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#1 Posted by shivermetimbers (1616 posts) -

Okay so the title is kinda vague, let me try and make it a little more clearer.

Some of my favorite video games are meant to create discomfort and ask meaningful questions of the player. Silent Hill 2, Far Cry 2 (debatable), the launch version of No Man's Sky, Spec Ops the Line, the list goes on. By discomfort, I mean create a sense of loneliness, dread, and/or introspection that an interactive medium can provide. It's fairly easy to market a game as being fun. E3 is basically just all fun all the time. But a game like Silent Hill 2, a game that focuses on dread and atmosphere, isn't so easily marketable. Most of these types of games get popular via word of mouth and critic access. But let's pretend you have a marketing budget to work with and you have to make a presentation for E3 for No Man's Sky. A game that revels in it's aimlessness and loneliness and doesn't necessarily want the player to have fun.

Obviously, the folks at Hello Games made the game out to be this big open ended adventure with lots of fun choices on how the player can interact with it and it ended up ruining their reputation. But honestly? I don't envy them the task. I don't think that a game in which the concept of existing in a universe alone in which you do repetitive activities over and over again with a storyline centered around finding meaning and purpose in the mundane is really marketable at all. I'm prepared for the comments saying I'm grasping at straws here and that NMS is an exercise in marketing deception and farce, but humor me here. If the original vision and intent was to create an exercise in finding purpose in a beautiful universe in which you do mundane crafting and survival to get by, how would you go about marketing it? It is purposefully not fun and unappealing.

This thread ended up being about No Man's Sky more than anything, but I think it's a great example of a game designed to be not fun that got a big marketing spotlight that ended up ruining the reputation of its creators so hard that they basically made into the fun game they initially promised. I'll get a lot of comments here saying that the game shouldn't be the way it is designed at all at launch, but that isn't the point of the thread. If you were hired to market the game at something like E3, regardless of how you felt the quality and intent was, what would you do? Being honest and upfront about its intent doesn't make a flashy and interesting show and that's what marketing is in general.

Think it over if you want. :)

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#2 Posted by Gamer_152 (14692 posts) -

I think this is somewhat a complicated question to answer because the answer comes out very differently based on whether you think that the marketing should accurately represent the game or whether it should sell copies. Because from the consumer side, we want marketing to be as accurate to the product as possible, but if you are someone who's working in marketing then your job is to sell units, and that's it. Lots of money made = success; little money made = failure, accuracy be damned. From the marketer's perspective, No Man's Sky wasn't a marketing failure because the game sold gangbusters. Now, if you're talking to a pretty niche community, then the best marketing strategy is probably to be very in-depth and transparent, but for an audience any wider than that, the industry basically has a standard which works: Create narratives in the marketing where appropriate even if there are no explicit narratives in the game, make it look as eventful and action-filled as possible, leverage the popularity of other brands associated with the product.

If, however, we're talking about communicating a hypothetical game to an audience in an entirely accurate way, then the answer, at least to the question in the title of the thread, is very dependent on the type of game. There are way more ways to create games outside of the "fun" mould than there are within it, and so way more different things you're going to end up communicating for those games. For a Silent Hill-type game, I think the best you could do is create a small scene of the character discovering something disturbing and then show how it's represented through the environment and perhaps the enemies. For a game like No Man's Sky, show the beautiful vistas and a player's tiny discovery. For a game like Spec Ops: The Line, you basically can't market it. The game's a deliberate bait-and-switch and so you can't tip your hand before the player's actually bought it; the best thing you can do is make them actually believe it's a gung-ho military shooter. I'd emphasise though that even any of these hypothetical marketing materials would probably only give a tiny window into the game itself, because marketing formats weren't primarily developed to educate, they were primarily developed to sell products.

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#3 Posted by NTM (11372 posts) -

No matter what, even if it's a game that deals with themes that aren't meant to be 'fun', aren't game creators still trying to make an experience that's entertaining and/or interesting one way or another? You simply market the game as what it's trying to be and hope people are into it. I'm not sure that any developers go into making a game thinking 'this game isn't going to be fun, and it's not meant to be, but 'enjoy'". More than a few times in the past developers have seemed to market their game as something it isn't exactly though. People enjoy being scared by games or seeing disturbing things in games, that's 'enjoyable' in a way. To enjoy something doesn't just mean enjoying it for one reason.

