We’ve all seen it happen, a game that seemed poised for success comes to an abrupt end upon launch. These failed game releases can be pin-pointed to specific causes. Take a look at these four mistakes that could threaten your game launch:
1. Poor Market Research
EarthBound, the sequel to the Famicon games title Mother, had an extremely poor launch release in the USA. Several reasons combined to create this failure. Role playing games (RPGs) had not yet been popularized in this audience group, whereas Japan’s audience had a wide acceptance. Marketers assumed too much and didn’t do enough research to make sure it was a good match for American gamers at that time. Secondly, the price point was more than American gamers wanted to pay. Thirdly, the primary advertising campaign was also not socially acceptable to Americans. In the end, the game only sold 140,000 copies in the USA, and the European release was canceled entirely.
A similar tale exists for the game MadWorld, a violent titled intended for use on the Wii console. The mix of gore and blood did not go over well for Wii consumers who were more keen on the family-friendly nature of the system.
How to make your game title more successful: Who is your target audience? What do past buying trends reveal about your audience’s interests and habits? These two questions must be answered before a game launch, to be sure the timing, audience, and price point are a good fit.
2. Premature Marketing
The infamous and quick demise of the PC game Battlecruiser 3000AD (BC3K) is almost entirely due to the developer’s premature hype of the game. Derek Smart, the independent developer who invented the game, began marketing BC3K as early as 1992 — even though a publishing agreement had not been reached with any company. In the end, not even a pilot version was released until 1996. Excited gamers quickly turned to daunted non-buyers during the four years that passed. The initial idea of an extravagant sim game was great, but bragging rights didn’t hold up in the end.
How to make your game title more successful: Even if you’ve got the most amazing idea ever for a game, do not start marketing it until a publisher has bought rights and a release date is in sight.
3. Over-Estimating Sales
Atari’s notorious fall in 1984 was primarily caused by the failed releases of E.T. and Pac-Man. In both of these games, Atari dramatically over-estimated sales projections. For E.T., Atari ordered the production of 5-million copies, but only sold 1.5-million. Likewise, Atari produced 12-million copies of Pac-Man, and only sold 7.7-million.
How to make your game title more successful: Do adequate market research and hire an outside, unbiased team to analyze data and make forecasts. Offer a pre-release order to gain insight into consumer interest. Have a contingency plan if you need to quickly produce more than expected, rather than overproduce to start out.
4. Simultaneous Release of Games
Beyond Good & Evil, a game released in 2003, was a total marketing mishap. Publisher Ubisoft simply didn’t invest enough into advertising to compete with the simultaneous release of several popular titles at the same time. Unfortunately, Beyond Good & Evil suffered not from poor user ratings, but instead from lack of a proper and exclusive advertising campaign.
How to make your game title more successful: Determine the best marketing approach for each exclusive game release. Invest in your advertising — without it, new titles have little hope of competing against sequels to the big guns.
Have you had a successful game launch? What did you do in preparation?
[Photo Credit: Mike Mozart]