First-Person Marketer

First-Person Marketer
The Phases of Selling You a Videogame

JP Sherman | 8 Nov 2010 17:00
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We humans are predictable primates. We smell food, we salivate. We see someone we're attracted to, our bodies react. From an evolutionary perspective, most ingrained behaviors are founded on the principle of risk vs. reward. In other words, we want to get more out of something than we put in obtaining it. This principle has been a powerful driver in the evolution of life since we were nothing more than a group of self-replicating proteins languishing in primordial soup. Marketers have spent a lot of time and money discovering and manipulating the process that people use to determine risks and rewards.

We go through a nearly unconscious and repetitive pattern to determine whether or not the reward we crave is worth the investment we put into it. Behavioral psychologists identify it and marketers use it to achieve a variety of goals. First, we need to be made aware of the reward. Breaking through the clutter and the noise, the marketer disseminates information and media that will make you notice it. The second phase of the process is to consider the options available. Once the consumer has considered the options, they're likely to make a decision. At this point, a purchase is made. The last phase attempts to retain the consumer in the marketing risk vs. reward loop to create a continual avenue to reach that consumer again.

No Time to Be Shy... Grabbing Your Attention
Arguably, getting you aware of a new game is probably the highest hurdle. Objects at rest tend to stay at rest, unless energy is applied that overcomes that state. Making consumers aware of something new shares that same principle. People are familiar with the things they know. When new information is presented that references existing knowledge, it's easier to recognize and process. New information needs to hit us around three to five times before our brains recognize that information as familiar.

The most consistent part of generating awareness is releasing just enough information to make you want more. The tease can be released in the form of a short new video, announced during one of the many industry events or leaked to some of the enthusiast press. The obvious problem with these strategies is that there has to be a significant investment or existing interest up front. You don't get to walk on stage during the Microsoft press event during E3 unless you've already got a lot of weight behind you. Smaller game companies strive to tap into their social networks, create clever websites, videos and attention-grabbing media releases. Without a hook, the desire from both the press and the gaming public tends to falter.

Some of the more memorable efforts to make gamers aware of a new game have been Blizzard's original World of Warcraft trailer, Gears of War 2's hauntingly memorable "Mad World" trailer and, on the indie front, PAX 2010 really caught people's attention with trailers for games like Super Meat Boy and Plane Weaver. While each of these games was built with some solid attention to gameplay, the media grabbed the public's eye, making them games to watch. While there are no rules to grabbing the attention of the gaming public and generating the initial awareness, without that exposure to the game, the marketing fails as it starts.

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