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Epic founder looks forward to marketing budget being used on dev instead
Epic founder looks forward to marketing budget being used on dev instead
February 14, 2013 | By Frank Cifaldi

February 14, 2013 | By Frank Cifaldi
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    21 comments
More: Console/PC, Indie, Business/Marketing



"Development budgets are going to be the dominant cost in the industry, and [increasing] the efficiency of building games will directly improve profitability."
- Epic Games founder Tim Sweeney looks forward to what he sees as an inevitable future for the games industry: one where marketing will become less necessary, and we can start putting that money into making better games.

"The market is inefficient now,” he recently told Edge. “You run ads on television so that people walk into a retail store, buy a piece of plastic and stick it into their digitally connected device.

"I think we have a lot of latitude – publishers and developers alike – to increase the efficiency of that. Once you have a game, it’s available pervasively online, and your devices are all Internet-connected, do you really need to run television ads to get people to find it at the top of the App Store?"


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Comments


Rodolfo Rosini
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Especially if said game is made with Unreal since Epic does not get a cut of the marketing budget.

Terry Matthes
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Jesus really? I think Tim Sweeny is referring to being able to hire more employees, have more dev hours and better hardware. If Epic wants more money from licensees they can just raise the license price. I also haven't seen a ton of TV ads for the unreal development kit detracting from their bottom line...

Pablo Simbana
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weird, I've been reading that sony has great exclusives yet fails in marketing them...

Ian Uniacke
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I would say Sony's exclusives sell better than I'd expect. After all there are great games but a vast number of them are quite niche and you'd never expect something like Journey to sell on the level of angry birds.

Marketing's not about "market spend = number of units sold" the formula is more like "^market spend = ^expectation of sales"

Andrew Grapsas
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Right. Once we're all digital we'll have to do... oh, what social does right now... purchase users :P

Thom Q
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Trust me, hardcopied media has also been bought by publishers for many years, for the same reason ;)

Mathieu MarquisBolduc
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Does that mean Epic will one day stop giving out those cool Unreal t-shirts at GDC? Dont cut the swag!

Mathieu MarquisBolduc
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Kidding aside, I havent had TV since the PS1 days. Are there a lot of game commercial nowadays?

scott anderson
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My favorite Epic GDC marketing tactic has been when they give you a "Unreal Engine" lanyard to replace the standard "Infernal Engine" lanyard if you go into their private booth.

Ron Dippold
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'do you really need to run television ads to get people to find it at the top of the App Store?'

If you're lucky enough to start out at the top of the App Store like Athena from Zeus's forehead, maybe not.

But just looking at the App Store (or XBLA or PSN), discoverability is an even worse problem now than it used to be. There's so much stuff competing for attention. You need to pull some crazy publicity stunt (Marketing!) or get lucky enough that a large traffic site does a feature on your game (Marketing!) or cross-market from your other successful titles (Marketing!). Generally though, only the hardcore even know something is coming out, and won't unless you get something in front of them.

Let's take a look at a recent game - Epic Mickey 2. That came out with almost no advertising support. Most of the people I talked to who'd played the first game had no idea the game was even out. As it was, that was a mercy, but since these people followed none of the usual gaming outlets, and don't normally go into Gamestop, they didn't realize.

Everyone makes fun of marketing people (me too, though mostly because most of them are just so bad at it), but I just can't see a scenario in which all your target audience will know your game is out without some form of marketing - and the more interconnected we get the worse it gets, not better, because the hose is much larger. You can certainly cut out the going into a retail store part.

Ian Uniacke
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I'm fairly sure he's talking about traditional marketing, such as billboards and direct advertising. This is evidenced by the fact that being featured in the apple store is a "form of marketing", but he clearly doesn't have a problem with that.

I believe the term marketing is used to broadly to be useful. There's a difference between hearing about something and aggressively being marketed to.

Greg Kurek
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I must agree with Ron.

I would have to add that aggressive TV advertising is still one of the best methods of wining attention of casual gamers or lazy ones for that matter. To find something on digital stores first people have to visit them. There is a broad range of non hardcore gamers who don't visit PSS, XBLA etc. on regular basis. The only way to get to them is by hitting directly in the face with ads. Wither the range, more people know about it right? TV is still huge in this matter.

