Entries from June 2008 ↓

More eco rubbish from Greenpeace


You would think that the eco fascists would have enough to keep themselves occupied in the world these days without bothering with the video game industry. But no, they don’t. And the simple reason they don’t is that most of what eco fascists do is to garner self publicity. And the video game industry is a good target for getting in the news. So more suckers will give them money. In my book it is getting marketing a bad game.

In their latest report Greenpeace have rated Nintendo 18th out of 18 companies for being naughty with the environment. And what heinous ecological crimes have Nintendo committed to earn this accolade? The answer is because it had not provided data for the survey! Just how stupid can you get?

The arrogance of Greenpeace, a jumped up group of self appointed eco fascists. That they expect major global corporations to jump when they say so. And have a major fit of pique when they are, quite rightly, ignored. I too would do a Nintendo and tell them to get lost.

Just remember Brent Spar, where Greenpeace were caught out telling lies big time to the world’s press. And forced a major corporation not to do what was best for the environment.

In the meantime many species of shark are over 90% exterminated which is having a major global ecological impact. Sharks are the apex predator that removes the sick and weak, keeping the seas healthy. And Greenpeace are doing very little to halt the impending disaster. Because there is no publicity in it.

Paying for brands

In the 1980s it became apparent that you could make a game sell better by borrowing someone else’s brand. You could take an average Sinclair Spectrum game and stick a name like Robocop on it and you had an instant hit. And because people were buying a brand you were less likely to be pirated.

So we ended up with a long tradition of paying a lot of money to other industries just to use their name, even when it wasn’t even necessary. And as a result ended up harming ourselves very badly by not building up our own brands. Something you can still see today at Electronic Arts.

When I was at Codemasters we were paying a lot of money for the game rights to Colin McRae, TOCA (saloon car racing) and the LMA (football management). And I didn’t understand why because there didn’t seem to be any marketing advantage, in fact they carried many disadvantages. So to me it looked like we were paying a lot of money for nothing. Of course every time I voiced this opinion I was talked down. Except by Jim Darling, who thought that these people should be paying us for the publicity we were getting them. And he had a point, worldwide Colin McRae was far more famous for the video game than he was for his driving. In fact many Americans didn’t realise that he was a real person.

So it is interesting to see that Codemasters are doing the right thing and are migrating away from paying for these names. So Colin McRae is becoming Dirt and TOCA has become Grid. Names that cost nothing and that can become powerful brands owned by the games industry. Electronic Arts take note.

Eight news stories 26.6

    No marketing = no sales #2

    In part one we looked at the divide between development and marketing and the resultant stereotypes. Now we have a developers guide to marketing skills. So here are the attributes needed to be a good marketeer:

    • A sponge like ability to absorb almost infinite knowledge. The more the better. It is necessary to know everything about every platform, every competitor, every game, every magazine, every website and just about everything else in the whole of video gaming.
    • Technical marketing knowledge. This includes advertising, packaging, public relations, print, online community, sponsorship, competitions, events, exhibitions and loads more. To compound the problem none of these knowledge sets are static, all of them keep changing all the time. And for every country it is different, which makes a European marketing job a nightmare.
    • The intelligence to actually use all this vast amount of knowledge in the real world. It is not easy to have the clarity of vision to see through all the competing clutter and to know what to do and how to do it to get the best possible results.
    • Creativity. The best marketeers have loads of this, it is what marks them out. Without creativity you are stuck to marketing by rote, to doing what the other guy does and to a me too approach to the whole job. With creativity you can take the bull by the horns to deliver campaigns that inspire the public and which deliver results well beyond their budgets. Creativity is the most rewarding aspect of being a marketeer, seeing your ideas converted into millions of sales across dozens of countries.
    • A very thick skin. In marketing you are under immense pressure to deliver. From your bosses, from the development people and from yourself. And it is inevitable that you will make mistakes. If you aren’t then you are not trying hard enough. So you have to put up with a lot from all sides and still be cheerful, professional and the best possible at doing the job. Some mistake this thick skin for ego but it isn’t.
    • Hard graft. This is fundemental to good marketing. There is always more that you can do if you can only find the time to do it. Many times my day has started at 5 or 6 in the morning only to finish at 10 or 11 at night. Often day after day. Often at weekends. And often with the horrors of travel and jetlag. And nobody ever, ever says thank you. I have cancelled holidays and missed important family and social occasions because of work. But this is what you have to do if you want to do the job properly.
    • Faith. Not the reigous kind, but faith in the games that you are marketing. You really do have to believe without any doubt whatsoever that the best thing that millions of people can do with their money is spend it buying the game that your development team have created.

