Positive video game press through viral 'opinion leadership'
Ensemble co-founder Tony Goodman explains in a new feature interview
how he laid the groundwork for the massive success of Age of Empires
by seeding the press with positive ideas about the game.
What put him onto this idea? "Magazines like to report massive blockbusters or colossal failures. Everything in between is not news."
"I don't like leaving marketing and public relations to chance, so while Microsoft was doing their public relations campaign, I did mine. The key was to get a 'first follower' -- a well-known opinion leader who is an early advocate of your product," says Goodman.
"I built relationships with the most recognized game magazines... I invested a lot of time with key editors, seeding the idea that Age of Empires
would be 'revolutionary' and would become a 'phenomenon'. They may not have believed me at first, but my goal wasn't to convince them. My goal was to plant wondrous possibilities in their brains and create anticipation, like Christmas for kids."
According to Goodman, seeding the press with these concepts paid off:
"When the first early previews began appearing, they were using the terms that we seeded: 'revolutionary' and 'phenomenal'. These early opinions were then picked up and echoed by other publications, creating a snowball effect. Eventually, all the publications would get on board with this message just so they didn't look out of touch."
The full interview, in which Goodman discusses the formation and early days of Ensemble
-- all the way through to its dissolution and the formation of Robot Entertainment, the successor to the Age of Empires
series -- is live now on Gamasutra.