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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.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Customer Behavior

Ok, so in all the touting of my book I haven't been giving out too much in the way of marketing wisdom lately.

However, in my evening shower after reading some Dungeons and Dragons Online forum posts, I decided it was time to talk about the customer.

Customers are self-serving, conniving, self-righteous, and downright capitalist pig-dogs.

There, I said it. Even those of you who will buy my book, as my customers, this is who you are. Now before you blacklist me for calling you dirty names, let me explain. The fact of the matter is what I just said doesn't actually make anyone a bad person... In fact, it just makes you normal.

Sane people rarely do things for absolutely no reason. Behind every action there is a motive and in the majority of actions those motives are self-serving. When someone buys my book (exception being Mark Fassett from Laughing Dragon) they do it because they believe that the value they will get out of it exceeds the price of the book. Mark, for the record, is apparently buying it so he can see how Cafe Press does printing... But that is also self-serving for a different reason.

When the first comments on the book come in the odds are they are going to be requests for more information on X, Y, and/or Z. Once again, this is a self-serving request. It isn't bad, the odds are if one person wants more information on X, so does half the people who purchased it.

This is all clear in something simple, like a how-to book. It becomes less clear in games, and worse in online games.

We'll take the extreme example, an MMO- where 95% of all the suggestions about the game are entirely just to rebalance the game in your favor. How do you weed out the good and bad suggestions to move forward, knowing full well you've created a game far too large to test every possible suggestion?

Well, sadly, you can't... And MMOs always suffer for it. People love to complain and complain they will; it creates a rather depressing scene and I do not envy the community managers of our MMO world.

In games it gets a little tricky and the WHOLE POINT of this crazy post is this:
Expect your players to do what serves them best.... And capitalize on it.

I am about to do a press release for Caravel Games on the massive user created content that has been done. 8,000+ levels. To achieve that, they have an active and vibrant community full of selfless people, right? BAH. They have an active and vibrant community, yes, but the act of creating levels wasn't done out of the kindness of the heart of the creator. It was done to achieve some self-actualizing goal. Caravel Games has made a game that can harness that power and put it to work for them, not only making them direct profit (See the Smite Master Selection) but also in aiding in 'word of mouth' and other sales channels.

What are the goals of these people? Could be many things. Could be fame and notoriety for instance.

It is really the capitalist way. Do what is best for you and you will do what is best for the whole. It is a false philosophy (those who have taken a few economics courses know that it is a good start but doesn't quite get the job done). The trick really is to design a game where what is BEST for the consumer is truly best for you. Easier said than done, but be on the lookout for designing a game where what is BEST for the consumer is NOT best for you.

Most often: Requests for a longer demo, requests for new features, requests for a lower price...

I guess the point is, when dealing with the customer ask yourself "What's in it for them?" There's always an answer and it can either be good for your business or bad for it, but you MUST always ask that question- not just assume that everyone is as nice as my readers are ;-)

And god help you should you ever make an MMO, where everyone has their own agenda and the 'honest' people out there will never get through the noise of the dishonest.... And don't you dare nerf my Heavy Repeating Crossbow... at least not before you fix that damn bug with melee weapons (DDO players will get that).

Monday, April 24, 2006

The Book Arrived!

I'm excited. The test book (to test graphics, layout, and any possible errors) arrived today. It looks fan-bloody tastic... and I'm not just saying that because it's my baby. While I admit that it is a thin book by eye-ball looks, it is jam packed with content. The cover looks good, the pages look good, the text looks good.

For those of you who are uncertain that Cafepress books are of good quality, this is my shining reccomendation. It totally exceeded my expectations (then again, being a pessimist I was expecting having to rewrite the entire book).

Assuming Yinsey can get the title slapped onto the final picture she sent me earlier, this book will be on sale in a week!

Friday, April 14, 2006

Artistic Evolution

Ok, so I promised I would post the progress of the book cover. We'll keep a running tally of what it looks like. When it is finished the book is officially released.