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#4 Posted by shivermetimbers (1616 posts) -

@gamer_152 I think it's very complicated question to answer, but I like these types of topics. There's a lot that goes into it. And you got to the point right away, marketing is manipulative and meant to sell copies, it's not meant to be accurate. I was kinda purposefully talking in hypotheticals to try and usher in that response.

I was gonna make a blog thing on the whole NMS marketing situation because while that game did sell like crazy, it really did force the devs into a situation where their reputation might've been more important than their profits. Which is why I assume they're changing the game to be more accessible. The reason I didn't do that is because I didn't think that it would garner much discussion.

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#5 Posted by KingBonesaw (1257 posts) -

*Insert game director name here* is going to make you their bitch.

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#6 Edited by Justin258 (15421 posts) -

I seem to recall Resident Evil VII's reveal just being a bit where a dude walked into a spooky, nasty house and stuff just kept getting spookier and creepier for a few minutes. That's a good way for survival horror games to catch someone's eye - give a tiny vignette representing what the game is and what its tone is aiming for.

No matter what, your Silent Hills of the world aren't going to sell amazingly well so find a way to catch the attention of the people who will play it and they'll hype it up for themselves and hopefully bring some people in with them.

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#7 Posted by soimadeanaccount (582 posts) -

It might sound pretentious, but I think the prerequisite question is what is and isn't fun, for the individual. The Fun vs Enjoyment discussion is a good start, obviously there's also the issue of marketing to maximize profits.

I have never played NMS, so take that into account, but from what I can see the game is pretty much exactly what I expect it to be. A procedurally generated world where the point is to explore and to see the sights. Rather they were successful in making it engaging or enjoyable for the player is a separate discussion.

For horror games, the enjoyment part might very well be "this game will make you shit your pants." For pixel perfect platformers it could just be "this game is hard as hell." Depending on the player's tastes these could either sound terrible, meh, or fun as hell.

From a story perspectives, tragedies and tearjerkers have existed and remains popular for a long time, not necessarily fun, but definitely have their appeal.

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#8 Edited by Rejizzle (975 posts) -

I think you just go the Metal Gear Solid 2 route and just lie out your ass. Like seriously, do just enough not to be sued for false advertising and lie out your ass. Players who want the experience will find it eventually, and maybe you'll turn some heads along the way.

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#9 Posted by TheHT (15665 posts) -

By not talking about fun.

I don't go to watch a serious tear-jerker drama because they advertise a good time. Sell your game's mood, vibe, aesthetics, narrative.

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#10 Posted by nutter (1403 posts) -

I mean, it depends on who you’re marketing to.

In the US, movies have their endings changed to make them more palatable all the time. Sometimes, there’s a noticable dissonance in a film’s end. Get Out and The Descent are two recent examples.

Both those movies end, and you have the Fred Savage/Princess Bride moment of “No, grandpa, that’s not how this story goes.”

Both those movies were billed as horror, but the endings were too bleak for US audiances, somehow.

Anyhow, I’d guess you market them like Gears of War or The Last of Us’ campaigns. Release something indicitive of the product. Make it moody, maybe a little deceptively arty...communicate to folks what they’re getting to get the right audiance and positive feedback.

Also, I thought that part of what made Spec Ops: The Line so effective is that it WAS a fun modern military shooter. You enjoyed shooting random dudes in the face, laughing about action nonsense, and they slowly peeled back the fun and actively attacked you for enjoying what you were doing. That game, to land effectively, almost needs to be marketed like a Call of Duty for the prestige, so to speak, to be impactful.

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#11 Posted by soulcake (2321 posts) -

Isnt miss marketing illegale promesing stuff your product wont do? If they took a more honest take on there marketing. Those devs woudnt be in the shithole there in now thanks SONY!

