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Chapter 12. Creating Allies in the Marketing Team

Chapter 12. Creating Allies in the Marketing Team

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—such as an engine license or an IP license—are exploited to their fullest

potential.

Market timing, including product release dates and competitive product release

dates.

Visual asset delivery schedule. It is critical for marketing to have a schedule of

when the game assets can be delivered.

Market research and analysis. Understanding the forces at work in the

consumer market is a complex endeavor requiring critical and analytical

thinking.

Box cover, marketing materials, ad creation, and online promotion. These are

just a few of the collateral items required to market a game.

Marketing a game is similar to making a game in that the strategic plan must involve

excellent execution of many smaller, tactical elements. The following subsections will

discuss some of the steps for devising a good strategic marketing plan with your

brand manager.



Prepare for Marketing Early and Build It into the Schedule

At the beginning of the project, identify the key elements that are required to market

the game and when they're required and build them into the schedule. Work with the

brand manager to manage expectations of what type of assets can be provided and

what state the game is in at certain points.

Examples of items to build into the schedule are

Screenshots (high and low resolution)

Conceptual artwork

Playable demos

Demo scripts

Raw gameplay footage

CG art of main characters

Pre-release builds

For a more complete list of the potential marketing deliverables, see Appendix C,

"Marketing Deliverables Checklist."



Help Define the Marketing Initiatives in the Originating Document

Most marketing organizations have a single document from which all of the other

marketing materials come. This is called the originating document. The document

specifies key points about the product, such as

Promise

Price

Positioning statement

Anticipated ship date



Unique appeal

Style and genre

Product overview

Key features

Strengths

Weaknesses

Opportunities

Threats

The purpose of the originating document is to clarify the most effective message to

put forth to the consumer.

Recently, Lionhead Studios and Microsoft's Xbox shipped a product called Fable. The

game's key feature was the ability to evolve the character in a good or evil direction,

and every choice the player made contributed to the character's development. The

marketing materials for the game employed a consistent positioning statement as a

key part of the marketing campaign. It was "For every choice, a consequence.

Imagine a world where every choice and action determines what you become." The

same message was communicated in the various types of ads; these helped the

consumer make the connection back to the choices the player character faced

throughout the game.

Ensuring the continuity of your message beginning to end is a critical part of any

successful marketing campaign. By working to define the message with your brand

manager at an early stage of the project, you maximize the chances of having an

effective marketing campaign.

Discuss with your brand manager what each of your game's defining elements are

and make sure that you're in agreement on these at an early stage of the game's

development—preferably in the pre-production phase. Include the game's theme in

the originating document so that it is readily accessible to anyone from Marketing

who is working on a piece of the campaign.



Outline Clear Goals

Being the best FPS on the market is a different goal from being the best-selling FPS

game. A game can be of great quality and get great reviews, but it still may not be

the best-selling title in the genre. Be sure to identify to Marketing the goal of your

game, the key points on which the product is going to go beyond what the

competition has done, and the ways in which it will differ from similar games.

On the other hand, the Marketing team's goal could be to fill a revenue deficiency in

a certain quarter, and if your game doesn't come out in that quarter, then their

primary goal is not met. It is as important to be aware of Marketing's ultimate goal

as it is to make them aware of your own.

Discuss with the brand manager other potential goals and how they impact a

product. Are the goals of the product to be evolutionary or revolutionary? Is this a

sequel product or an original title? These are just a few examples of the goals that

need to be clearly defined.



Define Conflict Resolution Avenues



Conflict inevitably arises in business situations. The key to success is whether you

resolve conflicts amicably and professionally. Your goal should be to always support

your Marketing counterpart, to the extent that he can count on you to back him up in

meetings with upper management or in front of his manager. But when there's a

situation in which that's not possible, take the problem, as a team, to an

intermediary who is objective and informed. Instead of escalating the problem up the

chain of management, enlist the help of a respected peer to offer a new perspective,

find a solution, and open up common ground.



Interview with Kirsten Duvall

Kirsten Duvall is former Brand Manager for EA Sports, Global Brand

Manager for Activision.

Q:



If you could convey to producer's

everywhere, what is the one lesson or topic

that you want to convey about how to be a

better producer?



A:



Consider your marketing counterpart as a

partner. You need to understand that you

both have a common goal—to develop and

sell a successful game. In order to increase

your chances of success, you must work

together cooperatively with Marketing from

the beginning of the development process.

