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On Marketing in the Games Industry

Recently, the gaming community has become infatuated with a new piece of marketing: The Phantom Pain. Specifically, the incident in question revolves around an interview that Geoff Keighley had with the supposed CEO of Moby Dick Studios, Joakim Mogren. The CEO showed up on the screen with bandages covering his face, revealing very little information beyond an "accidental" moment where a screenshot had the FOX Engine logo on it. There are many that believe the CEO to be completely CGI, a fake. His first name is an anagram for Kojima, referencing the director of the Metal Gear Solid series. There are those who filled in the lines on the logo for The Phantom Pain and found it shows "Metal Gear Solid V" as fitting into the absent spaces.

Speculation after speculation - it's one way to get people talking about your game. However, is it all necessary? Is the elaborate circus show that is being put on genuinely worth the money put into it?

The name "Metal Gear Solid" carries with it a certain selling point. All you have to do is merely mention the words "Metal Gear Solid 5" and there are plenty of people out there who will cream their pants in over-orgasmic excitement. When a name like that is as heralded in a particular industry, do you really need this massive ruse in order to sell your game? At some point, it feels like the real purpose is missing here: the game.

Then again, this is Kojima's "thing." He likes the attention. He likes to play mind tricks, right? He has a flair for the overdramatic that few in this industry can really accomplish on such a massive scale. When his name is mentioned as being involved with a project, there's a fever pitch of humid tension in the air that cannot be denied. The franchise he gave birth to (and many would argue pushes the envelopes of what each console generation since the PS1 has been capable of) has been widely praised in almost all of its formats.

In turn, this begs the question: why go through such a huge PR stunt in order to unveil what people already know? It wreaks of pretention and narcissism in ways that would make David Cage or even Denis Dyack do a double take. People say "it's fun, so stfu about it," but I'm trying to understand where the fun of the marketing meets against any other specific walls, like making a video game itself.

No, I do not have the numbers for how much the marketing on The Phantom Pain has been at this point. However, I'm willing to wager that Konami could have possibly hired on some extra people and created jobs with it. They possibly could have had some funding to push for a smaller original IP. The money put into this marketing could have been used towards things far more productive. Instead, they were used to put on a fake interview...with a possibly CGI person...about a game that people already know is Metal Gear Solid 5...

Yes, it's funny, but in a climate where game studios (and even publishers for that matter) are being shut down on a regular basis, this type of hubris just seems like a massive slap in the face honestly. Let's be honest for a moment: if Konami did not have Kojima and the Metal Gear franchise, where would they be right now? Most likely, the answer is "the way of THQ." I cannot think of a single other franchise (save Castlevania...but again, let's be honest with ourselves) that Konami has under their belt which is successful enough to keep them afloat. Mind you, I don't pay attention to the Japanese market, which is obviously where their primary business would be.

In the end, I feel like an old fart shitting on some young kid's joyous day with all of this, but it needs to be said. These words need to be committed to some form of permanence, and while I'm just some regular ass dood on the internet pointing things out with my keyboard at hand, it doesn't make them any less true.

When does the marketing mean more than the game itself?

We haven't seen anything more than a trailer and an interview with a person that is possibly faked with CGI, and all of that shows me one thing: graphical power. Let me clearly state this: I could give a fuck less about your graphics. It's great and fantastic that you can make things look more photo-realistic. However, that's not what I'm here for. Sure, it'll mean all those wet-dream self-important cutscenes that Kojima loves to load his games down with will look all shiny, but what about the game?

You know what would be far more revelatory, far more interesting? Kojima walks out on stage, unveils the game as MGS5, and announces that Cliffy B. IS the head director on it. Not only would I be vastly more interested because it might actually be a game with a decent control scheme that doesn't feel clunky as shit, but it would be a melding of Western and Eastern design philosophy from two of the top people in their respective fields. THAT is exciting to me.

Unfortunately, we must sit through more parlor tricks to get to the final revelation. Meanwhile, our industry continues to look like a bloated mess of hyper-expensive game creation. Studio and publisher closures continue. Parlor tricks and "marketing over material" continue. The misogynistic and homophobic industry continues onward.

Enjoy the circus, folks. I'm going back to playing Don't Starve.

Until next time, piece.