Top 5 Best Video Games of 2014

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These were the games that I loved the most. Mainly PC.

HM. Five Nights at Freddies – This game is a better laxative than anything you can get at the pharmacy. I didn’t quite understand the mechanics my first time playing it, and when I failed I shrieked like one of the test subjects from that old Dead Space commercial. Still haven’t beat this game yet. Can’t get passed night 4.

HM. The Wolf Among Us – I love whodunnits. This was a good whodunnit with TellTale doing their thing in a really interesting universe. I couldn’t get enough after episode one but managed to make myself wait until they’d finally released all the episodes to play it in succession. I want to go back and play so badly now that I’m writing this.

5. Wolfenstein: The New Order – Awesome awesome awesome. It was such a nice break from games that force you to brain-think about morals. 90% of games now feel like they’re going for “shades of grey”. No grey here. You’re the hero. Fight the bad guy. At one point I was dual wielding laser sniper rifles on the moon shooting Nazi zombie robots. THIS. IS. VIDEO GAMES!

4. South Park: The Stick of Truth – A surprisingly strong RPG with neat combat, awesome humour and a fun story mode. A little bummed we never got  DLC pack at the mall. Still though, this game was worth the money. I really enjoyed how it just simplified things in a early Final Fantasy style and the town is surprisingly large with a lot of areas, collectibles and Canada!

3. Mario Kart 8 – The only racing game franchise that is actually fun where you feel like you can actually make up position when you get behind. Plus all the different weight classes and vehicle types. Roy’s my boy! Also great for drinking games.

1b. Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor – This was like 5% Assassins Creed, 95% Batman. But better than many of the recent installments, I’ve played, of either. The combat was so much freaking fun! To see blood and limbs and heads fly when you finish someone off that really makes an impact compared to breaking legs or leaving baby stab wounds. Also, the nemesis system was so fun and added so much to the game.

1a. Dragon Age: Inquisition – As much as I did tear a strip off this game, I still had a ton of fun over such a long period playing this game this year. The world is big and beautiful. The characters are probably DA’s best cast. I enjoyed the combat and crafting and leveling system. The story was kinda… “lost” but that happens in open world games. Just look at Fallout/Skyrim. Whats the story? I played a lot of Fallout 3 and New Vegas and still only kinda know. The controls need work on PC, but I still made them work quite easily as I’m not a crybaby.

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Top 5 Anticipated Video Games of 2015

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These are the games giving me gamer wood for the next 12 months.

HM. Mirrors Edge 2 – I just hope EA doesn’t have it go all GUNS GUNS and just keeps it to the first game but just newer and better.

5. Witcher 3: Wild Hunt – Curious to see how this turns out. I really do wonder if they are in above their heads. I liked Witcher 2 but I wasn’t quite blown away by it. I’m really beginning to tire of “shades of grey” decision-making in games. Not everyone can do it like TellTale. But this will be my 2015 time-sink RPG the same way Dragon Age: Inquisition was.

4. Rise of the Tomb Raider – The first game was fun. I hope this one is more fun. I liked how in Tomb Raider Lara wasn’t already asskicker 3000 but you had to build her up to it. It controlled well and the puzzles were fun. More of that with a better, or at least less predictable, story and I’ll be very happy.

3. Kingdom Hearts 3 – Kingdom Hearts is just plain fun. I used to play KH2 with my ex-girlfriend and it was just plain fun. Swimming around with Ariel and Goofy. I’m PUMPED to see what the Marvel Universe world and Star Wars world bring to this game. Even curious about Tangled/Frozen/Big Hero 6. Fun must be always!

2. Arkham Knight – Batman is awesome. The Batman games are pretty good. I loved Asylum. Loved parts of City and Origins. As much as I’m put off by the Bat-Tank, I still can’t wait to break legs and hang baddies upside down. I love the combat so much. If they can take some of what works from Shadow of Mordor and incorporate it back into this game… holy moly! My pants are tight…

1. Mortal Kombat X – I am buying a PS4 just for this game. I can’t wait to rip people into small pieces. I love Mortal Kombat so much. Can’t wait to see where the story goes. Sub Zero 4 lyfe! Scorpion blows.

