[In this reprinted #altdevblogaday-opinion piece, Splash Damage's Dean Calver argues that release date timing is a poor excuse for low sales, and that marketing departments should spend a year pushing their games.]
A common argument from publishers recently, is that a titles success is dependent on its release date. The concept that if you release in the same week as "Huge IP 6: Return of the WW2 Zombies ", you're doomed to the bargain bin of life.
Most recently the same argument has been put forward
by 2K Games for the reason Bioshock 2
didn't sell as much as hoped.
So, is that it? Is the only thing that guarantees success or failure of smaller IPs, is the timing its released in?
Well, erm, no. Sorry, this is an excuse for a marketing mistake. If you produce a good game and market it correctly, timing is irrelevant (excluding date-specific tie-ins like the Olympics), because if it's good and has a presence, people will buy it at some point if you remind them.
is a great example, one of my favorite games of all time, and I have no idea when it was released. Being busy (like most adults), the game was released under my radar, but a few months later a few people still mentioned how good it was, and in particular a friend who I team play with a lot suggested it had awesome co-op. So, it was bought, and since then I've also bought all the DLC and Borderlands 2
is an instant buy… but probably not on day of release. I'll buy it when I can play it, when life, work, and friends meet with a gap in my schedule.
is a bad example. I loved Bioshock 1
(I even own two copies -- I played the 360 version first, and then bought it again on PC), but I don't own Bioshock 2
yet. There has been no chatter amongst my friends, no real excitement or suggestions I need to play this or any reminders. To be honest, I thought it hadn't been released yet.
As such, I haven't gotten round to it. I'm sure I will (in fact, the article will probably remind me to pick it up soon), but there has been no push to remind me that I should buy it. Mass Effect 2
did and was picked up but not in the week it came out. Even today, you're far more likely to hear someone mention how good Mass Effect 2
is, and if you hadn't played it, get a shocked look and "you must play this".
Everybody who play games sometimes gets excited by a title and wants it on the day of release. However, I bet most adults who play games don't only buy a game in week one and two. They will get it, if
they have heard good things, and are reminded when they have time to pick it up and play a game.
So, if 2K Games thinks it was the timing, it wasn't; it was your marketing. Remind me every month that it's out, and make it good so people are talking about it. Stop thinking that blowing your load in one week and then nothing else is a good marketing strategy; it's not, and I doubt it ever has been.
Games aren't films. They don't have a premiere, short movie release, DVD, then TV time depreciation.
Games release, and then stay as good as they were for at least a year. Some, use that fact, take you marketing budget, and split it into ten chunks over the year. Sure, your headline figures won't be as good, but if you have good word of mouth and reviews, you get ten chances to remind someone to pick it up, as fresh to the gamer as the day it was released!
[This piece was reprinted from #AltDevBlogADay, a shared blog initiative started by @mike_acton devoted to giving game developers of all disciplines a place to motivate each other to write regularly about their personal game development passions.]