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Today, most hard core online games have one thing in common – Their Demographic. The sweet spot for publishers, developers and marketeers of Hard Core online games is the 17 to 34 male demo. This demo is popularly referred to as Male Gen Y. One of the challenges my team and I faced while creating the marketing strategy for APB Reloaded was appeasing our target demographic. It is next to impossible to please a 20 year old male with raging hormones !!! We were absolutely lucky to find a partner in [a] list games who became our marketing agency for APB Reloaded. After months of brainstorming, the teams at [a] list and GamersFirst came up with the skeleton structure of the marketing content for APB Reloaded. What you will see below is genesis of this explosive campaign. I do hope you enjoy it !!

I always love a good Info-graphic ! Here is one from our business partner, Pando Networks, who are the leaders in Online Games distribution technologies. What is interesting is that in an economy where traditional / conventional industries are experiencing contraction in revenue, online gaming and Free2Play games are growing at enviable rates. It feels good to be an insider in this industry !

I was recently interviewed by Gamasutra about the Russian video games market. It was great to be featured in this article alongwith Gabe Newell of Valve and Peter Warman of Newzoo. Russia is one of the fastest growing markets for Online Games. Here is the link

 

Gamasutra – Features – Gunning For Russia: A Market Worth Investigating?.

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.

Warning – THIS IS A RANT !!!!

I have been reading quite a few blogs and articles, manufactured by some old school gaming journalists who like to beat down the Free2Play industry. (http://www.mmorpg.com/showFeature.cfm/loadFeature/3901/Whats-in-a-Name.html )
Their pet peeve seems to revolve around how Free2Play games are not really Free and ofcourse the hackneyed argument about how Free2Play games are not of the same quality as their surgically altered, plastic encrusted, retail cousins !!!

Free2Play Games are exactly that – Free to Play. You do not require to dish out any cash for a box and then, in some cases, get hit with an additional subscription fee – All this before you can shout WarCraft !! The Free2Play model has slowly yet surely changed the landscape of the video game industry. Last year saw a blood bath in the “traditional” “Cardboard-Plastic” packaged games market as gamers migrated in droves to the Free2Play model. Players can download a game like War Rock (www.gamersfirst.com/warrock) or Sword of the New World (www.gamersfirst.com/swordofthenewworld) , for free, and enjoy hours of fragelicious fun, without reaching for that other piece of plastic. Parents, struggling with an economy in a freakish Gran Turismo Tailspin, do not have to buy a $300 piece of Equipment to get that few hours of peaceful solitude while their kids indulge in some serious role playing !! Free2Play games offer the same escape, the same raw fun and the same indulgence as their bloated Pay to play cousins.

I am surprised the nomenclature of Free2Play gets a lot of the old school journo’s all worked up – Only because these games offer an option for a player to shortcut their level up process by spending a small amount of money via Microtransactions. I also do not see these “previous gen” bloggers giving any credit to the Free2Play industry for developing the offer based payment model which offers further options to gamers to “buy” items and premiums without actually having to pay for them. I do feel that the old school gaming industry still believes that Vinyl offers a more “Warmer” sound than the music you could download from iTunes !! These folks are dangerously poised to become another relic like the very industry which seems to be fading away in the sunset. Free2Play games are the future for this industry; an industry which seems to be struggling in doing what should have been done in the first place – Putting Gamers First !!!

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