Game Marketing Tips, Analysis, and News

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

GameStop Not Going Far Enough

GameStop is trying to hedge their bets by getting into digital distribution. It's not looking so good for them, according to industry analysts. GameStop is taking tentative steps, and crowing loudly about it, but it's not like they're trying to replace Steam or something. They are facing a big problem, because if they push digital distribution they will hurt their in-store revenues (or so they fear, and it's a well-founded fear, I think). Yet digital distribution is currently only a small part of total sales for games, and GameStop probably worries that the damage to their store business might be more than they would pick up from digital business.

Bzzt! Wrong answer. Look, if your market is getting eaten by something, it's better that you're doing the eating and not some other company. Digital distribution is inevitable; the upsides are so huge (convenience, margin, price flexibility, lower costs) that it will take over the majority of the business, and sooner rather than later. It's already grown far faster than earlier publisher estimates (see how EA is scrambling?). Take a look at the music store business... yeah, what music store business? It used to be huge. Now look at what's happening to video stores, and bookstores. Game stores are next (it's already been happening to adventure game stores). GameStop has to figure out what a brick-and-mortar presence looks like in a post-apocalyptic future, and get there as soon as they possibly can. There are some interesting possibilities in having a robust digital distribution operation coupled with a strong store presence... but they will never realize them if they can't resolve their internal conflicts.

Monday, August 30, 2010

The Digital Firehose

Sometimes it feels like that... the internet is a gushing pipe of information. How do you keep from drowning, or spending all your time looking for the relevant bits?

Focus your efforts through your marketing plan. Take the time to sit down and figure out what your product is, who it's for, why they want it. Pick some ways to get information to those potential customers. Then go looking for the online tools to help make that happen. This will focus your search efforts and keep you from severe info damage.

It is important to budget some time to looking for new things: new marketing tools, new places to put ads, new web sites with a fan base you haven't touched... new podcasts you might get interviewed on, or places to send review copies. Things keep changing, so plan on spending time to keep up.

Friday, August 27, 2010

"I'm Not Dead Yet!" -- PSP

Sony UK's exec Michael Denny gave an interview with, and when asked about the PSP 2, said "the PSP has life left in it yet." I'm irresistibly reminded of Monty Python: "I'm not dead yet!"

Here's a rule of thumb for you: If you find yourself having to defend the viability of your product, it's either already dead or your marketing efforts are just not working. Sometimes I guess you have to limp along as best you can, which is probably the case here. Sony's not ready to announce the PSP 2 yet, but it's coming in the near future, so Sony doesn't want to spend money marketing the PSP which will be going away soon. Yet they want to keep selling the inventory they have, and not let the software languish on the shelves, nor have more developers give up future PSP development. So we end up with weak statements about how the PSP isn't dead yet, not really, it's feeling much better. Or maybe it's just pining for the fjords.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Lord of The Rings Goes Free, Too

The free-to-play trend has claimed another game, as the Lord of the Rings Online game goes free on September 10th. As they note in the article, there are certainly some game balance issues that must be addressed. Going free isn't all that easy, although I guess balance issues are a common problem in MMORPGs anyway. (Don't these designers know how to balance weapons against each other? It's not rocket science, people.)

I think it's increasingly difficult for an MMO to find an audience if you expect them to pay upfront for the game, and then a monthly fee as well. Most of the growth in MMO's these days is coming from free-to-play, especially as the Asian companies (which almost all use that model) make a big push to enter the US market. It's a great marketing tool to get people to try out the game. The trick is that the game needs to be fun without ever buying anything... and still fun if you buy everything. That's a difficult balance.

Hmm, I wonder if this model could be ported to pen-and-paper RPGs...

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

3D Explained

This article has a nice, though lengthy, explanation of just what's happening with various 3D display technologies as they relate to gaming, both good and bad.Yeah, if only it was like the picture up above. Unfortunately, what I glean between the lines of hype from 3D Display promoters is that this technology is a long way from being in every living room. Look, even HDTV only has about 60% penetration in the US, and many of those folks aren't going to drop thousands of dollars on a new TV just yet. Not for the thrill of watching all of 6 titles available in 3D... assuming you have a 3D capable Blu-ray player, that is. 3D programming over satellite or cable? Not for quite some time to come. 3D display as an integral part of a game? That may be a while in coming, too.

