John Cook covers a conversations held by GameHouse’s Matt Hulett, PopCap’s Dave Roberts and WildTangent’s Mike Peronto at the WTIA TechNW Forum.
Dave Roberts talks about how great games will beat great advertising. Most of what he does through the article is call out Zynga, saying that their business model is ultimately going to be a failure compared to PopCap’s.
It’s really easy to believe Dave, and I do want him to be right, as I’m sure any gamer does. However, even though the competition of ‘Sales = Quality Gamplay’ vs ‘ Sales = Marketing’ has a clear good and evil, we can’t just say that Gameplay is the ultimate winner in this situation. I think it is true, that no matter what the advertising is, a shit game is a shit game and once people know the game is a goner, but I think if you really want to see how well good marketing increases a games sales, we need to compare the sales of okay games that have had various levels of marketing campaigns.
We all probably know of at least one Indie game that we and all our friends love, but it only get’s okay sales because nobody knows about it. If you don’t know of a game like that, is might not be hard to imagine. For a game to be successful, I believe that it does need some kind of advertising campaign so the general gaming community knows about it. On the flip side of that coin, there are games that have a lot of advertising, but have gameplay that could be described as below par. These games have the edge as far as sales go because there’s so much more awareness of their games. An example could be any given Final Fantasy game. (Nothing personal against FF, I love some of them, others not as much) Those games have such a presence and history that they really do advertise them self by merely existing. However, for the longest time FF games have almost changed their own gameplay completely from game to game. There are some similar gameplay elements, but about as many as you might find in any other given JRPG. There’s a similar case going for the Call of Duty games. Their next game isn’t out yet, but anyone who hasn’t lost their gourd already knows that it’s at least going to be profitable. It might be awful, but as long as the player’s ears and eyes don’t bleed while playing, it will be bought and played.
Dave makes a comment near the end of the article that the days of “easy money” are gone, as if gamers have suddenly raised their standards, which will cause mediocre games to go without sales. I have to say that I’m not exactly sure what he feels happened, or what kind of shift he thinks is right around the corner. He made a really good point that their game, Bejeweled Blitz, is beating out Farmville and Mafia Wars without any kind of advertising campaign, but at the same time, I don’t think that it’s nearly enough to suggest any kind of change in the gaming community. Farmville and Mafia Wars will still be played, and continue to make money for quite some time yet regardless of it losing some competition to Bejeweled. Even though Zynga might not be making as much money as PopCap, they’re becoming profitable, which keeps them in the game.