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6 Things We Can Learn From The Video Game Industry

1. Spinning Bad Publicity Into Good Publicity

Video games companies are notorious for using shock and awe tactics as a means to generate hype about an up and coming video game. Often times these same video game companies find themselves under scrutiny about the violent and cruel content of their games but sometimes these companies have been known to take the scrutiny and turn it around in their favour. Ubisoft, the makers of Assassin’s Creed IV, found themselves under scrutiny from PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) about the depiction of whaling in Assassin’s Creed IV. PETA commented that:

“Whaling – that is, shooting whales with harpoons and leaving them to struggle for an hour or more before they die or are hacked apart while they are still alive – may seem like something out of the history books, but this bloody industry still goes on today in the face of international condemnation, and it’s disgraceful for any game to glorify it”

Ubisoft’s responded with:

“History is our playground in Assassin’s Creed. Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag is a work of fiction that depicts the real events during the Golden Era of Pirates,” the publisher said in a statement. “We do not condone illegal whaling, just as we don’t condone a pirate lifestyle of poor hygiene, plundering, hijacking ships, and over-the-legal-limit drunken debauchery.”

A great response from Ubisoft that not only twisted the topic and made humour out of it, but also highlighted the fact that the whaling controversy comment has been taken out of context in relation to the general depiction of life during the Golden Age of Piracy.

How Can This Apply To You

View any negative feedback as a chance to better your product or service and prove yourself to the customer. The person who is complaining on social media about your product could also be the person who is singing your praises if you are able to help solve their issue.

2. Marketing Well In Advance

Video game companies take the forefront in using tactics that generate hype and anticipation ahead of a soon to be released title. However some companies go above and beyond when it comes to marketing. One such company is Rockstar, the developers of the Grand Theft Auto series. Ahead of the release of GTA V, Rockstar knew they already had a large fan base, but they wanted to build on this, they wanted to create anticipation and suspense and bolster their already large fan base.

The very first advertisement was released in late 2011 yet the game itself wasn’t released until September 2013. The advertisement itself was a little under 2 minutes, but it depicts a city very much like Los Angeles complete with a familiar sounding Ray Liotta as the voiceover. The advertisement quickly established what gamers can expect to see and do when they immerse themselves into this world of overly glorified violence and carnage. Rockstar continued to gradually release more advertisements as time went by, each successive advert released just that little bit more information about the game and by the time the game itself was eventually released, well the figures speak for themselves:

Take-Two announced that Grand Theft Auto V generated approximately $800 million in sales worldwide during its first 24 hours on sale. According to Take-Two, this marks “the highest first day retail sales of any title in the history of the company and the Grand Theft Auto series.”

How Can This Apply To You

Don’t just launch your new website and sit back hoping for enquiries or sales to role in. Spread the word well before you launch. Send out surveys to see what people want from a business like yours. You might be surprised with some of the answers from people and it might help actually mould your business before it even starts and people will feel valued because you valued their opinions. When you come back in a few months time you’re ready to sell them exactly what they said they wanted. You should be aiming to start making sales on day one.

3. Design Matters

Design plays a huge role in the development of video games. You can have the most well established, sophisticated and beautiful looking video game in the world, but if people have difficulty understanding how to interact with it then it won’t take long before they lose interest. User interface design is perhaps the most important aspect during the development of video games and the design is based on understanding of every facet of the game’s storyline. The design and development team create a user interface that matches the experience of the game.

There are different categories of user interfaces that suit different gaming genres. For example Far Cry 2 uses in game elements that the character interacts with to provide information about their surroundings (watch on the character’s wrist, map in the character’s hand etc). This type of user interface works well with the story as these are objects that a person in the present world would interact with, these items create what is referred to as a diegetic interface. Whereas a game like Halo has the main character wearing a futuristic, fictional, helmet which can create visual holographic cues such as a transparent map or enemy highlighting as a means to help players interact with the world around them (non-diegetic interface). Even simple areas like a settings menu is designed to be as simple as possible to use. Things that might be technical like configuring the gamma and brightness of a television are made much less daunting by simple design.

Knowing what their audience expects from the video game’s narrative is one way designers and developers gauge how they should design and implement the means with which gamers will interact within the virtual world.

