Friday, 29 July 2011
Friday, 22 July 2011
Monday, 4 July 2011
If you had a great little game Alien Swarm, which has some quite good reviews, how would you best market it? It’s a nice little multiplayer co-op shooting tactics game… what? £20… £10… Or indeed… Free?
Well, free is what the makers of Alien Swarm decided upon via Steam, and with some searching it was quite easy to find the explanation of the game designers as to exactly why they were giving away quite a nice little game for free. Why? Some really good, very smart reasoning detailed. Key to this is building a brand and brand loyalty:
“It Builds Brand Loyalty Gamers like free stuff. Gamers also like good support. Releasing a game for free makes people love Valve (hell, it works for me). Valve also releases free content and support for past games, which leads to the same effect.”
What a great little forward thinking proposal, and so simple in concept to. A pity many top companies don’t have this level of recognition and self reflective ability. Simply put, being self aware enough to know: nobody knows us, we lack a brand or franchise, and there’s lots of established games out there for gamers who like this genre to put their trust into. What I like about this entire marketing approach (which I think a number of studios could learn from..) is its honesty with the customer, and its innate recognition that repeat custom, customer satisfaction and subsequent retention, is the only way to build the brand and/or franchise from the ground up.
It’s an interesting little promotion though. I’ve just come across the game today, however it’s been out for many months now since August last year, and the 50,000+ players online at peak times 5-10 months ago has (apparently) come and gone. However, Steam has now a specific section for its free-to-play games since June 2011, and this has led to Alien Swarm, and indeed another host of games, being more prominently displayed to users.
Why is that important? Because Steam is actually one of the biggest platforms in PC gaming, which worries some people, indeed, it has made many retailers very unhappy (to say the least), as they see it as a major competitor, but certainly to be listed as a free-to-play game on Steam gains a substantial amount of new players for your game. How many players? How much market awareness? Doesn’t seem like a huge deal…. Well around 1000% for Champions Online as a quick example in the last month!
Why else is this important? Well read this polemic by Matthew White a researcher from Memorial University of Newfoundland: “...repetitive, derivative commercial off-the-shelf games as a phenomenon posing dangerous implications for the health and viability of the video games industry, foreshadowing particularly a major crash or paradigm shift in the near future. Implicated in these predictions are the games industry's ignorance of player wants, needs, and individualities, the dangerous economic precedent of the generation of derivative works, and the evidence of gamer dissatisfaction through free and open gaming communities.”
Though the entire article is very worth a read in of itself, It’s sentences like “player-centred game development and participatory design” in the abstract which ring bells with how Alien Swarm seem to have taken their game. A game based out of the work of the modding community, a game which is starting from a base of nothing and building its franchise from player satisfaction, retention, loyalty and feedback.
So what might be the first stage of a new MMO company, designing a new franchise MMO costing millions in development? Well, perhaps giving away some of the content for free might be a, seemingly surreal, good first step!
Saturday, 2 July 2011
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