What is Marketing?

Marketing is part of being a game producer – but not everybody really understand what the concept of marketing is all about. Here’s a basic definition by American Marketing Association:

“Marketing is a process of planning and executing the conception, pricing, promotion, and distribution of ideas, goods, and services to create exchanges that satisfy individual and organizational goals”

In English: the mission of marketing is to attract, retain customers and provide value to all parties.

It’s purpose is to satisfy the needs of all parties. This is the main purpose of marketing. The aim is to provide value that satisfies all parties: buyer, seller, distributors – everybody. Firms can have highly satisfied customers if they provide their services for free. However, those companies are unlikely to live very long. Highly satisfied companies might have very disappointed customers or distributors at first – but those customers or distributors won’t stay long. The key purpose of marketing is to make all parties happy or companies won’t be able to survive in a long run.

Marketing is a process. Some people think that marketing is about making some nice banners for a while and then forgetting it. Marketing is a process that involves series of steps to be made: market analysis, market planning, action and control. Everybody in the company is doing marketing and marketing must be done on continuous basis. Marketing is not something you try and stop trying. Marketing is testing, evaluating, deciding, testing, planning, acting, refining – a never ending story that’s repeats, repeats and repeats until it’s successful. After that, it is repeated.

It involves several product, price, promotion, place and other modifiers. Marketing mix – use of product, price, promotion and place – is a framework for evaluating and processing needed elements to reach marketing success. Marketing takes into account the product (quality, platform, game type etc.), price (one-time, monthly etc.), promotion (advertisement, press releases, blogs etc.), place or distribution (direct selling, retail stores, portals etc.) with coordinated manner.

It’s about exchange. Marketing is not successful unless two or more parties exchange something. This might mean exchange of time, money, services, volunteering, donations or something else, but the one key element of marketing is to enable the transaction.

In summary, marketing is more than just banner ads – it’s a process that needs to be done properly for companies to prosper.

Finnish Game Design Event in Jyvaskyla, Finland (January 12th and 13th)

This is relevant mostly for Finnish audience (and especially people living near Jyväskylä), but there’s something interesting information for the others as well. People from Majatalo.org (great Finnish RPG forum) are organizing a game design event to be held in Jyväskylä. The event is meant to be 2 days long and will take place at the university.

The main ideas are:

  • To gather group of people interested in games
  • Developers get chance to present their work
  • Developers can get feedback
  • Game type or development phase doesn’t matter
  • There’s going to be pen & paper role playing games, board games and video games
  • Games can be in beta testing phase or just in idea phase

More information (in Finnish) can be found: here (at the moment there’s not really much anything yet, but they will add more information). If you are interested in participating, throw some email to them and explain what sort of game you are going to present: Contact information here.

I’m going to present Edoiki there, and hopefully (but I promise nothing ;) make some notes and bring the presentation online as well, so those of you who miss the show can get some idea about how things are going.

Ask Game Producer: Are Movies Just Not Meant to be Made Into Video Games?

I got a tricky question via email.

Question:

Generally when a motion picture movie gets picked up by publishers to be made into a video game or vice versa, the overall gameplay or quality is just poor excluding some movie games out there. Gamers just already get the notion that when a movie game comes out it is going to be bad. Maybe it’s the gameplay or the storyline that just destroys the game. Are there any ways that this can change? Are movies just not meant to be made into video games?

Answer:
First I would like to argue if games using movie brands (or vice versa) are really that bad – in general. In fact… as I start to think about this, it seems that there’s lots of rubbish games and movies transitions. But, I think there’s actually many games using movie brands that are really good.

I like how they’ve done several Marvel games (well, they are originally based on comics… and then movies and games, but still) that are fun to play. Hulk and Spider Man for PC were good. In Hulk you can smash pretty much everything and Spider Man can use fancy moves and move on ceilings – these really fit well in the theme.

I also like Battle for Middle Earth (not the sequel 2, but the good ol’ number 1). The feeling of orcs attacking, Gandalf doing fancy stuff and Gimli using axe is there. Although… that movie is again based on literature. There’s also poor games using LOTR brand, but you can find good ones as well.

