hi introversion guys,
I just stumbled over your blog entry and I really feel sad about your economic situation. I hope it will get better.
However, I can understand, why things did not play out that well with multiwinia, the marketing was really bad.
First of all, i´m not a gamer kid. I play casually when I have a couple of hours and I´m bored. So this way I probably have a different perspective then most of the other users here (I´m also quite old
). I always liked your games, since they are a bit underground and creative and remind me of my good old days of atari and c64 gaming. I purchased all of the games and had great fun with each piece of software.
When it comes to multiwinia, the most annoying thing was the steam deal. I really looked forward to the game since I enjoyed darwinia so much, so I purchased it directly via credit card in your online shop a couple of days after the release. The lobby had a few players and I hoped it will fill up quickly. I got a couple of friends playing the demo, but then you offered the game via steam. There were major improvements in the steam version (achievements) which did not find their way to the original version. Even worse, there was no link to the player community, so there were basically two groups: the steam players (all of my friends) and the idiots, who purchased the original version after release (me).
I invited all of my friends to play multiwinia and now I´m not able to play against them. WTF?!
Don´t get me wrong, I´m not flaming here. Multiwinia is a great game and I wasted the whole summer 2008 playing it against the computer.
But opposed to Darwinia and Uplink, the game is a multiplayer game. it dies and lives with the community, that is playing it. it is simple, there are no upgrades, tech trees, sophisticated tactics or advanced micro in MW, so the whole fun comes with online play against other users. have a look at battlenet...there are still some nerds(including me), who play starcraft from time to time. the reason is not the game. it´s old and everyone knows the mechanics. the reason is community.
So while the game mechanics of MW are simply brilliant, the major flaw is the lack of a good lobby, so a large community can grow. I´m not saying here, that an introversionnet has to be constructed, that would be way to expensive, but if you knew the lobby, that came with the first release, you know, what I mean.
I completely stopped playing MW, since everyone is on steam and I really don´t want to purchase the game a second time. This really disappoints me.
For any other game, that will be released in the future I have the following suggestions. From my own experience as a marketer, I can tell, that a good product alone won´t make you money.
The most important thing is, that you get the avalanche rolling. You need to create a community, that is able to suck in new users (e.g. some of my friends told me about PKR, the online poker room. I´ve never heard of them before, but after a couple of weeks we were around 20 ppl. who played penny games regularly).
It´s fine to tell the hardcore fan community via magazines or blogs, that you are out with a new game, but those guys will buy the product anyway. You need to create a new customer base.
One way could be via online marketing. It´s the cheapest form. Spread out the word, employ a professional blogger, who crossposts all over the popular boards and blogs. No need to pay for ads, guerrillia marketing is free. If I wasn´t a satisfied customer looking forward to subversion, I wouldn´t even know of your blog.
That would be the first phase, the little snowball. To make the product popular, you need a fanbase, that sucks in newbies. A good online network (rankings, leagues and so on) is necessary for online games, an easy scenario builder for singleplayer games. I remember a crappy flash adventure, that got played a couple of million times per month, just because you were able to create your own levels and upload them to the website, so other players could solve them-->strong community-->word of mouth propaganda-->lots of clicks-->lots of money.
A special thing, that comes to my mind, is ingame advertising or sponsoring. especially with subversion this could be a cool way to make some money.
a city has so many natural advertising panels, that it would be a waste not to use them. Of course that does not mean, that you should place coke and IBM ads all over the place, but some well placed gamer specific brands won´t hurt the eye, but could the game look even more cool.
Depending on the gameplay, there are many more opportunities. For example, imagine a citymap powered by google earth. Or for example, let some architecture offices create buildings for the game and place their banners on those buildings. This could open up the game to a whole new target group (urban planners and architects). Even better, this could lead to a nice cross - marketing situation, where you don´t get money from the ingame ads, but your own brand is advertised on the architects websites. Actually, if you do a brainstorm, there will be many more ideas to advertise in a clever way, that even enriches the game.
Remember the car of Will Smith in IRobot?? For most people, it was a really cool feature of the movie...and noone cared, that it was constructed by the engineers of AUDI. Think about that.
I could imagine, that I get flamed to death by the idealists and hardcore fangroups here, who are against commercialising a niche product.
But on the other hand, if you had the choice of either introversion getting nuked by a shitload of debts or enjoying even more cool games of a finacially healthy company, what would you choose??
Finally I have to say, that you guys really make good software products, that are fun to play around with. You are very creative engineers. Why the hell don´t you get a guy, who does creative marketing for you. It doesn´t even have to be expensive. I once had a nice coup going for a start up online trading company. We stenciled the advertising text on pieces of old newspaper and payed two girls a couple of drinks in exchange for dealing out our flyers in a posh club. cost: 80.-€ all in (60.-€ for the drinks), revenue:about 120 leads for our customer...