Tuesday, April 12, 2011

When Marketing gets involved.

In the beginning, around the mid-80's, when video and computer games were just starting out, it was a pretty simple formula. A small group of guys (sometimes a girl: Roberta Williams) got together, threw a ball around and came up with a game concept. Then those same guys along with some artists, writers and a musician or two got busy and programed the game. The finished game was delivered to the publisher and the published made a whole bunch of copies and sold them to stores.

That was it really. Nothing more to it and guess what, games sold and sometimes they sold millions of copies without much advertising or marketing. Games like Mario Brothers, Pac Mac, Tetris and Zelda. Then what happens whenever there's money involved happened. People who either didn't have any idea what a video game was or hated video games got involved in the industry. Human Resources, Legal, Accounting, Advertising, Project Managers and Marketing.

Like I said, these people for the most part hated games - the one who loved computer games but couldn't create them went to work for Q&A and Test. The only reason the above got involved was because there was money, they got a degree in marketing or business and they couldn't get a job at IBM or Morgan Stanley.

Because of this total lack of interest and complete disdain for the product, there have been some spectacular failures in game demonstrations, presentations and E3 events. I present a few here for your cringing entertainment.

Failing High School Musical

According to Game Informer magazine,

" After touting its new High School Musical karaoke game, the host asked for two "volunteers" to demonstrate. These clearly planted actors pretended to be novices, struggling wit the microphones and looking confused. Then, as soon as the music started, they began belting out the number like Broadway veterans. All hell broke loose as dozens of dancers dressed as cheerleaders flooded the aisles, throwing beach balls and inciting the crowd to join in." Game Informer (don't know the date cause GI is not smart enough to put the date on the magazine)
Here's the embarrassing video:

Wii Music for Gifted Children

Ever wish a game could make you look like an uncoordinated, spastic loser? Then welcome to Wii Music drum demo. See, when you really don't understand how the game works, nor do you care - then you fail to see the importance of testing out the product before the demonstration.

Jeff Bell - A legend in his own mind.

Former VP of Marketing for Microsoft, Jeff Bell is the classic marketing guy. First you have to have an ego as big as the Grand Canyon, but have very little talent for designing or creating the actual product. So, that the first thing you think about when you get up on stage is .. "I got to make me look good." rather than "Can I make the product look good."

In this video, Jeff Bell is demonstrating Madden 08 with Reggie Bush at the 2008 E3 show. Remember, Jeff wants himself to look good so he's got to say the most up-to-date, pimped out words, Dog.

Here Jeff is doing a mock interview with the Microsoft marketing team for the dialog wheel in Mass Effect. Realize that Jeff is not a designer; also, comedy comes from certain vulnerability within the comedian, but when you think you're "all-that" then it's impossible to be funny other than in a sort of pitiful Hasselhoff way.

The Other Kennedy

When you don't care about the game or the company then you hire other people who don't care about video games or the customer. This was never more apparent than when Jamie Kennedy hosted the Activision press conference at 2007 E3

I'm not saying that all marketing is bad. Strangely enough many marketing people in the casino industry like gambling and have an understanding of the customer's wants and needs. This is definitely not happening in video games. Especially when some marketing dude tries to slog a horrible game idea like "Hello Kitty" combined with "The Sims" down a developer's throat.

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