If the product is right, the engagement and media dissemination can be scaled to the available budget. If the product is a steaming pile of shovelware, few things other than the force of the budget can propel it to success. Last week, indie game developer Stew Hogarth and Gamesbrief founder Nicholas Lovell started talking, first on Twitter and then on the blogs, about the concept of the product, the marketing, and the advertising of videogames. Hogarth argued, if you had no budget for marketing and PR, the product had to be right. Lovell, someone who I truly respect, responded to Hogarth's blog on Gamasutra calling him out on a fundamental disagreement.

Stew Hogarth was right about the product being the marketing, "You can only shovel a shit product to people if you have lots of money behind it." However, as is the case with all too many games, if your marketing budget is minimal, the game itself becomes the marketing and it's up to the marketer to create the narrative that communicates the value of the game, regardless of the budget. Consider Minecraft, which emerged as a labor of love and is now making enough money to finance an entirely new studio nearly three months after its release. In this case, the product marketed itself through encouraging gamers to create, modify and share it through word of mouth and social networks. It was the right product for the right audience and, despite little to no budget, Minecraft exploded in popularity and sales.

Marketing is about Value, Communication and Execution
Lovell quotes The Chartered Institute of Marketing definition of marketing as, "The management process responsible for identifying, anticipating and satisfying customer requirements profitably." This definition is only half right. It ignores, among other things, the very next point Lovell makes, which quotes Jesse Schell's Art of Game Design: "The most important skill for a game designer is listening." I have no quarrel with that, but in a post where he's talking about the importance of marketing, he's singling out just one aspect of marketing and not giving due credit to the myriad of other tasks essential in marketing. While listening is essential, it's just one part of the entire marketing skill-set.

The problem is, while some of the methods are similar, the goals of the designer and marketer are different. The goal of the designer is to use the marketing to create a product that provides value to the gamer. The goal of the marketer is to use the created product to communicate that value to the right audience and convince them to part with their money. Lovell's most important claim was, "Marketing IS product development. Marketing IS creativity. Marketing IS a vital skill for every game maker. Whether they like it or not".

This is like saying "The engine is the car, The engine is the aerodynamics. The engine is a vital part of every automobile." If I were to draw a Venn diagram of marketing and product development and creativity, the overlap would be significant. Yes, marketing is a part of product development, marketing is a huge part of creativity, and, yes, marketing is a skill vital for every game maker. Yet, it's the goals of each skill that make them separate. That difference alone contradicts the idea that marketing and product development are the same thing.

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