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The Games Industry Is Driven By Marketing Stories (techcrunch.com)
21 points by kurtable 1811 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 5 comments



I think the thesis of this article can be expanded even further to, "The Entertainment Industry is driven by marketing stories", and as gaming is part of the entertainment industry, it therefore abides by many of the same themes and customs.


Not always. Some dare to make something unusual and succeed:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=24qJXgiuO1E

The industry seems to get healthier now. More interest in cross platform games, OpenGL, SDL and etc. and less lock in into DirectX.


This article is full of hand waving and I after reading it I still don't understand what a "marketing story" is. To focus on the stuff I did understand (but took issue with):

>> The odds are increasingly stacked against any developer who’s unable to pull a Peter Molyneux and attract a whole lot of press attention to a zany idea. Their problem is that most often their games look and act very similar to others’ games, have the same look, gameplay and overall dynamic as competitors’ games.

No, two things are going on here: Peter Molyneux innovated and "most often their games look and act very similar to others’ games". Peter Molyneux's cube was a publicity stunt and it pretty much worked. But you don't need to do the same thing to attract attention for a decent game idea provided that it's somehow innovative, polished and fun.

>> That’s why Apple has all the power on the App Store, why Google is sort-of getting there with the Play store, and why Zynga has all the power within the sub-ecosystem it has developed on Facebook. In commodity markets, visibility is everything.

This is the real core of what we're talking about. It was the case for a brief period that an indie could sell a game in the App Store with little marketing and have it become an App Store hit. Then the market filled with both established publishers and hobby developers and -- holy shit -- started to resemble just about every other low-barrier-to-entry market and the gold rush was over.

When people say the sky is falling on mobile they are lamenting the end of the gold rush. Those are different things.

>> This year the tablet space in particular has had a marked increase of graphical polish, and that trend shows every sign of continuing. In some respects it’s like watching the console and PC games industry play its story out all over again, but with good reason: Graphics, in particular a stylish look, can really push a game forward into the market in ways that innovation rarely does ... However this does not give much solace for the developer who cannot afford to spend a fortune.

It's surprising to hear something like this out of someone inside the industry. Art costs for mobile games, including many of the top earners, are not particularly high. Compared to marketing and programming costs art won't cost a fortune for nearly any mobile game.

Also, polish isn't just about graphics. It's really an all encompassing effort. The developer who isn't willing to invest the time and money polishing something created solely for pleasure is probably doing the wrong thing.

>> This newfound tribal funding and evangelism model has appeared at a time when the official industry finds itself in a deeply troubled state. Nobody’s really sure whether they even want a new console anymore, or a gaming PC, or whatever. Developers have no idea which market will be the hot ticket, or which might at least allow them to survive. The metrics simply do not track fast enough for anyone to have a firm grasp on what the hell is going on anymore.

New consoles: Nintendo has put out one incrementally advanced new console of which the sales were OK and now the console industry is dead? We don't have a choice about new consoles because the important ones -- Xbox and PS -- aren't out yet and no one knows how much of a step forward they'll be. If they make us go "wow" they're likely to go quick. If they're less thrilling they'll still do fine because they're new and the AAA gaming industry continues to produce high quality content that people enjoy. On the other end of the power spectrum, OUYA was a mega-success in terms of people voting with their wallets.

This type of sky is falling article is unfortunately very common in the game industry. I read a couple a week though many of them are postmortems and therefore have more value than this article. The main themes are not the market conditions themselves but: 1) companies that failed to acquire the necessary knowledge or 2) companies that did acquire that knowledge but failed to act on it.

[Edited]


> It's surprising to hear something like this out of someone inside the industry. Art costs for mobile games, including many of the top earners, are not particularly high. Compared to marketing and programming costs art won't cost a fortune for nearly any mobile game.

It depends on what sort of game you're looking for. If you're looking to build a simple mobile game, sure, art costs are pretty low. It doesn't take much to build a physics game for casuals or a Skinner box like Tiny Tower, for sure. It takes a lot more if you want to build something for anything even remotely approaching the "core" audience--the people who play games as games, who normally don't play many games on mobile because the games by and large aren't very good and aren't very engrossing. And it's not because these games are for shallow people (though many could be accused of that), but rather because if you aren't making a game with ten elements and a bunch of generic reusable pieces, it's just gonna cost money.

Like, I'm working on a 2D RPG in my spare time. I've sketched it out with an aim toward 25-30 hours of content (something almost unheard-of in mobile games, though I'm also aiming towards Windows as well so I'm cheating a bit). I've looked extensively, I've scrimped where I could, and the inescapable rolling boulder of needing stuff means I'm still looking at $20K or so in terms of asset creation. That's not expensive for the game mills like Gameloft, but it's pretty brutal for a one-guy show, and unless I can do something to alleviate it[1] is going to result in a worse game that doesn't reach what I'm aiming for. (If I was making this to make money I'd be a lot more worried about it. I'm making it because I love games. It will break even, eventually, if I port it to enough platforms--but it may never finance a second, even with my day job soaking my personal expenses. I'm okay with that, but it constrains what I can do.)

But, yeah, if you want to roll with people making games for gamers, you are going to be spending a large chunk of cash. He's not wrong here, you're just assuming he's looking at the "top earners" and not, y'know--stuff that people normally called "gamers" want to play.

[1] - There are some great games out there that rely on "space savers" like procedural generation--Nethack, Dwarf Fortress, Minecraft--but there are itches they can't scratch. People jonesing for a Narrativist game, if I can slightly misuse a term from the Big Model, are going to want a game where they can see what they're doing and are not going to want to look at the same five wall textures and ten palette-swapped enemies everywhere they go. It's just the way it is.

.

> On the other end of the power spectrum, OUYA was a mega-success in terms of people voting with their wallets.

The other I wanted to poke at: OUYA has succeeded in getting a lot of people to buy an undergunned Android set-top box for something at or very near cost. It has not succeeded in getting them to re-buy a bunch of games that they probably already have on another platform, especially given their super dodgy practice of polling for games people want to see and then "which do you really want?" with a list of AAA games[2]--it's not an illegal practice or anything by any stretch, but the way they've played this has explicitly tried to set expectations that have little to do with the actual machine or the games it's going to get.

I personally can't see this ending well, and I say that with an eye towards developing for it--because I can't see it making a dime for me because I'm not hawking Mass Effect or Skyrim.

[2] - https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/ouyatop20


This all rings true, but it's a little cynical to elide the fact that these marketing stories were real.




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