Maybe movies and games that are based on some existing world have more background material which have more potential to make the games interesting. I really want to see established brands as games, and I’m sure there’s room for that.

Ruining the gameplay
It’s true that developers can “ruin” the gameplay. I hated the camera in Spider Man game (and it really affected the gaming experience) and in some games they make things really easy (which also can ruin the gameplay). Some games are very simple hack’n’slash skinned with some brand, which might be not so interesting to everybody.

I don’t know if there’s magic potion that would solve this problem. When game developers are allowed to “take chances” and make things little different, we can see new shining stars. Meanwhile, we just have to hope for the best and make sure we indies produce innovative games.

Perhaps upcoming Halo will be successful as a movie – if they solve contract problems. Who knows.

Eidoki

I’ve encountered a small problem with the name of the game Edoiki. Some people say “Eidoki” instead of “Edoiki”. I decided to register eidoki.com and make it point to edoiki.com to make sure people who try typing the URL directly will find it.

Letters E and I are bit difficult in names. “Weird” or “wierd”… which one was it? Also word “gray” can be problematic. It’s different in USA and UK. Depending on the country you use “grey” or “gray”. One solution to problem is simply ignore it, or register couple of additional domain names to make sure people who type your website URL incorrectly will reach your site right away.

I don’t have that much experience on domain names, but since several people have typed the game name incorrectly, I decided to spend couple of bucks to make sure I have the domain name space covered.

They’ve Brainwashed Us

Yep. That happened. We all have been brainwashed. You, me and the other people on this planet. Your team members, teachers, mentors, parents, friends – they’ve all been brainwashed. Pretty much only cats and dogs have survived – rest of us have got a heavy amount of influence from surrounding environment, events, people.

Basically this means that as a game producer it’s useful to realize that your thoughts, opinions, working habits are most likely given to you. You might have ignored some ideas, but rest assured there’s something that gone through your filters without you even realizing it. Let’s try to get some examples. Word “Microsoft” is most likely to get your nerve cells moving. You might feel disgusted about their policies, laugh at their “secure” software and think that Gates should go to a very warm place with demons. Or… you might think that Windows is good, Word is a nice software for making documents and appreciate that Gates has donated really much money to charity. I’m not saying “which side to take”, but I’m saying that whatever “side” you take – something has influenced that.

The point is: something or somebody in your past has affected how you think today and feel about things. If a new game developer announces “we have a new MMORPG project and need lots of people to work with us” you might laugh or join the crew depending how things have gone in your life.

The reason why I think it’s important to understand that you (like me and others) have been “brainwashed” is that you can start questioning your own thinking and opinions. If for example you feel really frustrated about why the team doesn’t function as you would want it to work, then you can start looking in the mirror first: why am I feeling frustrated? Why would the team really need to work as I want? When one realizes that there’s great amount of influence from external sources, you will be able to question even yourself.

It’s quite easy to question everybody else – but it’s heck lot of work to question yourself. But, if you keep in mind that “your current habit might be useless” you’ll open doors to opportunities. If you’ve accepted that Microsoft is bad, you have just closed door to accepting that there might be something good in them – and vice versa. If you think you are right – and that your management style is right – then your way of leading your team won’t be flexible and your options to get your team to function will diminish.

Questioning your own ideas and opinions will help you solve problems and deal with situations far more effectively than being stuck on being right.

One Unit Purchased Every Second

Some days ago I mentioned about the Wii success and then I saw interesting figures from gamesindustry.biz. Nintendo UK has reported that 50,000 units of the console were sold in just 12 hours. That’s one unit purchased every second according to them.

BBC reported about the sales – but from different point-of-view: “Wii shortages frustrating gamers”. Wii has not been shipped in many places and not every customer has had a chance to get the console delivered to them. Some people have pre-ordered Wii months ago, and still cannot get their hands on the vehicle anytime soon.

That’s a real problem for Nintendo, and there’s another problem knocking on the door: there has been a lawsuit about the Wii-mote patent.