It's fun to speculate about new technologies, but if you're interested in what's going to have a major impact on the gaming industry in the next few years, 3D Display isn't it.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Social Ads Getting Bigger

While social gaming companies are making most of their money from selling virtual goods, advertising is already part of their business model. Projections from market research firm eMarketer say that ads in social games should bring in $220 million this year, up from $183 million last year. Doesn't sound like much compared to the $1.6 billion size of the industry, but it's growing. And companies like Zynga intend to help it along, in case at some point people get over buying things that aren't real. (Hey, it could happen!)

The classic banner ad probably won't be the wave of the future, though. Ad integration is becoming more creative, and we should expect to see more though on how to get advertisers mixed into the gaming experience without turning off the customers. And while getting the advertiser a suitable amount of click-throughs. Looks like game designers will have to work closely with marketers on this; companies that are creative in mixing design with marketing will reap the benefits.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Guerrilla Marketing Gone Bad

Creativity in marketing is a good thing, right? It gets attention out of proportion to the time and money spent. So what's the down side? If you don't take enough care in thinking through the consequences of your marketing, you can get some bad PR... or a fine... or possible legal action. Zynga's new marketing stunt for their upcoming Mafia Wars II game has gotten lots of the wrong sort of attention from the San Francisco City Attorney. Zynga pasted (fake) $25,000 bills onto the sidewalk in five different SF locations, and it's taken the Department of Public Works a good amount of effort to clean them up. The City Attorney is angry enough that they are demanding all of Zynga's information relating to the marketing campaign. Plus the City Attorney's office says that just paying the cleanup costs isn't enough, and they intend to pursue this case further. Yikes.

OK, so pasting the fake bills down did get more attention than just handing them out on a street corner... but the wrong sort of attention. You could have had guys in period Mafia clothing handing out the bills and gotten some nice local news coverage. Instead you have news stories about how Zynga is costing the city money at a time when city budgets are under siege.

So the take-home lesson is this: Creativity in marketing is good, when leavened with common sense and thorough analysis. Or you could be sleeping with the fishes.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Google Invests in ngmoco

In case you needed more evidence that Google is interested in games, there's the news that Google Ventures just invested some $3 million to $5 million in ngmoco, the mobile game startup that has to this point only done iPhone games. Hmm,could we be seeing some Android games from ngmoco soon?

It is a source of some wonderment to me that we don't see more iPhone games ported to Android. If you've got a reasonable success on one platform, it seems like a no-brainer to find a programmer and port that sucker on over. Though I understand that programmers for iPhone or Android are in demand these days, so maybe the issue is finding one. Still, the more your games sell, the more money you have to throw at the problem.

While ngmoco might lose some of its mojo with Apple (being featured at press conferences and the like), I'd think supporting Android would more than compensate for slightly reduced PR. Marketing to multiple platforms is more efficient, too.

I betcha Google is looking for more ways to boost gaming on Android... who's next?

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Age of Empires Goes Free

Microsoft is bringing back Age of Empires, but now it will be free-to-play, according to their announcement at GamesCom  this week. The product won't appear until 2011, but they are taking signups for the closed beta on their official website. No, it's not from Ensemble Studios, which was disassembled some time ago. But it sounds interesting if you were a fan of the original.

The interesting thing in general is Microsoft entering the free-to-play arena. Other publishers have been making moves in this direction, too, such as EA. But will we see this business model appear on consoles? On the downloadable game part, you'd guess. That may be too radical a step for now, but after a few more months or years of down sales, you may see more willingness to experiment.

Let's hope that change happens more swiftly than not... for the industry's sake.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

The DRM Merry-Go-Round

DRM (Digital Rights Management) is a polite way of saying copy protection. This issue has been part of the computer game industry since its inception, though the advent of the Internet has exacerbated the debate. Now the issue has become important to the book industry (including RPG books), as people scan books and post them online, or share PDF files. Publishers (both electronic and non-electronic) decry the widespread file-sharing and copying, and claims of billions of dollars in losses are bandied about. Raging debates over the ethics of copying and distributing files abound, and in the music industry we see thousands of lawsuits being filed and people being forced to pay thousands of dollars in judgments.

It's a mess. And I'm here to argue that it's one you shouldn't waste too much time on.

