PR Guy: Games Should Be Judged on Quality, Not Brand Name

 Pages 1 2 NEXT
 

PR Guy: Games Should Be Judged on Quality, Not Brand Name

image

According to one promoter, videogames should get exposure based on fun they are, not how popular the last game in the series was.

The eternal problem of the entertainment business is that people are stupid. Not all of us are, of course, but even if you think you're a super smart guy who is immune to marketing, chances are you've bought a videogame sequel or two simply because of the recognizable title. The public is more inclined to read about games from bigger publishers with big names attached to it like all of the god damned Call of Dutys and Final Fantasys out there. For all that pundits decry the lack of innovation in videogames, it can be damn tough to get people interested in a really good game if it doesn't have a strong pedigree. As a guy who's job it is to get people to play a game, Tom Ohle is frustrated with that system. The founder of Evolve PR, Ohle works for videogame companies both big and small and he has found it difficult to get the press interested in what he believes are great games.

"As a PR practitioner, it's ultimately my job to ensure that my clients' products are seen," Ohle wrote on his blog today. "How can one hope to achieve success with a great game when you can't even get someone to look at it? Visibility is tantamount to success ... or at the very least, it lays the groundwork for success, and it needs to be backed up with a great product. But achieving visibility for a low-profile game can be nothing short of disheartening."

Ohle discusses specific examples of games that he's led the PR charge for and how he's experienced lackluster response such as Anomaly Warzone Earth. "The game has been universally praised by reviewers, and at $10 is a ridiculously good deal. Everyone who plays it loves it," he said. "Does that translate to sales and, further, success? Not necessarily. The game's reviews have been buried or quickly wiped off front pages, replaced by coverage of whatever major publisher just held a press event that day."

Ohle realizes that he may come off as a complaining PR guy, but he has a point that can't be denied. If we complain so much about our industry releasing endless sequels then we must start caring about games from companies that we might not immediately recognize.

"In an industry that so often complains about derivative sequels, soulless big-budget productions and a lack of risk-taking, isn't it about time we started focusing on quality?" Ohle asked. "Shouldn't those companies looking to push the boundaries of the medium begin to reap the rewards? If things keep going the way they are, we'll never shed the $60 price point, we'll get sequels to major franchises every year, and we'll all keep complaining and wishing things were different."

The problem is a chicken-and-egg one, I think. The audience votes with their dollars or their clicks and the videogame publishers and press respond with what products are the most popular, which then further cuts down on what is produced giving the audience less incentive to try new products. And while there are outliers that Tom Ohle himself recognizes, like Minecraft and The Witcher, it would be great if more publishers felt that they could take risks by offering brand new experiences.

And it would be even greater if the videogame press felt that it could champion lesser known games that showed real promise as much it did the latest from Activision or Electronic Arts.

Source: Evolve website

Permalink

This reminds me of a game made by the great Tim Schafer. A game so amazingly unique, so fun, and so charming. A game praised by all who played it, a game that was amazing.

This game was Psychonauts, and the general gaming public fucking ignored it. Until it faded into obscurity, then its popularity skyrocketed somehow. Gamers be hipsters I guess.

Gamers all cry for new things, but few are actually willing to take the risk and buy the new thing. If your not willing to spend $50-$60 on a new IP, then why should the publishers/developers be willing to drop $20-$50 million on making the games?

This stuff takes risks. From both sides. And if your not willing to dive in and take a chance, then what you'll get are tons of sequels.

Anyone dumb enough to believe marketing after Devil May Cry 2 are in desperate need of a slap on the back of their head. Gibbs-style.

Anyhoo, it's not marketing that's getting sequels their success (well, not entirely anyways) but familiarity as well. Tell me, if you've been going to your local McDonald's your entire life, would you try going to another place to try it out or do you stick to the familiar? Same with ordering at these places, do you try new things or stick with what you know?

Unfortuntately, sequels and high-profile developers are much more marketable.

The only real things we can do to give success to more unknown titles is the classic power of "word of mouth". But boy, is that POWERFUL.

I'd never seen an ad for Amnesia or Minecraft, and they've both gone on to be very successful.