We’ll see how it will go in the future – whether Nintendo can get enough consoles for customers and whether the patent issue is going to interrupt their business.

How to Create Password Protected Directory for Confidential Material

One important thing to do is to create password protected directories for confidential material that’s not available to public, but needs to be shared among team members. In this post I’ll go through how to create .htaccess files to protect your game files. I’m not going to go very deep on usage of .htaccess files in general, but I will tell you the basics you need to know to be able to keep unwanted people from your secret material. There’s also a small script that helps creating crypted password for .htaccess files. To be able to use this information, your web hosting provider must allow usage of .htaccess files for password protection.

Introduction
Basically the system is done like this. First you create a folder in your web server you want to protect (using for example some FTP program like SmartFTP. After you’ve created the folder you will need to put “password file” in your server, and then a .htaccess file to the directory you want to protect.

Step 1 – Create a password file
First you need to create a password file. Password file has no extension (like .txt or .exe), it’s simply a file that you can name like “mypassword”. There’s only one line in our password file. The idea of the password file is to store all usernames and passwords that are allowed to use your protected folder.

I made a small script to help you create crypted password: use this script to create line for your password file.

For example, try using the script above and put “testuser” and “testpass” to the username and password boxes. Then click “crypt password”. You should see a line like “testuser:$1$hKoP5FiQ$AMWwZ./TJusJX4oCCT9zs.” or something. Copy & paste that line to your “mypassword” file.

Step 2 – Put the password file in your server home directory
When you take FTP connection to your web server, you should see file structure like:

ftp.yourdomain.com:

public_html/
email/
www/
.bash
.mail

Put your “mypassword” file with these files. After you’ve done this, your home directory should look something like:

ftp.yourdomain.com:

public_html/
email/
www/
.bash
.mail
mypassword

Now you’ve uploaded the file and can proceed to the next step.

Step 3 – Create .htaccess file
The next step is to create a .htaccess file. Just open your editor and create a file named “.htaccess” (if your computer doesn’t allow you creating .htaccess file, then just create a file called “htaccess” without the dot in the beginning).

The contents of the file should be something like this:

AuthType Basic
AuthName “Protected folder”
AuthUserFile /home/someuser/mypassword
Require valid-user

Replace “someuser” to match your web hosting account name. Like for example, if you have own gamescompany.com then your web service provider might have created you web hosting account with username “gamescom”. Then your AuthUserFile line could look like this: “AuthUserFile /home/gamescom/mypassword”

Depending on your web host, the file content might be bit different. Google or check out wikipedia if you run into some problems. But for now, just create the file.

Step 4 – Create password protected folder and move .htaccess file there
Now you are ready to create a folder to your web server. Create a folder named “protected” and upload the .htaccess file into that folder. If you had to create htaccess file (without a dot in the beginning, then rename your “htaccess” file to “.htaccess” after you have uploaded it to the server).

Step 5 – All done
Now you can try testing your password protected folder. Simply go to www.yourwebsite.com/protected/ and it should ask for an username and password. Type “testuser” and “testpass” (the username and password you crypted in step 1) and you should be able to login. If the system asks password several times, type them several times (it’s bit picky whether you use “protected” or “protected/” in the URL) and you should be able to get in.

In case you encounter problems, check the following:

  • Make sure you typed your username and password correctly
  • Make sure you generated valid username and password (feel free to try crypting again if things don’t seem to work in the first time)
  • Make sure your .htaccess file is valid (consult your web hosting service provider in order to learn the valid format for it)

Finished
When you get things working, you can upload stuff in protected folders and share documents with other team members – safely.

Wii Competitor For PC?

No, at the moment there’s no direct competitor (in terms of control device) for Wii in PC, but yesterday I come to think about it: Wii’s “unique selling point” is most about the control device. The controlling device that brings “freedom” to movement. What if some manufacturer would build similar device for PC? Maybe Logitech or Microsoft could make a deal with some game publisher and bring a this kind of device to PC market? There’s already plenty of PCs out there, and the casual games market for PC has already been established, and there would be plenty of small indie developers interested in making casual games for Wii like controlling device. The device could cost much less than Wii – I presume anything within 50 to 100 euros range would be okay – so it could be a real challenger.

