Fallout 3 Director: Microsoft Bungled ODST Marketing

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Fallout 3 Director: Microsoft Bungled ODST Marketing

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Bethesda Production Director Ashley Cheng - whose titles include Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion and Fallout 3 - thinks that Halo 3: ODST was marketed incorrectly from the get-go.

I don't think anybody can say that Halo 3: ODST hasn't been well-received thus far - MetaCritic may not be the best judge here, but an 85% average is still hard to ignore - but there does seem to be an issue looming large in every review (including the only one that matters, of course): The price point.

Many reviewers and average forum-joes alike have called the game out on having a shorter-than-normal campaign that might not be worth $60, but Bethesda's Ashley Cheng disagrees. In a post on his blog, Cheng lays the blame squarely at the game's unclear marketing:

Microsoft and/or Bungie totally bungled the marketing on this. First saying it was a standalone expansion pack, then coming out and saying wait, no, we're charging full price because - surprise! - we put "more" stuff in it and it's called Halo ODST now, vs it's original title, Halo Recon. Like Microsoft was ever going to sell this for less than full price. It is a new Halo title, it'll sell like hotcakes no matter what.

Because of the waffling, reviewers are now mentioning that Halo ODST may not be worth the price point, that it should've been cheaper, etc... Give me a break. First off, most games - especially first person shooters - are anywhere from 5-10 hours. Tops. What makes Halo different from others? You can't just ping Halo ODST for it. I bet if Microsoft hadn't screwed up the marketing messaging, there would less talk about pricing.

Indeed, it's the "expansion pack" stigma that seems to be overshadowing the whole deal with ODST. Cheng may have a point - once the game was dubbed as an expansion pack by Bungie and Microsoft, convincing gamers that it was ever anything more might have been too hard of a sell, even for Microsoft's experienced marketing team.

It's an interesting statement, particularly when you consider who it's coming from: Neither Oblivion nor Fallout 3 could really be accused of having too little to do. So this isn't a case of "hey, our game was short too, so stop giving Bungie crap!" I find it hard to disagree with Cheng's point here - had the message about ODST been consistent from the start, perhaps people wouldn't be feeling like the game was ... well, like it was mis-advertised.

What do you think? Does Cheng have a point, or would ODST be raising grumbles no matter what Microsoft marketed it as?

(Via VG247)

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That, and their marketing campaigns started way too late, especially since it was done by May.

Or maybe because there's no Master Chief in the game.

I've yet to get my hands on it myself, although a friend has run out to get it straight away on release date.

Hopefully as more and more complaints come out about the length of the Campaign [some people are even saying it took them less than 3 hours, from start to finish without exploring], the price will go down before I decide to buy it.

At least, I hope so.

And about the lack of Master Chief? About bloody time x)

Casual Shinji:
Or maybe because there's no Master Chief in the game.

Plus they just recycled the multiplayer. So if you already own the maps you get shafted.

Too right, alot of people I know are only buying the game for the maps which I think is a shame because it's bloody good
well aparently it is...

Holy crap... *Adds more to his Bethesda/Zenith Max shrine* I now have more respect for Bethesda for actually putting things in lamens turn, without outright bashing or underhanded suggesting rumors about another company and actually giving compliments AND being helpful with critique!

The only part of the entire ODST pack that is a screw up is only having the one on store shelves. What they should have done is put out 2 versions of it. 1 with the full 2 disc complete with all the maps and another with just ODST for a cheaper price. For those who already bought all the maps.

This just proves how incompetent these reviewers really are. In the middle of development they say it will be an expansion. Then towards the end they say you know what things have changed and we added a ton more stuff. They of all people should know that in this industry things change in a heartbeat. Try basing your review on the game next time. You are not a marketing reviewer.

He hit the nail on the head right there. Not much more I can add to that.

CLEVERSLEAZOID:
I've yet to get my hands on it myself, although a friend has run out to get it straight away on release date.

Hopefully as more and more complaints come out about the length of the Campaign [some people are even saying it took them less than 3 hours, from start to finish without exploring], the price will go down before I decide to buy it.

At least, I hope so.

