Old Spice’s New Champ

P&G has unleashed a new series of ads set up as the Old Spice Champ. The ads will be used to support of its Champion product line of products, with the tagline: “Believe in Your Smellf.”

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Social Company Goodgame Targeting 600 Employees By 2013

Goodgame Studios already has 200 personnel and is looking to add another 200 by the end of the year. The German company is hoping to push global product launches in the near future and have 600 new employees by the end of 2013.

“We don’t want to merely continue the success of Goodgame Studios, we want to give it a major boost,” COO Christian Wawrzinek said. “To continue to develop new, innovative products and increase our presence in the world’s major markets, we will be expanding in all areas. We are looking for people who love the product like we do, and with us will take Goodgame Studios to the very top.

“This growth plan is just an intermediary step,” added CEO Kai Wawrzinek. “We want to be one of the world’s largest game companies by the end of this decade.”

Facebook Purchases Patents From Microsoft

Facebook has announced that it will purchase hundreds of patents for $550 million from Microsoft. The 650 patents were recently purchased from AOL, a deal which also granted license to another 275 patents, for over $1 billion.

This deal is key for Facebook, which is being sued by Yahoo! for violating 10 of their patents, including several that cover online advertising technology. Facebook is also prepping an IPO that is anticipated could be worth around $100 billion.

Microsoft invested $240 million in Facebook in 2007 and the two companies have been close collaborations ever since. Facebook features search results from Microsoft’s Bing search engine as well as video chat technology provided by Microsoft’s Skype service.

Source: Reuters.com

Zynga CEO Wants Dog Icon ‘To Be More Recognizable Than A Nike Swoosh’

Mark Pincus has already achieved a lot in life as the head of Zynga, the most successful social gaming company in the U.S. However, he is aiming for the stars when it comes to his larger goals for Zynga.

“I want the dog, our dog icon, which was originally my dog Zynga, I want that icon, that brand, to be what I call a dial tone for play,” said Pincus. “I want it to be more recognizable than a Nike swoosh and mean something to you. If you see that on a game, it means it’s social, it means that it’s going to give you back more than what you put into it.”

“I’m very focused on delivering a positive return on investment for the user. If you play our games, if you give us 15 minutes a day, I’m hoping that we don’t just give you entertainment but we actually enhance the relationships in your life. I challenge our product teams that our games should let you meet one new person a day,” he added. “We are getting there. People are getting married through it. It’s a whole new way to date. What I hope is that we create one of these forever brands and experiences like Google, that people, you know, look for in their lives.”

Source: USA Today

Feature: Why Publisher 2.0 Is M.I.A. – Part 2

There is a single radical shift facing marketers and developers in the emerging digital game landscape. In the first article we covered opportunities in digital games and evidence that a lack of a new approach to publishing them is hindering growth. One shortcoming could be that not everyone recognizes this radical shift. It’s that many games in the digital distribution era are more akin to services than products, and that marketing a service has a set of different fundamentals.

The shift is very similar to when television emerged, adding to Hollywood’s annual slate of products a persistent service for filmed entertainment.

From the onset, it was apparent to TV networks that they would have to approach content development and marketing very differently than film. Their product was free to consume, with profit reliant on sponsors and advertisers. This gave a uniquely important role to audience analytics, which provided the means for broadcasters to prove the value of content. There was too much at stake for any room for error, and advertisers of powerful companies holding the money end of the stick. It didn’t take long for the industry to develop a single standard for analytics using Nielson ratings.

The ratings were projected estimates, yet they gave broadcasters a dramatic new tool to quantify viewership and thus set pricing for advertisers. Suddenly there was a need for mathematicians in the entertainment industry to do more than budget and count money. Statistics were influencing what got made, what got canceled, and how shows were packaged and promoted.

As shows came and went at a brisk pace, the networks needed some sense of consistency to their business. They needed a strategy for building audiences continuously while maintaining those they had the best they could. Nielsen was a good source of consumer research. Outside of development, it also helped networks measure how their service rated and made adjustments.

