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What We Can Learn from Manga Marketing

A few days ago I had to clean up our storage unit. One of the boxes I took home was part of my manga collection. As a new rule of thumb I don’t work on weekends (but I’m writing this on Saturday- whoops!) so I spent the day rereading some of then. Since I’m a shounen junkie, a lot of them are from Shounen Jump. As I finished a couple of them, I noticed that at the end of every manga they had a straight-forward marketing strategy…

Let’s take a look at the end of a handful of mangas to see what I mean. I’ll list out a few different mangas to give examples of different advertisement strategies.

Yu-Gi-Oh! Volume 2

All of the Yu-Gi-Oh! manga are printed via Shounen Jump. This manga is a collection of the stories that were originally published in the Shounen Jump (weekly) magazine in Japan and later translated in English in the early 2000s.

Every YGO manga contains a small puzzle at the end for readers along with additional translation notes, but after that it contains ads!

(Remember, read these right to left)

The first 3 pages are full spread ads for other Shounen Jump manga- these include the main characters, how many volumes are available, a logline for the manga, and where you can buy it.

The next page is an advertisement for the Shounen Jump monthly manga (as in America it was a monthly edition, at least when I read it). This includes an exclusive deal for readers…

…as well as a call to action! “SUBSCRIBE TODAY and SAVE 50% OFF” and a quick way to subscribe by mail-in order (remember, this was early 2000s).

The next page is a quick front-and-back survey for readers. Note how basically all of the actual questions are checkboxes- it’s quick and easy to fill out.

It’s a mail-in survey so I doubt they got many responses… but it’s still available for readers!

So in summary, the back of this manga includes:

  • 3 full page advertisements for other similar media, including a pitch and where to buy it
  • 1 full page advertising their monthly subscription along with a deal and call to action to subscribe
  • Survey for readers

Keep this in mind, this will become relevant later… for now, let’s see what other manga do.

Bleach Volume 1

The Bleach manga, similarly to YGO, was first published in the Shounen Jump weekly magazine in Japan before being compiled for volume format.

First we have a preview of the next volume and then an advertisement for a lesser-known Shounen Jump title that’s by the same manga artist, Tite Kubo.

After that we have an advertisement for something else Bleach-related, an artbook + manga collection.

After that we have 5 pages of advertising other Shounen Jump manga and media.

And to end the manga there’s a survey (this time online- this manga was first printed in 2004, a couple years after the YGO one) as well as a call to action to subscribe to the Shounen Jump weekly magazine, this time with 3 ways to subscribe rather than just mail-in order.

In summary, this manga has:

  • An advertisement for media of the same art style and similar tone
  • An advertisement for like media that is in the same IP
  • 5 full page advertisements for other similar media, including a pitch and where to buy it
  • 1 full page advertising their monthly subscription along with a deal and call to action to subscribe
  • Survey for readers

Yu-Gi-Oh! Zexal Volume 1

This manga for Zexal was printed in 2012 in English, almost a decade after the original series was printed in manga format and is by a different team. This manga, despite being part of Shounen Jump, has very few advertisements and bonus features.

That’s it. There’s one page for advertising another Shounen Jump title and that back of that is just a “you’re reading this the wrong way” page. No page for advertising other YGO manga (as by the time Zexal started there was 5 other YGO manga storylines) or related media.

Blue Exorcist Volume 3

The Blue Exorcist manga was printed as part of Shounen Jump Advanced, an offshoot of Shounen Jump meant for a slightly older teen audience (16+ rather than 13+). This volume was first printed in 2011 in English.

This manga was surprising in that it has 14 (front and back) pages of extras and bonuses before advertisements.

The advertisements section starts with advertising 2 other Shounen Jump and Viz Media properties with full pages. After that there’s an advertisement for Hulu as it has adjacent media with titles from Viz Media.

The last advertisement is for the Viz Media app which advertises new content weekly as well as free previews, albeit not in the most eye-catching way.

In summary, this manga:

  • Contains lots of bonus features which can encourage readers to purchase further installments
  • 2 full page advertisements for other similar media, including a pitch and where to buy it
  • 2 full page advertisements for various ways to interact with their collection of media

What does this mean for games?

We’ve looked at some anime stuff but let’s bring it back to video game marketing- how can we use these examples for indie games? Look at these pages as blueprints for ideas you can incorporate.

Advertising Other Games

Some of the manga had advertisements for other similar mangas owned by the company- we can use this as an example on how we can market our other games. Shounen Jump’s advertisements for other manga by them were effective not only because of how the advertisements looked but also because of their branding. Like I mentioned before, Shounen Jump was a weekly manga in Japan targeted at 13+ boys, so all of their IPs have similar audiences. Keep this in mind when cross promoting your games- who are their target audiences?

Here’s a few ideas on how you can do cross promotion for your games.

Steam Bundles

On Steam you can put your games in multiple bundles which are featured at the top of the Steam page. This can be a great way to cross promote games in a series as well as your other games.

Here’s an example taken from the How to Take Off Your Mask Steam page where roseVeRte has put her games in multiple bundles.

itch.io Embeds

Itch.io allows you to embed your games on your other game’s pages, so if you have similar games you can cross promote them. For example, I made a free side story for one of my commercial games and linked the demo for the full game in the description.

This one embed accounts for a fair amount of the views on the demo page!

itch.io Collections

On your profile page for itch.io you can display collections- this is a great way to let players know where they can easily find games of similar genres or types! For instance on my profile page I have my games in categories depending on romance type and if they’re free or not.

This is a great way to show players other games they might be interested in when they visit your profile. After all, if they played one girl x boy game by you and clicked on your profile then they most likely want more like that.

About Us Screen

Most games have an About Us screen ingame and this can be another place to talk about your other titles. While I wouldn’t recommend going too flashy with advertisements, acknowledging that you have other titles similar to the one the person is currently playing can be a decent way to cross promote.

This can be a simple “Our Other Games” link or something longer such as “If you like sad visual novels then check out x, another title by us”.

End of a Demo

A demo is just a short preview of the full game, so make sure players have a call to action at the end of it. For mine it’s typically either “wishlist this game”, “follow us on Twitter”, or “fill out this survey”, but for the purposes of this article your call to action could also be “check out our other games like this here”.

Advertising the Same Series

Some of the manga advertised other media for that IP such as art books and collector’s editions. For games we can equate this to something like DLC or merchandise.

Similarly to how we discussed above, this can be done on the store pages or in the game itself. You can bundle DLC together on Steam as well as include it in as an embed on the itch.io page. On itch.io you can also have custom images to show off merch.

This is a screenshot from the itch.io page for Lonely Wolf Treat by nomnomnami where they have a banner for merch for the game.

Include a Survey!

Get opinions! What do people think of the game? Where could it be improved? Include a survey! Even when you could only mail it in, manga still included a survey for readers. You can easily include a link to a survey in your About Us page or at the end of your demo to see what people think.

Other Calls to Action

I hope by now you’ve got some ideas for ways you can cross promote your works within your games. Just like how you can ask players to fill out your survey, you can also ask them to sign up for your newsletter. Get creative with your pitches!


Well, I hope my 1.5k words about how we can learn from manga was informative! If you want to read some more of my thoughts on indie game marketing, check out these other articles.

Partnering with Similar Audiences

9 Things I wish I Knew Before I Started Game Dev

Cutting (and Adding) Scope from Games

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