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Managing your "tribe"
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Weeble
Starscape Jedi
Starscape Jedi


Joined: 25 Apr 2003
Posts: 1143
Location: Glasgow, Scotland



PostPosted: Wed Mar 05, 2008 6:08 pm    Post subject: Managing your "tribe" Reply with quote

The economics of music seems to be heading in this direction: 1. Get as many people to listen to your stuff as you possibly can by giving it away and getting your existing fans also to give it away. 2. Build up a small to moderate following of hard-core fans. 3. Find out what they want, build up a relationship with them, and keep selling them anything and everything they want to buy.

It seems to work for web-sites too. Homestar Runner appears to follow the model. Penny Arcade is a bit like that too, but I think they were already very successful before they went in for merchandising.

Is there any scope for this business model in games? I'd say Moonpod is distinctive for its developer diaries and willingness to engage with fans, but at the same time I wouldn't say this place is packed out with "true fans". I suppose I feel like a customer and a friend to Moonpod, but not like a fan. Should game companies (and not just games) have fans? And can a developer get anything more than a warm fuzzy feeling from a strong relationship with fans?

I see that Trent Reznor sells a super limited edition $300 version of his new album which include vinyl LPs and some extra fancy signed art. Would a true fan buy the limited edition version of Mr Robot that includes the ZX Spectrum port (on tape!) and the coffee table book of the art of the Eidolon? I think I recall Fost or Poo Bear saying before that they couldn't make any money off of CaféPress stuff or the toys that were talked about; it would only ever be a cool thing to make for the fun of it. Would that always be the case? Is there nothing "extra" an independent game company can provide that isn't just going to be a burden?
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Poo Bear
Pod Team
Pod Team


Joined: 14 Oct 2002
Posts: 4121
Location: Sheffield, UK



PostPosted: Wed Mar 05, 2008 7:08 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Interesting topic, there's definitely a "smell" in the Internet air that something is shifting in the PC gaming space - both mainstream and indie.

People I know in the mainstream are talking about the future of PC retail game releases being confined to ports of X360 games because it's the only way to actually make a profit on the work. The thinking being porting from X360 to PC DirectX is easy and the console releases are free advertising for the PC version.

In the indie scene the "rockstars" all seem to be aiming at consoles and there is much wailing and gnashing of teeth on Indiegamer forums about low PC income and harsh portal royalties.

The consensus seems to be that PC gaming will shift totally online catering to hardcore MMORPG fans and browser or subscription based casual games. The prediction is play for free advert driven gaming and service based subscriptions or micro payments portals (i.e. $5 a month play whatever you want or 10c a play - just like the music biz).

Indie style niche games will be catered for with $5 console downloadables and free to play browser games.

Allegedly Trent Reznor isn't too happy with the sales of Ghosts. Hugely more people just downloaded the first officially free album than went for the other 4 and of the ones who did go for the whole lot only 20% paid anything at all. Sounds like a good conversion rate to me, but maybe things are different with a retail album release.

Introversion are the masters of PR, in fact they have 4 people I think (half their staff) dedicated to nothing else! They were talking about brand image at gdc in fact:
http://www.gamedev.net/columns/events/gdc2008/article.asp?id=1123

I suppose Defcon is the game that made Introversion, apparently it was huge on Steam. You could play that online in a limited way for free I believe and they do sell a fair bit of merchandise and game bundles. So perhaps with dedicated PR people and a sort-of free online game they are pulling people in to the site, hanging onto them and then monetizing them. A lot of ifs and buts there Wink I did read that they even put on an annual "event" of some kind with demos of beta versions, talks and competitions, kind of a low key Quakecon type thing - amazing.

I think you need a major hit "free" game to pull in huge numbers of people, way more than we manage. If you can do that then I suspect the next step is to really focus on connecting with people so they don't go i.e. active forum presence, blogs, articles, appearances at events, competitions, etc. That is the point that I suspect things like exclusive game bundles and merchandising start to take off. I remember reading that Snood sold so hard and became so well known that it supported a small spin off merchandising operation for mugs/mousemats/tshirts/etc that had multiple staff and a warehouse!
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Weeble
Starscape Jedi
Starscape Jedi


Joined: 25 Apr 2003
Posts: 1143
Location: Glasgow, Scotland



PostPosted: Wed Mar 05, 2008 8:13 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

As far as Trent goes, I think he stuffed up on the technical front. I bought the $10 (+$15 shipping) download+CD deal for my girlfriend, but the download, even in MP3 form, is sodding enormous, delivered only via http, slowly, and keeps failing. In the end we gave up and got it on BitTorrent instead, but at least we *could*, and didn't feel like criminals for doing so.
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Inane



Joined: 06 Jul 2006
Posts: 173



PostPosted: Thu Mar 06, 2008 8:31 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Wasn't the 20% for Saul Williams album? I heard Reznor himself was doing really well so far. (With something like 2,000 people buying the super-pricey deluxe package or something)
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