Making Sausage

Making Sausage

You got your marketing in my product development!

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Sausages, like laws, become much less palatable when you've seen them being made.

Edit: 900 posts!

Good article again. A pretty balanced view of of the position of marketing in the real world. I have to say that Minecraft got lucky, word of mouth hits are by there very nature unpredictable. If say the poeple at valve didn't like quite as much as they did and gave it a plug in steam news I'm not sure mincarft would have been a big hit.

Last thing Leonardo da Vinci had prudish patrons prudish? Ludovico Sforza, Francis I, Cesare Borgia and Leo X were many things ( mainly homicidal sex manics, apart from Leo X perhaps the only man in history to make Elton John look straight) but prudish they were not.

I think marketing nees to be done at many points in agme developemt and lifecycle and you are right that a decent marketer will take the hype arround a project and increase it ten fold through smart use of screenshots and other media. This process should mesh with what the dev team are doing BUT NOT interfere with it's product in a restrictive way. Be surgestive? Sure. I mean knowing space marines sell could help you form the direction of your game if you are open to it but the thing many of the big publishing houses seem to do is "You WILL change your ideas based on our market reaserch! and you will do it NOW".

Much of this stems from many at the top or even in the midde of publishers (*cough* Bobby. K. *cough*) might have been brought in externally in order to add "business credentials" but may have very limited knowledge of gaming. They will stick to what they know; Marketing and 'traditional' business and what they don't know (ie games) they will attmept to make fit this. A game should lead the marketing wherever possible and not the other way arround. The cart should not lead the horse. Attempting to make every project fir into what the focus group is telling you just makes a muddled mess.

There is also the point that acting like a big evil oil corporation and screwing eveyone over does nothing for your staff moral and is really damaging if you want to do any kind of relationship marketing (i.e. establish return customers). I mean look at the massive goodwill behind people like VALVE or Stardock. They have developed their business by ACTUALLY MAKING GOOD PRODUCTS AND BEING GOOD TO THEIR COMMUNITY. This is lacking from box-factories like Activisions and there is no soild business reason it should be.

I think what im trying to say is; the marketing department should not make the game, the developers should. That's not to say that marketing and developing a good marketing mix isn't important.

Interesting experience reading this immediately after reading http://www.cnn.com/2010/OPINION/10/11/elliott.branding.disease/index.html?hpt=C2 on CNN, the same general question, how to market a product, approached from different angels - market identification vs market creation.

Scrumpmonkey:
I think what im trying to say is; the marketing department should not make the game, the developers should. That's not to say that marketing and developing a good marketing mix isn't important.

Perfect summary of my point. The marketing is critical, but the focus should always be on the game and the player.

as a gamer myself, I'd hate to actually play a game built by a marketing department...

JP Sherman:

You got your marketing in my product development!

This is exactly what is NOT supposed to happen.

JP Sherman:

Scrumpmonkey:
I think what im trying to say is; the marketing department should not make the game, the developers should. That's not to say that marketing and developing a good marketing mix isn't important.

Perfect summary of my point. The marketing is critical, but the focus should always be on the game and the player.

as a gamer myself, I'd hate to actually play a game built by a marketing department...

I have. It was called Call of Duty Modern Warfare 2. There are many games in which you can feel the hand of the higher ups meddling, most noticebale is policy towards DLC. The tomb raider debacle springs to mind in which they were forced to withold content then sell it later as DLC.

Of course having a market is a vital part of making a game sucessful, the thing many people don't understand is the best marketing department will CREATE a market if a product is good enough. Many 'failiures' of the gaming landscape (Okami etc) could have been saved with a little more astute marketing. Not altering game the game but actually getting it exposier.

The point of integrating Marketing & development to the point of almost symbiosis is a good one. While it's true letting marketeers have too much influence on a games development can harm the final product, the same is true for keeping them out of it. I can think of two examples, one from cinema, one from games (also note the latter one is more my own subjective pov than what may actually have happened).

First, is the film Black Snake Moan.

In one image this poster illustrates just how badly marketeers who don't know what they're handling can mess up. Black Snake Moan is a film about a man who finds himself in the care of a sick nymphomaniac, & takes it upon himself to bring her back to health, both physically & morally; while at the same time addressing issues of race, faith, life in the South & the blues music. However, it seems those in charge of selling this movie to the public only grasped three things: there is an attractive white girl, a big black man, & a chain. Cue a thoughtful movie being marketed as a black/sexploitation flick.

Similarly, & in conjunction with the article last week about controversy marketing, one wonders if those tasked with marketing the Medal of Honour multiplayer beta really had their finger on the pulse both of the game itself & the public. From what I've gathered, MoH is effectively trying to do what Six Days in Fallujah wasn't allowed to do: try to make a game set in a conflict that is culturally relevant today, rather than resigning itself to make-believe wars of tomorrow (Modern Warfare 1-2); the same set piece battles of World War 2 (almost all war games); or the only war American commentators are apparently allowed to ask difficult questions about (Black Ops, Vietcong). But what was the main selling point of the beta? "dude you can frag your mates as the Taliban!" Maybe not in such crude terms, but that was the gist of it. An awkward & controversial element of the game handled appallingly, unless of course the main aim was to stir controversy & there never was any real intention of having the Taliban in the game.

