|Once a breakout hit, Guitar Hero is now|
only a shadow of its former glory
Now, one could easily argue that the music game genre's catastrophic collapse had more to do with Activision's greedy higher-ups than with a marketing department failing to successfully handle so many similar products. But this argument only circles back to the underlying trend that is the fault of the marketing departments: they are not marketing the right product. We've already gone over how publishers focus on select franchises and try to pump out as much money as they can from these names. The fact of the matter is, they are promoting the wrong names, period. Rather than promoting the game brand itself, the publishers should be promoting the "brand" that is the talent behind these games. A bit altruistic, you might say, but let's take a closer look by peeking over at the much-compared medium of movies. Certainly there are cases where movie studios are able to push a brand to sell a movie (Star Wars, James Bond, pretty much any movie based on a comic book come to mind). But if you think about the way most movies are promoted and hyped up, it's usually one of two things (or a combination): the director and the actors. These studios often bank on big-name talent to bring consumers to their product. People already know they are probably in for a good movie if Steven Spielberg is the director or if Russel Crowe is the lead actor. These kinds of "stars" do not exist in the games industry--which is entirely the fault of the people who promote the games. Of course, game development is inherently more team-oriented and less based on individual talent, but that is why the industry should start focusing on promoting its specific studios as its stars.
|If you don't know Bungie, you certainly know|
its most successful creation.
prints money. Or is it? Last year, Rockstar unleashed their latest project, and it wasn't a game about urban crime. Rather, it was a brand-new game set in the Old West. It was called Red Dead Redemption and went on to sell millions upon millions of copies and is heralded as one of the best games of last year. While the game is technically a sequel, it shares no ties to its under-the-radar predecessor, which wasn't even originally developed by Rockstar (the former Capcom game was dumped and Rockstar swooped up the rights, pushed it out, then geared up for the project it really wanted to do). How could what is essentially a new IP make such a splash right out of the gate? Because Rockstar was able to promote the Rockstar brand instead of the game's brand. Very clearly above the title, and before every trailer and commercial, reads a line that says, "Rockstar Games Presents." As in, "Rockstar Games Presents Red Dead Redemption." At the very least, pushing their name on the front of the box puts their name out for the future, so even if you didn't know they made GTA, you'll know they made RDR when they ship their next game (which, by the way, is L.A. Noire, which will also carry the "Rockstar Games Presents" tag on its box).
By doing this, Rockstar has taken steps to promote the Rockstar brand. Suddenly, the company has two mega-blockbusters, yet its next two games (L.A. Noire and Max Payne 3) are not from either of those franchises. They have been able to succesfully promote the Rockstar name, which allows them to explore game ideas in all sorts of stories and settings, rather than endlessly iterating on GTA until consumers finally get sick of it. Not only that, but when Grand Theft Auto V eventually does drop, it will come to additional applause and fanfare for returning from a long absence, which generates all sorts of hype on its own. And in the meantime, Rockstar is still making a pretty penny on other, brand new titles, because people know that it's not just that GTA is a good game, it's that Rockstar is good at making good games. Being able to say "from the studio behind Grand Theft Auto" is an incredibly powerful marketing tool, and one that is scarcely used in the game industry--somewhat baffling considering how often you hear similar phrases in movie trailers. Promoting the talent will allow developers to create all sorts of new games, which will stave off franchise fatigue, foster creativity (which is good for the entire industry), and reduce the dependence on big-budget sequels. This process means more creative freedom for developers, a wider portfolio for the publishers, and a whole wealth of different experiences for the consumers. It's a win, win, win. Us "hardcore gamers" already know the great studios. It's time the rest of the world finds out as well.