Hardcore Gaming's Salvation?
Quarter to Three talks to three developers about the profits and
perils of bypassing the traditional retail market
Qt3: How do you market a game for direct sales? How does the
word get out?
Wardell: In my view, demos. Get them out there, get media
coverage. If you're going to go direct, there better be some compelling
reason to get your game rather than a game that's at retail. If
you're making a first person shooter, I think you're up the creek.
A game like The Corporate Machine can get coverage in places like
USA Today (Dec 18 issue) or Money Magazine (December issue) and
other magazines because of the subject matter. I think niche games
that have potential wide appeal are ideally suited for this kind
Dunham: We planned a guerilla marketing campaign (since
we didn't have much cash left for marketing). We did do some real
advertising, but since books like Computer Gaming World are so expensive,
we tried some of the fiction magazines (they're a lot cheaper, and
we figured that there'd be a reasonable overlap between readers
of fantasy and King of Dragon Pass players).
One of our big marketing tools was review copies -- I think we've
been fairly generous. We've tried some web advertising, but it doesn't
seem to have much effect.
Moylan: 1. Target a game genre that's underserved by the
big companies (in our case it's 3-D strategy wargaming). Find a
niche and make it yours.
2. Make a great demo that compels peoples' attention.
3. Have faith in game reviewers. Even though they work for "big
corporate" magazines, most of them care more about good games than
you might think.
4. Let word of mouth take its course. In retail this doesn't work
because the money you're forced to pay monthly for shelf space means
you probably can't afford to keep your game in stores for very long.
But online there's infinite shelfspace and it's free. It's not a
problem if it takes some of your customers six months or a year
to hear about your game and buy it. When you're online, you don't
suffer from the crushing time pressure that you have in retail.