And about the lack of Master Chief? About bloody time x)

I'm not the biggest fan of the games, but he is the face of the franchise, sorta speak.

They should've just kept it a DLC without all the so called bells and buzzers.

squid5580:
The only part of the entire ODST pack that is a screw up is only having the one on store shelves. What they should have done is put out 2 versions of it. 1 with the full 2 disc complete with all the maps and another with just ODST for a cheaper price. For those who already bought all the maps.

This just proves how incompetent these reviewers really are. In the middle of development they say it will be an expansion. Then towards the end they say you know what things have changed and we added a ton more stuff. They of all people should know that in this industry things change in a heartbeat. Try basing your review on the game next time. You are not a marketing reviewer.

That doesn't prove anything. The point of reading a review is to decide whether you want to buy the game or not. If the game doesn't have enough content to justify the price, it SHOULD be mentioned in a review.

Pay for play is a huge issue in the vg journalism world. I have heard from a very reliable source of multiple reviews for a game being published (!) before review copies were sent out, for example. Since at some level we, the vg consuming public, know this, those who provide reviews have to figure out ways to act like "real" journalists (or at least, how they act in our imaginations). One way to do this is to give an glowing review (e.g., IGN's OSDT review which deems recordings illuminating backstory a "clever" game mechanic rather than something which games have done since...I don't know, System Shock?) that nevertheless makes a few pointless critiques (hmmm $60 does seem like a lot of money).

Bottom line: the "messaging" issue here is that a piece of marginal DLC received huge reviews b/c of MS's successful, ahem, marketing strategy.

Part of the problem is the "3" in the title. "Halo 3: Anything" makes people instantly think "expansion pack," since Halo 3 is a game which was already released. I didn't pay any attention to the marketing, but I have the perception of the game as an expansion pack because of the title.

bue519:

Casual Shinji:
Or maybe because there's no Master Chief in the game.

Plus they just recycled the multiplayer. So if you already own the maps you get shafted.

Yeah but if you don't have the maps your getting a bargain.

The Bandit:

squid5580:
The only part of the entire ODST pack that is a screw up is only having the one on store shelves. What they should have done is put out 2 versions of it. 1 with the full 2 disc complete with all the maps and another with just ODST for a cheaper price. For those who already bought all the maps.

This just proves how incompetent these reviewers really are. In the middle of development they say it will be an expansion. Then towards the end they say you know what things have changed and we added a ton more stuff. They of all people should know that in this industry things change in a heartbeat. Try basing your review on the game next time. You are not a marketing reviewer.

That doesn't prove anything. The point of reading a review is to decide whether you want to buy the game or not. If the game doesn't have enough content to justify the price, it SHOULD be mentioned in a review.

Well, it should only be mentioned if it's a big part of the value. The ODST story probably isn't worth $60 to most people, so talking about what your money will get you seems important for the package as a whole, but not hen solely talking about the story.

If I remember correctly the marketing in Oblivion and Fallout 3 consisted of a series if outright lies... It worked though.

The Bandit:

squid5580:
The only part of the entire ODST pack that is a screw up is only having the one on store shelves. What they should have done is put out 2 versions of it. 1 with the full 2 disc complete with all the maps and another with just ODST for a cheaper price. For those who already bought all the maps.

This just proves how incompetent these reviewers really are. In the middle of development they say it will be an expansion. Then towards the end they say you know what things have changed and we added a ton more stuff. They of all people should know that in this industry things change in a heartbeat. Try basing your review on the game next time. You are not a marketing reviewer.

That doesn't prove anything. The point of reading a review is to decide whether you want to buy the game or not. If the game doesn't have enough content to justify the price, it SHOULD be mentioned in a review.

How much content is enough? If we are basing it on time by who's skills are we timing it on? A pro who has invested billions of hours into Halo? A noob who has never played an FPS before? One who is going to after every last secret or collectible or one who is going to rush the game just to get to the end so they can be the first to pound out a review?

Not only that if they had done what I first suggested how much are those map packs worth on the marketplace? You could probably spend $20 on those alone (more or less depending on where in the world you live, it would cost me 19.99 + 14%). So by my calculation the actual campaign is being sold to you for 40 bucks. That isn't to bad considering with any other popular FPS you would pay the full 59 and then the 20 bucks for the extra maps.

