I agree. You think about the 18 to 34 year old males that you know in your life, and you wouldn't say it's a homogenous group, would you? So why is that the intent to go after them is very homogenous?
TS: I think it's focus group dynamics. I always think when you get a bunch of 18 to 34 year old males in a room, there does tend to be this [tendency to] kind of zero in on certain things... There'll be one dominant person who'll say, "Oh, I wish there were more guns! I wanna shoot things!" And then all the people who have different tastes like that in the room just kind of shut down and get quiet. And you see everybody kind of like move towards this thing, like talking about how cool guns are.
That's just my [take]. I've watched these focus groups happen and people are afraid to say in some ways... Like even my two nephews, I see one of my nephews, he would be like -- in front of the older one -- he'd be all about Metal Gear and talking about shooting headshots and stuff like that.
But you get him by himself he'll talk about Mario Galaxy. He had this thing for more innocent games that are for younger -- like he'd still appreciate games that have happy stars twinkling and that kind of gameplay that I like.
The whole perception of that group effects how that group behaves in those sorts of situations. I don't know, it's complicated. What do I know about marketing? We always want to get mad at them. When you're in development, it's almost too easy to blame things on marketing.
Back in the earliest days at LucasArts we were always like, "Marketing should sell these games more!" I try not to do it just because it's so common.
You can't just make people buy games.
As much as people like to believe that, to an extent. It's funny. People tend to blame marketing in both ways. "Oh, they had the advantage of great marketing!" or "No one bought it because the marketing sucks!"
TS: And it's just not my field of expertise so I feel like, "Oh, I just kind of hope they just trust them to know what they're doing."
LP: I sort of feel like there's marketing which is -- like I agree with Tim, but I guess my thought on the matter is like supposedly if there is an art, or a craft, or a science to marketing, it's marketing a product as it is. It's not going into the inception of the product saying "it can only be done in this way." That's not marketing, that's creative directing a project to make the marketing job easier at the end of it.
I mean I've seen really unique [products]. In all sorts of industries you see stuff you've never heard of successfully marketed, that people didn't even know they wanted. So it's certainly possible to expand markets through clever marketing. And I'm no expert, but when it crosses a line to me, is when it starts coming in and they're focus testing an idea that's not even developed. There's really nothing of substance to focus test. It could be veiled excuses to stay on the conservative road.
TS: I would just like to get some of our own marketing at Double Fine. Like our own marketing that works closely with development, to be catered to what our games are good at, and figuring out how to market our kind of games. Sometimes at a publisher, they are just marketing your game like the last game they marketed.
Valve is very good at not just marketing their games, but, like, when Portal 2 got delayed, they had a very funny way of getting people to accept the delay. "Making games is hard," is what they said.
When you have an external PR person just messaging out a delay, you're not going to get that flavor and the personality. There's like a wall between the flavor and the personality of the developer that they're dealing with, and their audience. I don't think that wall should be there, particularly.
TS: It's like every time they work with a new publisher, I have to establish that I write my own quotes. [laughs] And that sounds really basic. But because in every press release that comes from the publisher, usually there's a quote from me in it and it's always like, "I'm excited to take this product to market!", like this really marketing-sounding quote, and I have to go, "Can I rewrite my quote?" and they're like, "What?! You want to? Okay!" And that's because I think if people got the whiff of marketing talk from my quote, they would feel like, "Okay, something's wrong here."
We're back to the question of the advantages and disadvantages of having a publisher. Obviously there are tremendous advantages for you to have a publisher, they'll spend money marketing your game, and they'll spend time and effort marketing your game, and they'll negotiate deals and do cert. They'll deal with Microsoft and Sony. But at the same time it puts a wall between you and your audience, and maybe something is lost there. I'm not speaking about THQ specifically.
TS: Yeah, I agree. The publisher is a great partner to have, is really valuable. A bad publisher is bad. That's one reason we did our own podcast. Not that we even know anything about doing a podcast, but at least it's like, "Okay, you're directly hearing us talking like we talk in the office about stuff that we care about." Because we want to have that direct connection with the people who play our games.
LP: Yeah, and I think some of the bigger studios can learn a lot from the indie guys, because the only option they have is a sort of like grassroots direct-to-consumer communication. And some of them have done really interesting things and really good jobs at it, and I think the trick for companies like us is figuring out how we can employ some of those same ideas but also while working with publishing partners.
We have employees and staff, and we can't do a slow burn for three years to build up hype. We need to pay people and make games. But there are still lessons to be learned there, I think there's definitely more we can do.
And I think Valve is a good example, they do a lot of good community management and they do smart promotions. Being able to basically control their biggest distribution channel doesn't hurt. You know the Steam stuff is brilliant, so good for them. I'm really glad they're around.