Top 5 Disappointing Video Games of 2014

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These were the games that I was interested in buying a new console for, but then just sucked and helped save me like $400+. I guess thanks is in order…

HM. WWE2K15 – It has nothing going for it. Bare bones and the character models still don’t look better than Smackdown vs Raw: 2009. I’d have it higher if it was a yearly purchase for me, but the WWE games are only ever-other-year purchases for me.

5. Murdered: Soul Suspect – Really cool concepts and the story is actually pretty interesting at the fringes. But the main character is boring and I can’t describe him with actual characteristics. He’s cop-man-ghost. But it did have some pretty neat stuff like the lady who was crazy but only because it was how her ghost sister could save her life by invading her brain. Gameplay got boring after like hour 6 of “go here, look at thing, go here, fetch quest”. The game ends with a whimper after starting off pretty darn well.

4. Transformers: Rise of the Dark Spark – I quite enjoyed the previous Transformer games. They were fun. This one just totally whiffs. I don’t know what happened, but all the fun got lost.

3. NHL 15 – I don’t own it, but a friend does. I’ve played it a fair bit when I go to friends houses and play games while waiting to go drink, or when getting back from drinking. What a pile of trash. It basically has no modes and no ancillary features at launch. Also, the wind physics are a little nuts. I feel like the players are in a hair commercial at times because their sweaters are going nuts when they’re totally still.

2. Watch Dogs – There is a good foundation here for Ubisoft to improve on. The hacking is fun but it just kinda turns into GTA-but-not-as-good-as-GTA and the protagonist, whose name I forget – talk about memorable, was super bland. I couldn’t really describe him using anything besides physical features, which is an indictment of their ability to make me care. “He wears a trench coat and a hat.” Also, it’s a giant piece of shit on PC.

1. Destiny – This game is just boring. Thought it’d be the multiplayer game that’d make me buy a console. It controls well, but I never got the “itch” to keep playing. Played about 6-8 hours on my friend’s account and it was a pretty forgettable 8-9 hours. I was never a huge Halo fan, but I couldn’t deny the “woo!” you got from it. Destiny is just grindy, bland and the loot system BLOWS! Plus all that stuff about how the story was basically stripped out and placed in codexes you can only view ON THE INTERNET NOT EVEN IN GAME. Blech.

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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.

Speaking Groundswellian

Want to talk with the groundswell? You know, that whole social media discussion sharing one-to-many or many-to-many thing? You do, because it is important.

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The Marketing Funnel

This is the marketing funnel. Its a classic model that works on “interruption” based marketing. This is changing. Now marketing is more about “permission” based tactics. Think of it like SHOUTING AT THE CUSTOMER versus engaging in a conversation with a customer. Thank the internet.

This is your new marketing funnel

This is your new marketing funnel

Marketers cannot control customers in the internet age the same way they used to be able to years ago. Consumers now have their own channels to utilize when evaluating and purchasing a product. This is why it is incredibly important to have some presence in social media* and to use it as effectively as possible.

*anywhere with user generated content sharing. Message boards, YouTube, blogs, Facebook, Reddit.

Now, what is the most effective way possible? Well, it relates to the POST Process. Figuring out what you want to do. This is about doing that. There are really 4 options to go with, with the execution and details varying at some level inside of those options.

1) Post a viral video
This is probably the hardest of all 4 options. It is easy enough to make a video, and even easier for it to get views. All you need is a camera and some content. But to make viral? To have people share it because of the actual content? That is tough. Especially to market something. There has to be a catch and finding one that clicks is tough. Anyone can make a video like “Thumbs up, comment, subscribe and share for your chance to win a free copy of our new game!” Does that really add value to your company or your product? No, its just cheap. What could you do? The book example talks about Blendtec doing a video showing their videos blending all sorts of objects then challenging people to do the same. Neat! Shows how durable your blenders are! Now for video games? Maybe ask fans to create their own videos in a chance to win something. Or do something funny where you show what other uses your game serves to play up the humour. “Not only is it a game, it is also a coaster! Shin pads!!… etc” anything that would be interesting enough to share and add meet your POST goal.

