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Chapter 12. Creating Allies in the Marketing Team
—such as an engine license or an IP license—are exploited to their fullest
Market timing, including product release dates and competitive product release
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
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
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)
Raw gameplay footage
CG art of main characters
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
Anticipated ship date
Style and genre
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.
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
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
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
What is the most important trait a producer
can display in his or her interactions with
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
What are some common misconceptions
about the role of the Marketing department
at a video game publisher that you'd like to
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.
How have you best resolved disputes or
disagreements between brand managers and
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
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.
What overall role of importance do you place
on the role of a producer with respect to
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
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
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
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
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
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:
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.