Thursday, July 21, 2016

Why Do Games Sell?

I stumbled upon this story on my news feed by accident, and it's already causing me to shake my head. It's one of those "well it has something to do with video games, so people will click on it" news reports that the station hopes will prompt people to click it. In doing so, there are no links to the actual article and such broad information that even non-gamers would have known the content and understood what was up.

Why am I talking about this? Because the source article has promise. It's a viable marketing study. Though it too lacks in details, the reason for the research is one of those gaming and sales conundrums that is exclusive to this media.

The question is pretty simple: Why do video games (consoles) sell?

I added in the 'consoles' since that seems to be the focus on the press release.

The original piece I'm not going to link to. DoNotLink.com is not working right now, and I'm not going to add to the news stations click rate. All you need to know is you can read the "news story" on your mobile phone without scrolling, and that popular games sell systems. As if we didn't already know that.

The study comes from the University of Texas at San Antonio, from the chair of the Marketing Department Suman Basuroy and Associate Professor Richard Gretz. The focus of the research and the release of the details coincides with the event 'Big Data, Big Movies' in Berlin, Germany later this year. From the synopsis, the study focused on multiple avenues on how video games move - more specifically how their sales help generate console purchases. Traditional marketing tactics like bundling games with systems (which is no different then getting a promotional movie toy in your McDonald's Happy Meal when you get to the core concept), and console exclusivity are the key drivers to people wanting to buy games, and the systems. Knowing that you can only get X game that's been promoted everywhere on the PS4 is enough to entice people to want that system.

I also found it interesting that they mention backwards compatibility being a turn-off for buyers, due to this notion that we want the "best and latest" hardware. Like mobile phones, we want the coolest one out right now. A 3 year old phone doesn't satisfy our needs. We want what's hot right now. Video games work the same way. Even to those of us from gaming days of ol' who want those features, it doesn't satisfy the majority of consumers.

I'd like to see more of the facts and figures behind this study. It's interesting to learn the mental aspects behind why people make their purchase decisions. What's involved? What neurons fire off in our brains? How can we rationalize having one of every console to play 2 games that are exclusive?

Speaking of which, Microsoft is still popping up in the news that they are making the transition from exclusives to having XBox One/PC integration. Whether that's true or not remains to be seen. But that could hurt their bottom line for future sales, if this study is any indication.

Based on my own observations in marketing, and having worked for a gaming retailer, I think it's a little bit of all of these features, and something more. There's a fervor with gamers that I haven't seen outside of the masses storming Wal-Mart and Target on Black Friday. Except with gamers, it's year-round. They see something that looks awesome, due to it's spiffy graphics, story-line, or it's from a developer they like, then they will stalk the product online/in stores. They have to have it before anyone else. The history of video game marketing has always been about "you get to be the cool kid on the block if you have it first!" I remember way back in the late 1980's, early 1990's, the TV ads for the Sega Genesis. Their sole purpose was to not be Nintendo. You are the baddest kid in town if you have a Sega! And we all bought into that notion. This mind-set has been further emphasized these days by offering pre-order bonuses, day one exclusives, and early unlocks in MMO's. You get to be "cool" all over again by having the game first. I don't know if the UTSA study will focus on this aspect, but I'd love to see this fleshed out more.

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