Let's start with one fact: There is no perfect copy protection solution, no technological magic wand you can wave that will prevent all unauthorized copying. This doesn't mean you can do some things that will cut down on the amount of unauthorized copying, but it does mean that it's a waste of time to look for a technology you can use to completely eliminate unauthorized copying.

From that point, you have two choices: Either use some form of DRM that you hope will cut down on unauthorized copying ("piracy"), or make the existence of piracy part of your marketing plan. The first choice has its own issues; some of them are explored in this article, where the author makes the point that pirated copies do not equal lost paid sales, and that DRM usually causes some problems for paid users. You have to consider carefully whether the tradeoff is worth it to you.

The second choice is to make piracy part of your marketing plan. The free-to-play model does this brilliantly; publishers want their game distributed as widely as possible, so as to encourage sales of in-game items. Many app publisher have a free version in order to advertise for the paid version. This does get trickier with e-books, but there are authors like Joe Konrath who are making good money from sales of e-books that can also be had for free.

I think if you can find a way to make unauthorized copying work for you, you will be much better off than worrying about a stream of unauthorized copies you can neither track nor control.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Software Sales Still Down

Game software sales are still heading for a bad year, as sales in July were down 8% according to the latest NPD report (compared to last July). Overall, sales for 2010 so far are down 8% over last year, which as you may recall was also a bad year. The bright spot was that hardware sales were up 12%, driven entirely by the introduction of the Xbox 360 Slim. Which actually seems to me like a fairly slim boost for a new console introduction.

It's not the quality of the software, unfortunately. Larger market forces are at work here, I think. There are many less expensive options to new $60 games, including expanding availability of used games, free-to-play games, mobile and social games. Plus the economy is still rough, particularly for consumers in the key 18-25 demographic for videogame sales.

Usually games have done well in down economies, as people have sought better entertainment values for their smaller entertainment budgets. This time is different, at least for videogame titles; I think part of the reason is the number of hours of play you get from a typical videogame is down significantly.

I don't think this is just a temporary blip (not when it's gone on for more than a year), and I don't think that the Move or Kinect or the 3DS will dramatically alter the situation, nor will 3D display. Business models have to change, and that means big changes ahead. Batten down the hatches and get ready for the storm.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Google Games

According to this article on IndustryGamers, Google's push into gaming is no accident. Google is making a determined push into gaming for strategic reasons. Google believes games can help push Android and Google Checkout, which is certainly true. The Android game market currently looks rather feeble compared to the Apple market, but that can change quite swiftly if Google makes the right moves.

More important than those reasons is Google's desire to go after Facebook. However Google decides to deal with social networking, games have to be an important part of it -- 40% of the time spent on Facebook is due to people playing games. That's a strategic fact that can't be ignored.

Of course, we don't know exactly what Google plans for its push into gaming. You can bet, though, that they are planning to make advertising an integral part of gaming, and virtual goods will also be a priority. Opportunities are there for savvy game developers as Google will doubtless spend a lot of money to make their vision come true.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Mobile Games: Threat or Menace?

Mobile games are a viable competitive threat to consoles, according to iSuppli. It's hard not to acknowledge it (unless you're Nintendo) when you look at the numbers; handheld videogame sales actually dropped last year by 2.5%, down to 38.9 million units. While Google recently announced that they are activating 200,000 Android phones every day. And Apple is selling well over a million iPhones a month, and over a million iPads, and over a million iPod Touches... it all adds up to big trouble for the DS. The PSP? No one even thinks of that as a viable competitor any more; major publishers are dropping PSP versions of titles (LucasArts, for one).

Mobile games are even threatening the console market in the family room, as the iPad takes hold (and Android tablets begin arriving). Sales numbers are down for console titles this year (by around 10%); it may be the economy, but it may also be due to the proliferation of low-cost alternatives like social games... and mobile games.

There's no clearer illustration of the threat than the fact that if you look for EA's Madden Football on, say, a Wii, it's $60. On a DS, it's $30 (or $20 used). On an iPad, it's $12.99, and on an iPhone, it's $7.99. The same game... Oh, and your iPad or your iPhone can be used for other things than gaming, and you store the game on the device and never have to worry about finding the cartridge or the disc. And buying it just takes a couple of clicks and a few moments.

