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MI-6 Conference 2007: The early sessions

12:43 PM on 05.09.2007 // Ralph

Yesterday marked the first day of the MI-6 video game marketing conference held at the Grand Hyatt in San Francisco. The niche event was formed by a trade group "designed to support the video game industry's marketers and related professionals in seizing opportunities and meeting the challenges ahead." In other words, they've sold us the consoles ... now what?

MI-6's first session featured three industry middleweights: Midway, Ubisoft, and GameTap, with messaging focused on promoting high-profile title launches, building meaningful connections with gamers, and maximizing revenue beyond initial game launches. 

Hit the jump for a thorough brief of what went on yesterday. Yeah, yeah, I'm the new guy on assignment. Hello Destructoid!

MI-6 2007 Brief: Day 1

Session One: Game Marketing 2.0. "Get inspired by case studies on successful marketing campaigns with a focus on new media tactics such as user-generated content, community, and online." Moderators: Mona Hamilton, VP of Marketing at Midway Games; Tony Key, VP of Marketing at Ubisoft; and David Reid, VP of Marketing at GameTap."

  1. Mona Hamilton of Midway covered John Woo Presents: Stranglehold, the game-based sequel to Woo's classic Hong Kong epic Hard Boiled.  Inspector "Tequila" Yuen returns in a Max Payne-esque role doling out a Nuge-approved third-person whoopin' on Hong Kong & Chicago crime bosses.

    Following Hollywood's approach to blockbuster film launches, Stranglehold gorged itself on a cross-media smorgasboard, with heavy focus on Fox Interactive Media group properties.  Online, TV, and Outdoor ads aimed to drive pre-orders, a top-10 sales chart debut, and "greatest hits" sell-through.  Heavy user interaction followed including the "Create Your Own John Woo Movie" short film contest on MySpace (open through June 25th).  Collectively these efforts boosted the game's IGN GamerMetrics: Most Wanted Games rankings from 21st to 6th and 22nd to 8th between March and April for the respective PS3 and XBOX 360 categories.

    The message: think like Hollywood, "speak to the core & expand to the masses", and integrate media from all sides around a central idea.  With Stranglehold, Midway created a strong product with relevant promotional content and has targeted core users at the point of relevant content consumption.  They seem poised to drop a headlock on the third-person shooter genre this summer, and with Chow Yun Fat on board, this title should give the Motor City Madman something to do after varmint huntin'.

  2. Tony Key took the reigns from Ms. Hamilton and enlightened the capacity crowd with Ubisoft's "5 Rules of Virtual Combat" and a brief explanation thereto:

    1. Do Something Big: Be Original

    2. Collaborate with Experts: Get Good Vendors with quality inventory and best-in-class support

    3. Determine Success Metrics: Insist on the measurability of marketing efforts

    4. Drive Qualified Traffic: Content is key in driving traffic, but you need to pay for quality visitors

    5. Enable Discussion: User feedback is crucial, so present them with a forum to provide it

    In April, Ubisoft offered an exclusive map for GRAW2 through the XBOX Live Marketplace.  In exchange for the gratis download, the transaction linked gamers' XBOX Live account to an Ubisoft gamer account.  The linkage allows Ubisoft to engage with the franchise's core audience and to measure individual gamer usage, killing two birds with one 36K Carbine.

    As Nintendo & Sony chase down XBOX Live and as online gaming continues to flourish, we as connected gamers can expect greater levels of intrustion (strikethrough) bartering (strikethrough) compromise: our demo/psychographic information for premium/exclusive content.  Fair swap or shameless bribery?  If user info is strictly used to deliver higher quality & more relevant content, not to charge in & out-of-game advertisers a higher price for our eyeballs, then bring on the freebies.

  3. GameTap's David Reid closed the first session with an industry revenue analysis as digital distribution & online consumption become the rule in the space.

    Reid sees the industry moving towards Hollywood's model in which a significant share of a film's overall revenues occur after the theatrical release with DVD & Home Video sales, cable & network syndication, and online digital downloads.

    For certain well-received games, a greatest hits / jewel case / bundle price point follows the initial retail launch.  As broadband ubiquity continues, Reid envisions any number of the following steps in the sales evolution fitting any and all game titles produced:

    • Initial Retail Launch
    • Simultaneous or Delayed Digital Distribution Launch
    • Greatest Hits Launch (reduced price point)
    • Jewel Case or Bundle Launch (price point further reduced)
    • Subscription Service Inclusion (undetermined price point)
    • Ad-Supported Service Inclusion (free, with exposure to ads)

    Currently ad-supported gameplay is for Casual Online games but as online platforms support more graphics-intensive games, and as designers integrate ads in a less intrusive manner, we'll likely see popular console & PC titles available for free online gameplay.

    But wait a sec, is this just a ploy for publishers to make more money than they're already charging for games that consistently fail to launch on-time (and sometimes lack fully-baked, innovative features)?

    First, new revenue streams drive profits affording publishers & developers larger budgets for new game development.  Increased budgets allow developers to maximize available technology, push the innovation threshold, ensure quality in games, and ship titles on time, all of which result in better games.  This is good news.

    Second is elasticity: while you may not be willing to spend $60 for a game at its retail launch, or even $30 when it finds the Greatest Hits list, it might appeal to you as part of a $15/mo subscription service.  You might not be willing to pay anything to play yet another title, but if it's available free with ad support, why not give it a shot?  Higher demand for consuming games beyond the retail launch increases a publisher's return on their significant development investment, and we're back to the first point about profits.

    In most businesses, consumer choice and fair pricing drive successful revenue models.  Isn't it time this industry takes its act to the next level in offering gamers that which appeals to us at appropriate price & consumption points?  I'm just sayin'...
More to follow tomorrow on the keynote and afternoon sessions. I'm beat.


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