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#12 Posted by Brian3dw (98 posts) -
  • Open on planet with earth like features (grass/trees)
    • player mining one of those huge shiny elements and all the chunks flying towards the camera.
    • open inventory (make it instant) toggle 2 spaces over and craft increased jetpack capacity.
    • cut to player boosting backwards away from remains of large element mining point.
    • while boosting player view pans across the horizon stopping on view of astronauts spaceship centered.
    • player lands just by the ship. Opens and hops in.
    • as the ship engine starts; that robot lady says something about oxygen restored.
    • fly out of the atmosphere and cheat an edit to very quickly head into the neighboring planets atmosphere.
    • 2nd planet features come into view and its a butt ugly planet that looks like it is not hospitable.
    • player begins decent for landing and the camera detaches from the ship now watching the player lower to the ground for a landing.
    • camera flys back out of 2nd planets atmosphere and the atmosphere trails transition to(t)
    • end trailer with the (t)current game loading screen (flying through galaxy) played in reverse closing on the title-
    • No Man's Sky
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#13 Posted by Brackstone (774 posts) -

I think that all your examples do have something that is fun, it's just not necessarily the focus. Silent Hill 2 is still a horror game, and lots of people find being frightened fun. Kane and Lynch and Spec Ops: The Line lean into their action. Something like Stalker: Shadow of Chernobyl can lean on both the action, the horror and the mystery of what's going on. Pathologic is maybe the most difficult game to market as fun, but even then you can maybe lean on the whodunnit, small town mystery aspects.

Basically, even if a game is intentionally designed to be unpleasant in some way, usually there's something fun in there, it's just contextualized in an unpleasant way or rooted in unpleasant circumstances.

I kind of get what you're saying about No Man's Sky being unpleasant, but I don't really think it counts as intentionally hostile or unfun design. Many of the hostile elements of the design are more likely because ultimately it's an indie game, they just couldn't do certain things before release, or designed other aspects unsuccessfully.

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#14 Posted by The_Greg (454 posts) -

The holocaust isn't fun but Schindler's List is an incredible movie.

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#15 Posted by cikame (2469 posts) -
Loading Video...

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#16 Posted by Nixamo (59 posts) -

Hey Silvia Plath fans!

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#17 Posted by hermes (2533 posts) -

I think "fun" as a word is really restrictive. It implies joy and enjoyment in a purely positive and blissful experience, but a lot of entertainment are not meant to be fun like that.

Have you ever seen a movie that made you scared? A book that made you uncomfortable? A song that made you melancholic? Even when I would not call any of those experiences "fun", I would still describe them as entertaining, interesting, enjoyable and probably deeper than just "fun". However, it seems like video games are locked in this state were the only response people expect is "fun" (probably because of the "games" in the title), and people react negatively to something implying "its not about having fun", like "boredom" and "not fun" were synonyms.

So, I would avoid the idea of selling on the "fun" of the game when "entertaining for some people" is a lot better. Make it enjoyable for the audience, but be honest about what you want to accomplish, what you want people to feel... Choose a mood and stick to it. That doesn't mean it can't have fun parts (like Persona 4), but you shouldn't actively lie to the audience and it can't try to be everything for everyone. That was the single biggest failure of NMS's marketing.

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#18 Edited by Sweep (10488 posts) -

A better example would be something like Gone Home. How do you market that game in 2018? It doesn't have great graphics, and a large chunk of the game is in lengthy audiologs.

I guess by "market" we're also exclusively thinking about trailers and screenshots. There's other types of marketing.

The answer is, unfortunately, "influencers". Eurgh.

If you want exposure then you send out free copies and invite journalists to lengthy play sessions. You rely on word of mouth, combined with a super flexible embargo, to instigate and promote discussion surrounding the game. For games like Gone Home this was more effective than any trailer.

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#19 Edited by ltcolumbo (101 posts) -

Slap “Xbox One Exclusive!” on the case and call it a campaign.

Edit: that’s a joke, son, or at least a sorry attempt at one.

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#20 Posted by Jaalmo (1721 posts) -

It would be a niche market and it would have to built out of passion first rather than profit. You would realistically, hope that it gains traction towards the gaming press so it can be spread around. I can't imagine major publishers ever developing such a game.

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#21 Posted by ShaggE (9083 posts) -

A live-action ad in which a bunch of kids are bored and sitting around the living room talking about how they're so sick of *generic fictional game*. Suddenly, a hip skater guy violently smashes through the front door while a guitar riff plays. "Hey, dudes! Sounds like you guys could use an emotionally taxing journey through the broken psyche of a man on the edge!*

Suddenly, a montage of the kids excitedly weeping and discussing thematic parallels to the works of Dostoyevsky.

Cut back to the skater guy, standing among front door debris as he smirks at the camera. "Looks like my work is done here!"

Another sick guitar riff as the game title explodes onto the screen.

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#22 Posted by poobumbutt (924 posts) -

@ntm: Yep. This.