SocialMediaLandscapeOrganism

2) Engage in social networks and user-generated content sites
The key word being engage. This isn’t just having a Facebook page and a Twitter account. Engage with your users through these platforms. Have a conversation. Not quite like a FAQ or “help hotline” but try to start a conversation, and then take part. Especially in the games industry there is a lot to talk with your fans about. There is your own wesbite where you can create a message board. There is Facebook and Twitter where you can converse and promote your fans (think about how great that is for them) if they do something great with your IP like fan-art, cosplays, songs, YouTube videos, fan-merch, etc. Fans add value to your company and any social media plan, at its most basic level, is about increasing that value.

3) Join the blogosphere
Startup a blog, and be casual. This isn’t a press release. Its not a political speech. This is to get on the same “level” as your audience. Sort of like an email to your staff about the pizza party. No one wants to read a textbook with stats and numbers being shoved down their throats. A blog like this should be for fun/casual expression. Feel free to inform people, but keep it casual. Speak their language.

4) Create a community
A community refers to your audience, sort of. Think of the people posting on message boards. If they’re posting about your product then they’re your community. So why not try and construct a centralized one for them? This could be on your own site, or by creating a sub-forum on an existing message board (like sub-reddits). Or why not both? The more conversation the more better. This can act as a form of word-of-mouth marketing and as a FAQ that saves your company money because the community helps each other. You can also learn plenty of information to serve as feedback that is probably a lot more informative than any feedback comment section or email from your corporate website.

What to post depends on your industry. If you’re making video games, you’re goal is probably going to be to find a way to use all of these. Create a video around release for buzz. Have an active social media program to disseminate information. Have someone from the dev team or a project lead or a writer do some blog posts to keep fans updated on their long awaited game. And have a community to be able to gauge fan sentiment or feedback so you can optimize your product.

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A game I’m currently waiting on is Dragon Age: Inquisition. So far, Bioware has released some trailers that I shared on Facebook. There have also been blog posts and developer diary type videos to give me information on what to expect and what the game will include. There are a number of people who work on the game that are relatively active on the Bioware forums, their own community, to help answer fan questions and keep them informed.

All of this adds value to the company. It is “permission” based marketing. Your audience is inviting you. So why not accept their invitation?

Hit The P.O.S.T.

Source material: groundswell by Li C., Bernoff, J

How important is the Groundswell? Well its arguably the most important thing in business. The best companies listen to their customers and users and form their entire company around that. They use the Social Technographics Profile they have constructed and kept updated to feed them quality information. It all starts with people (users and customers). Trying to start anywhere else would be like trying to start playing a game at the final boss and not knowing what the controls are. How are you going to plan to beat Big Bad Boss Character without knowing what exactly you’re supposed to do? So it is beyond important to figure this out and it all starts now.

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1. People – What are your customers ready for? What do they want? How are customers going to engage in your company? Depending what industry you are in then it determines just how much time needs to be spent here. If you’re a tech company, ideas here are relatively standard. Apps, web pages, forums, social media, etc. Internet and mobile stuff. If you’re a consumer product such as a vacuum or running shoes, people might be more likely to engage in a 3rd party forum for user reviews/conversation than a social network you may set up on your own site.

2. Objectives – What are your goals? Are you trying to get marketing information via communication with the groundswell or are you trying to invigorate sales? Both? What about tapping your internal groundswell to find ideas to better your organizational design? What about finding out how employees think they may work more efficiently or with greater satisfaction? There is generally 5 main objectives that anything and everything can be linked into.

  1. Listening: Research and understanding of your customers. What do they expect? Can get very important insight for marketing and R&D.
  2. Talking: Spreading messages about your company. You talking to customers. This is more about disseminating your company and creating awareness much like advertising.
  3. EnergizingThis is igniting conversation in others. Like poking and prodding, in the nicest way possible, to get others to share your company/message/product via word-of-mouth for brand selling.
  4. Supporting: Could be as simple as a FAQ. Could go the extra step and set up your own support and help forums/section on your website for either you to answer or other users to help each other.
  5. Embracing: The most challenging and should probably not be attempted if you haven’t aced 1 through 4  above. This is integrating your customers into your company and using their insights for R&D and marketing.

