Game Marketing Tips, Analysis, and News

Friday, July 30, 2010

Guerrilla Marketing at Comic-Con

Fans of guerrilla marketing (count me in!) will appreciate these efforts at the recent San Diego Comic-Con.Many companies were busy marketing their movies and TV shows to the hundreds of thousands of fans at the show (yes, attendance is close to 200,000!). But it's worth checking out these successful marketing stunts.

One was a truck handing out free slices of garlic bread to boost Scott Pilgrim vs. The World, a new movie coming soon (about a garlic-bread-obsessed slacker). Expensive, but it certainly dragged in a lot of people. (Though in the packed hallways and rooms of Comic-Con, the addition of thousands of slices of free garlic bread must not have helped the atmosphere.)

My favorite was the stunt with the guys dressed like government agents with packets labeled Confidential Information (pictured above). They weren't handing them out; you had to ask, and then they would give you one with a warning... inside you'd find a redacted document leading you a website for the upcoming NBC series The Event. Nicely done, and you could pull this off very cheaply. A few friends in black suits willing to stand in the hot sun for hours... well, maybe it might not be so cheap at that. But cheaper than free garlic bread!

The Skyline promo was weird and probably costly... they had human shaped masses of soap bubbles floating past a billboard.

The Kenny Powers promo (for an HBO comedy series) was a simple flyer, backed by street teams with some freebies. Again, it's not that expensive, just some clever thinking connected to the premise of the show that gets people to a web site and gets them talking to their friends.

Finally, the Dexter scavenger hunt (for the Showtime series about a serial killer) was elaborate but effective. Every lanyard for the show was involved, so you know this had to have some serious bucks thrown down. A special scavenger hunt built into an iPhone/Android app connected well to the demographics of their target audience.

There's some good ideas here for you to think about when you need an interesting marketing event that won't break the bank.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Conventional Learning for Marketers

Conventions, whether they are fan shows or trade shows, are great places for marketers to perform one of their most important functions: Learning about the market. Getting the most actionable intelligence from a convention requires some preparation and some quality time at the show. (Pictured: The GenCon show.)

Set your goals. Figure out what key info you want to get from the show before you go. Distribution contacts? Sales numbers on competitors? What's the latest trend in sales?

See the show. You have to take time to walk the show floor. You'll see people you know, hopefully make some new acquaintances. When the small talk is over, go back to walking. You need to see the whole thing, at least one walkthrough. This will give you an idea of what's drawing crowds, what's not interesting to anybody, who's spent a lot of money on their booth, and who's spent their marketing dollars wisely. Make some notes of what you like and don't like, marketing-wise. Some sign struck you as unreadable? Note it. A flier really caught your eye? Grab a copy and make a note.

Inhale the trends. Get a feel for what people are talking about, what's dominating the conversations. There will usually be one or two items that always come up in a chat with someone. Try not to let your thoughts influence this; ask questions like "So what's the buzz?" or "What impressed you the most at the show?" You can always offer your opinions later. Remember the ears/mouth rule; you should listen/speak in the same ratio as the number of ears to mouths.

Competitive analysis. See what the competition is doing. Don't have any? Oh, yes you do. It may not be direct, but some products or services are competing for the dollars of your customer base. Figure out how they're connecting with customer's wallets, and then you can figure out how you're going to do a better job of that. It's marketing warfare, and you've got to scope out both the battlefield and the opponents.

If you can, have some of your other team members (or trusted friends) do the same thing, and then compare notes after the show. This info can help refine your marketing strategy.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Old Spice, New Marketing

The Old Spice commercials have been a viral sensation on Youtube, with over 12 million views and rising. They've made dozens of videos responding to comments, and it's been featured on TV and radio shows. Only, according to Brandweek, Old Spice sales are down by 7% (though P&G says sales for the entire brand are up). So P&G went to a lot of effort, and pioneered some fast-response high-quality commercials for social networks, and in the end didn't seem to get anything out of it. (The reasons why make for interesting speculation here.)

There are some lessons here for guerrilla marketers, even though this is not the sort of campaign you'd undertake without millions of dollars to spend. First, you can get a lot of attention by being clever; this effectively leverages your marketing spending into many more impressions than you'd get otherwise. So putting some creativity into your marketing campaign can pay off. Second, you do need to make sure the product and the message you're sending are worthy of the effort. Can you really expect to increase sales, or is your market not interested? Is your message the right one?