One has to avoid the dichotomy (real or imagined) that sees marketeers either being given full control of a project or kept firmly in the dark until just before release day. Both sides of that coin have bad results for the product.

Once the game is in-process, the marketing department should have absolutely no input into that process. Marketing is about taking what you have and selling it, not changing what you have to fit the market.

Word-of-mouth sells games. Marketing merely tells us what's being released, and provides information about those releases. Unfortunately, most marketing firms seem to only be capable of ordering us to buy things, rather than providing good information.

Cousin_IT:
In one image this poster illustrates just how badly marketeers who don't know what they're handling can mess up... (snipped the rest)

See, this is exactly it. And if marketers messed up this badly in promotion, we can assume that some of them are messing up equally badly in the research that they contribute to developers. Think about some of the mind boggling decisions made in certain movies, for example... the two that come to my head are the Chun-Li movie and the Last Airbender (neither of which I have seen). In both there was a decision made to take a non white character and cast them as white, and in the case of Chun-Li, significantly changing the story. It is very much doubtful that these were the choices of off the hand racists, and the only explanation that I can think of it that someone in marketing suggested that people would identify better with the characters if those changes were made. This might have been justified if the movies came out and were amazing, but by all accounts...they weren't. And the controversy from the basting choices, at least with Airbender, seem to have far outweighed the positive effect of those marketing choices.

There is another issue, and JP makes a nod to this, and that is that many of us want games to be art. The thing with art is that most of what we consider "art" was not made to be marketed or to fit an audience. It is true that many artists had patrons or were hired to do specific jobs, maybe even with specifications, but these were people who were already acknowledged as masters. Today, art that is created specifically to be sold is rarely looked upon as art...as best it is seen as "crafts". Just consider the poster who, yesterday or the day before, was lamenting the prevalence of over produced music today. Or the fact that any time a band starts looking towards marketing their work they are seen as selling out... the idea is that successful art is popular on its own merits and not because is sought to incorporate popular elements. If games are to really be art, there has to be a minimizing of the influence of marketers in the design... art is marketed on its qualities rather than being made of qualities designed to be marketed.

RvLeshrac:
Once the game is in-process, the marketing department should have absolutely no input into that process. Marketing is about taking what you have and selling it, not changing what you have to fit the market.

Word-of-mouth sells games. Marketing merely tells us what's being released, and provides information about those releases. Unfortunately, most marketing firms seem to only be capable of ordering us to buy things, rather than providing good information.

I disagree.

I tend to see marketing as the dissemination of valuable information to an audience. For the most part, getting the word out, generating buzz, communicating value, managing communities, providing market research, defining features... etc.

Advertising however is what tries to tell you to buy stuff.

Word-of-mouth is only one way games are sold and to your point, it's the best, most effective way games are sold, but it's only one way. Generally, it's the marketing (information dissemination) that puts that product in front of you so that you're able to tell everyone else. No game company can truly rely on just word of mouth.

Another point is that during the process, the involvement of marketing should be and is involved. Sometimes it's to the detriment of the game other times, it identifies behaviors, trends, likes and dislikes that can add value to the game. I can think of more than one occasion, where as the marketing guy, I've told someone, "this will not work, based on research, this feature is inappropriate to the audience we're marketing (communicating) to.

All these articles say to me that marketing is essentially voodoo performed by individuals who have no useful skills. Marketers can't create anything, they aren't technical enough to perform support or maintenance functions, they just know someones cousin who works at IGN and can get a good deal on banner space.

Minecraft proved it decisively...marketing is unnecessary. If your product is good enough you can't stop people from finding out about it and giving you money.

Dilbert really said it best:

image

Don't feel too bad about unloading unsuspecting criticism upon people you respect. That tends to just moreso demonstrate that you can admire someone without automatically being 'taken' in by what they say, which I think scores bonus points with this community.

Hrm...now I'm wondering if you pointed that out in this article *because* of appealing to this audience rather than out of just making sure that, in case he reads this, your reasoning was made clear and that you're not trying to attack him. No...no...stop it! /slaps self before going off on thinking that would earn him a tinfoil hat

Again, nice identification of marketing being a vital piece of the whole rather than all that stands behind the popularity of a product. I also like your pointing out the difference between marketing and advertisments. For me personally, I never saw anything wrong with information about a product being presented to someone within a place you would expect it to show up.

Granted this will differ on the internet and RL, but for instance if I come into a mall one of the most offputting thing sometimes is how I pick up on the strategically placed signs and adverts that are tailor-made to maximize the chances of 'hooking' a person into the mall. Whenever I hear of someone setting out to just get some groceries and then in the end winding up spending most of their cash not just for food and drinks (what they originally set out to get) but on clothes, overpriced coffee from the tiny restaurants and such...seriously, I'd blame the person for being that weak-willed to some degree, but I also know that these malls are designed to lead people into this sort of thing, to skewer their original intentions on a pike and instead wind up having them cough up more money for things that in the end they might never have needed in the first place.

