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The year Marketing ruled

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.

 

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EA’s lost the Battlefront but will win the war

If you play games and don’t live under a rock you’ll likely know that EA’s flagship Star Wars property Battlefront 2 launches November 17th. If you know that, you’ll also know that EA has been under fire from the gaming community because of it.

Firstly, EA got community backlash over their decision to put all progression into a loot box mechanic. Meaning, you’ll progress but your rewards are down to luck. EA have made changes to this but in early reviews, the progression system is widely considered the worst part of the game.

Secondly, EA made hero characters Luke Skywalker and Darth Vadar cost 60,000 credits to unlock. Based on the time it takes to earn credits, if you purchased nothing else, it would take 40 hours to unlock just one of the two. The gaming community applied pressure and the heroes now cost 15,000 credits.

So two wins for the community, but is it?

What bamboozles me, as a gamer, is why do EA continue to mask the real reasons for their progression decisions? They don’t need to come out with PR reasons. Gamers KNOW why they are using loot boxes.

Loot boxes aren’t fun per se. They are addicting. EA knows it. Gamers know it. EA also knows by controlling the % chance of rewards and the time needed to earn a loot box they can extend Battlefront 2’s lifetime value. Meaning, the longer you keep someone playing and the more appealing the carrot (on the end of the stick), the more likely they’ll crack and spend real money due to a whole host of psychology traits people have.

In all honesty, EA could come out and say “we know loot boxes, grind times and sexy rewards will earn us $$$”.  It won’t stop people buying the game and it won’t stop people playing it.  You could put the Star Wars brand on a stick you find in the woods and someone would buy it. It’s STAR WARS!

The fact EA (and others) don’t just say the truth is because of player motivation.  Saying the above will make gamers give up in the grind.  Yet EA could come out with a robust and honest reason to build trust otherwise it leads to other questions like…

Launching with heroes at 60,000 credits and then reducing to 15,000 looks like a calculated move. A means to say to the community “look we’re listening”. It’s the same tactic as in stores. When a sale approaches the prices go up and the following sale price then looks more appealing. The fact gamer’s see a 45,000 credit decrease makes it all seem reasonable but it just highlights these giant carrots dangling on the end of very long sticks.  It’s marketing.  Just consider this…

It is estimated via Star Wars Strategies that it will take 4,528 hours to unlock everything via the loot box progression or $2100. If this data is accurate, EA will definitely win the war as winning a battle means nothing in the long run.

 

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Hyprotransactions and next level profiteering

While some of us struggle to give our games away, some manage to achieve the next level of profiteering. From Player Unknowns Battleground to <insert any major AAA here>, it’s rife and it’s tiring gamers out.

So what is exactly rife?

* Selling a season pass without showing what it includes.
* Adding microtransactions to $60+ Buy-2-Play games.
* Holding content to one side and selling it as microtransactions.

Why are these a problem?

Ten years ago this kind of profiteering wouldn’t have been considered but the spiraling cost of development, the internet and use of data across all facets of a games release has made it all into a science. A science which takes advantage of the psychology of gamers by preying on consumer traits (or frailties).

What this means is that publishers know gamers want to be #1, to be the best or have the fullest, completest experience. So they can sell useless items as part of a deluxe edition as it links into that part of a consumers psychological traits. A publisher knows that it’s easier to sell the season pass before a game launches because they still control the hype, and reality compared to hype is often less enthralling.

It’s not a crime but it’s manipulation. Which is exactly what consumerism is. However, will consumer protection laws revisit these practices, or will the digital, gambling era never be encapsulated?

Only time will tell.

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The future of technology, not just gaming

Virtual Reality (VR) was the killer product in the not so distant past.  The idea behind Oculus excited more than just gamers. Educators, scientists, and creators flocked behind the idea and like any movement, investor hitched upon its back turning possibility into reality.

So… now we can see where VR stands, let’s be honest, it’s not exactly at the forefront of any development agenda – worst still, it’s not on many consumers wishlists. It’s bulky, it’s restrictive, it’s often nauseating, and worst still, it’s not all that exciting once the head tilt and warp-to-position mechanics are grown tired of.

VR could come to fruition once prices drop and technology matches expectations. Yet, long before that happens another technology, far more useful and interesting has leaped up into the periphery of educators, scientists, creators, and investors…

Augmented Reality (AR).

Why will this catch on, where VR failed to ignite?

Firstly, AR is accessible. It’s via your phone.

Secondly, AR is familiar. It’s like using your phone as a camera.

Thirdly, AR is all about the software. Granted, older devices can’t use ARkit but consumers change phones like they change socks, so ARkit ready devices will become common.

Finally, AR is useful. From scanning barcodes in a supermarket to check if a product is cheaper elsewhere through to interior design, placing digital furniture in your home to see how it looks before you buy it… The skies are literally the limits with AR.

AR is 100% the future. Whether you want more digital in your life or not, it’s going to happen – mostly because Apple has decided such.

Please follow us on Twitter, YouTube or add the game to your wishlist if it interests you. Also please check out our Steam Group for Death by Game Show.

Everything is getting political

The NFL is under a political spotlight and it’s fragmenting an audience who wants sport.

This is the crescendo of a scenario bubbling up since Colin Kaepernick kneeled last season for the 49ers. This is a reaction to President Trump’s speech not a melding of minds and opinion.

Most NFL teams thought they could ignore this like they ignored signing Kaepernick in the offseason. Let this sink in, “no one signed him because of the inevitable political media spotlight that would follow…”

Ironically, they are all now in that spotlight due to President Trump’s speech.

This is where media agenda takes control.

While in the spotlight it’s very easy for the media to spin your actions positively or negatively, it’s dealers (media) choice. They have the news feeds, they have the social media reach and work together to share talking points (fact). Get on the wrong side and it’s pretty much game over.

So, how is this relevant to gaming?

The gaming media is biased, driven by revenue and popularity. Remember, during GamerGate, we saw just how broken some of the gaming media was, perhaps (and probably) still is.

This is relevant because, in the next 3-5 years, it will likely be revealed how many gaming companies are using gambling mechanics to addict and manipulate those below the legal age of gambling, without warnings.

When this revelation grips the west, specifically parents of kids who are glued to their iPhones and iPads everything will explode. The entire gaming industry will be put under a spotlight.

The question is, when the gaming media has already proven itself to be biased, all about revenue and popularity, is it wise leaving the spotlight shining to them?

It’s kind of like when the NFL investigated the entire concussion scenario…

Please follow us on Twitter, YouTube or add the game to your wishlist if it interests you. Also please check out our Steam Group for Death by Game Show.

It’s the end of the world as we know it

When I was a lad, kids use to play out and old people stayed married. What has happened to this world? Technology.

The blinking light of a notification waiting for view has all the character and personality of the modern masses. An empty glare momentarily on and then just as quickly idle of expression. It just waits for fumbling interaction resulting in irritation or gratification.

The irony here is you’re not sure if I’m talking about a person or a phone…

The mobile phone has somehow managed to turn a once vibrant world of disconnected opinion and clicks of personalities that thrived amongst like-minded individuals and warred with those not fitting their ideals into a slanging match via wifi, that also has wars.

So as that notification light blinks on and off and users do the usual grunt, shuffle and thumb slide before consuming vapid sweet nothings once reserved for landlines and in-person high-fives. The rest of the world devolves attention spans, IQ and diversity. We really have achieved maximum idiocracy.

The next step after zombies is the pain for entertainment purposes. Then again, we already have MTV and the Kardashians.

Please follow us on Twitter, YouTube or add the game to your wishlist if it interests you. Also please check out our Steam Group for Death by Game Show.