-genres.
3. Discuss and debate gaming and the industry
Use social media and your knowledge of Google to search for those currently playing or discussing your favorite games. Hop onto Twitch.tv or YouTube to watch others devoted to the genre you’ve come to love.
4. Figure out what you’re bringing to the scene
Begin the process of discovering your unique selling point – what makes you different when it comes to talking about the games and from others already there in the market.
5. Create some content and get feedback
Run a few practice blog posts doing reviews of the games you’ve been playing or record gameplay videos of your experience while offering commentary. Pass this along to those you’re following or your gamer friends for feedback. Find what you can do differently based on this content you’ve produced and refined your style even further.
This may take a week or a month – it depends on how much you’re gaming, how quickly you pick up the subtleties of each, how you see yourself different from the rest.
Phase 3: Creating the Video Game Website
I’ve made quite a few websites in my time to the point that I see it as a process you can do in about an hour or two (for the basic stuff) – the latter part of this list may take you some time (like producing content and the whatnot) but go along with me, here:
1. Purchase the domain name
Pick something edgy or a homage to the video game industry.
There is plenty of “videogamereviewsblahblah.com” type sites out there.
Go with a name that’s easy to remember but definitely stands out from the rest.
2. Get the hosting together (and WordPress)
Lots and lots of web hosting providers out there.
You probably already have a favorite so just do an add-on domain.
Otherwise, choose a fresh one just in case you feel the site will really take off — you don’t want it disrupting the other sites in your account.
Once you’ve got the domain linked I would recommend you install a CMS like WordPress.
WordPress is very easy to manage and there are lots of great gaming themes available for the platform.
Resource: Our guide to setting up a WordPress blog.
3. Get a gaming-related theme
I wouldn’t recommend going with the everyday blog feel for your video game website unless you want to go really low key in the beginning.
Instead, I’d say it’s worth the investment to search marketplaces and provides.
Because developers have taken the time to create themes catered to the video game niche.
They usually include:
- The ability to easily create reviews
- Built-in forum support
- Drag-and-drop page builders
- Galleries and sliders
- eCommerce modules
- Wiki-like features
Once you’ve got that configured I’d also recommend you install some WordPress plugins to the site to add to the features and flexibility.
4. Get the site structure right
I would highly recommend you take a look at other sites already out there like:
These will provide you with a solid foundation as to how you can structure your video game website.
Generally, it’s a matter of:
- Having categories for the main systems and pages
- Using subcategories for the genre of games
- Using tags for the game
If you were to think of it as an e-commerce page it would be: Main Page -> Product Listing -> Product.
Again, use what’s already working for these types of sites and make the necessary tweaks to turn it into something of your own.
Creating Great Video Game Content Your Community Will Love
I’m sure you’ve got some experience creating content already — but game content is a little different.
The content benefits greatly from having a personality.
You could do Let’s Plays and generic reviews that’ll get some traffic.
But, the best video game websites have an edge — sometimes controversial — that keeps people talking. They come for the game but stay for the banter you provide.
The big draw of your website will be in the reviews.
This is because gamers want an opinion about a game before they give it a whirl (just like any other product or service).
This is the prime time to stand out with your personal opinion of the work and your knowledge of the industry.
The second biggest piece you can put together is generally the first looks which give your followers a glimpse of a game they may not have known about (or have been passionately following).
To do this – you have to make the connections with game developers, publishers, and PR.
This takes time but if you know your way around pitching ideas and networking, then you may get a jump on other sites in your niche.
The third – that has become wildly popular gameplay videos which could be just you playing the game, you streaming the game, or something put together by the game development team.
Video games are a visual medium so it makes sense to feature as many videos (and pictures) as you can.
The fun extras
Other forms of content you may want to include are features (in-depth analysis of game features, tropes, and other anecdotes), lists (for doing round-ups, buyer’s guides, and opinions), and interviews (so you can not only build those relationships with developers but also give readers the inside scoop).
