Gaming Like A Sir: Marketing Games Properly
My new column, NOW WITH WORDS!
Immersion is an odd thing. Developers toss and overwork the word as if each use directly correlates to another sold copy of their game.
As a child I believed it. As an angsty teen everything was a lie. Now as an adult, the world is the appropriate shade of murky grey. Some things are lies and other things are near truths.
What amazes me is that there seems to be almost no correlation between what marketing teams say and what the game actually is. I know that there is some logic behind this, no marketing douche is going to admit the faults of the crap he’s peddling, I understand that, respect it even. Marketing departments and companies make their living finding the best in what they sell. At least that’s the most romantic way I can think to put it. They emphasize the good and hide the bad. Welcome to the real world.
What I don’t understand is when they just lie. I get that exaggeration plays a part in any bit of advertising; it’s understood by all and accepted as fair play. When we pick up a product and its features are a little less shiny than the Stepford-esque zombies flogging it would have you believe, we aren’t too surprised. At least we shouldn’t be.
The idea, I’ve always assumed, is to take a nugget of truth and to expand and embellish it. What I don’t understand is when a company prances the marketing dance, but without even that nugget of truth to hang its web of silky fabrications on.
It seems to me that marketers would be better suited emphasizing and selling the good aspects of a product rather than trying to make it compete in categories where it is obviously and laughably inferior.
Let’s take one of the most stalwart buzz words of our time: immersion.
The routine is always the same;
“We’re cranking up the immersion.”
“We have many immersive elements.”
“Immersion is a key feature\priority\design philosophy\aspect of our game.”
Not every game can be and have everything and I don’t understand why marketing monsters try to make us believe otherwise. Does it actually work?
Does this actually convince anyone? Is my understanding of the collective minimum intellect of our fair ape-race so off base that this is actually an effective way to part man from his money? I have gotten to the point where I barely even hear this kind of drivel. I base my purchasing decisions entirely on gameplay footage, trailers, and hard facts about features.
Don’t misunderstand, if a company tells me they’re going for immersion by creating or using a core, large new feature – awesome. Show me some gameplay and I might be convinced. When I hear that a game now comes with “amazing, cutting-edge, artistically beautiful graphics to help immerse players” all I think is are there so few actually impressive features with your game that this is what you have to resort to?
To the ladies out there, if a man approached you and said he had an impressive two hands with a matching pair of feet would you be impressed or would you wonder what the hell was wrong with his brain?
The sad part is that I know where this trend of over marketing comes from – the blinding harsh reality of game development. We might expect a series of impressive, standard features to accompany any game and for the AAA titles out there, they generally do. For the smaller companies, the indie darlings and the garage start-ups out there, this makes breaking into the industry all the more difficult.
For the penniless developer, every single little feature represents a good portion of their budget and considerably more risk than even an entire game for a huge publisher. This makes it very tempting to suddenly start advertising every little thing they’ve ever done.
All I can say is that I hope they don’t. Even when they mean well, they just come across as tacky. Maintain some dignity and make it look easy. I understand struggling and fighting to be one of the big boys. We’ve all had that feeling. Some people out there seem to make it look so easy, seem so effortless, and they have so much.
Even when you’re a part of the group, one of the blokes, and happily one of the cool kids, there is always going to be that insecurity. What if I’m not good enough?
This extended high school metaphor is no different for game developers, big and small. Games are immensely difficult, expensive and time consuming to make. It requires a level of passion, dedication and sheer balls than most things to go out there and create an experience for the entire, nasty world to judge.
You know what? Have faith. Nothing makes a game look cooler than when its developers clearly love and are genuinely proud of it. You want a great marketing campaign? Give me a 5 minute video with random artist drone #47 and show me the level of passion and care that has gone into making a weapon look cool, or a character animate properly, or a shoe lace flutter just right.
You want to make me appreciate your game? Show me what goes into it and then show me the best of its features. Shame creates shame, when a gamer smells a cover up, we become like blood hounds. The same is true for love.
Show me the love and I’ll show you the money.