American McGee Blasts EA Marketing

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American McGee Blasts EA Marketing

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The Alice dev claims that big publishers' ads are in a "race to the bottom.

In spite of pretty good reviews, Alice: Madness Returns did not sell a whole lot of copies. Popular developer American McGee, who is currently heading up a team in China, recently participated in an AMA on Reddit, and gave a potential reason why. The marketing department at Electronic Arts, McGee believes, tried to "trick" consumers into buying the game and tapped into entirely the wrong market. The trailers, which should have presented a dark, weird, whimsical tale, instead embraced blood and violence, driving away potential players.

McGee brings up EA marketing in relation to Shy the Sun, a creative communications organization that developed the Alice: Madness Returns trailers. "[EA marketing told] STS from the start that ALL creative direction and final say would come from them, not from us," explains McGee. Under EA's direction, Shy the Sun created trailers that were bloodier and gorier than the average content in the game. "That was a calculated disconnect created by EA. They wanted to 'trick' gamers into believing A:MR was a hard-core horror title, even though we refused to develop it in that tone."

According to McGee, EA wanted hardcore horror fans' money more than it wanted their satisfaction. As long as the game sold, the department was not overly concerned with its market perception. However, McGee believes that this is what kneecapped the game's sales, since it alienated a potentially much bigger audience. "[These trailers drove] away more casual customers, like female gamers, who might be turned off by really dark trailers," he says. The game was not exactly directed towards a casual audience, but the developer argues that presenting a strong female lead coupled with a lighter tone would have made the game a bigger success.

If McGee is to be believed, this was not an isolated incident, nor is he particularly optimistic about the future of marketing videogames. "It's all a part of the race to the bottom EA, Activision and the other big pubs are engaged in. Expect to see it get worse before it gets better."

Source: Reddit

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Seems like devs are not that fond of EA either.

I have to agree, I loved Madness Returns but it was horribly mismarketed and because of that there probably won't be a 3rd.

his explanation is... weird considering having played alice madness returns and american mcgee's alice.

madness returns was a bit more shooty and gory...

EA abusing a company and its games for sheer profit. Must be a day that ends in Y.

I can understand complaints about bad marketing, but mayyyyybe your game just wasn't that great?

McGee is certainly correct...in my case.

While I'm not in the 'female' demographic I LOVED the original Alice and played through it again and again until my computer started rejecting certain disks--I think I'll need to change my optics drive soon.

But the bloody and gory trailers didn't appeal to me. Sure the original Alice was dark but it wasn't awash in blood like they had in the trailers where Rabbit's face had the skin ripped off with him and Alice being in a boat floating suddenly in a river of actual blood. That sort of thing has it's place in some games but not in Alice.

Yuck.

The reviews being less than stellar torpedoed my buying Returns...but now...well, maybe I will buy it (and hopefully get the HD updated version of the original Alice which--again hopefully--will work on my computer).

Um, that game was still gruesome. Not very close to what the trailers made out, mind you, but it was still pretty edgy.

DVS BSTrD:
Or you know, mayyyyybe your game just wasn't that great?

Do you really think American McGee would admit that he, American McGee made a mistake in American McGee's Alice: something something?

Of course, there is definitely a half-truth here at least. A lot of games, along with other media, get misleading marketing. I've nearly missed out on some of my favourite movies because they were promoted as boilerplate genre flicks. This technique rarely seems to work.

Though I can't speak as to whether or not the quality of AMAMR is good enough for this to be true or poor enough for it to be false.

Still, promotional materials are deceptive and at this point, nobody should be surprised.

EA IS pretty terrible for making purposely misleading or false ads. I think that's one of the main reasons why I got off to such a sour footing with Dragon Age: Origins. The original official trailer for it called it "a heavy action RPG".

As for Madness Returns, it was a great game, and it definitely would've appealed more to a broader market than what they were going for. It's not so much a matter of 'women don't like horror' as 'people don't like horror'. True horror games are a niche genre, it's why every publisher who has a horror franchise ends up dropping the horror after a while to hit a wider market (just look at Resident Evil or Dead Space for examples).