And soon we'll see Android and Apple app stores in family room devices... whither the console business then?

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Sensual Marketing

No, not that. (The title did make you look, though.) I mean engaging multiple senses of your target audience to help extend your branding and pique their interest. Take Intel's use of a short melodic theme; it's instantly recognizable, and now they even show their employees in ads singing it. You hear those 5 notes, you think Intel (though I think having it as your ringtone goes a bit too far). They didn't have to pay big bucks to license a Rolling Stones tune, either. This is something that you could do for next to nothing, assuming you have musical talent or a close friend does. You don't have to create a theme song or a ballad; a few notes can do the trick. (You'll, ahem, note that Intel's theme is upbeat and ends on an upward, questing leap... perfect branding for them.)

You don't have to buy TV ads to make that musical branding impression, either. A very short theme can be put on your web site, made into a ringtone, heck, you can work it into your novel's PDF or your mobile game's theme. We sometimes forget how easy multimedia is to embed in things these days, even for products we don't normally think of as multimedia.

How about scent or touch? You can't do that on a web site... but you can do that at a convention appearance. (Although with the right imagery you can evoke an odor or a touch sensation... but tread carefully here!) Images, of course, are part of electronic games, but usually not part of novels beyond the cover. RPGs have a tradition of integrating imagery into the rules; but now even with a PDF you can go further, using video or animation or music. I for one am partial to older novels where you used to find Howard Pyle illustrated plates embedded here and there... what a treat!

So think about how to engage all the senses of your customers, and you may find some new ways to get people into your products.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

MMORPG Market to Over $5 Billion Worldwide

According to the latest figures, the MMORPG market totaled $5 billion for 2009. Latest predictions are that the global MMORPG market will hit $8 billion in revenue by 2014. The market has seen 17% annual growth rates, driven primarily by the Asian market. The interesting part is that the market is segmented; the US market is slowing down, hampered (apparently) by competition from mobile and social games. The disparity is also due to the difference in business models; the Asian games are primarily free to play and make revenue from virtual item sales, while Western games are mostly subscription fee based.

Of course, this is leading to an invasion of the US market by the Asian companies, with their revenue model leading the way. New MMORPG titles in the US have had difficulty getting traction against the World of Warcraft juggernaut, unless they are free to play. Some existing games, like Dungeons and Dragons Online (DDO), have successfully transitioned to free-to-play. Even WoW designers have admitted they are thinking about it, though with the Cataclysm expansion slated to hit this year I don't think we'll see any action for a while. The interesting thing to watch with Cataclysm will be how well it succeeds at picking up new players.

The image, by the way, is from a 2005 ad campaign for D&D, trying to hit back at the WoW juggernaut. In a way, it worked... now players of many PC games are Skyping with their friends as they play. With Skype's new beta, you can have multiple video chats going all together... so it really is like having your friends over, without them taking up space and eating your Doritos.

These are the realities that marketers have to deal with these days. The technology changes the market, so your products have to respond. While you're waiting for product development to catch up, your marketing has to change, too. Marketers have to be in touch with their customer base, ready to shift as they shift.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

The Most Common Gamer Online Is A Woman

The stats are in from comScore, and it may cause some people a shock: Woman are spending more time online than men. Female gamers over 55 spend the most time gaming of any demographic group, and they are nearly as common as males age 15 to 24.

If you're marketing a game on the internet (and who isn't these days?) you need to consider this demographic information as you put together your marketing campaign. I think part of the problem the gaming industry (both electronic and paper) has been having recently is that the industry has been focused since its inception on boys as its target audience (boys of all ages...). As the market has grown to include girls (and women!) the focus hasn't shifted, which means both product development and marketing haven't taken the changing demographics into account. Which has allowed Zynga to make roughly a zillion dollars by appealing to women at least as much as to men (and I'd bet Farmville has more female than male users; any takers?). A PopCap study showed that 55% of social gamers are female. Blizzard knows World of Warcraft has around a 40%  female audience. Yet the classic gaming companies like Activision and EA haven't seemed to focus as much effort on women in their releases or their marketing.

This is changing as social gaming becomes more important, but there's a lot of inertia to overcome. Don't lose out on sales by skewing your marketing (or your product development!) too heavily towards males, unless you really don't think your title would have much appeal to women. If you're a male, get a reality check or three by showing your marketing to some women to see what they think, and how they react. Adjust your marketing so that you can appeal to women as well as men... and perhaps you can see some additional sales.

