Gaming, Marketing, Uncategorized

Market Musing: Simply Missing the Mark with BattleBorn

Battleborn. Yes I can hear the collective sighs of indifference. There has not been a lot of love given for this game. The patron robo savior of Destructoid, Chris Carter, in his review gave the game a 6.0 citing that matches went on too long, a feeling of lack of character (says the robot), and that overall:

“I‘m not sold on Battleborn‘s commitment to the MOBA genre but there’s something fun there underneath all of it. I’ll probably hop on occasionally to play Capture throughout its lifetime while the bulk of my efforts are spent on more polished shooters.”

Fair enough and to each their own as to how they feel about the game. To me it is an entertaining romp and while some modes are a bit long in the tooth, it is kinda charming and can be pretty fun. What isn’t charming is the advertising that happened for this game. There were just so many missed opportunities and even though I’m aware that hindsight is 50/50, this can serve as a possible warning to those trying to market a new intellectual property (IP).

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Those Gills

Some believed this game was doomed from the start since it is a Gearbox game and to that they valid points. Let’s not kid ourselves here, besides Borderlands most of the other things Gearbox has made/had involvement with kinda… well… failed harder than MC Hammer trying to do gangsta rap. The only other well performing developed game that Gearbox has besides Borderlands is Brothers in Arms and that’s not even their own IP. The debacle that was Duke Nukem Forever and Aliens: Colonial Marines vertical slice and outsourcing controversies have not garnered good faith between the customer base and the company. The problem is that the level of public relations (PR) work necessary to turn this around would be massive and still possibly ineffective. There are some people that just out and out do not want to have any dealings with a Gearbox Software game because of it being a Gearbox game.

                Then there is Randy Pitchford. He, as the head of the studio, takes a lot of the blame for the on goings of the company and it is warranted. I can respect his zeal for his company and the efforts that they do, he has a really to be just a bit more tactful in what he says to the PR department. He has to gain back the goodwill of the people who still feel burned from the two previously mentioned events. That and when you have an internal email from a SEGA PR manager that says they he’s “Doing whatever the fuck he likes” that does not breed good faith. It is a good move that he is able and active on twitter and generally he keeps things rather positive and doesn’t get involved in too many fights.

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Wanted: DoA

On the subject of Pitchford being on twitter, he sent out this tweet in relation to and describing Battleborn:

<blockquote class=”twitter-tweet” data-lang=”en”><p lang=”en” dir=”ltr”>Battleborn is: FPS; hobby-grade coop campaign; genre-blended, multi-mode competitive e-sports; meta-growth, choice + epic Battleborn Heroes!</p>&mdash; Randy Pitchford (@DuvalMagic) <a href=”https://twitter.com/DuvalMagic/status/486550022910005248″>July 8, 2014</a></blockquote>
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Right… what is that supposed to mean? Yes, it is definitely a hype builder and does a lot to make people interested in the game but not in the best of ways. If anything, you would get a comical tilted head expression from the people who have read that thinking “Wut?” The only way that the person would understand what he is getting at is if they either did research to see what the game actually is or if they previously followed the game which is something people do not really enjoy doing unless they are hooked by the advertising. This tweet sums up what most of the advertising for the game has been, frustratingly enough.

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Pictured: My feelings for the advertisement of this game

Simplicity is very important when advertising a new IP and making sure the customer has a good idea of what they are getting when they see the item you are trying to sell. You can come up with all the flashy logos, trailers with good music choices and cool looking action, and catchy slogans you want but if the customer has no idea what they are looking at, there is a distinct failure for what you are trying to accomplish and, more importantly, you are selling your new IP short of itself and its potential.

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At least we got a good mindless mobile game for cross-media synergy

There has to be an understanding between the creators and the customer for what they are getting out of this. Sometimes you can say the most with just saying what a product is: “Battleborn is a MOBA style game with a massively varied list of characters and multiple modes of play. You want to play splitscreen on a console? Go nuts. You want to play solo? You can always play with and/or by yourself. With a selection of 25 unique characters, you will have more than enough options of whatever Badass you want to be.” Some variant of that would have helped out so much in the early goings of advertising this product.

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They are a pretty entertaining lot

Having to consumer understand what they are getting becomes more poignant when you are faced with competition. Battleborn had the unfortunate timing of going against Overwatch even though it was released a few weeks earlier. Now the advertising for Overwatch did exactly what it was supposed to, it was riding a tsunami sized amount of hype from the fans of Blizzard, and word of mouth due to the beta drove its popularity home. Now keep in mind that these are two different styles of games. Battleborn is FPS MOBA while Overwatch is a team shooter with hero characters similar to Team Fortress 2 when you distill both to their most basic elements. So even as there is some overlap, with similarities in looks and character archetypes, they are fundamentally two different games. This is where the aforementioned problem with the really comes in; you would not be able to tell what the differences are with the way that the two have been advertised. Battleborn was left dead in the water, in a sense, due to this and has really been almost a burial for the game.