So under that framework yes, with a wonderful female lead in an interesting story, it could've appealed to a much broader audience, especially women.

I have a feeling this will turn into a thread of people proclaiming more hate for the publisher with very, very little mention of what the article is actually about.

I find it unfortunate that the game (which I've never played, though have been curious about it seeing as it's held my interest for some time) may have been more successful with a different marketing approach, but what surprises me even more is that EA wouldn't have tried marketing it to appeal to a wider audience than just sell it as a dark, gory horror (which, admittedly, I would prefer just because I find the idea of a psychological horror-trip into Wonderland rather enticing). I mean wouldn't their goal be to gain as many potential buyers as possible? Though they just likely wanted it to appear edgy, which I wouldn't blame them for, considering that taking the famously mad world to much darker places would be a wonderful, splendiferously-insane joyride.

EA does something that insults and alienates customers? What a shock. Really, my jaw is on the floor here.

ANImaniac89:
I have to agree, I loved Madness Returns but it was horribly mismarketed and because of that there probably won't be a 3rd.

I never playde it because of the marketing actually, maybe I should pick up a copy on the cheap sometime..

McGee sure has opinions. I have to say, after the temper tantrum he threw here on these forums a little while ago, I am a lot less likely to take his statements at face value anymore. He seems to be blaming EA for his mediocre game doing poorly, instead of taking responsibility.

Well, to be honest, the trailer linked in the article is basically the first cutscene in the game, not some mock-up for merchandising purposes.

The game was pretty twisted and weird, not at all whimsical as American McGee makes it sound. Maybe not as gory as the first cutscene in the game makes it out to be, yet it really gets to disturbing pyschological territory when the whole plot is complete. I'm not too sure the marketing was so off target as he suggets.

I believe Mr. McGee because They certainly did that with Brutal Legend, which they made appear as a type of hack-n-slash adventure game, and it turned out to be a hack-n-slash RTS game.

Marshall Honorof:

"[These trailers drove] away more casual customers, like female gamers, who might be turned off by really dark trailers," he says. The game was not exactly directed towards a casual audience, but the developer argues that presenting a strong female lead coupled with a lighter tone would have made the game a bigger success.

I've never played any of the games, but a "lighter tone" seems like it would have been misleading too. This game looks pretty dark, not just in a bloody way.

And it's also really easy to point fingers when your baby doesn't do as well as you'd like. If it was a truly fantastic game, a misleading trailer couldn't have done too much harm. The best marketing tool is word of mouth, people telling their friends "Oh my god, you have to play this game. It's amazing." See the spread of Slender, a game with no marketing that I know of, just people saying it would scare your pants off.

Of course, I have no experience with marketing or Alice games, so I could be completely wrong with this. Just one person who doesn't think EA deserves all the blame.

Mr.Mattress:
I believe Mr. McGee because They certainly did that with Brutal Legend, which they made appear as a type of hack-n-slash adventure game, and it turned out to be a hack-n-slash RTS game.

or because it didnt see the light of day on the pc.

you know, that old relic of the past that was known to be a petri plate for real time strategy games and strategy games in general...

Copper Zen:

But the bloody and gory trailers didn't appeal to me. Sure the original Alice was dark but it wasn't awash in blood like they had in the trailers where Rabbit's face had the skin ripped off with him and Alice being in a boat floating suddenly in a river of actual blood. That sort of thing has it's place in some games but not in Alice.

Yuck.

The reviews being less than stellar torpedoed my buying Returns...but now...well, maybe I will buy it (and hopefully get the HD updated version of the original Alice which--again hopefully--will work on my computer).

SkarKrow:

I never played it because of the marketing actually, maybe I should pick up a copy on the cheap sometime..

Yes, you both should, especially you Copper Zen. The game, while far from perfect, is a faithful successor to the original. It has several returning characters and builds off the plot from the first game. I loved it.

I was actually MORE excited about this game because of those trailers. Dark, psychological horror, which is what I always thought the Alice games were about. I never played the first one growing up (I've played it now because Madness came with a free copy of it), but that's how I thought the game was. I remember thinking for the first few minutes of Madness Returns that the trailers were nothing like the game and I was slightly disappointed. Then that thought vanished and I enjoyed the game. I completely forgot about that feeling until just now.