How Can This Apply To You

Your website design should be created for the end user first and foremost. You and your company don’t matter to them right now. Don’t throw a popup in to get them to subscribe to your newsletter as soon as they land on your home page, they don’t even know you yet. A website popup is the same as someone walking into your shop and you instantly jumping in front of them saying “BUY THIS, BUY THIS”. If someone is on your website for the first time then perception is everything. Keep your site clean, simple and confident. Give people what they need, not what you want.

4. Build Communities

Video games are becoming more and more dependent on the internet as a means of keeping the content fresh and increasing the longevity of the game’s shelf life. Many of the most successful games are online only games, including World of Warcraft, Guild Wars and Second Life. These games, which is a huge understatement at best, immerse players in a world filled with other real life players who interact with each other in real time. Second Life is a virtual world where gamers, through their online representations (avatars) interact with other avatars in many different ways. Avatars can walk, run, drive, fly and teleport through this seemingly endless world giving players the chance to engage in a large variety of different activities including: Purchasing land, building homes, building businesses (Second Life even has it’s own currency called Linden Dollars. I’ve even heard of marriage ceremonies being performed in this virtual world not to mention real world consequences.

So what has this got to do with your business? Immerse and captivate your target audience, give them ownership of something tangible and you’re onto a real winner.

How Can This Apply To You

Facebook groups, LinkedIn groups, forums, Twitter hashtags are all great ways to connect with people and allow them to converse with everyone in a more community based style. You don’t need to be at the centre of the discussions, you can facilitate and encourage them. The real benefit is when users are all connecting with each other. If you are a gardening company then why not create a design focused forum where people can connect with others and share gardening techniques. This forum will be helpful and the association with your brand is beneficial for you. Twitter hashtags allow people, globally, to talk about a chosen subject. Find or create relevant hashtags to your business and participate in discussions to build a following.

5. Constantly Improving

The video game industry is one of the newest mediums for immersing users within a story and has rapidly advanced to the point where video games are grossing more than the most movies to date. Grand Theft Auto V crossed the $1 billion mark after 3 days, by comparison Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 and Avatar both grossed $1 billion after 19 days. Grand Theft Auto V done this a whole 16 days faster.

Those facts should indicate just how bright the future of the video gaming industry is. From the release of Pac-Man in 1980 to Grand Theft Auto V, it’s plain to see just how much video games have evolved, not only visually, but in just how much the gamer is immersed in the universe. Escapism has never been more visually pleasing and socially interactive. Video games are evolving to cater for gamers who prefer solitude and gamers who enjoy interacting with others. As people’s needs and wants evolve so too do video games, and so should your business. If you don’t know what your target audience needs and wants then your business will get left behind. No industry knows this better than the video game industry.

How Can This Apply To You

Constantly strive to be better, to make something even more brilliant for your customer. Think Apple, Virgin Airlines, Sky TV. If you always improve and advance, you become a leader in your industry. The worst that can happen is you make something even better and your customers even happier.

6. Gives Players Ownership

One major reason for the success of video games is that players make the world (they’re immersed in) their own. Many years back I was major fan of games like C&C Red Alert and Tiberian Sun, I use to obliterate the enemy force and then build a one hell of an impressive base from the ruins. I did this for many missions. Each base I built was a trophy, something I could reload and marvel at over and over again, it was something I created and owned.

Games like The Sims, Minecraft, World of Warcraft all give the player vast control over the world their characters inhabit and interact in. Grand Theft Auto V allows you to purchase homes, cars, even businesses and manage them as you see fit. This freedom to act as you please, with or without consequences is what attracts people to these virtual worlds. Your imagination is still the most powerful tool and by giving more control over actions to the gamer it allows them to delve into their imagination and create something unique.

How Can This Apply To You

By giving people ownership of the product or service you offer them, you’re allowing them to create their own experiences, this is a fantastic method of attracting customers and retaining them. Know your customer, different people or different situations will dictate how much control people may find useful. If you have a product or service that targets leaders it should be more open ended and flexible to allow greater customisation to their persons needs or if your product or service is aimed at followers then they will want a more structured environment.


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