Virtual Insanities: How to Market a Game For Dummies

The Halo 3 craze is a few weeks old now. Everybody who wanted to has probably already beaten the game, and those who wished never to hear from it again are mostly getting what they asked for.

Don’t worry, I am not going to turn this into another rant against the game, because frankly, while I was sick of hearing about it, it turned out to be an enjoyable multiplayer experience (as everyone expected), but also a bit of a letdown as a single-player campaign (not as expected, but not surprising either). Saying that the hype train for this one was huge is an understatement. The real question is: “Was it effective?”

Clearly, judging from the sales charts published by the NPD, it was a success. It sold 3.3 million copies, so it’s party time at Microsoft, with champagne and hookers for everybody. Their publicity campaign reached out the way they wanted and the numbers prove it.

Sure, it was successful in making fans that were already craving the game even more excited, but I don’t think that I am the only one who found it to be a bit annoying.

I’m not holding it against Microsoft. In truth, the ads were not that bad. You didn’t have to buy the sugar rush-inducing beverages. The thing that was really getting on everybody’s nerves is the constant idiots that just couldn’t shut up about how their game was great, how no other game mattered and that Halo 3 was the thing you needed to play to be a real gamer.

With this in mind, I wondered if there exists a way to generate hype for a game without spending a lot of money, without attracting too many obnoxious human beings but at the same time, still hyping the fans about the product?

After a lot of research, I came across a couple of examples of what I would consider effective video games marketing.

The God of War II campaign was simple enough. A countdown site hyped everybody who was already aware of the game, these people probably used word of mouth to spread the news, and the sales ended up being great. The reviews did the rest, and gamers were left happy without being irritated, with a good game in their hands as a bonus.

The other game that is doing a good job at hyping itself without getting too loud and annoying is Super Smash Bros. Brawl. By releasing small bits of info once a day on along period of time, Nintendo has managed to make people interested in their product without spending a lot of money. Fans who were already excited about the game were probably reading the site before it started releasing daily news anyway. Now, they do all the dirty work by telling their friends that Sonic will now be a playable character, or that an entire stage will be dedicated to Solid Snake.

This way, people who want absolutely nothing to do with the game can keep their head free of any Smash-related info by simply not going to the site, while hardcore fans are eating up everything they can read directly from the source.

Wow, I really thought I had a case here. I thought that these two solutions were great way to keep the idiots quiet and make the whole experience more enjoyable. It looks like I was wrong. You see, I keep forgetting that stupid people are, in fact, everywhere. How did I realize that? By stepping into the forums for Smash Bros Brawl.. It looks like World War III is upon us, but this time, wavedashers and anti-wavedashers are going to be the protagonists. These guys are seriously throwing insults at each others, calling everybody “noobs” for failing to use, or using wavedashing, depending on who’s doing the attacking. Believe me; they are all taking this way too seriously.

As if fanboys of different games or systems were not clogging forums and comments sections enough as it is, fans of the same game are now going at it between themselves too.

Thinking about all of this made me realize something. The Halo 3 hype did not create morons by having a loud marketing campaign and by having signs on the streets or spots on TV. The morons already existed. They simply started thinking that they were now right because everybody was talking about their favourite game. The same would probably happen to Super Smash Bros. Brawl if a publicity campaign of the same size was to be used to promote the game.

I think it is simply the nature of the beast. Anything that gets that much coverage is sure to attract its fair number of morons. The gaming industry is full of such examples: Final Fantasy, Counter-Strike, Grand Theft Auto and even The Legend of Zelda all have their legions of rabid fans that will sing in unison the merits of their favourite game and defend it tooth and claw against the poor souls who dare think differently from them. The same can be applied in any other field, where fans of Star Wars or Family Guy are often willing to tell you why what they are watching is so much better than your viewing choices.

Yeah, there are idiots everywhere. I guess we all already know that. Still, if someone’s main concern becomes trying to convince people that he’s right and everybody else is wrong when it comes to having a favourite video game, I think that person might be having serious problems.

I know I ended up ranting about a topic similar to my last article. I’m sorry. I was going to write about something else, but once again, some idiots got in the way.