Archive for the ‘Gaming’ Category
“Tennis is a ridiculously hard game, and there are a relative few who can, in the real world, reach pro status. Few of us can do much of anything well enough to attract real acclaim. But it’s a blast to try. And it’s even more fun to feel some pleasure of success from your efforts. To forget–even for a few foolish minutes–that you aren’t an uncoordinated undesirable left standing on the sidelines. That, instead, you are gifted. Talented. A winner on the court. The kind of person the captain picks first for the team.”
If you’ve played Wii Sports, you understand this and it got me thinking about why some experiences can trigger very passionate responses in people. Videogame designers have has evolved the medium from relatively simple (albeit fun) arcade style formats to realistic 3D-like environments with genres that appeal to sports enthusiasts, pilot wannabes and fantasy/role players. The Wii’s interactive controller design takes that to a new level allowing the player to use physical movements to control the game. This immersive experience puts the player on the court, field, fairway or in the case of the wildly successful Guitar Hero series, on the stage.
The question is whether or not these simulated experiences can motivate some players to try the real thing.
Beyond the numerous debates regarding the level of exercise a person gets playing Wii Sports, I haven’t seen any reports suggesting a game-inspired sporting goods sales surge, but Guitar Hero appears to be an altogether different tune.
Since its introduction on Playstation 2 in November 2005, Guitar Hero has spawned its own culture of fans and fanatics. Just check out the number of Guitar Hero videos on YouTube. The Guitar Hero series has been financially lucrative for Activision, the company behind the games. In April, 2008, Wired magazine reported that the franchise had sold 14 million units which equates to about US$1 billion in sales. Sensing an opportunity to tap into the passions of music enthusiasts following the initial launch of the game, music instrument retailer Guitar Center partnered with Activision to be the in-game virtual music store starting with Guitar Hero II. It appears their instincts were right as the musical instrument retailing industry has seen record year over year competitive store increases since the game was first introduced.
Guitar Center recently conducted a survey which “confirmed that the majority of those who play the games are more interested in picking up real instruments, it also revealed that most musicians who play the games use their real instruments more frequently as a result.”
Guitar Center’s move encouraged others in the music business to get their products into the game (literally). The latest versions of Guitar Hero are music marketing masterpieces with product placements by everything from bands to music publications and beyond. On a basic level, there is embedded advertising for products from leading manufacturers like Gibson, Mackie and JBL. These product and logo placements are both passive (a logo on the stage monitor) or active (play a Les Paul guitar). Beyond the direct music tie-ins are lifestyle placements from brands like Axe and Pontiac, and music publications like Guitar Player and Kerrang. From a content perspective, record labels have replaced the cover versions found on the original game with the real artist recordings. Players are exposed to new and “new to you” music. The more you play, the more new stuff you hear and you are more likely to listen to a song that you might otherwise turn off because you are interacting with it. The results are impressive:
- Sales of gear for first-timers at Guitar Center has surged. In the holiday selling season in the last quarter of 2007, Guitar Center saw a +20.7% jump in comparable store sales for beginner-level electric guitar & amplifiers. This surge grew even stronger through the first nine months of 2008, when Guitar Center’s cumulative comparable store sales for the category increased +26.9%.”
- Gibson said that it had seen sales on the rise, particularly those that are featured in the video games such as the iconic Les Paul guitar.
- Digital downloads of older and more obscure music featured in the game have increase dramatically.
So at its core, what is it about Guitar Hero that allows it to not only be a great piece of entertainment but also an effective marketing vehicle and an inspiration for some to take up real guitars?
It’s all about appealing to a lifestyle. Like the way Harley Davidson has figured out how to be a lifestyle company, Guitar Hero resonates with rock music Passionistas because it taps into that inner rockstar that so many have wanted to be at some point in their lives. It works because it gives players a taste of an experience that they want in a way that lets them forget–even for a few foolish minutes–that they can be more than just a fan in the audience. That, instead, you are gifted. Talented. A rocker on the stage. The kind of person who gets their face on the cover of Rolling Stone.
Do you have Passionistas as customers? Are you helping them to tap into their inner rockstar?