Its not really that surprising. The odds are that the marketing team got sent a few beta levels of the game, some screens and a general overview from McGee about what the game was about. The team have then went on to create a campaign around their interpretation based on what they have.

At this point, the chances are even if McGee reviewed it and said "No, you've got this all wrong" I imagine EA would have still said "Tough, we're going with this.". The only way this could have been avoided would have been for McGee to take a more in-depth role in the marketing (which would have been relatively cumbersome).

However, having played the game I would be inclined to say the advertising campaign wasn't that far off. If anything I'd say EA's only fault is making the game seen more interesting to me than what it turned out to be. :p

Mr.Mattress:
I believe Mr. McGee because They certainly did that with Brutal Legend, which they made appear as a type of hack-n-slash adventure game, and it turned out to be a hack-n-slash RTS game.

That was mostly Schafer, as any time he talked about it, that's all he talked about. And EA is the only reason that game even came out. Without them, it never gets released.

EA marketing is being dicks again?
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rhizhim:

Mr.Mattress:
I believe Mr. McGee because They certainly did that with Brutal Legend, which they made appear as a type of hack-n-slash adventure game, and it turned out to be a hack-n-slash RTS game.

or because it didnt see the light of day on the pc.

you know, that old relic of the past that was known to be a petri plate for real time strategy games and strategy games in general...

I have the game, and it's okay, but I do agree that it probably would have been better on the PC, and maybe if it didn't have the Hack-n-slash parts. All I'm saying is that EA certainly marketed it as a Hack-n-slasher and not an RTS.

Frostbite3789:

That was mostly Schafer, as any time he talked about it, that's all he talked about. And EA is the only reason that game even came out. Without them, it never gets released.

True, but for all we know that could have been what EA told him to do (Talk about the Hack-n-slashing and leave out the RTS aspects). And while I thank EA for releasing the game, that doesn't excuse them for not advertising the game correctly.

Hang on, hang on. American McGee makes it sound like EA made a horrible horrible trailer that had nothing to do with the game. Now, the tone might have been inconsistent with much of the game, but EA basically just used a cutscene that is in the game.

It's difficult to see how using an in-game cutscene as a trailer can be seen to be EA creating a disconnect? Maybe the cutscene itself was the problem?

you know the old saying "a bad carpenter blames his tools" maybe McGee is washed up loser who thinks he's a great game designer but he's not.

EA being its usual self. What a shock.

Seriously, the marketing heads need to get their heads screwed back on. I'm well aware the most developed market of the moment tends to mostly revolve around horror or CoD, but come on. Those ads for Dante's Inferno, Dead Space being presented as a "game your Mom will hate"?

Please, EA. We're not all petulant thirteeen year-olds just itching for a chance at mild teenage rebellion. We're not all horror buffs or part of the shooter crowd. There's a bigger market out there than just the kid who likes edgy stuff for its purported edginess.

Why does this sound familiar....OH RIGHT.

Trailer is great, Manson is great, representation of the actual game? Not new shit, utter shit.

As much as I don't care for EA, it sounds to me like American Mcgee is trying to cast blame on other sources for his own failure. Going after the marketing department seems like something being done when they can't blame other more likely things like not being given money, or creative direction (notice he doesn't say he didn't make the game he wanted to). Probably this is a last ditch effort before his newest game under his new Chinese publisher given that his reputation does seem to have suffered more than a bit compared to one-time super stardom.

I find it kind of hilarious to hear someone accusing a company of trying to cater to hardcore horror fans, since that basically doesn't happen. It's very rare when we see things like "Dead Island" and the kind of production and marketing it's been doing. In general you tend to see most "horror" titles casualized, and toned down so as not to offend or disturb anyone, with them being turned almost entirely into "Bro-fest" action games. The typical complaints being that games like "Resident Evil" and "Silent Hill" just aren't horror games anymore.

