Game Marketing Tips, Analysis, and News

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

EA Avoids E3 Show Floor

Electronic Arts announced today that it's not going to be on the show floor for the Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) this year. Instead, the company will hold a press conference on Sunday, and no doubt have the usual conference rooms for important meetings. THis doesn't mean EA is passing up the chance for major publicity; the company is planning a public event at the nearby Nokia Center, and another at the same time in London, where the public can come and and get its hands on EA games. These EA Play events will require tickets to attend, though EA has not yet said how it will distribute those tickets.

A few points spring to mind about this development. First, this isn't really going to save EA money over its usual presence -- it may well end up costing more, and it certainly will be more difficult to organize and stage. So this isn't being done as a cost-saving measure. Clearly, EA is doing this because it feels the effort will generate more interest (and perhaps more press) than its traditional showing. I wonder if they'll allow the public to stream from within the event? That would be clever.

The hardworking development teams will find no relief from this change; there will be just as much pressure to get games ready for E3 as there was for a more traditional show.

The key here is EA really wants to get the public in to experience new titles first-hand. Going direct to customers is far more important than impressing some retail buyers these days, as sales move to digital distribution -- and a direct relationship with gameplayers. These EA Play events, no doubt with others to come at other shows (Gamescom, certainly -- and PAX shows? Other consumer shows? Not a surprise if they do) will help build even stronger connections with gamers.

The larger question is whether any other game companies plan to follow suit, or will the wait and see. The E3 show already began experimenting with letting in some of the public last year, when companies exhibiting at the show were given some passes to distribute to the public for one day. How long will it be before the show is opened up completely to the public? It's bound to happen sooner or later...

Monday, January 25, 2016

Working With Game Startups

Dawn in Kuala Lumpur, from my hotel room
I'm back from a week in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, where I had the honor and privilege of working with a number of game startup companies under the auspices of GameFounders (check 'em out, particularly if you're interested in starting a game company). I came in to offer advice on marketing for game companies as well as game design principles, and some thoughts on starting and running small game companies. It was a tremendously fun experience for me, and as always I learned a great deal by working with these enthusiastic game creators.

I delivered two lectures, one on the state of the game market and game marketing, and one on game design, both around and hour or so  plus another half hour of questions. I then spent two long afternoons in one-on-one sessions with the startups, addressing their particular questions and concerns -- and delivering specific advice for their games and their studios.

Those sessions were intense, because in a twenty-minute session I had to absorb and understand their game(s) and their intent, and come up with specific, creative advice. I felt a great responsibility to make this advice as specific and actionable as I could, knowing that in their position that's exactly what I'd want -- and need. By the end of those days I felt like my brain had gotten a thorough workout, but that's good -- stretching those mental muscles will build them up, right? At least, I hope so.

It's a big challenge these days for game startups. While the tools to create games are better than ever, and more accessible than ever (many of them being free for small companies), the competitive picture is far more difficult. In decades past, the challenge was building a game: Tools were expensive, and distribution required a huge amount of capital or (almost always) getting a deal with a big publisher who had access to distribution. Now the distribution part is easy and almost free -- upload a completed game to an app store or Steam and poof!, your game is available to millions. The challenge is that none of these millions of people know or care about your game, and you have to figure out how to create, maintain, and grow an audience. Those are skills most new game developers don't have, or even know how to acquire.

It was highly educational for me to work with these teams and see their enthusiasm and skills. I hope I was able to help them in some small way, at least. The game industry needs continued innovation and new blood, and I hope all of these teams find success in the future.