Last week, I guest blogged over at Greg Verdino’s Marketing Blog and reprised a post that I had done here back in June on Niche Marketing. The central idea is that by targeting very specific groups who will relate to and find differentiation in your offering, you are no longer a commodity and you can increase your margins by charging a premium. Do this over and over with different products and services, and you can generate volume and growth that makes up for your narrow targets.
That doesn’t necessarily mean that you product or service has to appeal only to a narrow segment. Products with a very broad application can be marketed to very narrow groups by focusing on the things that that niche finds appealing.
Case in point: Toyota, who just release a new 30-second spot targeted at gamers. Shot in the on-line game, World of Warcraft, the spot is for the Tahoma pick-up truck, a product that appeals to an extremely wide array of customers. Toyota has released a couple of ads that convey the truck as being invincible. Last year there was one that depicted the truck escaping from the Loch Ness Monster. The new spot, which parodies the legendary WOW Leeroy Jenkins video, will have immediate appeal to WOW gamers.
If you aren’t familiar with WOW, you probably won’t get understand the spot’s appeal, but to gamers, it rocks! In just one day on YouTube, it had been viewed close to 400,000 times and word of the ad is spreading quickly through social networks.
Toyota isn’t the first brand to create a TV spot directed at WOW gamers. Coca-Cola China created a couple of WOW-themed ads last year, but this is the first US ad that I am aware of. It’s also the second gaming-related ad for a US brand in recent weeks. Southwest Airlines recently parodied widespread reports last year of Wii remotes being thrown into TVs by gamers whose wrist straps had failed – or who hadn’t used the wrist straps at all.
Both Southwest and Toyota have done something very smart here. I suspect that the typical gamer (early twenties, male) is in the sweetspot of the Tahoma’s target market. The same holds true for Southwest. By creating ads that speak directly to gamers, these brands will gain significantly more credibility with that niche market than with a generic ad.
What do you think? Is this an effective slant on Niche Marketing? What other niches groups could “mass brands” be more effective with?
I was so hoping that we wouldn’t hear any more bad PS3 news from Sony, but just ahead of the European launch, they have once again outdone themselves. It’s bad enough that Sony ruined Christmas for so many young European kids by delaying the launch, but now we hear that the European design would lack the chip used in the earlier models to support backwards compatibility for PS2 games.
The function of the chip will be replaced by firmware. They have a website that list the supported games, many of which are designated “Should play on PLAYSTATION®3 with noticeable issues”. If your game is not listed, then it is “not yet supported”. Over time, there will be new firmware releases that the customers will have to apply, but a spokesman said Sony “will not put much effort in making old PS2 titles available on PS3”.
Translation: Sorry Europe, your PS3 is not going to be all it was supposed to be, but we just don’t care!! Now please fork over 599 Euros and be happy that we finally let you have it.
The move is designed to cust costs and speed up production. Sony expected the consoles to lose money, but make it up on the backend through games and Blu-Ray content. With sales in the toilet, Sony is forced to make some changes. Unfortunately, it’s the customer who is paying the price and that will only cause bigger problems for Sony. The PS3 gamble has been a disaster for Sony; a company that has continually forced proprietary standards on consumers. They just don’t get it and deserve whatever happens to them.
I just bought a Wii. They are still hard to find, but I happened upon a pallet of them in my local Costco last week (right place, right time). Although I have been blogging about the Wii Experience for months, I had never experienced it personally. After the first swing of the virtual tennis racquet, I felt it. I was really “playing” tennis. I was not “pressing A to swing”. With just that brief experience, I completely understand why the Wii has taken off like it has. ‘It’s the experience, stupid!’, and it’s quite a success story.
Nintendo has long been the underdog in the video game market. Sony and Microsoft flew past them in terms of titles and realistic graphics during the last cycle. Nintendo titles have historically been more “family oriented” (no cop killing or hidden sex scenes), and their stock performance has historically been lackluster. When the third generation (3G) console war started heating up last year, the PS3 was supposed to be the big cheese (with the big price tag). XBox 360 had gotten a head start on the 3G market a year ago and had over 150 titles so they were expected to hold on to the number 2 position.
Retailers, while covering all the bases, believed that PS3 would be the big winner. As a result, they all fought for the same scarce pre-christmas inventory. Fast forward three months and we are now seeing headlines like: “Nintendo’s Wii Leaves Sony’s PS3 In the Dust and Nintendo Wii Sales Quadruple PlayStation 3 and Analyst: PS3 Readily Available, Wii Still Sold Out?