To be honest, I'll say that while "Madness Returns" got some decent review scores, most reviews I read of the game talked about it being repetitive, with you doing the same thing again and again, with a lot of useless weapons tacked on since once you got the pepper-shaker cannon there was little reason to use much else apparently, and apparently a very bad combat system where it was nearly impossible to tell how much damage you were doing to targets, and things like that. My personal observation seemed to be that people were reluctant to slam it too badly because of the "American Mcgee" name, but ultimatly there weren't many people even in "positive" reviews that seemed to be saying how great it was. I'm not saying there weren't any, just not many I ran into.

To be brutally honest, I think if someone DID do a hardcore horror title out of this kind of stuff it would probably sell pretty well, but your not likely to see it specifically because publishers tend not to have the guts. For example if someone was to take the characters and mythology (as far as it went) from Mcfarlane's old "Twisted Land Of Oz" figures with all the sexuality and ultraviolence (Dorothy in bondage gear, etc...) and turn that into a game I could imagine it doing pretty well.

I'll also say that I think the "it's all in her head" thing kind of hurt Alice. See, even in hardcore horror the people watching/reading/playing it typically want the protaganist to survive and be okay.. well if the game is designed correctly and people like their character(s). This adds more impact when things happens to them, and so on. The problem with Alice to an extent is that while it's not hardcore horror, it's ultimatly an exercise in futility, I mean even if you get Alice to lapse back to sanity it's not like we're dealing with a story that is likely to have a happy ending in any way, shape, or form. I think the whole "why bother?" question affected the game, as I hardly to be the only one with these thoughts. Not to mention that places like Oz, Wonderland, etc... tend to be more exciting if they are portrayed as real as opposed to just delusions.... or in short, while not "hardcore" horror, I think as a premise Alice was lacking in any degree of hope. People play video games, even really dark ones, for escapism, while games that are explorations in despair, isolation, and futility, might score high among the arthouse crowd, it's not something that I think can be directed at a mainstream product.

I for one didn't buy AMA because it requires origin. Even though I loved the first Alice.

I can believe that. Although... if EA wants hardcore horror fans' money so bad, why are they moving Dead Space, their biggest horror franchise, away from horror?

"[These trailers drove] away more casual customers, like female gamers, who might be turned off by really dark trailers," he says. The game was not exactly directed towards a casual audience, but the developer argues that presenting a strong female lead coupled with a lighter tone would have made the game a bigger success.

I'm not the only one slightly PO'd at that bit am I? "Oh no! We might upset the females if we're too violent!" The implication that female gamers are by default the casuals and that they're only interested in light-hearted games or games with female protagonists.... Urgh. This is why we can't have nice things.

Sgt. Sykes:
I for one didn't buy AMA because it requires origin. Even though I loved the first Alice.

um ... no ...

i should know, i have it, got it through steam, no origin required

I don't think EA was at all misleading. The game was indeed fairly bloody and dark, and was at least trying to emulate aspects of the horror genre. In fact, the trailer that McGee was criticizing was the first cutscene of the entire game, so it wasn't even like it was a game that would be building up to the violence, it just starts there.

Besides which, I find his assertion that women didn't pick up the game because it seemed to dark rather strange. I'm not sure of any statistics, but I would like to assume that if any adult, male or female, chooses to not play games with darker tones then it is based off of their preference and not their gender.

If that game lost any sales, it was probably because it was a fairly mediocre game. Interesting concept, but substandard gameplay and constantly loading screens do not make for an enjoyable experience. This just sounds like McGee trying to save face just in time for Akinaro, so that if anyone asks about the lack of success with his previous outing then he can put to someone else as the problem.

Heh... Remembering my own griping, right here on these forums, about how the marketing for Mass Effect 3 almost managed to completely put me off the game, despite just how impatiently I had been awaiting the last part of the trilogy. :P

NameIsRobertPaulson:
EA abusing a company and its games for sheer profit. Must be a day that ends in Y.

Make that -day. Have to agree with you there. I just don't get what's so wrong that marketing departments, not just EA, have to make those long CGI trailers that say fuck all about the game. Why can't marketing departments just present what's there instead of trying to trick people and then suffer the backlash of hate and anger?

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