The only issue I really have with this man's thoughts is the word "quality". Quality is different to everyone. There is no industry standard for "quality".

Some parts of this make sense, but some brands are just better than others. There's no doubt about it. There are some brands that are popular and in the spotlight because you know, for the most part, that they will be well crafted and at a certain level of competence.

One must look at games the same way we look at movies. There are many amazing independent films, but they certainly don't get the press they deserve. Occasionally they do, just the same as games, but most don't. That's just the nature of the beast. As far as big names go, yeah, they are going to get looked at more because they have a track record of being good (or at least popular..."good" is subjective) and people would rather go with something proven than risking their money on something new. It sucks sometimes, but besides movies, the same goes for just about anything. That's why most people still use a Windows OS, eat at chain restaurants, drive known car models, etc.

One must also look at the usual games people play. Does the typical gamer really care if someone else deems a "risky" game fun? Not necessarily. If it's outside of the typical gamer's lexicon, they might not enjoy something another person with a broader taste would enjoy. If we look at game reviews for some independent games, there could be plenty good reviews, but all it takes is a handful for someone to completely disavow the game. Likening it to my own experience, Yahtzee has done that for me on a few occasions. Others may have said the game was fun, but I would rather keep my money for a sure thing than a possible lemon.

Irridium:
This reminds me of a game made by the great Tim Schafer. A game so amazingly unique, so fun, and so charming. A game praised by all who played it, a game that was amazing.

This game was Psychonauts, and the general gaming public fucking ignored it. Until it faded into obscurity, then its popularity skyrocketed somehow. Gamers be hipsters I guess.

Gamers all cry for new things, but few are actually willing to take the risk and buy the new thing. If your not willing to spend $50-$60 on a new IP, then why should the publishers/developers be willing to drop $20-$50 million on making the games?

This stuff takes risks. From both sides. And if your not willing to dive in and take a chance, then what you'll get are tons of sequels.

And correct. People call for it, but they don't show it with their wallets.

(I haven't played Psychonauts by the way xD).

Also: fellow PC gamers. If you pirate The Witcher 2, even to "demo" it, I will go super saiyan on you.

Dragon Age 2's frosty reception by gamers is enough to show that brand name doesn't mean everything. The sales are a lot lower than expected, the ratings from the users are low, and the complaints about it litter every gaming forum there is, especially Bioware's.

Onyx Oblivion:

The only issue I really have with this man's thoughts is the word "quality". Quality is different to everyone. There is no industry standard for "quality".

Indeed, especially when you consider things such as Minecraft, a game with incredibly simple graphics which could be argued to be "low quality", but it is something nobody cares about because it's not trying to be visually outstanding.

Ya.
And dogs should stop licking themselves.

How is this even News? Everyone knows that this is how it should be. And everyone knows that this isn't reality and never will be until there is a solid norm to measure "fun"

Woodsey:

Also: fellow PC gamers. If you pirate The Witcher 2, even to "demo" it, I will go super saiyan on you.

As will I. Whoever pirates Witcher 2, I will hate with all my being.

I am seriously hyped about a game called Firefall and I know absolutely nothing about the development team.

You're full of crap.

Call me cynical, but would Mr. Ohle say the same if his firm represented one of the sequel-spawning industry superpowers rather than the smaller, lesser-known devs?

Also, something about the term "PR practitioner" makes it sound like some form of dark art.

Well, more like a dark art.

Unfortunately Activision pays better and brings more traffic.

Them's the breaks.

AnythingOutstanding:
I am seriously hyped about a game called Firefall and I know absolutely nothing about the development team.

You're full of crap.

You're not the typical gamer. I'd venture a guess most people here aren't.

Legion:
Dragon Age 2's frosty reception by gamers is enough to show that brand name doesn't mean everything. The sales are a lot lower than expected, the ratings from the users are low, and the complaints about it litter every gaming forum there is, especially Bioware's.

Fair point... but offer any indie developer a chance to get as many sales as Dragon Age 2 (regardless of how short of expectations they may have fallen) and as much coverage as DA2 got in the leadup to release, and they'll be thrilled :)

AnythingOutstanding:
I am seriously hyped about a game called Firefall and I know absolutely nothing about the development team.

