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Jonathan Blow: The Next Phase


January 23, 2009 Article Start Previous Page 2 of 4 Next
 

It's interesting going through Steam, and seeing lists of games I've barely even heard of, particularly from a lot of Eastern European developers, who presumably don't have a lot of money to throw around for marketing.

JB: Well, even on the Xbox, that happens, too, though, which is crazy. There are certainly some games on Live Arcade that are just bad, and shouldn't sell that many copies, in my opinion.

But there are some games on Live Arcade that are not bad that didn't really sell. And it's just because you do have to do a certain amount of getting the word out about your game, whether it's traditional marketing or just talking to people.

If you make sure it's a game that people want to talk about, then do interviews with them or whatever, or just anything.

But if you put something up, either on XBLA or Steam, and people don't have a reason why they might be interested in it, it could just disappear.

Have you learned anything about PR or kind of getting the word out? I imagine as a one-man shop you may not have lots of time to think about that sort of thing.

JB: Well, my strategy for Braid was just, I was going to make the game as interesting as possible. I don't like marketing, in a lot of ways, and I really don't like trying to sell people stuff.

So my strategy was just, I'm going to make a game that I think is really interesting, and that hopefully other people want to hear about, and then I'll talk to people about it, just saying the things that I think are interesting about it.

And if that helps get the word out, then great. But I won't ever feel dirty or guilty about having to say, "Oh! Come play my game, please!"

Certainly, for that game, it seems to have worked, because it has several things about it that people thought were cool, for one reason or another, and they wanted to hear about it. Next game, I don't know. We'll see.

The other thing that I learned is, of course, the classic internet thing that everybody learns, which is that if you do an interview or give a lecture, people will take the one sentence that they like the least and make it the headline, and everybody will flame you for being stupid and saying something that you didn't actually really say.

But that's just the peril of publicity on the internet. And the way to get around that is to never say anything substantive, right?

If I go to a PR training class, every question you ask me, I'll say, "Number None Incorporated is very interested in providing the best experience for its players."

Then all the interviews are going to be shit. And why should anybody listen to them? I wish that people on the internet understood that by engaging in that carnival, they're actively discouraging the content that they want, which is people being straight with them and saying useful stuff.

But not that many people realize that. And you can't, ever. That's never going to happen. People are never going to curtail the way they respond to things. So I just have to be cool with it. When controversies explode over something I didn't really say or didn't really think, I just say, "Okay. Great, guys."

Well, there is the attitude that all publicity is good publicity.

JB: I don't quite agree with that. It's easier to think that as a big company, but when it's your game and it's just you and another dude making it, it's about you.

If I was CEO of somewhere, 10 years later I could say, "Oh, that was just the company." But no. This is what I am doing at this point in time, and 10 years later it's still my own thing.

They are personal opinions ascribed directly to you, as opposed to an ambiguous entity that has any number of people employed.

JB: Exactly. So it's different. But I don't know that I would change the way I do anything. It's just that I have a much more acute picture of that whole process, of the way that the public reads things and responds to things.


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