Game Marketing Tips, Analysis, and News

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

The High Concept

This is the foundation of your product... the phrase or short sentence that tells someone what your product is in a brief and memorable way. Ideally it also creates an urge to buy or at least see the product, and also incorporates the key advantages of your product. That's a lot to ask for a phrase or a sentence! A good example for me has always been the two-word pitch for a software title that got funded at Electronic Arts, back in the day... "Indiana Cousteau." You knew it was a game set underwater that involved an intrepid archeologist hunting for treasure, with lots of action... all from two words. (What was the title? Heck, I can't even remember it, beyond that it was for the Amiga... but the high concept lives on for me.)

Why is such a phrase useful? Several reasons. Most important, perhaps, is that it serves to focus your marketing efforts. All of your efforts should be in support of that high concept. Many times, your product will have lots of cool features, and plenty of good reasons why someone might buy it, and numerous benefits... but if you can't unify those things under one banner, your marketing will be confused, confusing, and less effective.

Another good reason for an effective high concept is that most of the world thinks in such sound bites. Now, as a game's creator, you can probably describe it in loving detail for hours (or until your audience falls asleep or discovers something else really important they need to do right away). Let's say that you can succeed every time in explaining your complex, unusual, one-of-a-kind game to someone else, as long as you have ten minutes to make the pitch. You have failed in the larger sense, because I guarantee you that once the target of your explanation wanders away, and someone else asks them what it is Your Game is about, that whole impassioned ten-minute presentation will disappear. Instead, your audience member will answer "Oh, it's blah blah blah." In other words, they'll come up with their own short phrase or sentence to describe your product, neatly compressing your ten-minute presentation into a few seconds. And I can also pretty much guarantee you that you would not be happy with whatever phrase they come up with; it will fail in some way to describe the awesomeness that is Your Game.

This scenario will happen again and again... when a retailer asks a distributor about the product, when a customer asks a retailer about the product, whenever somebody not you is asked about Your Game, it'll be described in a brief way. So if you want that brief description to be as accurate as possible, and to create a strong desire to buy your product, you should be the one to create the memorable high concept phrase.

And if your game doesn't lend itself to a strong high concept, maybe that's a sign the game itself needs some additional oomph.

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