3. Strategy – How do you want things to change? What of the above 5 objectives are you trying to accomplish? Once this has been hammered out it also lets you set goals to judge whether or not you’ve been successful. Also you’ll have a better idea how to prepare your organization and which people to involve.

4. Technology – What applications are you going to use? What channels? Is it blogs? Wikis? Social networking? Most will involve a multitude of platforms throughout the process but picking the right ones at the start are crucial to successfully accomplishing your goal.

Some companies that are great at doing this are generally video game companies. When they create games they look at what people want for a game, what features, what experiences and try to find their own way to deliver that. Neatherrealm Studios did this when they rebooted the Mortal Kombat franchise in 2011 to great success. People wanted the game to get back to basics after the lore turned into a convoluted mess after Mortal Kombat: Deception.

The development team at Bioware is using feedback and consumer insight in developing Dragon Age: Inquisition. Fans liked parts of both the previous two main entries, Dragon Age: Origins and Dragon Age 2, and now Bioware is using that feedback to find the happy medium between both games on things such as environments, combat and character interaction. A lot of this feedback comes from Bioware’s own social network where members of the writing and development team are quite active.

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Example Mass Effect 3 survey conducted by Bioware

Another good example of a company that underwent change after making a commitment to the groundswell was the WWE. In fact, the change in direction that involved social media and other outside inputs following this pipebomb from CM Punk is largely responsible for the re-invigoration of the company since 2011 when ratings and revenues had been on a continuous slide since 2006.

All these companies created POST process plans, maybe not in the exact words as this but likely in a very similar fashion, and have used it to do what their customers want.

And in the end, isn’t that the point?

Video Games Don’t Kill People

tdb_108_video_games_kill_people_by_shadowmaginis-d4ybhxx I was watching With Great Power: The Stan Lee Story the other day and there was an great segment of the documentary devoted to the heat that the comic book industry faced during the 50’s because it was comic books that were ruining and corrupting young people. The only proof presented was shoddy – 100/100 juvenile delinquents read comic books, which today would be like asking junior high boys if they played video games – and at the time it gave an excuse and a scapegoat for poor parenting.

“You’re not a bad parent, its those comic books ruining your kids!” – direct quote from the documentary.

Fast forward to 15 or 20 years ago around Columbine.

“You’re not a bad parent, its that heavy metal ruining your kids!”

And nowadays,

“You’re not a bad parent, its those video games ruining your kids!”

So where does that leave us? Maybe the issues of troubled youth and mental instability aren’t because of a specific form of multimedia culture but the lack of a proper upbringing. I like comics and movies and music and video games a whole lot. I’ve never shot anyone in the name of demonic music/movies/video games. I also had parents that were very stern with me on what was okay and what was not. Not very long ago after the shooting in Connecticut a major news outlet reported that “According to a friend of the shooter, his favourite weapon in a video game was the assault rifle!” Then the article continued that since he played a video game with an assault rifle that it made him do this atrocity (paraphrased). Neat. Sick reporting bro. I prefer shotguns in most shooting games. I also like to throw fire balls in RPG’s and perform fatalities in fighting games. Not once have I fired a shotgun at a human, tried to manipulate fire in my hand or rip someone in half. video-games-kill Maybe theses issues go beyond multimedia and into far more difficult avenues of society? But those lack the easy canned outrage that old ass senators, who’ve never held a controller in their life, can conjure up. Much like the ones before them blamed heavy metal. And the ones before them blamed comic books. Much easier to blame things you have no experience with. Its like wrestling and steroids. Any time a wrestler dies, STEROIDS! Not alcoholism, drug abuse, mental illness, etc. STEROIDS! Why? It is easy. It ruined baseball too so demonize anywhere it might be. Don’t mention that caffeine abuse has all the same negative side effects of steroids. Its STEROIDS! because of lazy reporting. Do you have a source? No. Ah whatever. STEROIDS. Take the easy way out. There is an argument to be made about a culture of violence in today’s society. But that culture doesn’t start and end with video games. Ugh.