I don't know why Americans complain about paying 60 dollars for a game that costs us 40 quid (80 dollars) over here. maybe that's one of the benefits of capitalism, I don't know.

Captain Pancake:
I don't know why Americans complain about paying 60 dollars for a game that costs us 40 quid (80 dollars) over here. maybe that's one of the benefits of capitalism, I don't know.

It is the internet. People will complain even when it is free.

i'm not all too shocked by this bait and switch and now people are having a bit of a bad taste in their mouth

they should have just kept with it being an expansion

It should have been renamed Halo: ODST. It's a new game, why tie it to 3?

This game has had a confusing message from the start. After Bungie broke up with MSFT they did a teaser campaign for the game building up to a showing at the MSFT press conference at 2008 E3. The game was never shown there, instead we had Fallout 3. Hmm.

His statement about the game's length vs. it's play time would have more weight if the game were an original IP, filled with new ideas, new enemies and new gameplay. I've played 10-hour shooters that were nevertheless exciting and fun and "felt" worth the price because they offerred something new. ODST does not. It's an expansion pack, pure and simple. And when I pay $60 for an expansion pack, I expect a little more "expansion" than what Bungie delivered with ODST.

Was the marketing bugled? Perhaps, although, as a consumer, I don't give a shit what the marketing execs do or don't do. I can understand why that perspective is of significance to Cheng, being that he himself lives or dies (or so he believes) on how well he's supported by his ad peeps. But as a consumer, I don't pay as much attention to what comes out of the advertisement shop as I do what comes out of the development shop. And ODST, from that perspective, is sub-par and not worth the price.

Russ Pitts:
Was the marketing bugled? Perhaps, although, as a consumer, I don't give a shit what the marketing execs do or don't do. I can understand why that perspective is of significance to Cheng, being that he himself lives or dies (or so he believes) on how well he's supported by his ad peeps. But as a consumer, I don't pay as much attention to what comes out of the advertisement shop as I do what comes out of the development shop. And ODST, from that perspective, is sub-par and not worth the price.

I didn't think Cheng's point was so opaque.

It's the expectation game. People were hearing "expansion pack" about this title, and so expected an expansion pack with all that entails; short, cheap, probably downloadable. So when the game went beyond expansion pack size and started to straddle the divide between additional content and full title, and the decision was made to expand it into a new title with the addition of the multiplayer map packs, folks saw the price and balked at paying full-title price when they were expecting an expansion pack.

I'm also going to complain about phrasing in reviews... too often reviews make statements that something is "not worth the price", when that is a very personal statement. For me ODST will almost certainly be worth the price I paid for the Special Edition; I'm a map-exploring type, a fan of audio dramas, an easter-egg hunter, deeply immersed in the Halo universe, and with a large cohort of fellow players very much interested in Firefight. So I'm going to see a lot of play time on ODST. That, and that I was looking at getting a new controller for my console anyway, means that I'm getting a lot of value out of the game.

I'm not a typical player, admittedly, but "not worth the price" is an extremely relative phrase and shouldn't be bandied about in absolute terms. (After all, some people are willing to spend money on Magic cards whereas I'd willingly pay to escape having to play...)

-- Steve

Pr0 InSaNiTy:

bue519:

Casual Shinji:
Or maybe because there's no Master Chief in the game.

Plus they just recycled the multiplayer. So if you already own the maps you get shafted.

Yeah but if you don't have the maps your getting a bargain.

So.... a short singleplayer and recycled multiplayer? That's a bargain? I'd hate to see what you consider being ripped-off.

Listen to the man. Makes perfect sense.

bue519:
So.... a short singleplayer and recycled multiplayer? That's a bargain? I'd hate to see what you consider being ripped-off.

No one's forcing you to buy it... so you can save yourself the cost of this "rip off" and put that money towards your velvet Elvis collection or whatever you personally value more.

The value of a thing is the price that thing will bring, and some will pay handsomely for what others would pay to avoid.

-- Steve

ChromeAlchemist:
That, and their marketing campaigns started way too late, especially since it was done by May.