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Cheers luv, the cavalry just ran over your game!

While on the subject of burials, there is a eulogy that needs to be said for the early adapters of the game. Why? Someone in the marketing department thought it was a good idea to drop the game by $20 to compete with Overwatch during its release week. Those who got the game when it came out to support those strong early sales kinda got burned in extraordinary fashion as that could have been the price for the season pass. Which warrants the question, why even have it if that is the case? To the ones that haven’t purchased the game it is fine but not really huge driving force to do so and for everyone else, it is a move that seems kind of desperate. When you can ask your marketing team “But why?” and no one can come up with a legitimate answer other than competition, it makes about as much sense as Budweiser renaming their beer “America”

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No. Stop. Go Back. You have officially jumped the shark. Do not pass go, do not collect any money. Go back to the drawing board.

Even as I would not call the game’s advertisement “mismanaged” I would say that it was misaimed. Explaining what the game is clearly at almost any point during the adverting really would have helped. Almost all of the advertisements I saw for it were entertaining, the adult swim sessions being more of the fun ones, but they still marketed more as a first person shooter. The closest we got to extolling the features of the game was the GameStop TV in store ad for it being on sale. There was too much of a focus on making the game look quirky and cool and not enough stating what the game is from the get go. It may seem like harping but it is really important that for a new IP those things are made apparent and obvious to the consumer.  Call of Duty this is not, you have to prove yourself.

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Pictured: What you are not and do not need to be minus the successful part.

I heard a lot over the time that this game was being made the line “This should be a Free to Play title” or something to that affect and I disagree greatly. As easy of a market they would have had for a F2P title, the possibility of flopping, just in my opinion, would have been higher as people would not want to pay for characters and that selling style is getting old quickly even if the gains are massive currently. The irony is that people still complain about having unfinished games and while, from a marketing and producing standpoint, even as it is great that you have a money generation machine and more time to make things (characters, skins, modes, etcetera) for the consumer it is a bit more of a raw deal and the single player content would be purchasable separately if there at all. In addition, there is figuring out a pricing scheme that would not enrage people any more than they would be already about microtransactions in game. I will give credit where it is due, having a season pass that is only $20 with no other in game purchases (so far, these things are always subject to change) is pretty wicked and you do get a good variety of characters and play types for your money.

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There have been worse season passes -Glares in Batman: Arkham Knight‘s direction-

When I look at Battleborn from this perspective, I just see a lot of missed opportunity. While a fair game in its own right, the advertisement undersold what it is. Minus the required internet factor, many of the features that people complain about not being in modern gaming is there. Single player story which is pretty lengthy, multiplayer, splitscreen for the consoles, and continuing content but no one on the customer side really knew unless they played the beta or really kept up with it beforehand. We are at a time where we can have community managers and PR managers in touch with people and able to gauge things easier than ever before.  We are in an era of hashtags, memes, and free flowing data so looking at more of these sources is a must and modifying your marketing technique on the fly is possible. Unless you have a massive augmented reality game or a plan for a viral mystery to build hype for a game, clarity is key in marketing and that is where Battleborn missed the mark.

Picture sourcing: http://i.imgur.com/3E5MWgt.gif, http://static1.gamespot.com/uploads/screen_kubrick/1179/11799911/3022694-battleborn.jpg, https://downloads.2kgames.com/battleborn/blog/Battleborn_StartScreen_HeroArt.jpg, https://downloads.2kgames.com/battleborn/blog/Battleborn_Tap_logo.jpg, http://www.fandomfollowing.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/05/Tracer_waving_header.jpg, http://b.fastcompany.net/multisite_files/fastcompany/imagecache/inline-large/inline/2016/05/3059681-inline-s-1-budweiser-renames-its-beer-america.jpg, http://blogs-images.forbes.com/insertcoin/files/2016/05/Call-of-Duty-Infinite-Warfare_5-WM-1200×668.jpg, http://www.gamingnexus.com/Images/News/dekszv37496/screenshot.jpg, https://downloads.2kgames.com/battleborn/blog/2K_Battleborn_SeasonPass2.jpg.

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Gaming

Marketing Musings: An Offshoot End and A Cinema With a View

Okay, I’m going to try something a little different and this is going to be hella informal. Have you ever seen something that makes you question what the people in the marketing department are doing? I mean really question what they are doing. Not necessarily weird or disastrous (Dead Island Riptide collector’s edition I’m glaring right at you) but things that make you think that they just didn’t go far enough. Well, I’m going to share some thoughts on a few of these marketing ideas and what my take on them. You know, because this is the internet and we totally don’t have enough opinions on here.