Monday, August 9, 2010

How Not To Create Cover Art

Cover art may seem outdated in this emerging era of digital distribution, but physical products still command a majority of the sales and will for some time. Even for products that don't have a physical presence, a compelling visual and a catchy title is useful on a web page or product page. Good cover art can help sell products, especially when surrounded by the right words.

The corollary, of course, is that bad cover art can keep your product from selling. This article shows a number of horrible game covers, some from the not-so-distant past. It's good for a laugh, but it's worth looking at these covers and thinking about just what it is that makes them so bad.

For the most part, the artwork used didn't represent what the game was about; in some cases it was amazingly far away from the nature of the game (an old guy with a banjo? Really? How does that connect with a space shooter?). The above example is bad on so many levels. I can only hope that the artwork shown is not taken from the game; if that's the best you've got, don't even bother to put the thing on the market.

Let's start by noting that the title is all but unreadable. Your title should be clearly readable; better still, pronounceable; and for full credit, it should have something to do with the game and get the customer interested.

As for the artwork... it should be as excellent as you can afford. Hopefully you or someone you know has the ability to tell good art from bad, or at least can hire a competent art director to make that judgment for you. The art should be clearly understandable at a glance, and communicate the key features of the game (the same key features you decided on when you created your product platform document... which I will discuss in an article on my web site).

Glancing at the examples shown in the article will give you a lesson in many ways to fail at good cover art, and a good laugh or two.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Google Games Makes Another Move

Google continues to build up its gaming portfolio with the acquisition of Slide, a social gaming site, for $182 million. As for how Google plans to use this acquisition, they're basically not saying much. Only that they will continue to improve the social aspects of many of their products.

It's pretty clear that Google intends to be a big player in social media, and not to just let Facebook own the whole space. Games are one of the biggest drivers of social media page views, as Farmville and its ilk cleverly encourage people to hit the site again and again... while encouraging their friends to join, too. So if Google wants to really drive adoption of its social platforms, it needs to have games as part of the mix.

The rapid rise of social gaming continues, as Japanese social gaming company DeNA is on track to hit $1 billion in revenue, according to TechCrunch. Zynga is poised to hit a similar revenue number in 2011, according to reports. Whoosh! That's rapid growth even by Google standards.

What does it mean for small developers? Opportunities abound on the social and mobile game spaces, and you don't need to have a huge budget to get there. Some of the most interesting game designs can be found on paper in the adventure gaming hobby; the time is ripe to see if some of those could be breakout hits in downloadable PC games, social, or mobile spaces. This new wave in gaming is barely under way in terms of design advancement; look how many of the social games are merely clones of one another with the IP scrubbed off and another one applied. But this is changing fast, and the opportunities are many.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

We're All Fine Here...

Just a small reactor leak, we've got it locked down.

Or at least, that's the word from the Entertainment Merchants Association, the industry organization for retailers who sell DVDs and videogames. They're saying that all this talk about digital distribution is just air, because 80% to 90% of videogames sold were on physical media. See, retail stores are doing great. That big cold thing in the water we're heading towards must be the ice I ordered for our cocktails. Isn't this a great cruise?

Where to begin? First I'll note that the "80% to 90%" figure seems awfully vague, and there's no mention of how that figure was arrived at. Could it have been pulled out of, let's say, thin air? Second, even if you grant that range, what would it have been a couple of years ago? Next to nothing... and now it's somewhere between 10% and 20%. Seems like a pretty swift growth rate. It wouldn't take long at that rate to turn physical distribution into a rounding error.

Digital distribution offers many advantages to publishers and consumers alike. Publishers can save huge amounts of money on the cost of production, and even more money by not giving up any margin to retailers or distributors. Customers get their product without ever having to leave home. Digital distributors (like Steam) have found that they can get huge sales increases by lowering prices, which they can do because the margins are so huge. This also benefits consumers, who can score new games for far less than the usual retail price.