Then again, the amazing live-action trailer made up for that. It made me want a Halo movie pretty badly, even if one does not like the game the Halo universe is fertile ground for a really good film.

Anyway, I can see where this comes from. Even though they wanted to go beyond an expansion pack, content wise, they still kept the tie with Halo 3. That didn't help clear the expansion pack image ODST has.

See, while the price doesn't really bother me either way (I was never gonna get this until I finished the Halo 3 Campaign. I was never going to finish the Halo 3 campaign until they release a patch that removes all evidence of the Flood and concentrates on the good factions.), I think we've all missed a point which this represents;

Isn't it refreshing to see a games company make a statement that isn't bashing another company/console/game and/or bigging up your own? Maybe the waves of Bhuddist goodness are already taking over the entire industry...

Well for one it's titled Halo 3:ODST giving the sense of an expansion no matter how you market it. If it was just called Halo:ODST that would remove some of the stigma.

Meh I wanted it at first but as time wore one and hype died I undid my order. I'll add it to my gamefly Q and move on.

I agree it was silly on Microsofts/Byundies part, but it's not there fault they changed the plan for the btter.

All I can say is I'm enjoying it so much, more then Halo 3 even (with it's more focus story and flesh our characters) and I think it's worth the pricepoint, I have yet to try out FF ( can't wait to roll out my Johnson) and the new Halo 3 maps, the Multiplayer disk will be handy since my original Halo one is a bit glitchy so this means I can play the maps when my friend comes round instead of having to restart the disc 3 times to get all the maps!

Just saying that it was going to be an expansion pack ruined them. Now we have whiny little dipshits saying "Why do I have to pay $60?".
The campaign is about 6 hours long, which is short, but it's longer than any expansion pack I've ever played. Looking at Fallout's expansion, Operation Anchorage (the first one I bought), it only took me an hour to play but cost me 800 mspoints. I'm not sure but isn't that around $10?

Mathmatically, if you think about it. If a 1 hour expansion cost me $10, then a 6 hour game should cost me $60. (lol weird mathmatics)
Even if it were an expansion, it would cost A LOT.
Just looking at the game thus far, I can see a graphical improvement from Halo 3, which in itself is good start to a new game.

I think as long as Bungie gave ODST it's own legs to stand on, then why not push it out to fight with the other titles that have come out recently?

I think he misses the minor point that it's £40-50 for a five hour shooter and some stuff you already own (lets face it, hardly any people buying this won't have Halo 3).

If I dropped £40 on a game to find that half of it was the multiplayer section I already paid for I'd be a little upset.

Microsoft/Bungie did get the marketing all wrong though, calling it Halo3:whatever instantly marks it as not a full game, it's part of Halo3 rather than it's own title. They shouldn't have promised it at a lower price initially and they shouldn't have said it was finished in May.

It makes them come across as incredibly cynical to have raised the price and sat on it for so long when it was 'finished'. It also makes them look especially bad if any embaressing bugs come to light in the next few days. No to mention they changed the name after announcing it, that, the price and the size are really things they should decide on before telling anyone else.
Obviouslly it's Halo so they could charge £100 and people would still buy it, but ODST's kind of been a how to not market something 101. From the outside it looks as though someone else than Bungie (can't imagine who) made the marketing/pricing decisions, then told Bungie what they'd decided when it was too late for Bungie to do anything about it.

bue519:

Casual Shinji:
Or maybe because there's no Master Chief in the game.

Plus they just recycled the multiplayer. So if you already own the maps you get shafted.

Except you don't, because you're buying a full game for the price of a full game. Getting the maps is a bonus for those people who don't already have them, and everyone gets at least three new maps. This was done more to make all of multiplayer accessible, to shut down the playlist segregation caused by needing to have the DLC for ranked playlists and most social playlists as well.

I do completely agree that the "expansion" stigma has stayed with ODST, which is a shame because having now played it though twice I can say with confidence that it's a great, well thought out campaign. I think the main reason people bash ODST for being an "expansion" is because there are people who will bash Halo regardless - this is just ammunition for people who derive joy from putting other people down for their preferences.

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