You're full of crap.

Errr... well, just because one, fifty or even five thousand people are hyped about a game doesn't mean it'll be a success, or that the devs will get the coverage their game deserves. The argument is that if you're excited about Firefall, maybe other people should be. But unless someone in a position to do so TELLS other people about it, they won't ever hear about it.

Onyx Oblivion:

The only issue I really have with this man's thoughts is the word "quality". Quality is different to everyone. There is no industry standard for "quality".

[/quote]
Absolutely... in this case, "quality" would rather mean something that has exceptional... uhh... qualities. That could be a very unique gameplay element, beautiful visuals, addictive gameplay, top-notch production values... whatever. The point is that a lot of big-budget games totally lack those qualities but still get the love and, as a result, the sales.

Tulks:
Call me cynical, but would Mr. Ohle say the same if his firm represented one of the sequel-spawning industry superpowers rather than the smaller, lesser-known devs?

Also, something about the term "PR practitioner" makes it sound like some form of dark art.

Well, more like a dark art.

Well, I've worked with the best of 'em (started out by working at BioWare) and yeah, I still feel that way :). Of course I'd be less inclined to go and bitch about it, but y'know.

And yes, PR practitioner sounds awful. Wanted a different word than "rep" or "executive" or "doer"

Tom Ohle:

Legion:
Dragon Age 2's frosty reception by gamers is enough to show that brand name doesn't mean everything. The sales are a lot lower than expected, the ratings from the users are low, and the complaints about it litter every gaming forum there is, especially Bioware's.

Fair point... but offer any indie developer a chance to get as many sales as Dragon Age 2 (regardless of how short of expectations they may have fallen) and as much coverage as DA2 got in the leadup to release, and they'll be thrilled :)

Absolutely, but what you have to remember is that an Indie developer typically spends significantly less on game production and advertisement, and so for them to make that kind of money and to gain that kind of attention would be a lot more noticeable for them (like Minecraft).

When you consider the huge budget companies such as Bioware have, as well as the fact that they must have spent a tonne on advertising, their sales have probably shown them that people are not impressed with them rushing out a product that has as many issues as it does.

Also: You have been lurking for 4 and a half years? That's got to be a record. Welcome to the forums.

Irridium:

Gamers all cry for new things, but few are actually willing to take the risk and buy the new thing. If your not willing to spend $50-$60 on a new IP, then why should the publishers/developers be willing to drop $20-$50 million on making the games?

The thing that differentiates games from movies is that one game can keep you playing for over a year (Call of Duty, Mass Effect or Halo anyone?). If developers made more unique IPs that offered an experience gamers could come back to, they would be more successful. Not everyone with a 360 has a large library of games. Usually they just have a copy of Call of Duty and FIFA for when friends come round.

Tom Ohle:

Tulks:
Call me cynical, but would Mr. Ohle say the same if his firm represented one of the sequel-spawning industry superpowers rather than the smaller, lesser-known devs?

Also, something about the term "PR practitioner" makes it sound like some form of dark art.

Well, more like a dark art.

Well, I've worked with the best of 'em (started out by working at BioWare) and yeah, I still feel that way :). Of course I'd be less inclined to go and bitch about it, but y'know.

And yes, PR practitioner sounds awful. Wanted a different word than "rep" or "executive" or "doer"

Fair enough. Given that few here dispute that smaller houses need more visibility, how would you suggest they go about properly exposing themselves? Word-of-mouth and grassroots support only seem to work in indie-friendly circles...

And how about "PR champion"? Or "PR proponent"? Yeah, there's almost no word that makes it sound less sinister. Could be worse, though. Could be "lobbyist".

Correct me if I'm wrong, but isn't this guy's job to promote games regardless of their quality? In a sense, it seems to me that this guy (and colleagues) are part of the problem. Ideally games (and everything else) should be judged on their merit. Marketing's job is to make people "judge" a game on how well it's marketed.

I agree that it would be better if gaming websites would be somewhat immune to this though, and pay just as much attention to less visible games if they sound interesting or if they turn out to be fun.

