Why listening to your customers will keep the brand alive till you are a grey haired Grandpa !

My team (Global Markets and PR)at GamersFirst has been through a whirlwind of Interviews with key gaming media across the world in the last few weeks. Almost all the media folks asked us this question:

“How will GamersFirst recreate the APB Brand, given that the first edition of the game did not live up to its full potential?”
• To me, simply put, this question reads as “How do you market a game which failed to sell 10 million copies the first time around ?!!”

The traditional retail driven gaming industry has been trying to answer this question since the failure of the arcade classic, Sundance (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sundance_(arcade_game)) The answer still evades some of the brightest execs in the games business. The traditional gaming industry has relied on internal brain trusts, media consultants and self proclaimed marketing experts for the answer, and 30 years later they continue their quest .

When we started this company, we sought to make a bold attempt to look elsewhere for this answer. In complete defiance of the traditional industry we sought this answer from the lowest common denominator – You, The Gamer. We were building a community of gamers around our flagship product, Knight Online World and the gamers were passionately telling us the What, Why and How of the marketing process. By putting the gamer first we started unraveling the true potential of the gaming ecosystem. Getting answers from you was a very liberating moment for us as marketers. You told us what you liked to read, what you liked to watch and more importantly what you thought was fun and cool. We didn’t always listen very well but we were eager and willing to learn. Over the past several years, with your help, we have built a community of 30 million gamers around our games like Knight Online, War Rock, Sword2, Hukumdar Online, Sonsuz Marcera and Aventura Eterna. We interact with you every day – We accept your brickbats and bouquets as an integral part of our marketing process.
As we evolved, your passionate involvement also became a critical piece in our content acquisition plans. In 2010 we acquired 2 exciting games – 9Dragons and APB. Both these acquisitions were driven by the simple premise – “how passionate and involved is their existing community?”

In the past couple weeks we have built up fan pages for these games on Facebook, Twitter and created forums as a way to open two-way communication with thousands of gamers who are communicating with us. When the 9Dragons community was abandoned by their publishers (http://www.gameindustry.com/ih/item.asp?id=3063 ) we had very little time to bring the game back up. The previous publisher of 9D did not hand over the player or game database to us or to the developer. We brought the game back to life in under 2 weeks. Now as we hit the 12 week mark since the re-launch of 9D, we have started the tedious process of character restorations which we will accomplish one player at a time. The 9D community was instrumental in this process as they told us what they wanted and albeit painfully, we are putting their ideas to action.

Like in the case of 9Dragons, we encourage you and all former APB players, to come aboard and start telling us what you want. Again, we may not get it right all the time but we will listen and make our best efforts to ignite your ideas into reality. You, our gaming community, define our marketing strategy for us. You will be the driving force behind making APB:Reloaded a successful brand. Despite the thousands of man-years of collective experience, which resides internally at GamersFirst we see ourselves as enablers and catalysts and not as marketing gurus. True knowledge resides in the community of gamers who experience the games on a daily basis.

The traditional box driven gaming industry and gaming media is very skeptical about our approach. That skepticism stems from fear! The traditional gaming industry has stopped growing – The Free2Play online games industry will be growing at 50% every year. All we did differently is remove the layers between the publisher and the gamer. We did this because we believe that all the answers we would ever need as a publisher and marketer reside in our community. All we have to do is listen and execute.

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