I visited no less than 6 stores on Monday night – EB Games, GameStop (NYSE: GME – News), Best Buy (NYSE: BBY – News) and Target (NYSE: TGT – News). None of them had the Wii in stock. I spoke to one of the employees at GameStop and he told me that they get Wii shipments from time to time, but the units sell within minutes. Talk about demand. He did volunteer that they had plenty of PS3’s stacked up in the back.
Were there early indicators that the PS3 would fail so miserably against the Wii? If you recognized those indicators, could you have profited by changing your retail strategy and focusing more on the Wii? Did any retailer see opportunity? Perhaps Gamestop did as they secured an exclusive agreement to have Wii demonstration kiosks in their stores. Did they “Sense & Respond” or was it accidental? Here are some early indicators that could have pointed the way:
1. PS3 is too expensive for the average household
Lots of discussion about this from analysts following the E3 debut. An analyst with ABI Research was quoted as saying “Asking consumers to pay $500 to $600 for a game console, when most have yet to purchase an HDTV, will give many current PlayStation 2 owners reason to consider the competition.”
2. E3 Performance: Poor PS3 showing; Big Nintendo buzz
“We went into E3 2006 unconvinced of the Wii name or the machine’s potential and walked away from the Convention Center knowing for certain that Nintendo has another hit on its hands…. The Big N’s new platform may lack the graphic horsepower of competitor PlayStation 3, but its innovative controller stole the show right out from underneath Sony’s collective feet.”
3. Continuous stream of bad news and missed expectations from Sony
Originally slated to debut in May, 2006; pushed to August, and then to November, Sony just could not deliver. Industry observers were warning as early as February, 2006 that the PS3 could be a flop due to the high cost of the technology-bloated console. Sony’s strategy was to use the PS3 as a Trojan horse to get Blu-Ray into your family room, but limited availability of key components which were reported as far back as July ’06 caused Sony to scale back the number of units available in North America delayed European availability until 2007.
4. Nintendo’s disruptive shift that focuses on the experience of the gamer
I think this was the biggest indicator that Nintendo would be the clear winner. Nintendo’s decision to approach the business from the players perspective and make a product that truly engages the player (at half the cost of a PS3) was disruptive.
It’s been a while since I last discussed the recent videogame console war. It was long my belief that Nintendo’s Wii, with its focus on the player’s experience, would be the real winner. Although there is plenty of time for these two to battle it out, the early results are a clear indication that Nintendo’s approach has disrupted Sony. Michael Urlocker’s OnDisruption blog has a great post that lays out the case and offers six concepts about Disruption that are applicable to any business:
- Nintendo’s market disruption is not about better technology;
- Disruption is not about incremental improvements;
- Disruption is about understanding where the customer experience is not good enough;
- Disruption is about making a product more accessible;
- Disruption is about changing the basis of competition;
- Disruption is about a new business model.
On January 1, the massively multiplayer online role-playing game (MMORPG) “World of Warcraft” released a major new upgrade. The 3D Virtual World game has over 7 Million subscribers worldwide who shell out a monthly fee to play the game. In addition, the community of WoW players has created a thriving marketplace for virtual goods on eBay, where virtual weapons, attire and characters have been selling for real cash. While there is no universally agreed-upon value for “Real-Money Trades” (RMTs) market, it is assumed to be worth somewhere between $250 million and $880 million a year, according to experts.
eBay, which has dominated the market for these transactions has confirmed that they are now going to ban auctions for the characters, currency, weapons, attire and accounts of online games such as World of Warcraft, City of Heroes and others.
In most cases, publishers of online games include in their terms of service a prohibition on RMTs. Players who violate such rules can be banned. eBay’s move is a boon for companies like Internet Gaming Entertainment who now own the third party market. Julian Dibbell, author of Play Money: Or How I Quit My Day Job and Struck it Rich in Virtual Loot Farming commented that this development is “sad” because it restricts individuals from being direct participants in the markets themselves. I should note that SecondLife is not affected by this move since virtual goods in that realm are freely traded.
