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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 18, 2006

The Future of Indie Games

I've given a lot of thought as to the ways the indie game "bubble" can progress into the future. It is some people's opinion that making predictions like this are foolish. As they say, better to say nothing and have people think you the fool than open your mouth and remove all doubt.

Lucky for me that in this case I don't care what people think- I'd rather say it now and be called foolish later than stay quiet and see even one person suffer when they don't respond to a changing environment fast enough.

So here is the scoop.

Rising production costs have been ongoing and will continue on into the future. The newest item entering our market space is agents. Agents represent your products, getting you better deals with the portals (and taking a cut for themselves).

The agents are going to be aided by two facts early on. One, they can actually make you more money than they cost. Two, CERTAIN portals require the use of approved agents to get your games on their site.

Ok, the cutting edge background is set here's the way things are going to come down:

As the number of games rise the need for agents will increase. Other portals will begin adopting agent-only policies. Eventually game makers will be forced to have an agent, and as the agent will require that only they may make the deals, even portals that do NOT require agents will end up dealing mostly with them.

As the number of agents grows the individual power of agents decreases. Eventually, since game developers are going to be forced to use them, agents will end up taking more than they are able to negotiate. The "confused" masses will say things like "Well, without the agent I would have gotten nothing." - And they are right of course.

This percent loss is going to come out of developer pockets. As rising production value = rising cost, the 'break even' point on indie games is going to get harder and harder to maintain. Eventually, most indie developers will be forced out of development; being unable to either get the capital needed to produce a competitive indie game and turn a profit when they are now getting LESS than 20% of a sale. Further, certain clauses in portal contracts are bound to exacerbate this bad percentage.

Probably on top of that some larger portals are bound to be acquired by other portals. Thus reducing competitiveness and further empowering those larger portals to give worse deals to indie developers.

When will this happen? It could be a year, it could be a decade. I don't know, but this is my current leading theory on the method that will cause the collapse of the indie developed games- though I have a seperate theory on something that could cause the collapse of the downloadable game market as a whole. But that requires game consoles to become household objects used by the entire family for entertainment in place of their PC.... Hey did you know what Nintendo's Wii's goal is? Hmmm...

I'm not saying we're all doomed, because frankly some people are going to make out like bandits. Just be aware of the potential path and hazard and recognize it when you see it coming.

Finally, a side note: So long as I am with ArcadeTown I plan on stressing to the upper management (read: Brian) we never require our developers use agents. Using them will be up to you guys. Sadly, that is all I can do to stem this potential endemic.

I hope this indie bubble lasts decades rather than years though, because I'm sure having a good time!

Monday, December 11, 2006

A Hamlet

Many of you know my passing obsession with online games. I love to analyze them, I love to play them, and I can't ever seen to find one I want to play for more than a few months. Sad, but true.

I want to make a comparison between real estate marketing and game marketing in this "all to similar" world in which we live.

What is the difference between a hamlet and a town? Well, there may actually be one in the technical name- but looking beyond the potential "Joe, a town is not actually a hamlet" mentality is that the perceived size of a game matters to the value of the product. A hamlet sounds cozy and friendly, a town is just a town. If you describe the place you live in that cozy and small villa motif the value of your place increases. Further, if it LOOKS like that (regardless of actual population) the value increases more.

What am I getting at? Too often I find all these games which are not cozy and not small villas. They actually try to market a quasi-metropolitan ideal. A HUGE world FILLED with people where you're actions are INSIGNIFICANT because there's always someone way higher level than you doing important stuff.

Ok, nobody actually describes it like that, but essentially that is what they are doing.

When determining your design of the game and the way you deal with community and interactivity consider trying to minimize the impact of having large populations. Sure, you want 100 million players, but you want each player to feel like they are a member of a bedroom community. Figure out a way to have both and you'll find yourself rolling in the riches.

The reason behind this is simple. People like to feel special. You can't feel special if you know how small you are. The community needs to build people up, even if it is in some small way. They don't all need to be kings of kingdoms, but to have something percieved as unique- the best blacksmith in a kingdom, the strongest warrior, the guy who can drink more ale than anyone else... WHAT it is doesn't matter. What matters is IDENTITY. People need identity in online communities; and the current cookie cutter designs never seem to deliver.

So give that one some thought. How do you give 1 million players an individual identity that goes beyond an avatar....

Good luck, it ain't easy ;-)

Monday, December 04, 2006

Credit Cards Declare War!

I'm a little behind the times with this- and sorry for the lack of updates.

Ok, this one has little to do with game marketing directly. I promise a game marketing post next.

I have now seen numerous different commercials for credit card companies. There once was a time when they would battle each other, claiming superiority in a variety of ways.

Today the enemy of Visa and Mastercard is no longer eachother, but cash its self. Yeah, for those who haven't been watching TV there's been a blitz of "Anti-cash" advertising, attempting to persuade you that using credit is easier than using cash (which is true in many cases).

So for all of you making sci-fi games where people use "credits" and "cred chips" - the future is now!

I must admit, I don't carry much cash on me. Rarely more than 20 dollars (for anyone planning to mug me)... so perhaps there's a valid point in the ads; but beware that consumer spending trap!

I'll never forget you Washington, Lincoln, Jackson... and I wish I had seen you more often Mr. Franklin, may you rest in peace.