Due to overwhelming demand, also, a PDF version will be made available. It's currently looking to be about $28.95, unless I am miscalculating processing fees :)

I won't give away what the scene is on the cover to anyone, but I think it will be interesting to see it evolve from a single character sketch to a full cover. You can take a look at my esteemed artist's other (final) work at http://yinsey.deviantart.com

Phase 1: http://i3.photobucket.com/albums/y75/yinsey/screencap.jpg

Phase 2: http://i3.photobucket.com/albums/y75/yinsey/girl.jpg

Phase 3: http://i3.photobucket.com/albums/y75/yinsey/eobot.jpg

Phase 4: http://i3.photobucket.com/albums/y75/yinsey/commstage.jpg

Phase 5: http://i3.photobucket.com/albums/y75/yinsey/sofar1.jpg
Keep it up Yinsey! :)

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Book it!

It's done! 122 pages of marketing bliss. Currently waiting on the cover art while I make minor changes to formatting and layout. In the end I pulled a 9 page section on QFD. I felt the concept was too abstract and I was unsatisifed with my attempt to explain it.

So now the important part. How will you be getting this bad boy?

For the first-test print run (assuming the couple copies I have printed up to test it first work out) I will be using Cafe Press.

It will be available as Print ONLY (no PDF at this time). I am still looking into PDF versions and if it is worth the trouble.

The book will be $34.95 and expect $4.00 shipping inside North America, so just under $40. Before anyone tells me "wow, that's a lot." I say- If the 122 pages gives you a single idea that results in only TWO extra sales of a $20 product; it's worth it. I wanted this book to cost $40 if it were on a retail store, so I lowered the price based on the expected shipping costs. That's all I can do :)

IF a PDF version is made it will be about $27.95. That retains the same profit margin for me. If you think a PDF version at 27.95 is something you would prefer to have, PLEASE let me know. I can't promise anything, but I will do my best to accomodate any overwhelming demand.

For the record, I expect to make about $25 per copy sold.

The expenses broke down as follows:

$1,000 for editing
$300 for Cover Art
Too many hours to count.
5 test copies $72

$10.50/unit printing costs

Break-even sales goal: 55 copies sold
Actual sales goal: 300 copies sold
Profit at Sales Goal: $6,128

So to reinforce anyone's objection to the book being fairly high priced based on quantity of pages (as if that is some way to judge a book's value), it isn't like I am walking away from this adventure a millionaire :)

Monday, April 03, 2006

The 80 / 20 Rule

You often hear people talk about a mystical marketing rule called the 80 / 20 rule. It basically states that 80% of the result can be had for 20% of the work. It applies to almost every single activity you'll ever do.

Unfortunately, it is a rule and not a law. Laws, like gravity, always exist. This rule doesn't... and it is because it does NOT apply to casual games that I make this post.

Let me rephrase that. It does not apply to casual games in the way most of you would first think.

Once upon a time someone asked me "Why should I take an extra X number of months polishing my game when the 80 / 20 rule says the last 20% of the game takes 80% of the time for only 20% of the result."

This is a common way to mistake that rule.

Here's the reality as it applies to games:

A game can be completed to 80% with 20% of the effort.

However, the final 20% represents 95% of the sellability of the game.

The end result is you spend 20% of the time producing an 80% game and get 5% of the sales it could have.

Yeah, that's a lot of confusing numbers, and really they are guestimates anyway.

Here's the truth. There are a lot of games out there. There's some really bad games... but most of all there are THOUSANDS of "pretty good" and even "good" games. In fact, I would say 80% of all games fall into the pretty good catagory. Those 80% of the games represent LESS than 20% of the sales. To have your game do REALLY well (note how often I am using caps here) you've gotta make it exceptional. The only way to do that is to take it that last 20% of the way.

Those final steps are worth more than all the work you put into creating the actual gameplay, idea, and implimentation... its the wrapping on the present that makes it special...

In fact, it is a lot like the lingerie for your game. Girls are hottest when they are wearing appealing clothing, not when they are naked. I'll leave any further comparisons about a "naked" game and how undressing takes more time to your imagination.

Book editing is on page 70!