The Third Step in Building the Video Game Website
1. Go through the steps and set up your gaming site.
2. Begin brainstorming a few big features for the site along with getting in touch with developers to see if they can share juicy details about their game (and if they’d like to do an interview).
3. Play the game demos (and full releases) while recording so you may stream or upload these videos to YouTube and place them on your website.
4. Go through your backlog and review games you’ve played and create a gaming schedule so you can continually pump out new reviews as soon as you can after a game is released.
5. Start using your analytics to see what’s working well in social and search engines – then repeat that type of content to fill out the site in categories that could use the buffer.
Sounds about like a normal routine for a video game website, right?
The difference, here, is that you’re basically combining the act of doing case studies (i.e. playing the game and reviewing the experience), journalism, and big, evergreen pieces.
You’ve come this far … now it’s only a matter of building the community and earning some coin.
Phase 4: Leveling Up Your Online Presence
Social media marketing, search engine optimization, video marketing, content, and all that jazz gets the job done when it comes to growing your audience and community.
There is no doubt that I believe you already possess the majority of these skills even on a fundamental level (which is actually more than enough for the niche since many gamers don’t really push the marketing angle because they either don’t know how to do so or they don’t like doing the actions).
However (of course there’s a however) …
Gamers are a fickle bunch.
It’s important to understand that many gamers do keep their finger on the pulse of the industry.
They understand the things like:
- When companies are blatantly trying to overly promote and hype a launch
- When companies change their terms of service or back down on their promises
- When companies do a bait and switch with the products
In an essence – they are smart about the whole marketing thing because it’s like any other industry – there are times when they are burned and others when things go way better than expected.
What I’m getting at is that your promotion, marketing, and relationship building needs to be sincere and avoid feeling too pushy.
You have to grow naturally.
Sure, you can pull out all the stops and use every marketing trick in the book but this is likely to just get in the way of your community.
They want to get in, see some cool stuff, follow a cool individual, and then get back to gaming.
You cant treat this like a solo playthrough
Another thing is that you have to play ball with other video game content creators out there.
Some fighting here and there is good for the community if it gives opposing, valid viewpoints but gaming is meant to bring people together and by buddying with fellow enthusiasts (instead of starting a flame war) you’re more likely to pull some of their community into yours.
Gamers don’t rely on just one source for their video game news, reviews, and gameplay videos – so remember that as you’re putting marketing strategies in place to grow.
Growing as a Gamer and Streamer: The Marketing Side of Things You Can’t Ignore
Now let’s take a look at some of the ways you can get a start in this whole thing:
Most major gaming websites have a community board. This is your area to shine. You can do write-ups, share your feedback, and begin building relationships at this place because it’s a mecca for gaming enthusiasts.
It’ll also give you the chance to leave comments and start to know the names in the industry which you could later use to reach out in an attempt to bring them back to your community.
Similar to the above is a strategy I’d highly recommend because you can get the chance to leave signatures, links, and build a profile which will help drive people back to your website.
Perhaps the best way to go about gaining fans is to start doing daily live streams of your gaming activity.
This puts on a show for people to regularly tune in and within the profiles for these streaming sites.
With Twitch being the biggest, you can encourage individuals to follow you on other social channels.
The biggest thing with Twitch streaming is having a fun, engaging personality.
Of course, it’s always good to get a few shout-outs and run contests to bump up those numbers.
But, people tune in for the bants.
Images, GIFs, and VODS
Images are easy to distribute when you share them to image sharing websites and communities like Reddit.com/r/gaming.
- Saw something funny in the game? Take a screenshot and get it up.
- Know some video game facts? Make a little series about them.
Watermark your images and it could trickle in some people.
Don’t be afraid to get in touch with fellow gamers outside of the games.
Buddy up with people and get to know them on a real level.
Surely they having gaming friends, too, and even a small group of 10 – 20 people, in the beginning, can lead to a couple hundred once you start to take off.
Plus, you could invite them to create content which they’ll feel compelled to reshare since it’s their work.
