Games are designed around a perpetual loop. From grind, through progression and into gratification. These three steps are repeated ad infinitum throughout the content of a game.
At the dawn of indie gaming, creativity stood tall. Platforms and consumers wanted the best content because it mattered.
Time changes everything. Platforms no longer need quality. They need quantity. Consumer attention has shortened and retention is fickle.
How this change happened and when it happened is folly to discuss. What we know is that platforms have adapted. The focus is to keep someone hooked long enough to deliver them more content.
Platforms thrive on simplicity > familiarity > frequency. Repeat.
When overlayed with a gaming loop, grind + simplicity > progression + familiarity > gratification + frequency, you can see how these loops work in tandem. Grinds got simpler, progression more familiar and rewards more frequent.
As everything is more or less using the same system, everything becomes about the short term. How quickly can you make someone gratified? This is an addiction, and marketing is built around making those loops thrive.
In the era of Mad Men, marketing was cut throat creativity, but like gaming, it has fallen into a perpetual loop that does not need creativity, or even to be the best product to succeed.
No one likes to think they are influenced by marketing but we all live in an ecosystem of influence. Whether it be by email, messaging, word-of-mouth or some other form of communication.
In the past, earned media was where products and marketing came together to earn conversation and coverage amongst consumers. That is no longer true. Earned media is now about buying influencers, reviews, and likes within social spheres. This can be done on Reddit, Amazon, Instagram and any platform you can think of.
Earned media was the last bastion of marketing that wasn’t part of the loop but in 2017 buying influence became not just commonplace but a priority.
There is no doubt 2017 gave us a number of interesting, even great games but the question should be asked, how many great games are lost because of marketing?
When was the last time you actually searched for something?
Are you reliant on the same series of feeds, from the same platforms?
Do you go beyond that first page of results on Google?
This is my New Years resolution. To look and find the quality hidden beneath the paid marketing.
Happy New Year.