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Video Game Marketing

Indie Game Marketing from the author of the Game Marketing book, The Indie Developer's Guide to Selling Games. Video Game Marketing made simple... or at least as simple as I can make it.

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Location: Philomath, Oregon, United States

As you can see on the left: I am a professional juggler. The rest you can learn from this Blog.

Monday, December 26, 2005

Corruption in Journalism

I'm a little slow to jump on this bandwagon- Are journalists corrupt? Do they sell scores and editorial space in return for large heaps of money for advertising? What has become of our free press system.

First of all, this was all brought up by Dan Hsu at EGM in his recent editorial. Its caused a big stink in the industry; moreso than most of you can see actually. In my opinion, Dan risked his job when he wrote that... kinda ballsy. He said, basically, there are people out there who are taking bribes in the form of ads to misrepresent the quality of games and the quantity of coverage dedicated to it.

Now your reactions should be "Well duh." and "So why didn't he say WHO!?"

The reason why is because he doesnt want to lose his job and cause EGM to go under with libel lawsuits. You can't just say magazine X is taking bribes: It would be so difficult to prove you were telling the truth AND it would be fairly easy for them to show economic damage from your writing.

So does it really happen? You bet it does. It happens to me a lot; not usually with large magazines and websites, but with the smaller ones. It ESPECIALLY happens with websites. I have found the further from "professional press" you get, the more rampant this becomes.

Is it a problem? No. Not exactly, at least.

This is my stance on the subject:
As long as the editor(s) in question offers to cover your product regardless of advertising or compensation, that is fine. If second, third, fourth, features, or "minimum scores" can be purchased; that is ok too. I consider it a form of value added advertising. It isn't very ethical, but you can't really stop it. As long as they are covering items independent of this practice, they are still OK in my book. If 10,000 dollars can buy you a five article spread on a fairly sizeable website I considering it nothing more than an advertorial. If you need 1,000 dollars to get the FIRST article on that site, I consider it corruption.

It doesn't say much for my belief in free journalism.

And for those who question if this was merely an EGM/CGW power play to gain an upper hand over the competition I can say...

CGW (owned by the same company as EGM) has never once brought this subject up to me and are, by far, the most likely major magazine to cover independent games. It doesn't mean it wasn't a power play, but I do not believe them to be corrupt by any standard at this time.

Journalists have been corrupt since the invetion of the printing press. Some of them are business men, and those are the dangerous ones.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Software Trademarks

I had an interesting conversation today with Kellogg Creek Software (Power Politics, Spirit Wars) and it brought up a very important point.

This isn't in the book because it isn't something your average indie will worry about... however, it may be interesting for some of you readers out there to learn.

Trademarks and Tradenames do NOT protect your concept from large companies. Tradenames can protect your concept from small companies, about your size or smaller, but when a major corporation comes and steals your Tradename you are "Shit out of luck."

In the Kellog Creek Software incident, specifically, Hasbro infringed on KCS's Spirit Wars. The end result of the lawsuit nearly put KCS out of business, despite the fact they WON.

This is pretty common, and in talking with the owner he says the piece of advice he should have listened to was when another firm said the best thing to do when this case began was to write an appology letter to Hasbro and offer them (for free) the rights to his product.

Sounds crazy doesn it? Just keep in mind they have money and you don't. They have teams of lawyers and you don't. They play dirty as sin... and if you try to you'll be worse off for it.

So establish a copyright, trademark, and trade name, but do not think for a second it (or anything) you do makes you terribly safe from large corporations.

I've heard plenty of other horror stories like this, including a SECOND one from Hasbro.

Kudos to Kellogg Creek Software (www.kelloggcreek.com) for sticking to their guns and winning a settlement. Shame it couldnt amount to anywhere near the legal fees and lost time it caused.

-Joe

Sunday, December 18, 2005

A Weekend With Nothing Done

Took a break from writing this weekend. Was quite fun.

I made an important post at www.indiegamer.com recently that wasn't covered in the book, at least, not that I recall. I may slip it in yet:

The synopsis is this:

There are intangible benefits to doing business with YOUR company. For instance, you may have great customer service; fast, friendly and efficient. However, if the user is not aware of that fact BEFORE they make a purchase it won't impact your bottom line! Make sure users are aware of the benefits they get from dealing with your company directly.

The specific problem with customer service is, most of the time, when the problem reaches you the customer is already displeased. Customer service exists to create a sale the next time around, always remember that. Great customer service begins BEFORE the purchase is made by making them aware of the features and services you offer; not only to help sell the current product but so they know where to go when something goes wrong. Remember: Customer service shouldn't be looked at as a chore like fixing a dripping faucet, but instead at your LAST chance to turn a dead customer into a return customer.

It all starts before the purchase. End of story :)

-Joe

Friday, December 16, 2005

Minor Delays

A quick status update:

I was hoping to have this sucker in print by the end of Jan/mid of Feb and I still do. A minor delay may be caused by a publisher who has taken interest in it. I will delay to hear what they have to say and what their offer is, as it would be foolish to do otherwise.

Hopefully they come to a decision quickly enough that I can meet my deadline one way or the other!

I also found a great editor who will be ripping my writing to shreds and putting it back together in a more orderly fashion.

