EA's Marketing For Dead Space 3 Is Another Reason The Video Game Industry Sucks

By William Usher 2012-07-20 18:46:02 discussion comments
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Let's just cut through all the bull-crap, all the PR-spiel, all the boilerplate jargon, the marketing agendas and the phoney-as-a-celebrity's-boobs fact sheets and just talk about the giant elephant in the room for what it is: Electronic Art's marketing, especially right now for Dead Space 3, is one of the reasons core gamers honestly think the industry needs to crash.

To be honest, we could replace Dead Space 3 with Tomb Raider or Call of Duty: Black Ops 2, or any other blockbuster, AAA, talking-point game used as a cover-agenda for nothing else but to boost bottom line revenue and hopefully turn a profit for a company desperately in need of a huge sales boost, and the argument could be the same. The main problem is marketing.

If you're not quite following what I'm talking about, it's okay, I'll slow it down and explain it point by point.

So a short while ago Electronic Arts went on a media tirade promoting Dead Space 3, the upcoming horror-survival game. They've been billing it as this "broadly appealing" co-op shooter that the market desperately needs, because...you know, we don't have enough co-op shooters. This marketing blitz came shortly after the Dead Space 3 presentation at E3 which was met with a ton of hostility from horror fans who felt that the series had become a sellout and "just another shooter". So if you don't remember, here are the articles about the broadly appealing sentiment and another article about the game needing to sell 5 million copies to be considered a success.

Now in the midst of all that marketing jargon to convince people that Dead Space 3 needs to be the next Gears of War, there was another PR-talking point that managed to find its way onto the net-waves. Over at Gamasutra, back on June 11th, they originally ran the story about Dead Space 3's co-op and how the first two games were "too scary" and EA wanted co-op to balance out the experience. All right, no probs there right? Well, a month later MCV UK runs a story and says the exact same thing that Gamasutra said -- it's the same PR jargon from the same PR person. Websites run the story the same as they did when Gamasutra ran the story. It's the same thing.

Well, now all of a sudden there is a furor and the gaming media has failed, why? Because Penny Arcade says so. They're saying people are twisting EA's already twisted-PR jargon because headlines saying that the game was "too scary" is contextually incorrect. Oh boy, the gaming industry reiterates jargon that the fans react to negatively and its the gaming media's fault this time? That's new.

Now let's clarify this here so everyone has a sound understanding of what's going on: EA's PR makes some comments about why they added a feature to the game. Websites run the story based on the comments. Penny Arcade believes gaming websites, out of neglect of gathering proper info, have screwed the pooch and twisted EA's words. Take note, here is the quote from the Gamasutra article back in June...
... in examining the audience for the Dead Space brand, a study revealed that one limitation that might be preventing the critically-acclaimed title from breaking out into the wider mainstream in a big way was that it was just too scary for many people to play alone. Audiences enjoy horror and thrills, but jump-out-of-your-seat experiences are commonly shared with friends or significant others.

And now here is the quote from the MCV UK article with EA's marketing boss Laura Miele, where she states...
“We were hearing feedback that they love the thriller game, but it was pretty scary, and the obvious next step was that they wanted to play with someone. So we introduced co-op into the game.

“The horror of Dead Space is still all there. It’s still true to its roots and no less scary, but people felt far more comfortable playing it with someone else than they did doing it on their own."

I'm not sure why Penny Arcade has their panties in a bunch, but that ties into what was stated a month earlier according to the marketing data that was presented in the Gamasutra article. EA is relying on focus group testing and marketing surveys to gauge interest in the game and the general consensus is that with co-op the game isn't as scary and this can help broaden the game's appeal. Am I missing something here? Gaming media actually got it right, for once.

I don't blame MCV UK, Gamasutra, Penny Arcade or all the recycled headlines by every other me-too blog out there. I blame EA's marketing. The piss-poor Hollywood blockbuster-wannabe marketing campaign is the reason fans are even up in angst over the whole thing. No one wanted focus group testing to interfere with the game and horror fans like Dead Space just the way it is. What did fans want? They just wanted a better version of the same thing. This is usually how it is for every sequel in a niche genre: just make it better.

But oh no, we have to have overbloated marketing so that a game can sell 5 million copies. We need bigger guns, more one-liners, we need a token black guy, a hot love-interest, an obnoxious boss and a few kill-off teammates, we need ridiculous boss fights where we don't really get to play but rather watch amid a few quick-time button presses here and there. Ultimately, Dead Space suffers from the same thing that Resident Evil 6 is suffering from and the same thing that Mass Effect 3 suffered from: marketing for mass appeal.

This marketing from companies like EA, Activision, Ubisoft and other AAA companies is all about spreading talking-points for community interest where the marketing for the game is usually bigger than the game itself. In most cases, the entire game can be summed up in a series of its own trailers played in chronological order from the debut teaser to the launch day trailer.

It's become sad that companies don't just promote games for what they are instead of trying to sell us services and products representing what a game is not. Right now, the real success story in the gaming industry is the DayZ mod for Bohemia Interactive's Arma II...a mod full of bugs and glitches and still in its alpha. Why then is it a success story? Because the experience is selling itself. Word of mouth is selling the game and the idea that it's not another force-fed Hollywood blockbuster wannabe has garnered it massive attention and interest. There's no over-bloated marketing, there are no fake Christian protests or fake gay-agenda campaigns, or ridiculous shill trolling. It's a novel concept selling itself.

Now if only we could get the publishers who actually have money to make good games at moderate production values and let a few trailers, some interviews, dev diaries and word of mouth do the rest.
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