Energon, Energizer, Energizing!

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How do you energize your groundswellians? It seems weird to say, but you need an energetic idea. Something with energy that energizes them to ener-do things. I ran out of “energ__” words.

But if you think about it, the concept is quite simple. Making a YouTube video or a Facebook/Twitter challenge is a great way energize your audience. But not if its something boring such as “Like, favourite and share this video for a chance to win (something equivalent of the cheap plastic toy in cereal)!!!!” or “If this article gets 50,000 shares one lucky person will get a (something equivalent of the cheap plastic toy in cereal)!!!!”

It has to be an energetic idea, and this means it has to be interesting. Sharing a video or a status does nothing. Hardly anyone is going to investigate the company. There is no ROI. People will just see the reward, share and forget.

What is the purpose of that? There really isn’t one. It does not add value to the company. This is simple value chain analysis from any Business 101 class. Activities must add value to the company somewhere in the chain.

So what are good examples? Challenges work. Febreeze has done it with their car fresheners and sprays. The whole “We guarantee it can destink anything!” sort of thing. They’ve made advertising campaigns around it, YouTube videos, articles, etc. They’re energizing their audience to virally market their product for them.

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Blentec did something similar with their “Will it blend?” campaign. They challenged people to find and submit items that their Blenders could try to blend. It was a huge success for them and people were buying and buzzing about Blendtec blenders blending blendables. I have a cheap blender that sometimes sucks with ice. It sucks that I can’t make a decent smoothie or milkshake. Sure wish I had a Blendtec. Those blend everything! Or so it seemed through their campaign.

This isn’t that difficult of a concept, but the application is challenging. It could be hard for an insurance agency for instance. Can’t exactly encourage people to burn down their houses or crash their cars. But a carpet cleaning company could do a Billy Mays style guarantee to drive up enthusiasm. “We guarantee we can clean anything from your carpet or we do it for free!”

Video game companies tend to be good at this. Well crafted teaser websites can create a lot of buzz for their new product as people try and decrypt tidbits of information to discover details of the new game. There is a website out now that people think is Bethesda operated and is teasing the new Fallout game. Its got all the gamers out there trying to figure out every little detail they can. (update: turns out the website was a well crafted hoax. But it still worked in Bethesda’s favour)

A good testimonial campaign can incorporate this. Honda did it recently in a huge customer appreciation campaign where they had Honda owners do the advertising for them through Facebook or YouTube testimonials about how great their cars were. Then they gave a guy who has had his Honda for 1,000,000 (A MILLION) miles a brand spanking new Accord. How’d they find him? They created buzz online, energized their customer base and found this guy which made for a great example of the quality in Honda vehicles. Properly maintained and A MILLION MILES ON IT!

I’m generally a believer in things are usually simpler than they appear.

Stand Back! Tweeticane Coming Through!

Tweet tweet! Twitter rocks and its arguably the best social media tool out there. Can you listen? Yes. Can you talk? Yes. Can you engage? Yes. Can you energize your customers? Yes. It really is one of the ultimate social media tools. Everything is in one place.

Followers: Your audience. Your direct audience.

Hashtags and searches: Groundswellian Google.

Mentions and retweets: Conversation. Conversation sharing. Listening. Talking.

Links: Information sharing. Spread awareness.

It serves as a great top-of-the-funnel for your purchase funnel

It becomes a little more difficult to use it properly. To be honest, its hard to say exactly how to use it to accomplish your goals. There is no 100% accurate and successful plan or tips-and-tricks guide. If I knew of one, I wouldn’t be sharing it in a blog because I’d be way too busy selling it to the highest bidder and retiring in Bora Bora at the age of 23.