Agree on the vision for the product and

understand exactly who your target market

is. Continue this by working with Marketing

when conducting research on a product or

concept, as well as when doing competitive

analyses.

Develop an understanding of the finances of

your project—get acquainted with the P&L

statement; make sure you understand what

kind of financial impact your production

decisions have. Understand how a game is

sold into the channel in this industry and

what is needed to create hype for a title.

Be aware of what assets Marketing may

request from you and what they're used for—

if you can work collaboratively with

Marketing to provide the best assets for

differing purposes in a timely manner, you

may be able to take advantage of more

marketing opportunities for your title.

Remember what your job is and what it isn't

—let the Marketing department handle the

Marketing of the game. For example, if you

are asked for your thoughts on package

design or advertising provide thoughtful,



useful feedback but don't expect to be

making the final decisions in these areas.

Respect the expertise of others that you

work with—it will be appreciated and likely

reciprocated.

Q:



What is the most important trait a producer

can display in his or her interactions with

Marketing?



A:



Being a team player. Once again, a producer

must understand that they are working on

the same team as Marketing, working toward

the same goal. There may be times when

you disagree because you think you have

different objectives. If that happens, then

you both need to step back, take a look at

the big picture and work together to get

back on track to achieve the overall common

objective.



Q:



What are some common misconceptions

about the role of the Marketing department

at a video game publisher that you'd like to

set straight?



A:



One of the more common things I've seen is

that Production doesn't believe that

Marketing understands the production

process. And in some cases, this is correct.

Marketing must understand the production

process and be familiar with games in order

to work best with a Production team.

If a producer is in this situation (working with

someone from Marketing who doesn't

understand the process), I would recommend

that they take it upon themselves to educate

that person in order to increase effective

communication. Make sure that your

Marketing counterpart attends your

production meetings so they can become

familiar with the production process and be

made aware of issues or challenges and how

they must be handled by the production

team. Play early builds of the game with

Marketing and explain the technical or artistic

terms and concepts that they may not

understand—really seeing the visuals of the

game and experiencing the gameplay will be

much more effective than words alone.

On the other side, Marketing must work

closely with the Production team in order to



make sure that they understand what the

process is for marketing and selling a game—

how the game actually gets onto the

retailer's shelves so that it can be purchased

by gamers. There's a lot of work involved in

getting product into retail.

Q:



How have you best resolved disputes or

disagreements between brand managers and

producers?



A:



Most disputes or disagreements are due to

differing objectives. The main objective for

both Marketing and Production should be the

same—to develop and sell a successful

game. Measurements of success (the success

of the game) must be defined early in the

development process and agreed to by both

Marketing and Production. In addition to this,

performance objectives for both Production

and Marketing have to be aligned with the

main objective.

For example, if Production is mainly

concerned with building the highest quality

game that they can build (because their

performance is based on review scores of the

game), they may be tempted to work on

features much longer than the actual time

allotted for development of those features.

This can lead to the possibility of missing (or

slipping) the ship date. If Marketing's

performance is based on meeting forecasted

sell-in numbers, meeting the original ship

date is critical. Marketing may push the

Production team to sacrifice quality or cut

features in order to ship the game on time.

As you can imagine, this type of scenario can

lead to many heated disputes because the

different departments are not working toward

a common goal.



Q:



What overall role of importance do you place

on the role of a producer with respect to

marketing?



A:



The producer or project manager is critical to

the success of any project. First and

foremost, they must be leaders, inspiring

others to work together cooperatively to

achieve the overall objective. They must be

able to anticipate issues and roadblocks and



work to overcome those challenges, while

shielding the team from what they don't

need to be involved in so that they can

continue to work productively.

The producer must be able to build and

maintain effective relationships with key

partners in Marketing and with licensors,

developers, and first-party publishers, to

name just a few. The producer should also

be the champion of the product itself, able to

effectively promote the product externally

and internally. And of course, an excellent

producer must also be an excellent

communicator.



Product Descriptions and Ad Copy

Packaging and ad creation are the responsibilities of the brand manager. However,

the producer must be part of the process of developing the right packaging and

forming the key messages to be conveyed in the packaging and ads. Provide concise

messages regarding the features and benefits of the gameplay experience to the

brand manager, so that he can include them in the advertising and packaging.

Remember that a producer does not have decision-making authority regarding

packaging. The producer should review the packaging and ads at a few different

points during the draft stages. Then take a look at the first pass and provide

thoughtful comments. And finally, take one last look at the package or ad before it

goes to film to confirm that all of the text is accurate—especially the system

specifications, product ratings, licensor/licensee logos, and the requirements for

shipping on a console.