How do you create a compelling marketing message on the cheap? A clever tag line and a Photoshopped image can cost little more than the price you pay for the ad insertion. A little more spending might get you a model, or a professional photographer, or someone with mad Photoshop skillz. Ultimately, though, you have to have a clever idea, and the ability to determine whether or not it will actually have the effect you want.

Thursday, July 22, 2010


It can be difficult these days to figure out how to target your customers. This may seem odd at first glance, since the intertubes have all sorts of tools for precise targeting. But search engine terms only reach people who are looking for those specific terms, and the more broad a term you're trying to buy, the more expensive it gets. Costs can quickly escalate out of reach for a small publisher.

Magazines that reach small audiences have mostly been replaced with web sites; you may or may not be able to buy a banner ad on such sites (and some users may be blocking banner ads and so they'll never see you). Radio and TV ads are too general a tool for most small publishers with niche audiences, even if they were cheap enough.

Cross-marketing is a useful tool for small publishers to consider. While you usually think of it as something you do within your own product line (taking space in one product to advertise another), you can also use this with another company's products. Look for another small publisher whose products sell to people resembling your customers. (They may not be interested if the products are too closely competitive with yours.) Ask if they'd like to exchange space in their products to cross-promote your product lines. This can work if the products are complementary (such as miniatures lines for RPGs), or even when they are directly competitive. You may want to consider articles on each other's websites about how to use your products together.

A cross-marketing ad can be as simple as a one line tag and a web address, or it can be a complete flier or free sample. Start a discussion with some other small publishers and see where it leads. Just don't forget to establish a tracking mechanism, so you can see how effective this effort was after a few months. If it works, do more! (One caveat, as the cartoon should make clear... make sure the cross-marketing will make sense to your customers!)

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Downloads Kicking Ass, Taking Names

According to a new study released by NPD, digital downloads of full games in 2009 reached 21.3 million units, compared to purchases at retail of 23.5 million titles. Digital downloads have arrived, baby. Does anyone think physical copies will outsell digital copies in 2010?

The implications are immense, and yet to be fully grasped by traditional publishers. The distribution method typically dictates design constraints. For instance, novels have a certain minimum and maximum length in order to fit into price point and physical book publishing constraints. A 100-page novel is too thin to sell, while a 1500-page novel is too massive to actually produce. So authors have learned to write novels to fit into these sizes. Similarly, games have had to meet certain numbers of play hours to be seen as a worthwhile purchase for $50 or $60, and publishers usually feel compelled to include lots of expensive cinematics.

I think part of the reason we're seeing massive growth in mobile and social games, and digital download games outside of normal retail channels, is the freedom from these constraints. Development costs can be lower, and the rewards greater. This is really the emergence of entirely new game media; old media won't die (just as TV didn't kill radio), but they will need to change.

Publishers need to realize that digital distribution is their most important channel starting now, and build their business strategy around that. Or let other companies reap the massive growth in new markets...

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Ebooks Rising

Amazon has announced a milestone... ebooks are now outselling hardcover books. And not by just a little; about 50% more, and the gap is widening. This curve is following Peterson's Law of Technology Adoption: It always takes longer to actually get into the market than predicted, and if it's compelling it always gets adopted faster than predicted. (I have to work on a pithier formulation...) Ebooks are following this law (watch for electric vehicles to do the same thing).

If you're not already pursuing an ebook strategy, you must have been living under a rock for the last decade. As technology continues to evolve, your strategy has to evolve, too. New formats (like epub) demand new tools, and new devices with different aspect ratios really should be supported by different layouts. (Devising a new layout for different devices, and a workflow process for making multiple variations easy to produce, would be useful if you have a lot of books.)

Everyone with a smartphone has an ebook reader in their pocket. The iPad is selling swiftly, and there is a wave of Android tablets coming that are likely to add millions of new ebook platforms in the next year. Not to mention (as the article above does) that Kindle sales have zoomed since the price cut, and many new ebook readers have been introduced (and prices continue to drop). We'll probably see dedicated ebook readers at $99 this Christmas... and with millions of ebooks available (many of them free!), content is not an issue.

The wave is building; time to paddle faster in order to catch it!

Monday, July 19, 2010

6 Criteria for Evaluating a License

If you're in the market for a license, how should you judge the worth of a particluar license?