But since I am not that lucky, here are a few tips on engaging, tracking, and energizing your customers/followers!

  1.  Keep an eye on the trending topics. Not just the 10 or so that line up on the left side. Browse Trendsmap. Create a HootSuite account and set up a number of searches that you can keep an eye on. If you’re a big time gaming company then you should have a number of saved searches. #(company name) #(name of game)  #games #gaming #xbox #ps4 etc. Those are your conversations. Keep tabs on them. You don’t have to always insert yourself into them, but you definitely should be listening. If you notice a trend in your trends then you just got quality information that probably came a lot cheaper than some in-depth R&D.
  2. Don’t be stupid. Kenneth Cole found this out the hard way. Don’t use #Egypt or #Syria when you’re promoting new kitchenware or surround sound.  Don’t make borderline jokes. Too many people are thin skinned and with enough of an uproar you’ll find that even people that don’t care will get on their soapboxes just for something to do. You’re the “one” in the one-to-many. “With great power comes great responsibility.”2011-02-03-kennethcole22011-02-03-kennethcole2
  3. If you’re not on Twitter, get on it and make sure no one is pretending you are. You don’t need your own “Janet” on the internet causing you trouble. Go lock up your company name. If you’re big enough, get it verified. Now you don’t have to be tweeting every day, especially if you’re Technographic Profile has nothing going for it on Twitter, but be semi-active so you’re not a dead account and so that people know that you’re probably the real account too.

There you go. A 400 word guide to using Twitter.

5 Points for Understanding Social Media

So I read an article called “Users of the World, Unite.” Why is this important? It acts really well as something to hold your hand through learning social media.  Considering this is a social media blog (well primarily except for rants/opinions/jokes that will come on Wednesdays-ish) I am going to share my 5 favourite points from the piece and how they relate to the video game industry.

But first, social media isn’t just Twitter. It is basically anywhere and everywhere information is shared online. Google searches, Facebook, forums, chat rooms, etc.

1. Virtual game worlds (3.5) and virtual social worlds (3.6) and how they’re becoming one.

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About 12 years ago virtual game worlds primarily were for just beating up on people online in Madden or whatever your game was.  Virtual social worlds resembled The Sims where you would make a character and fake live a fake life. However, the two virtual worlds have been moving consistently towards absorbing the most popular aspects of each other.  Console companies like Xbox Live with the creation of avatars and Nintendo creating Mii‘s are two examples of gaming moving towards the virtual world. Game developers such as Blizzard have been doing the same for longer with the interaction levels in their games such as World of Warcraft and Diablo, while Rockstar will be launching Grand Theft Auto Online on October first to act in the same mold.  These are very customizable online representations of ones self and there is the ability for you, as your avatar or Mii or elf or monk or psychopath, to interact with other people’s avatars or Miis or elves or monks or psychopaths.

Second Life has expanded over the years to include elements from dungeon crawlers and role playing games to expand the world from simple virtual simulations of daily interactions to immersive environments and interactions.

I also want to mention Nintendo with street pass for the 3DS, as they bring the virtual and gaming world to the actual world.

The point is, expand your presence. Games are not just a single player thing any more. Gaming has become more and more social. Its moved from hooking up four N64 controllers at once and playing GoldenEye to being in massive matches with friends and foes with a seemingly unlimited amount of people.

2. Ensure activity alignment (4.1.3) and Media plan integration (4.1.4) – communications

This is something that companies like Telus do extremely well, and companies like Xbox with the release communications of the Xbox One have done terribly. Integrated Marketing Communications is a first year concept in any basic Marketing 101 class. Every piece of Telus anything looks exactly the same and they’ve carved out instant brand recognition.  White backdrop? Bits of purple and green? Cute animals? Telus. Does not matter if it is some piece of spam mail, web advertising, television commercial, a billboard or on the side of the bus.  The imagery and information is always aligned.

