Editor’s note: Continue Screen is a new column written by various members of GI on a quarterly basis. It’s basically a rant about whatever they want to discuss in the gaming industry. In 1Q2013, Contributing Editor William Harrison starts things off with a discussion of THQ’s policies.
Why marketing games the right way can make, break you
Hello everyone, and welcome to one of what I hope will be many a mix of factorial and some personal experience/opinion editorial reports to come; so, please,bear with me. There have been many games in the industry that have been made with great hype, interesting media campaigns, hell, even Super Bowl placement all to sell to the consumer at large as well as the gaming community. This is done all with the hopes that they will be able to fund their next big or, sometimes small, idea that balloons way the hell out of control and takes on a life of its own. That’s where some, but yet a small part, of the delays in release come from. Publisher THQ could have learned a lesson from this and known to delay the game Homefront until it was more than just a polished turd with a really good story.
I say this because I was one of the many people who bought this game from the now-defunct developer KAOS Studios only to discover that it wasn’t worth the multimillion-dollar ads that it was portrayed to be. What we (i.e. the gaming community) actually got was one part of a great and somewhat original story, and an underdeveloped multiplayer that was a badly cloned mix of Call of Duty and Battlefield.
OK, before I go any further, I feel I should explain the whole developer versus publisher relationship for those who aren’t too familiar with how it works, better known as the consumer at large. Why do you think developer/publisher Acclaim was in business for so long? Not because they made great games; it’s because their subsidiaries, or developers, made great games for them.
Acclaim is now no more for the most part because of the business practices that lead to some of the subsidiaries — well, all of them – to jump ship to different publishers. It was more or less because of the fact that as a developer/publisher, Acclaim could produce (develop) and distribute and then sell (publish) its own games under the label of Acclaim using a majority of the profits from the other developers that work for them. Of course, they didn’t tell their subsidiaries this; I’m guessing it was made to look like a fine print transaction or something similar. Hell, they might have had the balls to be like “Oh by the way, we’re raising the percentage rate we make off every game sold under our label. Tough shitzu and deal. Have a nice day.” But that is an investigative editorial for another time.
Hopefully, I explained the relationship well enough so that you get the fact that just because a game has the THQ label on it doesn’t mean that they made the game, per se; it just made it available for the public. They may have had very little to do with making the game except for putting money toward it getting made. That doesn’t mean that the publisher has all their money in the right place. Take the game Warhammer 40,000: Space Marine from Games Workshop (creator and co-developer) and Relic Studios (developer), which is a platformer for the consoles and PC. When they got together to make this game, it was one of the best platformers I’d played in a long time. Granted, my main love is fighting games and anything that takes longer than eight hours to beat total play time (cough, RPGs, cough),but I occasionally like to relax with a Devil May Cry or a Sonic Adventure-style game where exploration is as fun as mowing down the masses.
But I digress. The simple fact of the matter is that some companies like to hype games they believe will sell a lot of copies, regardless of the fact that it might not be finished or that it has a great multiplayer system. Well, yes, I know it has worked for a lot of first-person shooters like the Call of Duty series and Battlefield as well as helping the Medal of Honor series pick up where it left off and make a decent game again. Yeah, EA, that was a shot at you … because my wrath is next upon you.
Anyway, Homefront could have been a great game had THQ decided that the game was ultimately not ready for release and then pushed it back to make to make a really good game worthy of a good single-player and multiplayer mode that was worthwhile. Unfortunately, what we got was a shooter that was buggy, not very good in some aspects, and looked liked it should have been released on PlayStation 2 or maybe the first Xbox.
Then, you have Space Marine, which had little-to-no hype whatsoever and is a very solid platformer that offers the right amount of challenge for all players. I think the combat system is slightly the basis for future Darksiders titles, but I could be wrong. The bottom line is this: Don’t try and jump in with both feet expecting to knock it out of the park when there more established titles that raise the bar. In the very least, don’t phone it in and pour money at the problem hoping the ad campaign will make everyone not notice how much of a polished turd it is. Even if it is polished, it’s still a damn turd.
William Harrison is a contributing editor for Gaming Insurrection. He can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org