If I had to bet, I would expect that the community is not going to accept this change quitely. It’s in their nature to be active participants, to control the content, terms of service be damned. When it comes to digital content, be it a virtual tool, or a song from Tool, the community always finds a way to get what they want on their terms.
The article on CNET goes into more detail regarding the motivations behind eBay’s decision.
You know that bad reputation that used car guys have. They have it for a reason. They don’t deliver on their promises and the customer usually feels taken for a ride. So here comes Sony with their exploding batteries, proprietary formats and over-engineered & under-delivered PS3, making a claim that is truly hard to believe. The same Sony that could not meet its launch target of 400,000 systems, is now reporting that all manufacturing issues have been overcome and the company is full on target to have a million systems shipped by the end of the year. Really…. that’s straight from the mouth of Sony’s communications boss David Karraker…
While initial day-one launch shipment goals weren’t achievable due to early manufacturing issues, those problems have been resolved and we do remain focused on having one million PS3s in the pipeline by December 31, 2006.
Now, if you don’t read that carefully, you might get the impression that the availability is going to pick up by the end of the month. “We do remain focused” means that this is our official position. It may or may not be something they we actually accomplish. “In the pipeline” may mean all the way back at the factory, waiting for blue diodes.
So what what does that statement actually say. Not much!!! Sony may not be able to build great technology anymore, but they sure can spin.
PS3 problems now resolved – Sony [GamesIndustry.biz]
Here’s some gamer trivia…. November, 2006 was the first time all three new home systems would be available to consumers, along with three established portable game devices. And which company wont the month hands down???? I’m not gloating, but you can’t say I didn’t say so….
The month belonged to……..wait for it…….Nintendo!!!
According to NPD, who keeps track of this kind of stuff, Nintendo sold 55 percent of all video game systems in November, led by the launch of the Wii(TM) home system and the incredible continuing success of the Nintendo DS(TM) portable. While the Wii sold an average of 70,000 per day during the first 7 days, the biggest sellers for the month were the Nintendo DS, at almost 920,000 units, and Game Boy® Advance, with nearly 642,000 portables sold. With Wii and Nintendo GameCube(TM) totals included, Nintendo sold through more than 2.1 million of the 3.9 million systems purchased for the month.
The data also reveals that the Wii title The Legend of Zelda®: Twilight Princess achieved sales of 412,000, representing 87 percent of all Wii purchasers, the highest industry rate of sale for any launch title since introduction of Super Mario® 64 with the Nintendo® 64 a decade ago.
In addition, despite the inclusion of Wii Sports software with every system sale, Wii buyers also purchased an average of two additional games, compared to approximately one game per system for the installed bases of either competing new home system.
Now tell me again what’s so great about the PS3???
Not good news for Sony (and lots of hungry young gamers with $600 in their pockets for that matter), but I doubt Nintendo or Microsoft is feeling bad. Rumor has it, that Sony shipped less than the already reduced 400,000 PS3 consoles it said it would have in stores last week. By now you’ve all seen or read about the craziness that surrounded the release of the PS3 last week…that craziness ranged from gun shots being fired at one store in Connecticut to near riot conditions in front of several Best Buys and Circuit City’s around the country. In one word, pathetic. On the other hand, the mainstream media and bloggers alike were quick to pick up on the “civility” of the Nintendo Wii release…no gunshots, no riots, just a chock full of courtesy and a side of friendliness. It probably doesn’t hurt that Nintendo shipped about five to ten times the amount Wii’s compared to what Sony shipped for the PS3. Supply and demand at its finest.
“Sony is losing hundreds of dollars on every one they sell, supply is limited and …people are getting shot in the frenzy to buy the game.”
“And yet Nintendo hums along, with great reviews, plenty of supply and a long-term hit on their hands.”
While Sony postures itself like an aging rockstar, promoting it’s overpriced, proprietary scheme for dominating your living room, Nintendo continues to focus on the gamer’s experience. In the end, it’s the experience, not the technology that will win the devotion (and dollars) of gamers.
While Apple gets that whole Customer Experience thing, Best Buy apparently does not. Engadget reported yesterday that Best Buy customers who signed up for a PS3 pre-order from Best Buy’s online store are getting the cold shoulder from the mega retailer. Best Buy sent out a curt email to customers the other day saying,
“Your preorder for the PlayStation 3 gaming system will be canceled.”