Profitability. You would think this is obvious, but so many times the sheer glamor of a license seems to overwhelm a company's good sense. You need to look at all the costs of a license, which include the upfront fees, the royalty, the extra time to manage the licensing relationship and make sure you're adhering to all of the terms of the contract (which can be a big one). Add it all and see how many copies you have to sell in order to make a profit. And look at what your opportunity cost is... what if you took that money and time and invested it in your own, original product? If your answers don't look clearly favorable to the license, you shouldn't do it.

Distribution Opportunity. OK, maybe it's not just the profit on this one product, but the new distribution opportunities it opens up for you. But you'd better be as sure as you can that, with licensed product in hand, you really will get that order from MassMarketStoreCo. And how big will that order be? And how long will they take to pay for it? And what's their return policy? How big a return reserve will you need to keep? Can you afford the marketing campaign needed to ensure good sales in your new distribution channels? And if you succeed with all that, is there any chance some of your other (nonlicensed) products could then get into this new distribution channel?

Market Opening. Maybe you think this license will open up some new markets for you. Look closely at the demographic info of the license fan base (if it doesn't have a fan base, why are you licensing it?); if they can't give you that info, you'll need to make your best guesses (but it should raise a red flag if the licensor doesn't know that sort of information). Does this demographic match that of your products? If not, could they really get interested in your type of product? Some RPG licenses have gotten by with the idea that fans of the property will buy the RPG as a world book and never actually play it.... which is great, really. As long as it sells! Just don't expect to sell those customers your other RPG products.

Awareness. Perhaps you feel this license will get you lots of publicity and raise awareness of your company and its other products, and this will help you make money by selling more of your other products. That sounds nice... but how will you know? You'd better set some benchmarks so you have the data to show whether this did or did not happen. And publicity just doesn't fall from trees into your hands. You have to shake the tree yourself... or sometimes climb up the tree and gnaw off the limb with your teeth to get the frickin' PR opportunity to fall into your eagerly clutching hands. (You did remember to get some free advertising from the licensor, didn't you, by way of inserts or mentions in products, or into their other licensed products? Didn't you?)

Difficulty. Here's one you need to look at. How hard will this be to pull off? What technical difficulties await, in design, or voluminous research, or getting approvals, or even just getting someone at the licensor to answer a simple question. Talk to other licensees, if you can, to see what problems they have had, or what advice they have.

Fan factor. Even if none of the other answers have scared you off, you should consider this. The license will probably take a significant amount of time and effort, and you may be dealing with it for years. If it's not something you enjoy, and you don't find it fun, do you really want to be spending that much time with it? If you really don't like it, you should at least be making pots of money to assuage your pain.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Free-To-Play Working for iPhone

Now that Apple has been allowing in-game sales for a while, the data are in to show that it's working, really, really well. Per-user revenue rose from about $2 apiece to over $14 apiece, which is pretty impressive. Farmville on iPhone has millions of users, and revenue rose dramatically when in-app purchases were allowed.

Now attention is turning to Google, where Android doesn't currently allow that same option. I'd guess they'll get around to offering that sooner rather than later, seeing as it's working so well for Apple.

It still leaves marketers with the challenge of letting people know about the game, but it's far easier to get people to play when they don't have to spend anything up front. Or even to keep playing... if your design is good, the purchase decisions will come easily during the course of play. Which means that marketing and game design have to work together really, really well. And not just once; they have to continue to work hand-in-hand, as games have become a continuing thing rather than a fire-and-forget thing.

This is occurring to people in the console market as well, where they are contemplating charging subscription fees for successful games like Call of Duty. Though they still don't seem to get it; I think they want to charge you $60 to buy the game, then a $10 a month fee to continue to play online. Good luck with that, when more and more games are offering free-to-play and selling virtual goods to raise money.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Licensing An IP: Is It A Good Idea?

Licensing someone else's intellectual property is an interesting business proposition. I've heard (and experienced) plenty of war stories about licenses and licensors. On the surface, licensing a successful IP sounds like a good idea. You get access to an existing audience, a whole bunch of material to base a game on, and some level of guaranteed attention and sales. Depending on the license, you may get artwork or photos you can use, thus saving money on illustrations. What's not to like?