To build a following, however, these media companies had to approach marketing the same way Coca-Cola, McDonald’s and Ivory Soap were building loyal customer bases. Their marketing strategy revolved around branding. Performers, producers, programs, even the network as a whole were given personas. Tuning in was akin to joining their community. Tune out and you were bound to miss something. It’s why even today TV networks quite explicitly project a feeling of belonging, presenting shows and their stars as your extended social group.

That’s what it took for TV to attract a persistent stream of customers. To a game company or product in the digital marketplace that needs a persistent player base, some of the same fundamentals apply to you. It’s part of being a game publisher 2.0.

Forget Nielsen and its estimation. We have at our disposal enormous amounts of granular data on player behavior. We can track people all the way through the funnel, from awareness to purchase. More remarkably, for some games that means from impression to click to registration through download, log in and first in-game purchase. This allows us to make informed decisions on what content to make, how to price it, how to sell it, even how to promote it more efficiently.

As a career game marketer, once I began working on digital games, I was amazed how access to all of this data immediately changed the way I made decisions. In the console days of “fire and forget” marketing, we made educated guesses on messaging and placement and hoped it worked when we fired the product onto shelves for a few weeks.

With digital games, marketing spend and execution became a gradual exercise. I could roll out a campaign then test alternative multivariate creative or shift spend from one outlet to another, and use that agility to constantly maximize key performance indicators (KPI). I was always mindful of how much it was costing me to get someone into the game, otherwise known as cost per acquisition (CPA).

To have data like this to support every decision is a powerful drug. For me, it drove the desire to reduce CPA to as low as possible. That became my primary KPI. Seeing direct response to my marketing and employing different tactics to react to it brought out my inner Billy Mays. Acquiring users became a scientific exercise.

Looking back to the first few years of this kind of execution, I can now say it’s too narrow a view on marketing. Tactics driven by analytics alone, whether DR efforts or media referral plans, do not provide value to potential customers in the way the product is being marketed.

Start with branding. So many digital games are presented as commodities with such little personal attachment. It’s why people easily decide to move on to the next one with very little emotional attachment. If a player downloads your game because of an offer for a $25 free starter pack, and the game is free in the first place, what have you done to encourage them to stay? Unless the game is delivering an exceptionally engaging experience, the next game that offers them a free starter pack is all it takes for them to jump ship.

We need to give our potential customers a sense of ownership, the feeling that they are appreciated, that they are wanted. Making an emotional connection requires thinking of them as people, not consumers. Simply changing the way you talk about them is a good first step. Words such as “acquisition” and “discoverability” have a side effect in that they dehumanize what we do. At the end of the day we are selling entertainment, not Sham Wows.

We also need to entertain them in our marketing so that they believe us when we say our product or service is entertaining. And if we want them to stick around, then we need to empower them, engage them, listen and respond.

It goes farther for games as service-based products. For these games, there is no single launch towards which you build as big an audience as possible. All of the above begins in the lead-up to launch but then continues afterwards. The strategy needs to be consistent communications through a variety of channels, usually with the goal of growing the game’s player base gradually. Launch is not the window out for these games, it’s the door in.

The strategy also needs to surround the consumer via all appropriate channels. The importance of adding layers to the marketing message has never been more critical. Key is proper utilization of the three tiers of media: paid media, a.k.a. ads, owned media, which can be your game and its assets, such as a trailer, and earned media, whether PR or social. In the world of service marketing, the ability to combine communications through these multiple channels into one integrated campaign takes discipline, guts and planning.

Layered over all of this is building appeal with longevity in mind, again much more important for service marketing. Brand affinity is critical for this. Continuing from our television analogy, digital games can look to current great entertainment service brands such as HBO or Hulu for cues. These companies are constantly looking at metrics and trying to acquire, monetize and retain users. At the same time they build their brands as quality entertainment providers, and foster loyalty and a sense of community around their products.

Enough theories and anecdotes. Starting with the next article, we’ll look at companies who get it. We’ll delve into case studies for mobile, PC and social games from people who are blazing the trail into this new digital landscape. These are game makers who effectively executed campaigns with well thought out “performance-based” marketing that also factored in branding and customer loyalty.

