One doesn’t typically think of the Wall Street Journal as a fountain of useful game-related news, but some of the “big picture” articles in there are worth noticing. For example, today’s article, “Pump Priming Walmart”. The key quote: “With gasoline prices in retreat, low-income consumers will have a little more to spend. At the same time, with housing prices also sagging, higher-income house-holds could be sucking wind.”
Why does this matter? Because the game industry is currently being pulled in two very different directions. Some people want to make $20M AAA titles and charge $60 per unit. Others want to make casual games, employ user-generated content to decrease overall costs, experiment with micropayments, etc. Not that the latter group requires vindication — lately it seems like everyone is making or promoting casual and “free online” games — but this news seems to favor a softer price touch.
Parks Associates has unveiled a study that seeks to eliminate the meaningless terms “hardcore gamer” and “casual gamer”. Kudos to Parks; I’ve always felt that the game industry’s limited vocabulary for describing customers has hobbled design and marketing creativity. (It’s like trying to describe the natural world with just three words: “plant”, “animal”, and “mineral”. You could do it, but you’ll definitely lose something in the process.)
The Parks study revealed six segments:
- Power gamers: 11% of the market, but account for 30% of current spending.
- Social gamers: 13% of the market; enjoy gaming as a way to interact with friends.
- Leisure gamers: 14% of the market; spend 58 hours per month playing mainly casual titles. However, they prefer challenging games and show high interest in new gaming services.
- Dormant gamers: 26% of the market; love gaming but spend little time because of family, work, or school. They like to play with friends and family and prefer challenging games.
- Incidental gamers: 12% of the market; play mostly online games for 20 hours a month, mainly out of boredom.
- Occasional gamers: 24% of the market; play puzzle, word, and board games almost exclusively.
A big debate has been brewing for months now, and this weekend marked the event that will finally blow the lid off that debate. I’m not talking about “PS3 vs. Xbox 360” — partisans in that fight won’t rest anytime soon. I’m talking about the debut of Snakes on a Plane, the movie that bloggers (and a few media scholars) love to talk about, and cynics love to trash. There are lessons here for the game industry.
Intro to Snakes on a Plane
A brief recap, for those of you who aren’t familiar with this. Snakes on a Plane features Samuel L. Jackson, in a story so silly that as soon as bloggers got wind of it, they began gleefully making parodies and hailing the movie as the upcoming camp hit of the year. Makers of the movie (including Jackson) were probably not initially intending to create a camp hit, but when they realized what was happening, they did something relatively unusual in Hollywood: they adapted their marketing efforts (and even the movie itself) to conform to the camp expectations of the blogosphere.
Over the past few years, the concept of “involvement” has become an increasingly hot topic amongst media executives and marketers. MIT C3’s own Stacy Wood, an Associate Professor of Marketing at the University of South Carolina, has been studying involvement (among other things), and she recently wrote an excellent article on the subject. The article isn’t publicly available, but I’d like to share parts of it with you — it is relevant to game companies as advertisers, and as developers of an advertising medium.
To my knowledge, most large media companies are still struggling with how to handle PR in the current online landscape. Some of the questions I’m most commonly asked include:
- Should we recognize bloggers? Which ones, and how?
- Should we participate in online forums or not?
- Can we influence democratic online news systems like digg.com?
There are no short (nor scientifically-proven) answers to these questions. But blogs, forums, and democratic news systems have become incredibly important mediums of communication, and major brands simply cannot afford to ignore them any longer.
I stumbled across an interesting article by Robert Young that introduces the concept of “micro-celebrities”; i.e. popular individuals within social networks, whose natural enthusiasm for a product or brand can be supported, amplified, and ultimately projected outwards. The basic idea: instead of (or in addition to) paying a famous celebrity millions of dollars to hawk your wares, why not identify and reward several thousand of your most popular fans, such that they are encouraged to spread word of your product (explicitly or implicitly) to others?
This article was originally published by Next Generation.
One of the things we’ve been thinking about (as part of C3 at MIT) is how to turn media properties into lifestyle brands. This is a particularly hot topic in the realm of magazines and television. What I want to know is: what does it take for a game developer or publisher to create a lifestyle brand? And should they even try?
Nintendo President Satoru Iwata recently revealed that the Wii will automatically download content during the night (broadband permitting.) In other words, push technology. It isn’t clear from the interview whether consumers will be able to tweak or disable this functionality. A quote:
This would allow Nintendo to send monthly promotional demos for the DS, during the night, to the Wii consoles in each household. Users would wake up each morning, find the LED lamp on their Wii flashing, and know that Nintendo has sent them something. They would then be able to download the promotional demo from their Wii’s to their Nintendo DS’s.
I normally try not to get too swept up in the “creativity crisis” debate, but I read a couple of articles this weekend that got me thinking.
The first was an interview of Paul Lee, president of EA’s worldwide studios. In it, Paul is asked: Open-world gaming seems to be one of the buzz phrases of this E3 … But is there any sense that gamers really want that? His response: I think open-world elements of a game, where you’re not moving and reloading … is really compelling … And I think consumers are going to expect and demand that in this generation of machines.