Ah, where to begin the litany of horrors? Just getting a licensing deal signed can be an ordeal, with plenty of negotiations, often with a series of people. You may have to explain repeatedly what your game is and what your industry is like. Then there are the expectations... no, your game won't sell like an action figure or a AAA videogame from a billion-dollar publisher. Often there's going to be some upfront payment for the license, though if you're persuasive (and the licensor is knowledgeable about smaller markets) you may be able to minimize or even eliminate that (I obtained the Witchblade license for no money up front, because I convinced them it would be a good marketing vehicle for their property). You may be faced with some guaranteed royalty payments regardless of sales (so if your game tanks, you will still have to pay a certain amount of money to the licensor). There will be a healthy royalty percentage you'll have to pay, which may be based on the retail or the wholesale price (depending on what you can negotiate).

Getting the materials from the licensor may be trivial or it may be a lengthy process. Comic book licenses have huge piles of artwork to draw from... which means your art director can spend eons of time searching for the pieces she wants, and even more time getting the necessary files from the licensor (who may have to dig to find them). Photos that include actors may require additional clearances from the actor's agent... it can be a convoluted process.

And then there's the approval process, which in some cases resembles the Bataan Death March (at least spiritually). Much depends on the individual licensor and the person you end up working with, but in any case there will be some time (perhaps a lot of time) spent on this process.

In the end, though, you can get a beautiful product that may help your company get into new markets for your other, non-licensed products. A licensed product is a marketing tool you should use to the fullest advantage, to leverage greater sales for your non-licensed goods.

For a small publisher, a license is a good opportunity if you choose it wisely. Be ready to back away if the license is too expensive or too difficult for you to deal with. If you manage to land a license, make the most of it with extensive publicity and marketing efforts.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

GameStop Doesn't Like Used Games

GameStop says they really don't like being in the used games business, according to their CEO Niall Lawlor. "We discovered the used business was a way of preserving our margins," Lawlor said. "We don't like being in the used business, it's very difficult to manage. If we hadn't got the used business, we wouldn't be there." Lawlor added that GameStop "evangelizes" for the industry by its existence. "We have to be in it, otherwise if you take a look at our margins you'd realize we need to be in used."

Before you weep for them at being forced to peddle used games against their will, it should be noted that GameStop sales were up more than 5% their first fiscal quarter this year, as reported by Gamasutra here. So the used game business is doing quite well, thank you very much. Why should GameStop profess to dislike this part of their business (which has a 48% profit margin, by the way)?

They're trying to keep game publishers happy; well, maybe not happy, but at least keep them from getting too pissed off. Game publishers see sales of used games as a drain on their sales of new games, since the publishers get no revenue from used sales.

EA has already taken a step to try and get around this conundrum by implementing their online pass, where you have to pay $10 to be able to play their game online. So a used game buyer will still need to give EA $10 in order to play the game he just bought online against other players. There's been some griping about this, but it seems perfectly reasonable to me. Somebody has to pay for those servers, after all.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Game Sales Up and Down

The different segments of the game industry are far from moving in lockstep. Games are selling well... and games are selling poorly. Some games are making a lot of money... others are losing a lot. The latest word from the classic console market (home of the largest publishers like EA and Activision) is that sales are continuing to be awful. As in, down 8% for software sales over last year. It could be worse, though: In the UK sales are down 16% for hardware and software combined (only down 10% for software, but an appalling 32% drop for hardware).

Meanwhile, reported revenue for Zynga was $350 million for the first half of 2010, with more than half of that operating profit. Must be hard to find an open spot to work with all that money piled up in heaps.

In the adventure gaming industry, results are better than the console game sector: Hobby sales continued to grow in Q1. Heck, even comic book sales shot up in May (though it was after a nasty drop in April).

What conclusions can we draw? The economy may be partly to blame for weakness in the console gaming area. But they are under siege by a wave of used game selling (now Walmart's jumping in big time, and 7-11, and more) and free-to-play games and social games. Heck, even DLC that extends the play time of a game helps keep players from shelling out for a new game... it's a double-edged sword (which we all know does more damage). If anything, a weak economy helps lower-cost alternatives do better, so adventure games, used games, social games and the like will all benefit.

What's the best marketing strategy? Stress value; look for ways to offer lower-cost products; tie into licenses and cross-promotions to build market share. And keep your expenses down...

Monday, July 12, 2010

Google Games?

Here's an interesting bit of news: According to TechCrunch, Google has invested $100 million into Zynga, with the intent of making it the cornerstone of their upcoming Google Games. Zynga has been racing along, with a rumored $350 million in revenue last year, half of which was operating profit (!). Now, you might ask why Google is getting into games? A number of reasons spring to mind. Social games, for one thing, are an amazingly fast-growing market segment with intense profitability. So are mobile games. And what company would Google be trying to outmaneuver in the social networking space? Facebook, of course, and they and Zynga aren't getting along all that well right now.

