First-Person Marketer

First-Person Marketer
So You Got a Bad Game for Christmas

JP Sherman | 10 Jan 2011 14:00
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It's January, and your holiday gift giving event is over. If you're anything like me, you generally walk away with a modest size pile of stuff of thoughtful and appreciated gifts, dark brown corduroy pants the likes of which you've never seen, and a pretty decent haul of games. People who call themselves "gamers" tend to wear gaming related T-shirts, read magazines and are often seen at family events discreetly playing with our DS, PSP or mobile phone. This self-identification is noticed by our families and during the holiday shopping period, they want to give you something that they think you'll like. They know you're a gamer, so they buy something game-related. Ultimately, you can end up with a pile of some of the most useless shovelware and peripherals on the planet. How can people you've known almost all of your life get you a game that's so thoroughly dumb? In short, marketers, retailers and merchandisers know that during the holiday season, there are pressures on the shopper. We manipulate those pressures in order to make a sale... in essence, we're the reason that you got eXtreme Trucking Adventure, for the PC.

Exploiting the Visual Clutter: What You See Isn't What You Get

Product display has evolved significantly over the years. In the past, games have been grouped together with either the toys or electronics. Games were one of those weird things that weren't big enough to get their own section in department stores, but because they were perceived as toys that weren't exactly electronic equipment, they'd always shifted between those worlds. While this perception still holds faintly true today, you're most likely to find games in the electronics section now, set apart from the TVs and cameras, but still there.

The most common display for the videogame is the "wall of games". We've all seen this; the top games are placed behind glass in this grid formation, separated by platform. When marketing to gamers, we know that you, the purchaser and player, generally knows exactly what you want. While you may be deciding between the latest Call of Duty or Assassin's Creed franchise, you've narrowed your search down to a manageable level. Consider the experience of your Aunt or Grandparent. They've decided to be the "cool" one this year and get you a videogame. They walk into this wall of games not knowing the differences between an Xbox 360, PS3, Wii, DS Lite, DSi, PSP, Kinect, Move or anything. It's at this point that most people quit. They may not know what system you have; their recollection of your hardware is just a collection of damn numbers and letters to them.

If they happen to know that you own a particular platform, good for them. The wall of games is designed, actually intentionally, to overwhelm someone. The case stands much higher than the average person, but the top games are accessible. There are easily over fifty games to choose from, not including the bottom row of last quarter's games. Humans evolved their visual recognition capacity to quickly identify threats and opportunities, and when there are no threats or clear opportunities (the game you want) humans tend to feel slight panic and view the overload of information as an obstacle. In this situation, the consumer feels that they need to make a choice. They know they want to get a game, they want to get a game that you want, the task at hand is to choose one and get it over with. More often than not, this choice is done through either brand recognition or package design.

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