By working hard to ensure that the product or brand manager has the right

information from the very beginning of the process, you'll ensure that the review

work will be easier and more efficient later in the process.



Public Relations and the Quest for Screenshots

Effective public relations campaigns are a critical part of an effective marketing

campaign. Excellent screenshots are the backbone of the press tours, interviews, and

gameplay descriptions as well as everything else. Screenshots are used in print

articles, online articles, packaging, advertising, sell sheets, and various other

promotional opportunities. Finding the right screenshot is every brand manager's

quest, and they often can't complete their quest without the producer's help.



Why Are Screenshots So Important?

Screenshots are the Number One way to convey the status, character, and quality of

a game. Be sure that the screenshots you see of your game in the marketing

materials are ones that make you proud. Screenshots show to consumers, the press

and the industry what the game is about and why it is fun.

Screenshots are important for promoting the product months—sometimes years—



before it comes to market. Most press (with the exception of online press) requires

assets well in advance of their publish or broadcast date. Screenshots for January's

issue need to be provided in November or even late October. Exclusivity is also a

requirement of some publications as they need a few screenshots that are exclusive

content. In order to have several "exclusive" screenshots for each magazine, it is

important that a wide variety of quality screenshots exist. Marketing must have a

bank of screenshots that they can readily access at any point in the game's

development and provide to the press.



How to Take Excellent Screenshots

The questions to ask yourself and pose to your team whenever providing screenshots

to marketing are: "If you walked into a store and saw this screenshot on the back of

the box, how would you feel?" and "How would you feel if you saw a cover of a

magazine with that screenshot on it?"

Here are a few techniques for taking great screenshots.

Take them like a photographer. Make sure they're framed with a central

subject that's properly lit and framed. No one wants to see a jumbled action

shot of explosions with no clearly identifiable main subject and theme. If

there's an amateur photographer on the team, designate him or her to be the

official screenshot taker.

Take them at a high resolution. In any screenshot batch, make sure that a

few of them are lossless images like TIF files at 1024x1280 resolution or

higher. Magazine covers, box artwork, and full-page ads generally need to be

shot at 3200x2400. Discuss the required screenshot resolution with the

PR/Marketing team beforehand so that you'll know how many shots you need

at the high resolutions.

Take 100 shots, throw out 90. Taking screenshots is a skill, but picking

screenshots is no less of a skill. A good photographer knows that out of 100

photos, only 10 will be worth publishing; apply this rule to screenshots as well.

Create a screenshot bank for the team. When playing the game, each

team member should be looking for cool angles, great gameplay action shots,

and unique perspectives. Create a central location to which the team can copy

good screenshots. By constantly taking screenshots, the team can create a

virtual photo documentary of the game's progress. When the emergency PR

opportunity comes up and there's a bank of screenshots to draw from, you'll

be the very definition of a prepared producer.



Interviews and PR Training

There are a few rules to adhere to when it's your opportunity to talk to the press

about the team's game. Don't go into the interview feeling either defensive or too

confident of being well received. Reporters and other members of the press have

their own opinions. By keeping your own messages in mind and preparing your

statements for meeting with a reporter, you can influence the outcome of the story.

The goal of any interview should be to meet the reporter's need to report on the

news while getting your message across when the time comes.

If contacted by a reporter, never engage in an immediate interview. Tell the reporter

you are busy at the moment, but emphasize that you want to respond as promptly

as possible. Get the reporter's name, phone number, deadline, and a brief summary

of what the reporter wants to know and pass that information along to your PR



person.

Caution

Never undertake an interview without preparation, rehearsal, and

proofreading your answers. Get your PR person to go over each of these

points with you before talking to any member of the media. By talking to the

media without preparation you risk doing more harm than good. Imagine

seeing an online article the next day that slams your product because you

weren't sufficiently prepared to address a reporter's skeptical questions.



Prepare for any media contact by asking yourself "Why am I doing this interview?"

Then, set a clear objective for yourself in the interview. Determine the key messages

you want to get across and anticipate questions that will be difficult to answer and

prepare for them.

Think about what your ideal quote on your message would be. Would you want to

see it in print? This hit home for me after I was once quoted in the San Francisco

Chronicle as saying, "There is a lot of negativity associated with Myst. . . .", which

was not exactly true. This was in answer to the reporter's question about the

skepticism from fans at the time. A better answer would have been, "We're building

on the strengths and minimizing the weaknesses with the next installment of the

Myst series."