I wonder if somebody has already thought about this.

How to Find Artist For Your Game Project

Many teams struggle on finding artists for their game project. I think indie producers should go through 4 major steps that will help you find artist for your game.

[1] Do you really need an artist, yet?
Ask yourself: do you really need an artist for your project right now? Or could you use placeholders? Usually you don’t need game art in the beginning of the project. Try survive without real art before you really need it – because if you start getting art in the beginning there’s always the chance that you change plans, artist leaves or something else happens. If you have just started out the project, I really recommend to do a some sort of prototype before even thinking about getting artist into your team.

Get artist when you really need one.

[2] Don’t get as many people as possible in the team
Some teams start gathering “anybody that’s willing to contribute to the project”. While that might sound like a good idea, there’s two major problems with bigger teams:

  • Bigger teams means more management. More management means less time for actual development. That’s a big disadvantage.
  • Bigger teams means lesser royalties. The more people there are to share the cake, the smaller pieces is left for individuals. When doing serious projects that need to generate income, this can be a serious problem.

Be sure to find artist for a specific need, not “because it’s cool to have 20 people in the team”.

[3] Don’t try to find artists from a pool of programmers
If you’ve gone through steps 1 and 2 and decided to get an artist to the team, then be sure to know what places to check out. Some people post on programming forums and wonder why no artists respond. Consider this example: would you go to a bank to get a haircut?

Probably not. If you want to get a haircut you go to a barber. If you want to get programmers to your team, you go to programmer forums. If you want to get artists for your team you…

… naturally go to a place where artists are: artist forums rather than programming forums.

Probably some of the best places to go are CGTalk.com and ConceptArt.org. CGtalk is a website where all types of artist meet: 2D, 3D, concepts, etc. and with great variety of styles. There’s even a sub-forum for WIP/Critique: Game Art Design. ConceptArt.org is a great place filled with beautiful art and skilled artists. You can post your job postings to other forums as well, but be sure to mention about your project in art forums – since these are the best places to find artist in your team.

[4] Be open and give as much details about the project as possible
It’s very important to give lots of details and information about your project and your company or team. Tell people what kind of person you are after and what needs to be done. Tell about compensation. Tell if you want a project specific artist, or somebody to work also in the future. Put links to your game website. Show images or gameplay movies. If your post starts to get really big, then cut some parts and add links to external documents (such as a design document or project road map).

Here’s a checklist of items you could put in your post.

  • A headline, title or sentence where you describe what you are looking for (for example: “Wanted: 2D pixel artist to do 6 characters, paid position”)
  • Company or team name with a website URL
  • Game project name with a website URL
  • Brief 2-3 description about the game project – what’s the game project in a nutshell
  • More details about the game (genre, theme, main idea, snippets story, design, screenshots, gameplay movies)
  • Possibly link to game design document
  • Current team structure
  • Compensation (paid position? royalties?)
  • Description about the work that needs to be done
  • Qualities and skills that applicants should have
  • Mention that you want work examples (either links or attachments)
  • Mention if you need CV/Resume from applicants
  • Proof or past work (mention if you have finished projects earlier)
  • Technology
  • Target platforms
  • Contact info

In a nutshell: think about if you really need an artist yet, pick the artist for a specific need, go to a place where artists are and finally – make a proper announcement about what you are looking for.

Potential Game Distribution/Marketing/Publishing Partner Contacted Us

Some time ago I mentioned that I made a proposal to one company mentioning interested to make Edoiki match their product. After finishing steps one and two on getting response tactics I moved to phase three: I made a follow-up email.

That brought me results. They immediately responded and asked what the project would require from them. Again I must say that this doesn’t mean getting nowhere near making a deal with them, but at least it sounds much more promising that I’ve ever heard from company like them.

I keep you informed about what happens.