The Game that Shall not be Named – Underhanded Marketing 101
If truth be told, I’m actually a rose coloured glasses kind of guy. I don’t actively go out of my way to search for the negative things in life, but on that same note I don’t stick my head in sand and pretend they don’t exist. But when it comes to business and marketing I’m actually quite cynical, my logic and reasoning is when it all boils down, it’s primarily about dollars and cents.
I’m not delusional about the need for such things when it comes to the video game industry though. For example, without clever or good marketing, the chances of that ace game selling well in your opening week is significantly less likely and there are countless examples of good games failing as a result. A perfect example of great marketing is how Mortal Kombat X marketing campaign was done. The hype train started many months before its release, with a slow and steady trickle of new characters, teasers for the story and of course Ed Boon doing his magical work on Twitter and generally being a loveable person. And of course the game itself has been a huge success, even its DLC sales have been exceeding expectations!
But then there are the examples of marketing that just make you shake your head and personally make me revert back to Mr Cynical Adam (no one has ever referred to me as this). And because I refuse to take part in its advertising campaign or fall victim to it, I shall refer to this as ‘The game that shall not be named’. Many of you have already come across this piece of news already and can probably work it out, but let’s just say the content of this game has been a point of controversy with its content primarily that of voyeurism and titillation. I realise right here that this just triggered a bunch of you so let me please just put in this disclaimer:
I have zero problem with games of this nature, I 100% believe in creative freedom and if people wish to buy digital content such as this, I will not say you have no taste, that you’re a misogynist or that you have issues with people of the opposite Gender. I believe that if something is ever grossly questionable in content that our market in western society will decide on its success or failure. Games of this nature no more make you a bad or immature person than games about killing people make you a violent one. Further to this, I feel it’s wrong to criticise people for owning or wanting said content until there is proof that owning or wanting said content proves the former.
Moving on, with the games announcement of its imminent release it was notified that there would be no release in the US / West markets, which in itself isn’t entirely uncommon for a game, but the reason for doing so was. It was this reason that caused quite a fuss, which was – “sorry, we can’t sell it in the West because of SJWs”.
On one hand I slightly admire the genius behind this, but on the other hand I truly detest this form of marketing. Firstly because it doesn’t take a genius to figure out how well the game is going to sell, it’s a simple numbers game, let me elaborate. Essentially this will be the third in a series of games which started on the original XBOX back in 2003. This title sold just over 590,000 units worldwide, which isn’t a bad total depending of the budget of the game of course. In this case I imagine that they made a decent enough profit from it. The sequel however, is where things got interesting. Three years later it came out on the XBOX 360 and took in a woeful 250,000 units. It really doesn’t take a genius to figure out that a 42% drop in sales is a really bad sales trend. Numbers like this could be for hundreds if not thousands of reasons, and every publisher knows this, which makes me look at this latest statement fairly hard to swallow and I meet it with glaring cynicism.
And now for the sad news … it worked. For those not familiar with the term SJW (Social Justice Warrior) or how it applies here, you could easily say that the term is given to ‘Left’ leaning ‘progressive’ ideologist individuals and that attitude is very common within the video games Journalism industry. There’s no secret here, with that one line, both sides of this traditionally polarising and fiery topic (for those who care) are being manipulated. All of this is, of course, is free advertising for a game that hasn’t had a sequel in the last nine years and no one knew was even in development. And everyone was doing it, from all the major games sites and bloggers to YouTube commentators.
So naturally, this news went viral as a result, all free marketing for a title that by all accounts would’ve fallen into the bargain bin bucket after a month of release. But don’t worry! Luckily for all those wanting to buy the title, you can still get the English version imported, a convenient morsel of information was written down right after this one line statement, order details and all!
And let us also not forget the sheer amount of people who will be buying this title as some form of ‘protest’ over ‘PC GONE MAD’ or as an ‘Up yours!’ to various people speaking out against such game content. Yes, all of this delivered, very successfully, in one little line. If I wasn’t so eye rolling cynical on the whole thing I would be having a laugh and giving these people a big clap on a job well done.
We obviously have no idea how well this game will sell overall, but I imagine it will sell a hell of a lot better as a result of all of this. But if there’s something we can learn from this as Games Journalists / Consumers it’s that we shouldn’t all be sucked in so easily with this kind of tripe. And even though this comes off as a soapbox moment from myself, maybe a message for everyone:
Games Journalists – Opinion is good, diversity in opinion is also very good. But reacting so easily to things such as this just makes you a pawn in the Publishing world. Many have said that there is no such thing as bad advertisement, in the video game world I tend to agree, there are simply WAY too many examples of this kind of thing working and this latest example is just further proof to that.
Consumers – Publishers are not your friends. They don’t care about you, they don’t care what you think or what you do. They care about one thing and one thing only, sales figures and the bottom line. There’s no two ways about it, this is why games are released buggy and patched later, my embargoes are forced on game reviewers and why we have thinly veiled DRM in the form of day one DLC. Ethically these publishers may have acted accordingly (although that’s debatable, especially since they could just deny it) but morally it feels out of line. There is nothing wrong with buying and owning content such as this, but do so for the right reasons, because you enjoy it and not because it’s your way of saying ‘F U’ to a nameless, faceless group of people you’ll never meet in your lifetime.
Unless this is some kind of faux-pas comment from a wet-behind-the-ears spokesman the result here is that everyone, the consumer and commenter, are being taken for a ride. More to the point, you’re being deceived and in a very dishonest manner. This practice should be looked down upon and never encouraged. Time will tell just how well this marketing campaign will fair and even though I rarely wish failure upon something, I can’t bring myself to feel any other way in this case.