Practice saying quotes out loud and then memorize a few of the best quotes so that

they flow naturally. Remember that the key messages on which you should be quoted

must be what's most important to the reporter's readers, listeners, or viewers—not

what is most important to you as the producer.

Develop good quotes by ensuring that

They sound human, not robotic.

There's potential to influence your audience by instilling confidence in the

product.

They are memorable.

They are true.

They are concise.

In order to maintain credibility, your key messages must be consistent. Here are a

few good ways to ensure your answers remain credible.

Insert your key messages as an answer to a question. If you get a question

such as, "What's this game about?" you've got a great opportunity to insert all

the key messages as your answer.

You will be asked questions you don't want to answer, but don't evade them.

Quickly answer the specific question, and then get back to your key messages

by attaching a logical key message.

If you don't know an answer, whatever you do, don't bluff. Respond with "I will

find out," and do so quickly. And, above all, answer the tough questions

truthfully. Explain why the situation got tough. Never say "No comment"



without good reason—such as pending litigation or not wanting to disclose

proprietary information.

Speak in short sentences and don't use jargon the interviewer and audience

aren't familiar with. Use anecdotes, comparisons, and examples. Backing up

points with compelling statistics is a way to add strength to any point.

Don't worry about repeating your key messages throughout the interview. By

staying focused and repeating the key messages as often, the reporter and

the audience are more likely to remember them.

Prepare a short walkthough of the game. Reporters are busy people and if

you're giving them a copy to review, make sure it is easy for them to get

through the game. They just don't have time to play all the games they cover

without a walkthrough.

When being interviewed, remember that the reporter's job is to tell a good story, not

to damage your reputation and make you look like a fool. Nor is it to help make you

or the product look good. Try not to be affected by charm, an aggressive demeanor,

or apparent empathy with your point of view. Pay attention only to the content of the

question and to making your points. Know that anything you say when a reporter is

around is fair game to be quoted.



Production Presentation and Demo Scripts

Product presentations are critical opportunities for the presenter to establish himself

as a leader committed to excellence and to demonstrate that the product is a shining

example of the collective talent of the team. Every producer is called upon at some

point to present the product to an internal audience or to an external audience and

the media. In order to do so successfully, you should use a demo script.



Writing an Effective Demo Script

A demo script is the "script" of the presentation made for a product to the media. A

good demo script begins with a good quote, some context, and some clear examples

of the game's key features. Give the audience some perspective on what's being

presented. If you don't have a good quote of your own, then quote someone else—

Ansel Adams, George Patton, Aristotle, Plato, a business leader, or even a character

from a film. But whatever the quote is, start off strong and follow up even stronger

with an example that shows why the quote has relevance and perspective on the

game. Get the audience emotionally connected to your message by establishing a

familiar link and then moving in to support it. Remember that video games can and

should be an emotional and passionate endeavor—we're conveying to players

imagery, experience, emotion, and meaningful choices.

The demo script should address the following:

Gameplay promise

Key messages

Features and benefits

Points of opportunity

The details regarding ship date and minimum system specifications should be

presented in the PR, Marketing, and Sales documents. If a producer is making this

presentation, the audience wants to hear about the gameplay and the product's

benefits and promise.



Presenting an Excellent Demo

There are a few tactical and practical elements required for an excellent demo

presentation. Saved games and instantly loadable gameplay scenarios that show the

benefits and key messages of the demo script are absolutely required. There's no

way to be convincing when fumbling or struggling to show why a game is fun.

Be sure to have action, drama, and special effects ready to show the audience. Start

the demo with a short gameplay or trailer clip, and then move right into the

gameplay, showing each feature in action point-by-point.

Show that you're excited about what you're presenting and of course, make sure

that the demo presentation has been tested on the specific hardware you'll be

presenting it on!



The Downloadable Demo

The downloadable demo is another version of the game. Any time that another

version of a game is created, it is important that that version is treated as if it were

a separate product for release. Demos require just as much testing as the final game.



Demos contain the engine on which the game is to be played, therefore, any defect

that affects the security of the engine and the technology can affect the playability,

security, and anti-piracy of the final game.

The downloadable demo must contain content that hooks the audience into the game

in no more than one or two minutes. In other words, the demo should contain the

small but very polished part of the game that is most contagious to the audience.

The gameplay hook must draw the audience in and compel them to buy the game.



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