Digital distribution is devastating for retailers, which is why they're trying so hard to believe it's not happening. (Though GameStop is making acquisitions like Kongregate to prepare for this future.) Don't be fooled; it's happening, it's happening fast, and it's going to change everything about the game industry and the book industry. The music business tried to disbelieve, and they even tried to use lawsuits to kill the process. They succeeded in delaying and mutating the transition for a while, but in the end the big music publishers have ended up losing out in many ways.

Don't be like them. Revise your strategies and business models so you can take advantage of this change. This is a tremendous opportunity; whenever a market is shaken up it's a chance for smaller players to become big.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Planning for Christmas

It's that time of year again... if you haven't already created marketing plans to take advantage of holiday spending, now's the time. Why so early? Because timing is key. You want to lock up what they call those "open-to-buy dollars" with your products before they get spent on someone else's. This is why store promotions for seasonal items tend to creep backwards in time; they're trying to get the jump on their competitors. If they put out their big "Halloween Sale!" or "Back-to-School Sale" the weekend before the rival chain does, they can grab a lot of the dollars that might otherwise be spent at the rival.

This works even at the smaller end of the game market, with adventure games or mobile games or whatnot. Hit your user base with some specials to encourage their buying. Perhaps create some sort of holiday-themed version of your product, or some downloadable content to use with your product. Get creative! While you're at it, don't forget to take advantage of other holidays and reasons for buying. It would be great if you had a regular promotion cycle, and thus each year the promotion could reach further as word spread about it.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

10 Million Units

If anything shows more clearly that the videogame industry is heading for big troubles, it's this. Bioware says their target is selling 10 million units of a new title, and if they don't hit that they aren't making money. Which means a massive investment and time and money, and very few titles are making those kind of numbers. Your margin for error becomes very small indeed. It's as if you were making movies, and said the only way you could make money would be to hit $300 million in sales. I don't think you'll find any studios that would say that; maybe on some films, but not on all of their films. Savvy studios find ways to make money on little movies that only cost them a tenth as much. Some make money on TV shows that cost 1/100th as much... variety keeps the risk lower.

Variety is an important thing to remember when crafting your marketing and product development strategies. Your target demographic probably enjoys more than one type of entertainment. They may like a AAA console FPS, but they may also enjoy a Flash-based game on Kongregate. Or a fantasy novel. Or a card game or a board game. They may not be able to drop $60 on a new console title every month, so they look for a free-to-play game online. There are more options these days, so putting your business's success into one risky type of investment seems less than optimal, to put it nicely. Leverage your IP into multiple titles at different price points and entertainment types (either developing it yourself or through licensing); you'll make products more cheaply, increase your chances for a hit, and promote the brand better.

Monday, August 2, 2010

3D 3Dead?

I've excited some interest over on Gamasutra with my post 5 Reasons 3D Display Is Doomed. Perhaps my headline was a trifle overstated for marketing purposes, but I do think the odds are stacked against 3D display becoming a major driver of game industry growth. (3D Display is the rage in theaters since Avatar, and makers of TV sets and Blu-ray players have jumped on it in an effort to sell more hardware; now console game manufacturers are promoting it, too).

I think this could use some very heavy marketing spending to improve its odds of success. But will companies pony up for such an effort? There are two separate issues at work: Whether 3D Display will succeed in movies and TV markets (and thus drive sales of 3D TVs), and whether 3D Display will succeed in the console market. The two are connected; without 3D movies and TV driving sales, it seems highly doubtful that consumers would spend thousands extra for a 3D TV and 3D glasses just to play games. Without a large installed base, will developers create 3D Display-specific titles? Without working on a title to make sure it looks good in 3D Display, how will it look or play? If game titles don't really take advantage of 3D Display, or at least look better, or (best of all) actually have game play that is exciting and requires 3D Display, will anyone adopt it?

The rumblings are starting to appear from many quarters; check out this story on Gizmodo, reporting on Roger Ebert. Or this story on Kotaku, about some less-than-stellar results of trying out 3D games. This does not seem like the early buzz that portends a huge wave of buying into new hardware that costs thousands of dollars. It can happen, but too many things have to go exactly right for me to think this is a high probability.

Where does that leave you as a game marketer? Ignore the hype and push reality; sell the customers on what they can buy now (which is your product). If this begins to happen, you'll know well in advance and can adjust accordingly. Until then I think it's hurting the industry as a whole to be pushing a technology whose benefits are unclear and that you can't even buy right now.