    There is more but I am sure that you are getting the idea. Not everyone working in marketing in the games industry is blessed with massive quantities of all these attributes, that would be impossible. But enough people are to have driven this industry from it’s bedroom coding past to being one of the major forms of entertainment globally. Time after time I have seen marketing in this industry that is simply brilliant. Yet the problem is that too few people actually understand marketing enough to appreciate this.

    Did Sony screw up the video game market?

    When the Sony Playstation launched in 1994/5 it had significant competitive advantages that enabled it to beat off the competition from Sega and Nintendo to become the dominant console gaming brand. Sony marketing concentrated on the fashion and trendiness aspects and targeted at the affluent 20ish male demographic. By the standards of anything that had gone before it was a massive success, but we know now that they were actually under-performing.

    It has taken Nintendo with the Wii and the DS to show us just how limited Sony’s ambitions were. Nintendo have revolutionised the market by going after the broadest possible demographic. All ages, all incomes and. most importantly, both sexes. The female audience was all but ignored by Sony and, in this alone, they were throwing away half their potential customers. Innovations like Eyetoy and Singstar that could have opened up the market for Sony were pretty much under exploited and it has taken Nintendo to show the power and marketing potential of a gesture interface. Despite Sony having the technology several years earlier.

    So now Sony are in a difficult position. Their current home console offering, the Playstation PS3 has no significant competetive advantage yet demands a premium retail price. It is mainly the cult of the Playstation and the attendant fanboys that sustain Sony in the market. But this is just a niche, a fairly broad niche, but still a niche. Microsoft, as the underdog, were far quicker than Sony to see what Nintendo had done and have massaged their offering in several ways to try and follow. However this market is ruled over by technological limitations and it takes two years to react in a significant manner.

    The real test will come with the next generation of consoles. The Playstation 4 and the Xbox 3. These will need to appeal to the widest possible demographic whilst offering a significant processing power hike and being economic to manufacture. Interesting times.

    No marketing = no sales #1

    Looking at the title “No marketing =no sales” you can see the obvious point that no matter how good a games, no matter how much it cost to develop and no matter how much work went into it there will be precisely zero sales without some form of marketing. And the more and better the marketing the more sales there will be.

    So you would expect the development people to love the marketing people. Because it is the marketing people who take all their hard work and convert it into a product that masses will buy, play and love. But this is very rarely the case in the reality of the industry. A part of this is due to the stereotypes that persist about the two very different sets of skills that are required in development and marketing. Here is a worst case scenario.

    The marketing guy sees the development guy as being a scruffy, possibly unwashed, sociopath who is completely disconnected from the real world and hasn’t the faintest idea what the customer really wants. Proof of this can be seen at the developer’s desk which is not only untidy but also covered in children’s toys. The developer never manages to get their work done in time so street dates are rarely met and they haven’t the faintest idea how important marketing assets like renders and videos are. Put in front of a journalist they will say all the wrong things and destroy all the hard work that has gone into the marketing campaign.

    The developer sees the marketing guy as someone who spends far too much on clothes and far too much time in front of a mirror. They also spend too much time lunching and other pointless partying to have any time left to do any work. And when they do work all they do is to interfere in the development of the game which is something they know nothing about. A marketeer’s main skill is promoting themselves and they get paid far too much money for an easy job that anyone could do.

    In the real world I have seen the occasional person who actually fits one of these stereotypes, but in reality most people on both sides are just hard working professionals doing the best job that they can. Usually in difficult circumstances.

    A further issue in the industry is that the developer and the marketeer often work for different companies. And the marketeer, working for a publisher, is perceived as just being a corporate functionary going through the motions. Whereas when they work for the same company they share the same corporate culture and are more likely to be able to read off the same page at the same time. So the scope for animosity is somewhat reduced.

    In part two I will write a developers guide to marketing skills.

    I am on holiday

    I am in the Caribbean Island of Grenada till July 2nd. There are some articles on the auto scheduler that will self publish themselves whilst I am away. I will try and find some time/a connected computer to do the Thursday news round up. Comment approval will be very slow.

    • Mon 23rd   No marketing = no sales #1
    • Tue 24th    Did Sony screw up the video games market?
    • Wed 25th   No marketing = no sales #2
    • Thur 26th  Eight news stories 26.6
    • Fri 27th     Paying for brands