Welcome to my life, Mr. Ohle. Enjoy your stay in the niche where no game sells what it should.

IF games were judged on quality then COD would be judged as a copy+paste shitty game.

But the whole reason you made the series was because the first one was fun to play. Therefore, isn't it only natural include past satisfaction in your decision to purchase the game? Something tells me that he only believes this because smaller less popular series get overshadowed by the juggernauts, and while it is sad, there is a simple reason for it.

The Juggernauts are fun to play.

Very simple, really. The group that knows about and cares about games - the population of the various websites - is a fraction of a game's potential audience. The rest of the "gamers" buy franchise titles - Call of Duty, Halo, Madden... and unless a game is actively advertised where they can see it, they won't know it exists. Hence, as mentioned in the original article, it is very much "chicken-and-egg" - unless a game is advertised heavily, it won't sell, but publishers only want to advertise games they know will sell. Hence the franchise loop.

As an addendum, the wider market generally seems to want "realistic," "gritty," "mature" games. Games similar to blockbuster movies, in other words. So trying to sell them, say, Psychonauts or Recettear would be difficult indeed, as the innate reaction to games like these is "It's for kids." This is the same problem that a Pixar movie might have when trying to sell itself to a beer-swillin', football-watchin', pot-bellied couch potato - someone unfamiliar with Pixar whose first thought is "A movie about fish? Don't care. Gimme guns and violence."

Irridium:
This reminds me of a game made by the great Tim Schafer. A game so amazingly unique, so fun, and so charming. A game praised by all who played it, a game that was amazing.

This game was Psychonauts, and the general gaming public fucking ignored it. Until it faded into obscurity, then its popularity skyrocketed somehow. Gamers be hipsters I guess.

Gamers all cry for new things, but few are actually willing to take the risk and buy the new thing. If your not willing to spend $50-$60 on a new IP, then why should the publishers/developers be willing to drop $20-$50 million on making the games?

This stuff takes risks. From both sides. And if your not willing to dive in and take a chance, then what you'll get are tons of sequels.

It's a vicious cycle, isn't it?

Right now I'm strapped for cash, so I'm deciding between Portal 2, L.A. Noire, InFamous 2, or Brink. Portal 2 just for the sake of more portals, L.A. Noire because I've been dieing for a detective game, InFamous 2 because I liked the first one and want to see what happens next, and Brink because it looks like it's trying something different in FPSs and it's genuinely interesting.

And that's not even getting into the games that will be coming out even later in the year (Uncharted 3, Skyrim, Arkham City, etc...).

So, really, the question is do I go for something that I know for sure I will enjoy to a large extent (InFamous 2, Portal 2, both sequels....hmmm...) or do I show my support for uniqueness (L.A. Noire, Brink) and if so which one do I show support for?

But that's just me ranting. It is a shame that some games do go under the radar, but with prices these days, can you really blame people for going with the safe investment while at the same time demanding more? Probably.

Greg Tito:

"...chances are you've bought a videogame sequel or two simply because of the recognizable title."

Heh, I just finished ranting about buying Epic Yarn because Kirby was on it.

Greg Tito:

"As a PR practitioner, it's ultimately my job to ensure that my clients' products are seen," Ohle wrote on his blog today. "How can one hope to achieve success with a great game when you can't even get someone to look at it? Visibility is tantamount to success..."

That sounds exactly like EA's marketing strategy; "any publicity is good publicity... even when it's clearly bad, insulting and enforces stereotypes onto your target consumer... as long as people see it we've done our job well"

I'm not quoting anyone in particular it's just what I hear from any large video game marketing department. It's kind of sad when I think of video game marketing that I'm not thinking of valves remarkable ability to keep their target audience glued to breaking news about their upcoming game, but how stupid and misinformed large game companies are about it's target consumer. Large game companies(EA... easy target for this) seem to either hold extraordinarily ignorance as a virtue or just they're completely indifferent to their audience. Honestly, who felt like the Dead Space 2 ads were effective at selling the game?

Low Key:
That's why most people still use a Windows OS,

I know I use windows because there's more games on that than the alternatives.