Also, [insert Quantic Dream joke here].

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#23 Posted by Gamer_152 (14692 posts) -

@shivermetimbers: The No Man's Sky discussion is weird in that I feel like it went on for a very long time, but that a lot of solid conclusions didn't come out of it. Particularly, there was this sense that No Man's Sky's problems were entirely down to the team behind it as individuals, and while the exact case of that game is pretty unique, it obviously hooks into a lot of larger issues that don't get confronted in games. E.g. As we're discussing now, how marketing is an industry that implicitly rewards deception. I think there was a hit to Hello Games' reputation, but I think we sometimes over-estimate how relevant the scandals of the industry are to the wider public. I think that if their name was disgraced that badly, No Man's Sky wouldn't have been a commercial success. This situation is also complicated by the way they're updating the game now meaning that it could end up a lot closer to the original marketing than it did when it released. For some really good discussion on misleading marketing and buzz around games, including No Man's Sky, I'd recommend listening to Episode #149 of Waypoint Radio: No Man's Ad Buy.

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#24 Posted by j-mack (78 posts) -

I need to head to bed so I can't get into it much, but I wanted to toss some names in that are maybe getting overlooked in the "not fun" category. Paper's Please highlighted the monotony as did the precursor vendor game. Gone Home centered on the serious drama, Neverending Nightmares, like horror films advertised the unease of the art and gore. I haven't played the following buy you have brutal resource management games meant to invoke a desperate survival scenario like Gods Will Be Watching, This War of Mine, Frostpunk, and Tharsis. Also all pixel hunter adventure games Had to include a joke one.

PS. I'd suggest No Man's Sky was intended to be fun, but missed the mark. I suspect the infamous demo are inspirational rather than deceitful.

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#26 Posted by Raven10 (2253 posts) -

So I think the key here is that fun is not the only emotion games can provide. Is it fun to watch a dark, tragic movie like Mystic River, or Room, or other harsh, brutal films? Maybe not in the traditional sense. But people do watch them. And the marketing doesn't lie about their nature. People enjoy numerous different experiences when it comes to narrative media. Some people enjoy reading Dickens. Some just like reading James Patterson novels. The real question for a creator is less how do you market this to the customer and more how do you market it to a financer. And in most cases you need to be very careful in managing your budget if you know you are going to have a limited audience.

A great example in film are the films of Blumhouse Productions which include numerous horror films and a smattering of other genre titles. Now if you look at their output, Blumhouse films(Paranormal Activity, Insidious, The Purge, and more are their work) have made less money in the last decade combined than Black Panther made alone. But they also cost less than 0.1% as much to produce. The key is knowing your audience and budgeting realistically based on that audience.

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#27 Posted by dudeglove (13534 posts) -

The design philosophy doesn't matter. The point is to sell the thing. So you market it out the ass, and if possible also lie out your ass.

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#28 Posted by MonkeyKing1969 (7274 posts) -

This is not directed at the author of this thread or anyone else; it just and aside provoked by the title.

I always wince when people say video games are supposed to be fun. Because I think what they are supposed to do is be engaging - to absorb, engross, interest, or entertain. A game can be depressing, yet engage you deeply. A game can be psychedelic to show you something novel. Or, yes, a game can be fun to absorb you into its joy. There is nothing wrong with a game that is fun, but not all games hold taht title well.

In fact, as I think about games very broadly -in all their forms- from board games to card games, to games played on grass or a hardwood court; I think the least usedadjective would be fun. Truly, the best words to use for the "feeling" that comes from firing your neurons as you make mental tactical/strategic choices or make physicals moves of yourself or play-tokens, is engaged, absorbed, engrossed, interested, or entertained.

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#29 Posted by huntad (2407 posts) -

"Prepare to Die" (play off of the strengths of the game in your marketing)

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#30 Posted by HellBrendy (1290 posts) -

Sell the game for what it is. Saying Silent Hill is fun only creates backlash when the people who buys it only finds horror, complaints online and no one else buys the game. And you’ll lose potential horror game fans in the process.

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#32 Posted by uhtaree (944 posts) -

"From the makers of Dark Souls"

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#33 Posted by HarbinLights (181 posts) -

I see the Dark Souls references I was going to make have already been taken.

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#34 Posted by Morka (211 posts) -

I would market it just like that new Command & Conquer mobile game.