How do you sell a bad video game? In a word – hype. Hype is the reason games like Fable 3 and Final Fantasy XIII, which were decent games but not the best in their respective franchises, sold well. Hype is the reason why the Wii’s Just Dance and Xbox’s Kinect Adventures, which were only bearable when played with a friend, sold well. Hype is just as powerful as it ever was, but it cannot save a bad video game the same way it used to.
To sell a bad video game, and the next bad video game after it, you need to be a massive company or you need social media.
Nintendo, Electronic Arts, Ubisoft, Sony, and Square Enix are considered some of the top major video game publishers in the current market. As some of the largest publishers these companies face some heavy criticism around their games. EA was voted Worst Company in America two years in a row (2012 and 2013). The disappointing ending of Mass Effect 3 played a huge part in their 2012 win. EA responded with a press statement and that response was parodied.
The parody is poignant and points out a key factor that separates EA’s approach to social media from a successful approach; engagement. EA is well known for cashing in on big titles while ignoring the feedback on customers.
But lets say you’re Valve. Smaller than EA with a sizable social media presence, followers of Valve and it’s video game purchasing service, Steam, have been waiting on Half Life 3 for since Half Life 2 released in 2007. Some people are following Valve on Twitter in the hope of seeing that announcement alone. Social media has come too far to be ignored or simply plugged in last minute to a marketing campaign. Social listening allows you to find out what people are saying and feeling about your brand or product and your competitor’s brand or product.
Video games have come a long way since the first documented video game was created in 1952. PBS has put together an informative interactive timeline for those of you interested in learning more about the history.