The Business of Manipulation

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First of all, welcome to The Escapist!

Brilliant article, a lot of points to be made which hopefully some developers will come to read and take in.

What a pleasant article. Someone in marketing is telling me that I'm an intelligent person, and my feedback in games is 'precious information'.

Cool article. Keep them coming :)

We Underestimate the Intelligence of Gamers
A bit. It's always just a few people that pick up on things at first, and the wonders of the internet that get the word around.

We Market To Gaming Stereotypes
Yes, and for me personally this is probably the paramount offense. I hate being pigeonholed even with indy terms; when you try the mainstream stuff it just kills the appeal. I didn't play Dragon Age for nearly a year after it was released because the Blood & Edgy marketing theme put me off.

We Go to the "Xtreemez" and Use 5-Year-Old Memes
Yep.

We Don't Realize That Girls Play Games Too
Can't really comment, but I do know the statistics on women playing WoW vary, and that very few of the female players I've met notably enjoyed distinctly feminine aspects of the game.

We Try to Control the Narrative
/

We Just Make It Hard to Trust Us
Can't really comment. Either I'm not a 'core gamer' (which is possible, as I don't care as much as I used to) or I don't care about the hype. When games are getting released nowadays I'll decide early on based on the screens, producer(s)/developer(s), and subject matter, if I want it. Then I'll keep loose tabs on it and buy it about 6 months after release -- after the initial fanfare has died down.
And I definitely don't want anyone sending me emails. I've worked far too hard to keep my inbox clean...

It's Not Just What Not to Do
-Interesting that you bring up feedback. In my (cynical) experience, feedback is rarely integrated in a worthwile manner. Developers may add functionality modifications after >1,000,000 users complain on the forums. And I understand it's not financially sound to add in content for every guy who has a decent idea. But currently the ratio of input : output[results] is not worth signing up on the message boards and shouting yourself horse in the throat to bother.

gamer_parent:

Whispering Death:

I'm sure I'm not telling you anything you don't already know, but focus grouping is best used for exploratory data, trying to uncover the breadth of opinions on an issue; not descriptive data, determining how previlant a given opinion is.

Focus groups are often used incorrectly when viewed by bad marketers as legitimate samples of the overall audiance when, in actuality, focus groups are so small as to be nothing more than annecdotal evidence.

Then you get the bad marketer tendency of when s/he doesn't have market research, instead relying on "industry trends" which is the fastest way to make yourself look silly. This is the kind of thinking where "no, don't make an RTS game. Guitar hero is hot right now, we need to make a band game! The kids love the band games!"

Gamers don't dislike marketers, but they hate bad marketing.

oh yeah, that is definitely true.

The point I was making was that video game marketing has not yet matured to a point where they can perform truly sophisitcated marketing decisions.

But we're starting to see a change though. Social gaming platforms are starting to collect the data for future analysis, and slowly but surely we're starting to see more companies whose entire schtick is to focus on gaming research. these are all very promising signs.

Analysis of what people do today, in gaming, is completely worthless data in a year.

Remember Fly!2k? It was released because there were a ton of flight-sims taking up a substantial chunk of the market. It sold like crap not because it was a bad (it was fantastic, well-coded, with a decent physics engine), but because people had already moved on. When it hit the shelves, no one was playing flight-sims.

It also doesn't help that neither marketers nor developers seem to understand why people buy certain games. People don't buy Street Fighter because the name is "Street Fighter," they buy Street Fighter because the series and developers are generally known for producing quality, well-balanced fighting games.

RvLeshrac:

Analysis of what people do today, in gaming, is completely worthless data in a year.

Remember Fly!2k? It was released because there were a ton of flight-sims taking up a substantial chunk of the market. It sold like crap not because it was a bad (it was fantastic, well-coded, with a decent physics engine), but because people had already moved on. When it hit the shelves, no one was playing flight-sims.