Add in the upcoming Google TV revolution that could steal serious market share from console games, and you can see the outlines of a strategy here. (Plus it helps block Apple's march to world domination along the same path.) Talk about your battle of the titans... this is going to be an interesting scrum, as heavyweights like EA join the fun with Facebook, Apple, and Google.

One winner I can predict for sure: Consumers are going to have more gaming choices, and probably at lower prices, than ever before. I think gaming is going to be an ever larger share of overall leisure time, taking a bite out of TV watching for one thing. We'll have to see how this strategy unfolds, and particularly how the various players intend to make money. Will social gaming continue to have legs? Sure looks like it at this point...

Friday, July 9, 2010

Free Apps! Why?

Many developers are giving away their apps for the iPhone or Android markets, as this article shows in detail. In fact, the Android market is 57% free, while the iPhone market is 28% free. (The average price paid for an app is about $4, though this is skewed by some rather pricey apps at the high end.) Why should developers give away their hard work, and why should you consider it too?

Marketing is the answer. Standing out in a forest of 225,00+ apps (iPhone) or 70,000+ (Android) is difficult; there are almost certainly several apps that do pretty much the same thing as yours, and if there aren't, and yours is a good idea, there soon will be. People are more likely to try your app if it's free. But how do you make money if it's free?

The free version is usually a demo of some kind; there's almost always a paid version with more features available. The hope is that you'll try the free one, like it, and then pay a few bucks to get the better version. A variation of this is free-to-play; you can play the game for free as much as you like, but there are in-game items (such as a better weapon) available for money. Only a small percentage of players pay for those, but it's enough to pay for all the rest of the players.

Some free titles don't have a paid version. What's up with that? Sometimes it's just to be funny (like the vuvuzela apps that showed up). As a marketing tool, such a free app can be a useful way to get your name out there and possibly bring people in to your web site and other ways for you to make money. A popular version of this is the business that has a free app in order to encourage your use of their services; banks, for instance.

Of course, some apps are free because they are supported by advertising. So click on an ad once in a while if you like a game; you'll be helping them out.

Consider how a free app might help out your business model; consider it as another marketing tool.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Reviews Matter, Study Shows

A new study by industry analysis firm EEDAR shows that videogame reviews do influence sales, and that influence even extends to people who haven't read the review -- because people who did read the review would recommend the game to a friend. Now, the study was only based on one game (Plants Vs. Zombies), and there are holes in the methodology. But it does seem to be another indicator that reviews are important to sales.

Also found in the study is that a demo of the game, if it's good, can overcome a negative review. Which argues for releasing a demo of your game (assuming, of course, that it's a good game and a good demo).

As a game publisher, you should strive to get your game widely reviewed. You should know the web sites that review games like yours, even if they only cover such a game occasionally. Find out how games are chosen for reviewing, and submit your game. Be prepared to use quotes from reviews, and ratings, in your marketing materials.

Of course, I'm assuming here that you get some good reviews. If you don't, you can just ignore them, though in the long run you're better off trying to figure out why you were criticized and fix those issues in a future release. (The real contrarian strategy here is to feature the bad reviews... "Find out why this game rated 65! So bad it's amazing!" Good luck with that...)

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Xbox Live hits $1 Billion in Sales

The interesting part about this article from Bloomberg is that more than half of Xbox Live revenue comes from something other than subscriptions. Sure, there's 25 million people who pay for the yearly subscription (heck, I'm one of them). But now revenue has topped $1.2 billion, and that comes mostly from downloads of movies, games, avatars, and other such stuff (map packs, anyone?).

This week Microsoft plans to revise the interface and update the search capabilities; it'll be interesting to see how that works. Will we see more game sales? Will indie games do better? Or is this going to be more about movie sales?

Microsoft is wise to put some effort in here, as the family room is going to be a major battleground for consumer companies. They have a big lead now, but that could easily evaporate if they come up against a superior business model. (For an example, see how Blackberry and Nokia market shares have been vaporizing in the face of iPhone and Android... it's not just the hardware that's causing it.)

I'm still wondering if any of these market-makers (Microsoft, Apple, Google, etc.) are planning to help app creators with marketing tools, or if they will continue to be left to their own devices. Amazon, for one, seems to be interested in offering authors, at least, some help in promoting their books. It seems like a win-win... so why doesn't that idea get picked up by other companies?

