First-Person Marketer

First-Person Marketer
So You Got a Bad Game for Christmas

JP Sherman | 10 Jan 2011 18:00
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If your gift-giver knows that you like a particular series, maybe they saw you get Modern Warfare 2 last year, good for them! However, lacking that knowledge, it starts getting down to package design. There's almost a predictable pattern that consumers go through to pick a game. Christmas is a time for peace, love and family - strike out Gears of War. People keep hearing about violent video games and how it turns church-going children into little Dahmers - strike out Call of Duty, God of War and Fallout. Once they start striking out different games that are unfamiliar, too violent or deal with non-Christmasy themes, you end up getting something familiar, like a movie-to-game adaptation of K-PAX.

Marketers know many people are buying a videogame for the first time during this season. We know that these game purchasers are not our core audience and we know that they're highly motivated to buy something. We make decisions on package design that can straddle the balance on our core gaming audience and the non-gamer purchasers. For games rated Teen to Mature, we want the box art to be edgy, but not too much. We want to imply action with the colors, characters and position - not violence. However, we want to remain true to the context of our games. We regularly look at exactly where our box will be on shelves, and we look at the box design surrounded by other games. We understand purchasers will get overwhelmed quickly and make a purchase decision. Hopefully, they'll not be too overwhelmed and buy a different game.

Ditching the Case & Finding the Videogames by the Register

Sometimes, the experience is overwhelming and confusing. There's so much knowledge that you need to have now just to make an informed decision when buying a videogame. You need to know the platform, you need to know the ratings, and you need to know a little bit about the game itself. This pre-existing information is not readily available and unfortunately, during this season, the help from the staff is at best hurried and at worst rude. If your gift-giver has ditched the video game section, but remains determined to get you a video game, you're pretty much screwed. Yet retailers, merchandisers, and marketers know there's another place to get them to actually buy a new videogame for you.

I'd been into several retail stores this past season, even Big Lots, and I noticed many of them have the bargain bin of videogames near the cash register. With lots of Wii, PC & DS games available, they're the shovelware adventure, puzzle and "edutainment" type games that are built for discount. These games are generally between $10 and $20. They represent a lower barrier to entry, they generally appear "safer" than the games in the cases and they're still a game. With a range of games for all ages, your gift giver remembers that you have a laptop. They can buy you a PC game. Pushing aside the Dora the Explorer games, ignoring the ubiquitous Disney's Cars games, they find the puzzle and brain training games and the themed racing games. Should they get a game where vampires race across the country at night? Should they get the game where the cartoon Einstein promises you'll be smarter in just minutes a day? It's pretty much a 50/50 shot at that point. Ten dollars later, that pressure that overwhelmed them at the videogame section in the department store has been turned into a pure endorphin rush. They've accomplished their task of buying you a video game that they're reasonably sure you'll like.

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