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Well, Yes and No

First a little background; I am interested in advertising, particularly the psychological side of it. You know how you’ve been informed that certain colors trigger parts of the brain to feel different things and that’s how it will drive you to want something. Kind of like how yellow and red are colors that often induces hunger or increases appetite, things like this. If I were to fully get into this field then I would be doing more of things like this and bringing my ideas to the table.  Though I would probably end up looking at a lot of statistics (goodie) and working with ways to improve the effectiveness of this technique. Sounds kinda boring but it is actually an interesting field. How does this tie in to my original subject? Well, marketing is a force that pushes places and people to purchase things and in gaming, that can make or break your franchise.

 

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Case in Point

This in a sense is the story of Disney Infinity, the little toys that we thought could but eventually couldn’t. The news of Infinity being ended and Avalanche studios being closed came as a slight shock to many. Of course many of the dissenters took up issue with the interactive toy market as a whole but then again this is the internet, where there is an opinion to be had, someone is going to have it. But what was strange to me is that just last year even, market analysts were thinking that Disney Infinity had long, quite long, term plans for the franchise and the possibility of Infinity 4.0 was plausible. The interactive section of Disney seemed like it was a shoe-in to improve the entirety of the business and they saw a upward trend of 11% in 2015 (http://goo.gl/Wsb649). Now this sounds great but what prompted the closure of this division? I can only speculate Disney decided to pull the plug on the operation out of fear that the Toys to Life bubble was going to pop. It is a fair worry but strange considering how well they did last year (http://goo.gl/BDsD7M), we are in an ever changing market and the it was becoming somewhat crowded with Amiibos and Lego Dimensions.

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Good Night Sweet Prince

 

A directional change with more of an emphasis on original Disney properties could have continued making this profitable. And making more of the other loved properties could have been a move in the right direction. We are in an era that nostalgia is big and the 90s refuse to go anywhere, so for the hypothetical 4.0, introduce characters from the cartoons of the 90s. Darkwing Duck, Ducktails, Gargoyles, Chip and Dale Rescue Rangers, the list goes on but this could have been massively popular and also using some of the other film properties they had not reached yet. Princess and the Frog, Treasure Island, and (personal favorite) Atlantis. Reintroducing these characters to an new generation and to groups that may have missed them the first time around. Do some mock ups and test to see how they were received. Not to mention that with this idea of 4.0 have the creators make hooks for adaptive DLC in the future so instead of having to buy a new set every year, expand it out to every two years. Allow the figures to sell themselves and people would buy but not only as playable items but as collectibles since the design really hit its stride in 3.0. Even if there were losses from this idea, they would be negated by running with some of the movie franchises that are slated to come out in that year. This would create brand synergy and lessen any blow from these lessor known franchises with stories and characters from those bigger titles.

 

The Horrible Things I Would Have Done For This To Have Happened…

Moving on from the recently deceased to the very much alive, Blizzard is doing something different with the marketing for Overwatch. This being that you can request for certain theaters in the US and EU to show the cinematic trailers from the game in a theater setting (https://goo.gl/Sv5lHi).  This is different but not a bad idea in itself. Blizzard fans are legion and the marketing group knows this. People would set up trips and make efforts to go to these theaters to see this 120 minute cinematic extravaganza (presented by Coca-Cola). This is an interesting move for a number of reasons. Besides drumming up a lot of support for the game and building hype levels more this is coming off of the heels of a rather successful open beta. I don’t know if any thought they would give this a shot but I have a feeling that it will pay off. The worry is that people only had two days to scramble and reserve tickets and there have to be at least 100 reserved tickets for the theaters to actually do the showing. I don’t have firm numbers but I feel like they probably reached this goal. In addition there are a few of the locations that are confirmed to do them anyway.

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Do I Really Need to Say Anything Here?

Having options for both is smart and will pay off in more hype. Word of mouth is powerful and besides that there is a far bit of advertising that has gone on for this already. But here is what you get go see it: a collection of cinematics, trailers for the heroes, behind the scenes look at the story board process, and some animated shorts. They are also getting some free stuff. But something that would set this over the top? For attendees, in the free stuff would be a code for skins. Not just any skins but exclusive skins based off of classic film characters for each of the heroes. People love having rare things and for those that would be interested in taking the effort to go this would be a great way to reward them, push them more to get the game as if they weren’t already, and allow for Blizzard to look like an even better company that most people perceive them to be already. Hype for this is already insane especially considering the mass amount of players that participated in the beta, why not push the mark even further?

 

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Had To.

These are just thoughts that I’ve had over the last few days looking at the trends in the gaming world. I am no professional and there are a lot of other things that go into this field but the concepts remain current. Capitalizing on the strengths of these franchises is easy as they have left a fair amount of good will with the people who have interacted with them. It is sad that we won’t see any more Disney infinity figures even if many did not seem to them to exist in the first place. Only if amiibos could get the printing techniques of the figure developers… I digress, a look into the marketing world can leave a person jaded and can leave people on the other end (those of you reading) with possible feelings of contempt. That being the soulless marketing executives that are out of touch with the consumer/fans. I would like to bridge that gap.

 

Picture sources: http://www.blogcdn.com/www.joystiq.com/media/2013/01/deadisland-1358259013.jpg

 

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