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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.

Saturday, January 28, 2006

Book is Finished

The book, she is perfect!

Ok, no she isn't. She is unedited... but finished.

I am considering yanking out about 5 pages that covers the basics of QFD, simply because while I did my best to explain it... it is very complicated and questionably useful... I fear that people who read it will either be confused or worse, think they understand it and misuse it. At the same time, there are hundred pages books written on QFD, so there is no hope of conveying a more accurate look into proper QFD use.

I'll probably nix it and put it up on here for you to laugh at.

-Joe

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Promo Pricing

A recent question from another developer brought up the issue of promo pricing.

Promo pricing is the act of lowering the price as an initial offer. IE: You are about to release your game so you offer a discount to the first people who buy it.

It is my belief that the majority of developers who do this don't actually understand what promo pricing is supposed to be used for, and because of that misuse this tool. So lets go over the theory of promo pricing, which is covered in the book.

Promotional pricing is used to enact trial for long term use. Perhaps a new toothpaste is released and you receive a 50% off coupon for it. Because of this extreme discount you purchase the toothpaste (and the company who produced it probably takes a loss on that). You like the toothpaste so much that you begin using it regularly, purchasing it at normal prices.

However, this model doesn't really work for trial games! It doesn't make any sense. It isn't a reusable product (unless you have a subscription or a LOT of games/sequels/expansions). The only thing you are doing is losing money.

Think of it this way: The people who are receiving the discount (first buyers) are the people who are MOST likely to pay MORE for a game. If anything, you should offer the game as MORE EXPENSIVE for the first months before lowering the price! (AKA: Price Skimming)

The numbers on this can be extremely misleading, and to a novice may be very... Convincing that their strategy worked.

In the above mentioned question that triggered this post the issue was during the promo stage their conversion rate was 3%. After the promotion ended it was .5%. The declaration was the promotion was a success and the question was "Should we switch back to the promotional price?"

There are TWO possible scenarios. The most likely scenario is the conversion rate was higher because there were a LOT of fans of their game waiting to buy. Fans that would have paid any price for it! Lowering the price probably didn't increase the sales nearly as much as it decreased the profit.

The second scenario, which could be happening simultaneously with the first, is that the lower price is actually a BETTER price than the final price: IE: it converts better at 14 dollars instead of 18 (Not just a higher % but enough more people to create a higher PROFIT as well). IF this is the case than there should have been no promo price to begin with, but instead just a final price of 14 dollars. This is NOT likely the case.

A side note to this. It has been found that IF a game is wanted enough the players will be willing to pay nearly ANY PRICE. When it comes to selling to existing fans, especially people who have been waiting a year to buy this game, don't sell yourself short.

The prime example was the study done on Unreal (the first one). The initial worry that 40 dollars was too much for a game was debunked when they learned the VAST MAJORITY of the players were purchasing new graphics cards JUST to play the game... Resulting in the spending of over 200 dollars to buy the game. It doesn't mean you can charge 200 bucks for your games, but don't be so afraid of price sensitivity when you are dealing with your hardcore fans! Certainly don't give them a discount without some ulterior motive.

-Joe, Practitioner of "evil" marketing

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Learning From My Poem

It may come as shock to you that my poem was written on the spur of the moment (in less than 30 minutes!); but it carried a hidden marketing message in it.

A lot of people will hear me talk about "Content marketing" - it's in the book. Basically it is this: make content for your site that people want to read. Best of all, make content that is interesting and original. Better still, make it so interesting that people talk about it.

When I finished the poem I did a few things, and now I will share the results.
First, I made two posts. One on Indiegamer.com and one on Idevgames.com that I had written a wonderful poem...Then I used a variety of ping services to let the blog directories know I had done an update.

The result: Between Saturday and Monday- 230 unique visitors. Now, that isn't exactly a earth shattering number, but when you compare it to last week's Sat-Mon (about 65 uniques) it is a huge leap forward. Imagine if I did that every week, going to different places (so not to spam) and continue finding new outlets to talk about my interesting new post.

The point is this: The poem was content. It was totally meaningless, but it was also creative enough that it made people smile, laugh, and talk about it. It was, in essence, nothing more than an evil marketing ploy! For my 30 minutes of work I was rewarded with a lot of extra (relative) traffic. If I were that entertaining EVERY week imagine what 52 weeks like that would bring. Imagine the power I could have if I had a newsletter signup button (I probably should, actually). Imagine how many times I would have to rhyme the word indie ....

Mindy, Cindy... That's all I can think of... And my wife would be angry :-/

Oh and hey, SPEAKING of M.Indie, my new article is online:
http://www.gametunnel.com/articles.php?id=421

How many words can YOU think of that rhyme with M.indie... or Ninja Pirates.

Saturday, January 07, 2006

Oh the places I go

Oh the places I go, with my head full of marketing and my fingers thrilled by use,
I'll write an entire blogpost like I was Dr. Seuss.

I go lots of places, through forums and sites,
I meet the developers, who all seem so nice.