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Narrow Your Focus For The Win

Your natural inclination is to want everyone to buy your product. You love your product (since you probably created it), and you would want everyone to purchase one... maybe two, so they can give one to a friend. Why, if everyone in the world bought one, you'd be rich! Alas, all products have a market size that is less than the total population of the planet... usually orders of magnitude less.

The real trick is to realize that you can market more effectively by narrowing your focus. Instead of writing your copy to appeal to all possible buyers, look at a subset. Perhaps instead of "all gamers" you look at where your marketing message is going. (In the good old days, that would have been a magazine that would cheerfully provide their demographics for the asking. Now, if you're targeting a web site, they may well not have such information handy... so you'll have to ask for their best guess, or make your own.) You determine that for this banner ad buy you're thinking of, the likely readers are males between the ages of 18 and 25. Then you can keep that in mind as you pick your words and images... then find some 18-25 year old males to ask if your banner ad makes sense, or if it appeals to them. (Nothing like real-world data to inform opinions.)

Don't waste your money trying to create an ad or even a press release that's trying to appeal to everyone. Know your audience, and focus on what's important to them. If you want to appeal to a different demographic, craft a message just for them. Maybe different features of your product are more important to women aged 18-25, so you highlight those features in an article directed at women of that age.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Traditional Console Game Sales Continue Lame

May sales for the traditional game industry were disappointing. While Red Dead Redemption and Super Mario Galaxy 2 sold well, everything else underperformed. Several high-profile games failed to hit 200K in sales, as was expected. It looks like gamers are making the big hits bigger, but they're not spending their money on as wide a variety of titles.

Which makes sense in hard economic times. Consumer spending in general is down, so it's not surprising that gamers are being more careful with their dollars. This is probably also a factor behind the rise in free-to-play games, and lower cost games in general.

If this is the new reality, how should publishers adapt to it? Currently they don't seem to be changing anything, except perhaps hoping that increased marketing budgets might make one of their titles into the lucky few superstars. A more logical effort that can be implemented in a short timeframe might be to produce more DLC for your hit titles, both to encourage sales of the title and to bring in more revenue.

In the longer view, making investments into new growth areas of gaming makes sense, and Electronic Arts has been doing this. Taking some of their marquee titles (like FIFA) into the social gaming arena is a good first step. We'll know real change is happening when we see EA turn Madden into a subscription model game.

For smaller publishers, these May sales are one more indicator that change is continuing to occur in the marketplace. Big publishers keep hoping things will turn around, but the more time that passes without a turnaround, the more likely it is that consumer behavior is changing permanently. Which is only good for companies that recoginze that change and adapt to it.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Microsoft, Nintendo's Barriers to Entry

Creating console games has been something that big companies do, or smaller companies only when they have a contract with a big company. Historically, console makers charged big bucks for development systems -- upwards of $50,000 not so long ago, and more than that you had to apply and they had to accept you. Then each game had to pass an evaluation in order to be cleared for manufacturing... which took months and cost a lot of money to manage.

You'd think it might be easier these days, at least for developers creating games for the online stores of Sony, Nintendo, and Microsoft. Hah! This interview with some local developers in Santa Cruz has them recounting the lengths they had to go to... posting videos on YouTube to get Nintendo's attention, waiting 5 months just to get to talk to someone at Microsoft. With all that, they still don't have an easy path to success. Imagine how difficult it would be to post an update or an add-on to a game.

Contrast that with Apple's process. You want to be an iPhone developer? OK, $99 gets you the development software. You'll need a Mac to develop on, which would run you another $700 if you don't have one. Build your App and upload it, and wait for approval. Usually it's less than a few days, and your product is in the store. Of course, you have to tell the world about it, and bring the customers in... Apple is no help there. But at least they don't get in your way.

Sony, Microsoft, and Nintendo are all failing to take advantage of the next great revolution in software. The App market has been a huge success, by lowering barriers to entry and creating a vast array of free and low-cost titles that are easy to download and install. This is all possible in a family room, but the Big Three are still too locked into their retail partners and $60 software pricing. They fear a rebellion by their retail partners and third-party developers if they tried to open the floodgates to small developers and free-to-play software.

Apple and Google face no such limitations... I'm sure the AAA titles on consoles will still attract an audience, but there is going to be some big changes coming and the landscape will look very different in a few years.