Xbox One? Holy moley.  Third console curse and it hasn’t even released yet. Why? Because no one knew what they were saying or the audience they were actually talking at. They had fantastic ideas. The same ideas Steam just announced and everyone loves. What made the difference? How it was communicated.  The Xbox One keynote was all about the engineering behind the features rather than the features and what they do. Most gamers only heard all the words they never wanted to hear (DRM, always online, no game sharing, etc.) instead of why those words actually made for good things.  Then after the keynote, no one at Xbox was saying the same thing as anyone else:

“No, used games still work like they do now”

“Used games only work sometimes”

“Used games only work from certified retailers”

All paraphrases of statements made within a week of the keynote. You had Xbox reps on Twitter saying different things than each other which were saying different things than the official Xbox press releases which were saying different things than guys that were being interviewed by websites like IGN and GameSpot.

PS4 has most of those nasty words above, but they didn’t say it. They just implied it. “Your PS4 is asleep and can wake up from our website” – Your PS4 is always on and connected to the internet. But all gamers heard was “Oh, my console is just in asleep and I can wake it up.” How do you wake up a console from the internet if it isn’t connected to the internet? But hey, PS4 preorders are through the roof and it is out-polling the Xbox One in consumer satisfaction before it is even released.

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3. Be active (4.2.1), Be interesting (4.2.2) and Be Unprofessional (4.2.4)

Be active – post content when it is relevant. Have a new game coming out? Make sure that Twitter account is going. Don’t have one coming out? Keep it going but not on full speed. Game franchise dead and burried? Delete the Twitter account. There is nothing dumber than finding a certified affiliated Twitter account for a product and seeing the last tweet sent in 2011. Devalues your brand. Also, make sure you’re replying to, or at least reading, every mention or hashtag.

Be interesting – do not spam bit.ly links. Do not spam in general. Make sure what you’re Tweeting or Facebooking or Pinteresting or whatever, is relevant to what you’re audience wants to see. If I am following Mortal Kombat on Twitter and it is Tweeting links to boring unrelated to anything Mortal Kombat links, stop. I’m hitting unfollow and your Twitter just lost value.

Be unprofessional – this is bad wording. Be casual. No one likes a Twitter that is all business all the time. Share some fan art or cosplays if you’re video games or comic books. Have some replies involved. Show there is a person that runs your social media instead of a robot. The Vancouver Canucks Twitter account does a terrific job of this.

4. Strengths first.

This is simple. When you Google “Apple” what comes out? All this neat info about features and engineering and cool stuff you can do with your life. What don’t you see? Pricing information. When you Google “Kia” what do you get? A few things about general info and then… this headline. A lot of people don’t believe Google searches to be part of social media, but they are. Make sure that your positives are always at the top. Nobody goes past page 2.

5. Understand the one-to-many.

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When you do it well, you get viral marketing. When you don’t, your stock drops and you’re issuing apologies and trying to do damage control which is damn near impossible on the internet.

Nothing on social media is private. That is not how it works. How many times have we seen athletes or media personalities get busted for rude DMs or Tweets, inappropriate pictures or general misconducts to which they apologize for half heartedly and then make another half hearted apology for their first one? A lot. Someone can always see you and what you are doing. Damage control is harder and harder to do these days. Just watch any election and see how well one slip up by a politician is scrutinized and their entire campaign is ignored because of that comment. Heck, Xbox One did not understand the one to many aspect and it caused mass confusion and anger to the point of cancelling most of their big new ideas. Ask Bioware how the one-to-many worked out with the ending (l liked it) to Mass Effect 3? People that knew nothing of the game were criticizing it because it was the popular thing to do. All it takes is for one person to make a statement and people will either flock to it in anger or joy.

References

Kaplan, A. M., & Haenlein, M. (2010, February).   Users of the world unite. Business Horizons, pp. 59-68.