Get out there and attend the local tournaments. Rub elbows with the organizers that put on these events.
- Do a write up on your site
- Sit down and chat with the other gamers instead of just competing
- Mention you’re running a site and would be happy to have them on it sometime
Otherwise, host your own events.
Get that Facebook fan page going and start using Twitter to reach out to gamers and gaming journalists.
You can use these types of lists to get a start then dig into their followers which should give you enough gamers to build a strong community.
The Fourth Step in Building the Video Game Website
1. Start really digging into the communities and now their enthusiasm, the vocal individuals, and those closest to your type of gamer.
2. Start building a list of regular contributors, authors, and gamers that create content.
3. Get active on a handful of forums (or put all your focus into just one) and the other, main social channels.
4. Sit down and talk with people to build real connections outside of just video games and get them back to the site either as a regular or contributor.
5. Track and measure each promotional technique. Weed out those activities which aren’t delivering so you may put your focus into those that do.
Community building is the same for any website, really.
The difference, in this niche selection, is that you really have to go above and beyond to bring people back over because once gamers are established with a community they tend to stick to their chosen few. Give them something more by building a one-on-one relationship with them.
Do things one at a time until you’ve reached a solid 100 or so true fans and then start making the big plays.
Phase 5: Making Some Coin and Monetizing Your Video Game Website
You should realize something about monetizing a video game website:
- Don’t go too overboard with the ads because it gets distracting
- Use a healthy mix of physical products with digital goods
- You find peripherals and other gaming-related items to promote
- There are always sales on digital distribution channels and marketplaces
How you monetize your site is your own business but I would recommend you have a look at what others are doing (big sites and small sites) which will often give you an idea of the big promotions and campaigns which you could match if you’re confused as to where to start.
As far as monetization methods go:
- CPM – The big player in this market is CPMStar which is solely focused on the gaming niche. They provide the campaigns and resources like banners, site wraps, and other adv media.
- Marketplaces – The easiest choice would become an affiliate on Amazon which you could use to link to games and gaming related items (they also often do big sales during the holidays). Other sites like G2A has an affiliate program, GreenManGaming.com, or you could recommend the rental service GameFly.
- Digital Products – Yes, gamers buy a lot of digital products – it’s mainly leveling, cheat, and gold guides.
- Direct Advertising – Try using those connections you’ve built with gaming companies and teams to run advertising campaigns directly with them (instead of a third party).
- Adsense and PPC – Lots of companies advertise on the PPC advertising platforms which would be worth a try. You may want to keep the ads as images since they will blend in easier.
- Partnership – Perhaps your YouTube channel will take off and you get the chance to become a partner which earns significantly more compared to the average Joe producing videos. There’s been some controversy with YouTube cracking down on gaming videos but they’re holding up for the time being (but we’ll have to see how things pan out in the future).
- Sponsorship – You could solicit sponsored posts for your website. Get in touch with the companies or teams and see if they would like to put something together.
- Donations – Nothing wrong with asking for donations for all your hard work. Gamers generally have money so a $5 here and there isn’t going to hurt ‘em.
A combination of these would be best.
If you were to ask me I’d say:
- Use the CPM stuff for doing the image based ads
- Use marketplaces to list games and related items
- Work on building that partnership with video sites
As always – experiment with what works.
You may find doing list posts of games (with affiliate links) to be a good money maker while others do far better with the CPM model. You won’t know until you give it a try.
The Final Step in Building the Video Game Website
1. Brush up on any of the information contained within this series to see if you’ve omitted one of the steps or having tried out a strategy.
2. Start testing the various monetization methods and leverage other websites as a source of inspiration and research when it comes to choosing campaigns.
3. Develop a healthy mixture of income streams through these methods as time goes on so it’s less likely that you’ll see a major disrupt by only relying on one.
So, that about wraps it up.
There’s been a whole lot of information (and a whole lot that couldn’t fit).
Get out there and do your research on the niche.
Sit down and play those games.
Connect with gamers.
Keep working on that video game website.
Start making some coin.