Steve Fowler is a thirteen year veteran of the interactive entertainment industry. He is responsible for the brand identity and launch of the Halo franchise at Microsoft Corporation, Inc., and has held marketing and business development roles at Interplay, Sega Sammy Holdings, Inc., Square Enix, Inc., and Take-Two Interactive Software, Inc. He is the chief architect of the one of its kind annual industry conference the [a]list summit, and has been incubating new digital game publisher [a] list games internally at Ayzenberg Group for the past year. For more information on [a]list games, visit www.alistgames.com.

Bioshock Infinite — Announce Early, Advertise Often

Bioshock Infinite has seen several trailers, developer diaries, and exposes in gaming magazines and the game is still months away from releasing. Ken Levine says that the decision of getting info on the game out early was a marketing one.

“We probably would have announced it later, but we were worried about it leaking. We had a nice unintentional head fake, everyone thought we were working on this X-Com game, but we weren’t. It wasn’t what people expected,” Levine said. “Without our presentation, people would have gotten the wrong message about [Bioshock Infinite], it would have been confusing.”

Bioshock Infinite is a new take on an established franchise, pushing new characters in a new environment. Because of this, marketing has to help fill in the gaps for players so they know exactly what this new Bioshock game is about.

“I would have announced it significantly later if I wasn’t worried about that. We had this external factor. Generally, when you announce… f***ed if I know. Is there a science ” Levine asked Leonie Manshanden, the director of marketing for Irrational Games.

“Yes, there actually is, and it’s a very complicated formula that I cannot disclose,” she explained.

“In other words, no.” Levine countered.

To some, this drip-feed of information saturates information channels and detracts from the experience. “Many people are really hardcore and don’t want to know about it,” Levine said. The problem is that this sort of promotional campaign is necessary if you’re hoping to get through to the consumer. “If you step back, and this might not be a popular opinion, but compare how games are marketed versus movies. Look at the Hunger Games, a big movie. And Bioshock Infinite, a big game release. Or Call of Duty, look at the extreme examples. How many impressions do you think a Hunger Games gets on the average person versus Call of Duty How many opportunities are there to tell people about this cool thing ” He points out that games don’t get on the Tonight Show or get to do much marketing outside of the normal video game press. “We’re not covered in the New York Times in a major way, the way a movie would be. We’re not on the cover of Entertainment Weekly.”

“People overestimate how exposed games are, in comparison to other forms of media,” Levine said. The problem is that big name games with large budgets have to reach an audience that isn’t reading the gaming blogs on a daily basis. “There are maybe a million hardcore games, and Call of Duty is going to sell 25 million copies. You either find ways to reach the other [24 million] in ways you can’t normally, or repeat the imagery enough that when they go to IGN they might come across it.”

While it might be annoying to media-types that they end up getting exposed a lot to certain games, there’s no arguing with the benefits. Something like the simple “Heavy Hitter” series of videos, which are simple exposes on certain enemy types, were seen and talked about by hundreds of thousands of gamers, and that’s the sort of ROI marketers can live with.

“We’re asking them to spend a lot of money: $60. That’s a lot of money. It’s our responsibility to give them the information they need to make the purchasing decision,” Levine explained. “But at the end of the day, the last person you should listening to about making a buying decision about Bioshock Infinite is Ken Levine. I’m biased.”

Source: Penny Arcade {link no longer active}

Call Of Duty Veteran Founds Robotoki

The former Call of Duty creative strategist Robert Bowling has founded a new studio called Robotoki. The company will be self-funded, with the first game coming to consoles, PCs and mobile devices.

“We are focused on our team first and everything else second, because I believe as an industry we have a lot to learn on how to treat talent,” Bowling said. “I wanted to create an environment where the creative vision holders held complete control over their work and could guide and maintain it from concept to execution.”

“However, how they experience the world is unique to their device,” he added. “The mobile / tablet experience should not mimic the console or PC experience – it should be additive to it, not supplemental. Our focus is creating an experience that is no longer strictly single player, strictly co-op, or strictly multiplayer, but adapting the strengths of each of these into a unique experience that is fueled by the actions and contributions in each.”

Source: Robotoki.com {link no longer active}