Similarly with videogames, I prefer to focus on not that many types of games to be honest (to the point that I wonder sometimes if I'm not really a 'gamer' but more of an 'WRPG enthusiast with a dash of occasional action or strategy gaming') For me these genres are my own 'groceries' and while I love coming to the Escapist (the mall) to get them, as it's a great site for it, I am not however that interested in other genres like RTSes, even though I used to play them during my childhood. And because of that, while I find it greatly interesting about games like Starcraft 2 being released to great success or such, I sometimes hate it being shoved into my face constantly. But then again, you don't want to just have nothing said about the game because after all...I'm not the only type of gamer this site informs and I am aware of that too. So how does one strike that balance really?

For me the balance comes in marketing through words rather than through 'in-your-face visual adverts' Because I can see a headline about Starcraft 2 and think 'oh yeah, that's good, but I'm not interested so I won't click on it' But I cannot, however, click away an advert about the game that is flashing or popping up everytime I go to a part of this site. To clarify this point, I'd say the Escapist does show this restraint far better than most other gaming sites who usually have far, FAR less reservations about these sorts of things.

EDIT: Having just noticed it though and aimed at the Escapist crews...that Eset smart security advert is spread all over the site tabs and over the inbox button that displays the drawings everytime you click on a new page? Yeah, that one sucks big time for me - just a teensy jab about that. Yet wonderfully timed to coincide with me writing this bit, kudos for that! ;)

Now I'm not saying 'do away with adverts completely.' But I am saying...marketing through words alone and still pictures that must be clicked upon to be revealed is probably the least invasive method and can thus be used more often while adverts and such should be used very sparingly indeed and also with a sense of some restraint. Perhaps even a sense of balance like, using adverts for games that one feels more strongly about but have not reached the general public's attention as much as a game like Starcraft 2 has?

Anyway...went off on a huuuuuuuuuge wall of text here. I just felt like it was cool that you differentiated between the more invasive forms of adverts and explaining that marketing is definitely not just about spamming that. I liked that a lot.

See, I don't really think the entire point of this article was "marketing is bad and they should stop fiddling around with game development", which is how some commenters seem to be reading it.

I think if you read it properly you might get an "it's an integral part of game development" vibe from it.

There are plenty of things that come from marketing which can change the development of a game for the better - data collected from gamer surveys (or forum posts). Say they convince the programmers that actually, putting another goddamn escort mission into your FPS for no reason isn't really a good idea - that's marketing interfering with game development.

Maybe one day a marketing bod will collate all the stuff I keep writing all over the internet complaining about putting checkpoints immediately before unskippable cut scenes. Because that's not at all really annoying. But I digress.

And even when the marketing input is just a matter of changing a game to make it more saleable - that's not a bad thing. Generally, I only buy games that I know exist. I also only buy games that I think are good - and part of that involves a certain amount of polish. Neither of those things exist without a fair old bit of marketing input. A lot of developers - especially the more esoteric ones (Molyneux, say) seem to think that their vision (or game engine) is so brilliant that it doesn't really matter if there's much of a game attached to it, or much of a reason to play the game in the first place.

It's like anything else that is best made up of a combination of its parts - if a game is all marketing it will be shallow and... crap. If a game is no marketing, it will probably pass under my radar, and may well have significant flaws or bits missing.

Ultimately, marketing is trying to find out what I want, and then getting me to buy it*. Because I want it. I can't really see why people are so insistent on demonising it.

*okay, so there's a certain element of telling me I want stuff that I in fact don't want as well. But I'm allowed to say 'no'.

Marketing, for most games, is absolutely necessary in terms of making sure the target audience for a game is aware of it when it's available for purchase. Preferably early when it's available for purchase, and not six months down the line when, say, they're checking the listing for their favorite genre on a filesharing site.

As a gamer, I get somewhat concerned when marketing is described as integral to the creative process of a game, partly for the reasons broached in the "space marine" anecdote, but partly just because by its nature marketing can only predict based upon what has been before. It's one more force towards creating a market of non-innovative, homogonized product, in an industry that is already chock-a-block with such forces.

I love these things, keep churning them out!

Odd, the idea of listening to focus groups.

I understand the reasons, but as the enduring popularlity of America's Funniest Videos prove, popular ain't good.

These posts are really, really good. I don't think there's anything else quite this insightful, especially when it comes to gaming as a business. Too many people insist on posting things from just a gamer's point of view, but there's the other side.

I don't know enough about marketing to make an effective comment here. I don't think my opinion is worth much, but I now consider myself much more informed. Then again, this is about all I know now.

Just as a side point, and I don't want to sound like a douche for saying this (although that's probably inevitable), but the picture on the first page kinda creeps me out.

 

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