I (and I assume many others) treat games like I do books. I have a favorite author or two that I stick with for consistency. These are the ones I go to when I want a relatively safe investment, something I know will be enjoyable though perhaps less so than some unknown game. Lets face it, love them or hate them you know exactly what you are getting when you buy Call of Duty 470312.

Then, when I feel adventurous or there is nothing new by those safe choices, I will branch out. I will try something new after doing some research. These are the risky choices. You may find a hidden gem or merely a polished turd. If you get lucky and find a gem then congrats. If not, well you just wasted $10, $20, $30, etc.

The first game in a series is a wager. After you've won it, (if you haven't you scrap the project and take it on the employees) you'll want to repeat the formula till it stops working.
I can guess that CoD would stop working at number 11.
Final Fantasy at 21.
Zelda, Mario, Kirby and the rest of Nintendo's intellectual property at ∞.
That is partially the fault of developers, and the fault of consumers. Because you buy these ...'games'... he allow developers to make more money and therefore make a sequel to profit from the game even more. On the other hand, AAA games are too 'safe'.
I bought the first CoD and its expansion. I still play it now. I haven't bought any of the other CoD... I'm looking at you, regenerating health.

Double Post.
I feel so ashamed.
Please avoid this.

PR guy states obvious, gets news story.

I really don't get the world these days...if I ever did.

Downloadable games are a great example of this, many being far more superior than most retail releases.

One of the more annoying aspects of games being unfairly judged is when lesser franchises are criticized in reviews for being similar... now I don't think I even need to bother listing games that somehow get away with this. I'm sure many here can already think of many off the top of their head.

The problem: People can't be bothered to realize that if they spent 5 minutes playing X game, they would squee in delight and gladly fork over a $100 bill.

The solution: Make that game MUCH easier to try out. Examples:

-Make the game free entirely! Charge overpriced for cosmetic DLC, premium forum-discussion access, additional content, etc.
-Make a demo available.
-Even better, make a demo tryable on a WHIM; no immense download, install time, etc. A great example would be the ability to start playing the Minecraft Alpha within a few seconds of visiting Minecraft.net
-Style the gameplay so you can quickly get a good idea of what is going on, and what makes it fun, just by watching a video. This might include filming the person playing, giving plenty of feedback for each button press, etc.

This stuff probably seems like an obvious lesson to us all, but how many of us just bought Portal 2, eh? (Not saying Portal 2 is bad; but it is very definitely brand-recognition at work)

You want a game that needed a face behind it to get sales? Painkiller. As soon as Yahtzee did a review on the game, the sales for the game grew, like over 1000%, I want to guestimate reading it was about 3200% increase in sales. And according to wikipedia, not too long after he reviewed in ZP it appeared on the Steam store.

Sometimes you need press like this for a game.

However, using your company to market for a game is a good thing, people buy Valve games all the time because it's Valve, and while yes, the products are quite good always, it doesn't matter because we look at the name.

For games that aren't made by big names who can say "We made this great game so you should buy this other game because we made it," companies should market the game early to reviews. Give them demos and get feedback from them. A lot of us consumers will make decisions on games based on reviews

I bought Saint's Row 2 based on Yahtzee's recommendation and I haven't been disappointed, and I heard about Just Cause 2 from ZP as well. If you want to advertise the game, get some good reviews behind it, and use the reviewers and critics at your disposal to your advantage. Give them a copy of the game, ask them what's good and what's bad, then go fix the bad stuff. Because us consumers are like sheep, we follow orders and take commands from those in power.

If a game is good, it will get the press it needs, but helping it get more will help out a LOT of the time, especially when you can't point out a game and say "We made this" or 'this is the sequel to our great game," because using Just Cause as an example, I hear from EVERYONE that 1 sucked, and about 2? I heard showers of praise for it.

Maybe The escapist could have some weekly indie/obscure Game spotlight feature to bring these games some attention. That would be interesting and helpful for all.

 Pages 1 2 NEXT

Reply to Thread

Log in or Register to Comment
Have an account? Login below:
With Facebook:Login With Facebook
or
Username:  
Password:  
  
Not registered? To sign up for an account with The Escapist:
Register With Facebook
Register With Facebook
or
Register for a free account here