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Games Need Hype to Stay Alive

Game on or game over. The stakes are high for video game companies as they head to E3 – the world’s largest gaming conference – to launch their products. The conference, held in Los Angeles earlier this month, is the blowout marketing event for those in the gaming industry. For game developers, the conference was only a kickoff to a major marketing campaign that begins now and will continue until their game hits store shelves. If a game launch was successful, the next challenge is keeping the buzz alive. If it flopped, then the question becomes whether to keep playing for a chance to win popularity, or whether to go back to the drawing board. “What they are hoping for is that, right out of the gate, they are building excitement and buzz,” Brad Carraway, vice president of brand strategy at Mile 9, a marketing firm in Calabasas. Whether products are springing onto the market in the fall or in a few years, the goal is to get on the radar, he said. How game developers market a product depends on the style of the game, the genre and the type of consumer. They use a variety of channels to reach their audience: trailers, interactive gaming Web sites, social media and public relations campaigns geared toward engaging online, print and broadcast media. Trailers can make it or break it for game developers, said Steven Rosenbaum, creative director of games for Buddha Jones, a Hollywood-based company that produces trailers. “A trailer is what sells the game,” he said. Some of his current projects include Dead Island, Prototype E3, Red Faction and Battlefield 3 Trailer. Trailers for games such as “Call of Duty,” “Prototype” and “BioShock” helped those game development companies clinch millions of dollars in sales, Rosenbaum said. The amount of exposure game publishers can receive online also is significant, said Mark Donovan, president of Xfire, a Web application company that allows gamers to chat directly inside of the games. With more than 19 million users since its launch in 2003, Xfire enables users to chat with each other, even while playing different games, Donovan said. It also offers the abilities to take screen shots, videos and to broadcast the games live, he said. “If you have a new game that gets really hot, everyone gets to see that you are playing it, and naturally they want to go out and buy it,” Donovan said. One product that has recently generated buzz online is Minecraft’s Lego-focused virtual world that has attracted more than two million downloads, Donovan said. “The game is not even completed yet,” he said. Some games are snagging attention through social media channels such as Facebook and Twitter. “Michael Phelps: Push the Limit” is one such example, said Peter Matiss, vice president of marketing for 505 Games in Woodland Hills. With more than 3.8 million Facebook fans, the Olympic gold medal swimmer is drawing buzz to the game, Matiss said. “Michael Phelps has tremendous PR cache,” he said. “Everyone wants to know what it’s like to be a champion.” Game developers also have an ally in the industry trade publications, said Martin Rae, president of the Academy of Interactive Arts & Sciences based in Calabasas. Reviewers often get later versions of a game and keep the excitement alive among potential players, Rae said. “The real killer is when you announce a date and miss that,” Rae said. “Then the buzz can go away.” Michael Pole, CEO for Trilogy Studios in Van Nuys, said he has planned an upcoming trip to New York to promote some of the company’s new products. “We want to be covered in daily periodicals and weekly periodicals,” Pole said. But the best success rises from combining development, sales and marketing efforts. “When all three of those are working together, that’s when the magic happens,” Pole said.

Mark Madler
Mark Madler
Mark R. Madler covers aviation & aerospace, manufacturing, technology, automotive & transportation, media & entertainment and the Antelope Valley. He joined the company in February 2006. Madler previously worked as a reporter for the Burbank Leader. Before that, he was a reporter for the City News Bureau of Chicago and several daily newspapers in the suburban Chicago area. He has a bachelor’s of science degree in journalism from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign.
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