Huzzah!

-Joe

PS: For anyone who has ever wondered how much it costs to create a book in terms of paying an editor/having a cover designed: The answer is I have found editors that range from 1.5 cents to 5.5 cents per word (and the skill varies with the price, pretty much). Book covers range between 200 and 500 dollars, or so. I anticipate this book will run me almost 2 grand before it begins selling... so at least you can get an idea of the risk involved with making a book!

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Keeping it simple

Thanks to Civ 3 I picked up a quote from Antoine de Saint-Exupery, which made it into my book.

“Perfection is achieved, not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.”

And so we make a post to keeping things simple, or KISS (Keep it simple, stupid.)

If you are making your first game, for gods sakes, make it something easy, simple, and fun. Putting 16 months into your first project is like investing all of your money in a single stock. Any smart investor will tell you it is a bad idea, and any veteran game designer will tell you the same thing about games.

Create a game you THINK you can do in 6 months. It will actually take you 12... and along the way you will learn MANY valuable lessons. This is much better than making a game you hope to complete in 16 months and finishing it 32 months later (this is NOT unrealistic, ask Inhuman Games (www.inhumangames.com) and Trash about their 5 year development cycle).

If you buy my book you'll at least have some idea of what to do and what not to do; but some lessons can not be learned from a book.

Oh, and here's another witty quote by the author on a similar subject:
"Avoid feature creep like you would avoid a movie named the same thing."

PS: The book will go to final editing in 2-4 weeks. Then I will do a test publish run and make sure it ends up looking alright. If anyone has a cover artist they reccomend please let me know!

Saturday, December 03, 2005

Correlational and Causational Data

One of the most important lessons from Consumer Behavior is correlative and causative data, and the understanding thereof. Understanding it is also handy when you are determining if someone is lying to you with statistics. Unfortunately neither the blog nor the book can go into enough depth on this topic to substitute for a class: but some research on your own time in both statistics and correlative data should prove very interesting.

Still, I can get into the basics with the blog and I am debating if this topic should (in slightly more depth) be covered in the book.

So: What is a correlation?

Correlation is a statistic way of showing that two variables are related to eachother. The lower the alpha value of a correlation (IE: Alpha= .05) the more "accurate" the correlation is. Alpha represents how CONFIDENT you are that your test is true. As a general rule, any alpha value over .10 (10% confidence) is pretty much useless in statistics.

There are tests, such as the Pearson Correlation that can help determine if something is statistically correlative, and I strongly urge anyone who doesn't remember or never learned about correlative tests to go do so.

However, what correlation is and how to calculate it isn't my subject. What is important is understanding a fundamental rule of correlation so that a massive mistake isn't made.

Even if you don't do a statistic test, it may be useful to think about how things correlate in your life. Does increasing your time spent marketing your game correlate with an increase in sales? Does changing the price correlate? And so on.

So what am I getting at? It is best exemplified two stories:
Anyone who has watched American football may have heard the following phrase:

"The team who runs the ball the most is almost always the winner." This statement is TRUE when you are talking about correlation. However, it is an UNTRUE statement. The reason is that correlation DOES NOT imply CAUSATION.

In this case the speaker says "X causes Y" because the team who runs more is more likely to win. However, the reality of this situation is that Y causes X. Because a team is winning they RUN MORE! For those who don't grasp the rules of football, a team that is winning can run more which eats up more of the clock, thus giving their opponents less time to catch up.

The alternative scenario is this: According to a famous research paper the following is true: "The shorter girls skirts get, the better the stock market performs." This statement, according to correlative data, is TRUE, however, anyone who stops and thinks about it knows that it is FALSE. The reason is, once again, CORRELATION does not show what CAUSES the event.

In this case, the third possible scenario is true: A factor that has not been considered (Z) is impacting both X and Y. In the above statement the Z variable is TIME. As time has gone on the stock market has gone up and girls skirts have gotten shorter. X and Y are unrelated to eachother but highly related to Z.

So what does this mean? The odds are, in games, you will rarely encounter a Y causes X scenario (though you should always keep it in mind, for those are the source of the largest mistakes!). However, whenever you say "Man, X caused Y" based on data that shows that as X changes Y changes (IE: As price goes up, profits go up), be very aware of the use of the word "Caused." It may be that a third variable (Z) is impacting your price / profit ratio: Such as a holiday, a review you didn't see, ect.

It could lead you to mistakenly leave your price high and hurt your profits until you realize your mistake!

Before this posts gets any longer than it will: Real quickly the only way to gain CAUSIAL data is to design a series of questions to rule out possible Z variables. This is why people conduct surveys and data mining operations. In general, determining causial data is very hard, very time consuming, and way beyond the scope of indie game development. Instead, rather than worry about statistically PROVING some event CAUSED some other event, just be aware of correlations and do your best to NOT assume that your correlation is 100% proof of CAUSATION.

Sorry for the ugly technical statistic post. However, it is important to me if anyone would find this remotely interesting to read about in a more clear fashion with actual examples (and maybe even an example of how to do a correlation test). If so, let me know, if not... We will assume the Blog covers it enough :)

Conclusion: Because data is connected (correlated) does not mean that it shows that your assumed cause for the change is true.