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

| 19 Apr 2011 21:42
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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

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