But let me tell you, OH the places I go!

To indiegamer.com, with their membership dreams,
Where each developer has the potential it seems,
To be someone great, or at least someone good,
Except for that Cas, because he's awful crude (Sorry cas!)

Then to Gamedev.net with their students so thoughtful,
where ambitions are strongest, though experience not-so.
The articles there will inform and insite,
And in the end their students become rather bright.

And to the ASP, where the talk is expensive,
you'll find there's no place with skills to extensive.
Thought the website is crappy and and the price kinda of high,
nowhere will you find better for a marketing eye.

Now to Idevgames, with their Apple and Mac
My gosh, a small forum, but cut them no slack.
Though their downloads are few and their system perverted
Mac sales kill us all, with their percentage converted.

The IGDA, oh what a place to play!
Where enthusiast meets experience in pay.
While you are there, take note of a caper,
to steal some data from their white-paper.

And there's one more place a smart person will go,
It is thoughtful insightful, and sometimes quite slow,
Where the marketing folks are second to none,
even when their rhyming is done.

VGsmart is my favorite of the above,
Because it is mine... the one that I love!
So hear my advice, in rhyming so new
Else I'll do my next post from standard Haiku.

Sunday, January 01, 2006

Breaking Into and Out of Video Games

At the request of "TheGoodEvil" and his blog at
http://pcgamejunky.blogspot.com/ I was coaxed into writing about breaking into video games... at least, from the indie perspective.

There are typically two types of people who make indie games: Those that are breaking in and those that are breaking out.

For those breaking in: You are new to this whole field. You need experience to land a job and you need a job to land experience. Simply put: You're screwed and your only option is to make some games on your own and hope they can pay the bills until someone realizes your great potential.

Sometimes this results in you doing well enough to get a job, other times you realize that you don't need that job afterall and become king of the indie developers... or at least make enough money to get by happily.

So how is this done? As a solo developer it is all about appearances. Your website is your face; before any publicity is gained or work is shown you should be sure that your website is clean and professional. You should also ensure you are using a domain E-mail. Nobody thinks e-mails coming from hotmail.com is professional!

Then you have your product. First, make sure you are making something simple. It can be a clone of an existing product or something original and innovative, so long as it is something you think you can finish in 3 months time (As I mentioned in the Keep it Simple thread, it will take you much longer than you think). Next, while your code skill will be analyzed by the potential employer; in order to catch their attention your game artwork needs to be SUPERB.

Let's face it, the initial hiring process is all about judging a book by its cover. They are going to look at your product or screenshots of your product and a one page resume and make assumptions about your character and skill. You've already lost the battle if your screenshots or product LOOK like crap- regardless of how beautfiul the code is inside. I say wow them with graphics and THEN you can worry about how nice your code looks on the actual interview stage!

That's how to break into the industry from the indie side of things. It's all about presenting yourself professionally through your product. If you find that you enjoy working for yourself and your game seems to have the potential to make you money... maybe the indie path is right for you.


Then there are those of you who are breaking OUT. Yeah, dream job my left toe. Your company treated you like dirt and you said "Hell, I could do this on my own and take all the profits with less hassle."

Ok... so now what? Well, the problem with me giving advice in THIS field is I have never been in that position (I attempted to break in and then decided to go indie, never having to break out). Also, each person will have different skills and experience levels...

But here's my general take based on things I have heard others say:

First, plan out things with more depth than you have ever planned anything else in your life. Create work schedules, create milestones, revise, edit, and redraft this plan until it is workable. Aim to create your first product within 6-9 months; depending on complexity.

The best advice I have is don't assume that your experience in mainstream games is going to make this easy. It will be just as hard as the person just starting out. Your advantage is you have SOME skills already that the newbie does not; but when it comes to the OTHER skills that you didn't have to worry about, you and Mr. Newbie are on equal turf... If you aren't open to learning these skills, like marketing, planning, and finance, you are going to fail despite your many years of experience.

The next best advice is follow that plan you worked so hard to create! It is very easy to get distracted when you work from home. An hour here, an hour there, and suddenly your 40- 80 hour work week (depending on how cruel you are to those around you) turns into a 15 hour work week. Your game gets delayed, the bills pile up, and you rush to release hoping to beat the bill collector... and you wake up the next week back in your dead end job you thought you'd been liberated from.

The final piece of advice for all game developers is plan for your first game to fail. It doesn't have to fail horribly, maybe it makes you a little cash, but if you are stuck relying on your first product to make 2k/month for an entire year; you're in for a nasty fall. That doesn't mean you should do nothing to help it succeed- just the opposite. You need to do everything to help this first game work; just be ready to learn from the mistakes both in development and during your mad attempt to make it sell. If it goes crazy and become the next Professor Fizzwizzle (a game that was their very first product and sells very well)... all the better. If not, you won't find yourself in a financial jam; because that is just what you had planned.

Check out fizzwizzle at www.grubbygames.com.

-Joe