It also doesn't help that neither marketers nor developers seem to understand why people buy certain games. People don't buy Street Fighter because the name is "Street Fighter," they buy Street Fighter because the series and developers are generally known for producing quality, well-balanced fighting games.

You would think that it would be dependent upon what kind of information we're extracting. If we're talking about what kind of game is big and thus profitable, well, yeah, obviously that data will be worthless short order.

But things like how do people play this particular kind of game or the time frame that most people spend in a game, or microtransactions that people make and such are all valuable info that can be used to drive the development direction of new games. With further data collection from the actual user profiles, you can actually do very fine level segmentation that figures the people's profiles and thereby gain insight into what the market can handle.

However, you're point is well taken. The data gathered from these things alone will not be enough, obviously. Raw data at the end of the day, is still raw data. Without actual knowledge of the medium, the data will still be more or less worthless.

None the less, I feel the data you can gather from these things can still contribute and complement our understanding of gamer behavior.

gamer_parent:

RvLeshrac:

Analysis of what people do today, in gaming, is completely worthless data in a year.

Remember Fly!2k? It was released because there were a ton of flight-sims taking up a substantial chunk of the market. It sold like crap not because it was a bad (it was fantastic, well-coded, with a decent physics engine), but because people had already moved on. When it hit the shelves, no one was playing flight-sims.

It also doesn't help that neither marketers nor developers seem to understand why people buy certain games. People don't buy Street Fighter because the name is "Street Fighter," they buy Street Fighter because the series and developers are generally known for producing quality, well-balanced fighting games.

You would think that it would be dependent upon what kind of information we're extracting. If we're talking about what kind of game is big and thus profitable, well, yeah, obviously that data will be worthless short order.

But things like how do people play this particular kind of game or the time frame that most people spend in a game, or microtransactions that people make and such are all valuable info that can be used to drive the development direction of new games. With further data collection from the actual user profiles, you can actually do very fine level segmentation that figures the people's profiles and thereby gain insight into what the market can handle.

However, you're point is well taken. The data gathered from these things alone will not be enough, obviously. Raw data at the end of the day, is still raw data. Without actual knowledge of the medium, the data will still be more or less worthless.

None the less, I feel the data you can gather from these things can still contribute and complement our understanding of gamer behavior.

MMOs generate VASTLY more data than has ever been collected on any activity - daily. Where a player clicks; how long it took to do a quest; whether the player DID the quest, or just faffed about; how often the player changes equipment, and whether they've equipped something for cosmetics or because there was a stat increase... and on, and on, and on.

None of that seems to have helped. MMO developers rise and fall, and MMO populations rise and fall, despite their knowing exactly what people respond to, and how they respond to it. Unfortunately, while you can try to predict behaviours, you can't. Games aren't like cereal or toothpaste - it takes a lot more than changing the colour or adding marshmallows to get attention.*

*Except for WoW. I really don't understand WTF people keep going back to it, repeatedly, after talking about how boring it is. I know plenty of people who regularly re-subscribe for 2 hours, only to drop their subscription immediately thereafter, with the exact same complaints. These people are idiots, and they apparently make up the major part of the WoW playerbase.

They know it will suck, know exactly how it will suck, tell me how it will suck, and yet they still resubscribe, only to then bitch about all the ways in which it sucks.

Heh, not news to me.

So now that you've gained our trust, what exactly was it you were trying to sell us again?

I wonder if he'll marry me?

Kidding, but it's nice to know someone else in the marketing biz has noticed the woeful inaccuracies blighted upon the gaming community.

Tzekelkan:
A superb article! I've always been amazed by the crazy marketing campaigns some companies do and actually think they'd work. It's like they always understand the other way around how the gamer thinks and functions. Hopefully there are more people who see things as Mr. J.P. Sherman here.

An interesting thought though: I've been reading some of Valve's demographics-targetting/game-testing/game-designing techniques from here and they make it seem so easy to take input from the gamer and their needs and apply it to make great games, but it's definitely not. They're either extremely talented or extremely lucky.

I must say, Valve is my favourite developer for just that reason.

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