Rachel Presser
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Ian hit the nail on the head: perhaps the traditional, big-money methods of advertising are going the way of the beeper and Zack Morris phone for most devs, but marketing *itself* isn't going away anytime soon.

We still need it, only difference is the rules of the game have changed and we're playing with a much bigger space. People being more interconnected has its bonuses and disadvantages that we all have to adapt to now. 20 years ago, it would've been all about buying airtime and space in magazines. Today it's how to work around discoverability issues with web-based stomping grounds.

Ron Dippold
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I am using 'traditional marketing' as 'you are paying someone to do some marketing/PR for you'. I don't care if it's on Facebook or Pintrest instead of on billboards or TV. It's still a paid third party advertisement. This is what he's getting at with his argument that you can spend the money on other things.

If you want to argue that technically Facebook ads are not traditional because it's not a physical billboard, or 'grass roots' talking up your game on webforums would not be possible 30 years ago, then yes, I will agree, but as far as impact on your game budgeting and strategy there is no difference.

What do you think you can do to market your game without paying anyone else to do it that all the other people with games to sell can't do? You can point at spectacular outlier successes like Minecraft, but unless you've got a revolutionary game and revolutionary business model I don't think you can do that. And honestly, chances are overwhelming your game is not. Don't believe your internal marketing/investor bullcrud there.


Terry Matthes
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I think TV ads are a huge waste of money for game companies. Kids games are the only place I can see them being useful. Your target demographic can't buy their own games and this is probably how their parents would find out about what's "new and cool". I have no idea who or how those expensive star studded Call of Duty ads are targeting.

Maria Jayne
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I wonder if "surplus" money from marketing would ever be spent on improving the quality of a games development. From a business perspective it would probably be more attractive to make another project than pour additional money into the development of an existing one. Since it's already clear if you can spend that much on not making the game, and still make a game, you don't necessarily need to spend more on it.

You can spend twice as much on making a game, that doesn't automatically make it twice as profitable. The recent failures of big Budget mmos prove just because you throw money at it, doesn't make it better.

James Coote
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The same could be said of any game. Why make one, when you can make two, each at half the size? Because it's better to give one game 100% of the marketing budget, rather than split it 50/50?

If you're not spending big on traditional marketing like adverts, but rather paying for the time of social media marketeers, there is less of a problem in having them split their time, or shift focus between games when relevant news and updates are flowing from one (whilst the other is still deep in development and not ready with any shiny screenshots or whatnot)

Perhaps also it allows developers to start off with a larger scope if they plan for a smaller marketing budget from the outset.

Maria Jayne
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@James "Because it's better to give one game 100% of the marketing budget, rather than split it 50/50?"

Is it though? there is obviously a point where you simply can't squeeze a 1:1+ profit out of the extra investment. I suppose I find the concept of putting all your eggs in one basket, when you suddenly find you have twice as many eggs, to be counter intuitive.

I'd rather publishers learned to spend their money more efficiently, than simply have more of it to spend. Some of the costs and sale targets they tout horrify me.

A W
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Do the game have to advertise the engines they are running on now in TV ads? I don't know because I haven't seen a TV add for a game in a while. I manly watch the news while I game or surf the net on the Wii U. Games don't advertise much unless its on a network friendly to it, like one that runs cartoons or anime.

Jim Butler
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The inefficiency Ian is quoted on is one of distribution, not marketing. As with the book publishing business, retail distribution of boxed games is on the way out. We're just waiting for the hardware to catch up (PC is already there). If retail doesn't find a way to add value by then, they're done.

As long as you're in a crowded market, you're going to use marketing to gain visibility...or be one of countless failed games that think good design is all that's needed to be successful. You start with good design and a fun game...and then drive gamers to an awesome product that they tell their friends about.

Elizer Wind
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Marketers just like Business people should be kept under control, to say the least, a leash! They don't bring any net benefits to the product. They're just middle men. I'm tired of seeing "Skill"-Company being run by any of those. It strangles the company's specialization and kills the industry... All Industries!


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