Best Buy says that its online store system was not “intended to take preorders,” despite the fact that Best Buy availed its online store system to just such an purpose. As a consolation, pre-order customers are getting a $10 Digital Coupon towards a future http://www.bestbuy.com purchase, but we’re not sure that’s going to do much to cheer up little Jimmy on Chrismahanukwanzakah morning.
Looks like the predictionfrom fellow WordPress blogger Shsibae was right on the mark as Microsoft announced today that it would rent movies and sell television shows through Internet downloads to its Xbox Live video game service.
“Microsoft will begin on Nov. 22 to offer standard and high-definition films such as Warner Bros.’ “Superman Returns” and “Jackass: The Movie” from Paramount Pictures through its Xbox Live Marketplace. Television shows will include Viacom Inc’s “South Park” and “CSI: NY” from CBS Corp. Viewers will need the current-generation Xbox 360 console with a hard drive to take advantage of the service.”
Under the rental model, which is reminiscent of the now defunct DivX Disk technology launched by Circuit City Stores back in 1997, Microsoft customers have a two week window from when they download a movie to watch it, but once they begin watching it they have only 24 hours to keep it.
With Netflix planning a download service, Apple’s upcoming iTV, Amazon’s movie store, On Demand services from cable providers, and Sony’s PS3 video download function (I’ll believe it when I see it), the customer really has a lot of choices. Which models will survive this tech war? What will this mean to businesses who sell or rent DVDs? I can’t say, but it will be fun to watch.
Here are the specifics:
- Microsoft has not yet disclosed pricing for downloads, but it will be in Microsoft points.
- Movies will be “rental” only, TV for “purchase” only.
- At launch there will be over 800 hours of SDTV, and 200 hours of HDTV.
- Neither TV nor movies are streamed; they are only downloaded, although you can stream short preview clips from the Live interface.
- You can only download content to your Xbox 360 drive — not to an external drive.
- Your “purchased” TV programs can be downloaded an infinite amount of times to an infinite amount of consoles; you may also play them back on friends’ 360s with your removable drive.
- Deleted TV shows can be re-downloaded later; HDTV shows can be re-downloaded in either HDTV or SD.
- Movies can be watched an unlimited number of times the first 24 hours. Plays after that period will cost the same as the initial download, although the movie data isn’t necessarily deleted. You can keep the movie data on your drive up to 14 days without re-downloading it.
- Downloads are in VC-1 (aka WMVHD) at 720p, 6.8Mbps video with 5.1 surround.
An average HD movie download should be between 4-5GB, and a two hour SD movie would be 1.6GB.
- An average 1 hour (44 min) HDTV download should be about 2.2GB, and an average 1/2 hour (22 min) HDTV download should be about 1GB. A 1 hour SDTV download should be about 600MB, and a 1/2 hour SDTV download should be about 300MB.
- This service will not be available for MSN TV users, Vongo subscribers, or any other Microsoft partners. It is Xbox Live only.
- You cannot download programs through the Xbox Live web interface — they can only be transported to your 360’s removable drive.
- There aren’t any drive announcements being made, but there is a rumor of a 80GB drive coming. Of course, Microsoft rumors are never true, right?
Aqua Teen Hunger Force
Avatar: The Last Airbender
Hogan Knows Best
Jackass: The Movie
Nicktoons Network Animation Festival
Pimp My Ride
Race Rewind (NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series races)
Raising the Roofs
The Real World
Star Trek (original)
50 fights from Ultimate Fighting Championship, and some episodes from The Ultimate Fighter
Microsoft to offer movies, TV shows on game service | Reuters.com
Well, you can’t say I didn’t warn you. Wearing his Master of the Obvious hat, Electronic Arts CFO Warren Jenson warned on Friday, that PlayStation 3 units will be hard to get hold of in the US this Christmas following the console’s launch on November 17. Jenson’s reasoning is what’s worth reporting
In a conference call Jenson said, “We’re thinking that with PlayStation 3 in North America, the [shipment] range is probably 500,000 to 800,000.” Sony has previously stated it plans to ship 2 million consoles to the US and Japan by the end of the year, but that number had recently been downgraded to 1-1.2 million.